It’s the ski destination to the great and good. Slopes veteran Cally Squires gives the lowdown on how to get the most out of this stunning downhill paradise
1. Ski with the crème de la crème
The resort hosted the Alpine Skiing World Cup last year, which saw golfer Tiger Woods turn out to support girlfriend and Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn, who lost out to Swiss downhill racer Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden.
2. See an international snow polo tournament
It happens at night and the temporary snow arena is floodlit. Anyone can rock up and watch the booted ponies prancing from the sidelines, but a VIP area is available, too.
3. Ski on a glacier
There are some fairly easy red runs off the Pissaillas glacier, but more advanced skiers can go off-piste. There is sometimes snow up there even during the summer.
4. Taxis from neighbouring resort Tignes are not that expensive
This is particularly important if you ski over the mountain and are unable to get back before the lifts close. The beauty of skiing in Val d’Isere is that there are so many different runs at your fingertips across the Espace Killy region. Buy a lift pass that covers both areas and, combined, you will have over 150 glorious pistes to bash.
5. Raffles organises an annual pilgrimage to Val for Chelsea ski bunnies
Raffles trip to Val d’Isere is now an annual event, taking over the smart set of Le Chardon chalets at the top of the hill. More likely to be seen in retro gear and neon paint than Moncler, the King’s Road private members club definitely knows how to bring the party to the Alps.
6. Dick’s Tea Bar is still alive and well
Now something of an institution among seasonaires and holidaymakers alike, Dick’s is still the place to go for a warming Jagar bomb. Not had your fill of raclette at dinner? The cheesy tunes being played at Dick’s will most certainly suffice in the fromage department. Raffles is all over it, of course.
7. A luxury coach is the best way to travel
Previous excursions to this region of France have involved mad dashes in crammed taxis, lost Oakleys and snowboards left behind on a bus changeover. However, a rep from Scott Dunn, the luxury travel operator, greeted us at arrivals with individual picnic hampers and mini Moets. The only drama was when little Horatio spilled his juice on the Baby Boden. Eerily civilised.
8. Chalet Marie is a great place to stay
The five star, four bedroom Chalet Marie, also owned by Scott Dunn, is fantastic. It certainly softened the blow of being taken ill – being confined to the chalet meant I was extra appreciative of facilities like the daily iPad newspapers, wi-fi, indoor pool and steam room that might have otherwise been neglected. A couple of paintings or larger windows in the bedrooms would have been nice, though.
The food is literally fit for a king – our man in the kitchen cooks for members of the Royal family back in the UK. Burning so many calories on the slopes, you need proper sustenance, and we were provided with afternoon tea, a nightly champagne reception and six course feast, which did not disappoint. Sadly, the chalet staff weren’t able to source proper, thick English bacon for breakfast fry-ups. Boo.
scottdunn.com or summitretreats.com
9. So is Le Chardon
The chef and hosts at Le Chardon are incredibly accommodating, as demonstrated when they indulged my experimental request to combine various alcohols with chocolat chaud. Not only that, but chef Paul was always standing by in the kitchen to make a bespoke sandwich. It also has an outdoor hot tub perfect for relaxing while looking out over Alpine trees as the sun sets. Surely, that’s what skiing is all about.
10. La Folie Douce is a great place for eating as well as for its famous après
While La Folie is the established place to party on a sunny afternoon – the founders told me further branches will soon be popping up in other European resorts – the mountain restaurant attached to it can be easily overlooked. However, fight your way past the DJ and champagne sprayers and you will find that La Fruitière is a worthwhile stop for lunch – just make sure you’ve booked your table in advance.
11. It doesn’t take an age (or cost a fortune) to get there
You can get to Val d’Isere in around four hours flying to Geneva from Luton, with a connection on to Val d’Isere (organised through Scott Dunn). Flights from £80 return.
Cally skied for a week with Scott Dunn at Chalet Marie, flying to Geneva from London on easyJet; and stayed for three nights at Le Chardon Chalets with Raffles Retreats.