FRENCH ALPS Val D'Isere Special: Insider Travel Guide with Roman Carel

What are the insider spots that make the world-class ski resort of Val d'Isère so special? Globetrotting entrepreneur Roman Carel shares his tips.


Val D'Isere Special: Insider Travel Guide with Roman Carel

What are the insider spots that make the world-class ski resort of Val d'Isère so special? Globetrotting entrepreneur Roman Carel shares his tips.

The coolest spots to go in Val d'Isere - Credit: Athena Advisers

Few people know Val d’Isère better than Roman Carel, Athena Adviser’s globe-trotting founding partner, who was skiing its slopes almost as soon as he could walk and religiously spends a few weeks every winter here with friends and family.  He shares his insider tips of how to get beyond the crowds to the core of what makes this resort so special. 

What is your connection to the resort? 

“My parents bought a chalet in Val d’Isère in 1974 and I was born in 1976.  It was quite rustic when I was growing up, less comfort, but it was always a serious skiers destination rather than one for ‘hot chocolate’ professionals. As a resort, it just keeps getting better and better thanks to the continual improvements of the lift infrastructure, which means you rarely have to queue like in the 3 Valleys.”

Where is your first stop when you arrive in Val d’Isère?

“As soon as I arrive in Val d’Isère I go to SweetSki to rent the latest gear available and say hi to my friends Eric & Chris. Their approach to skiing and safety is excellent, but most of all, they understand service.”

“Then I like to roam to the Bar du Blizzard for a drink and to high five David, the barman who is almost like the Mayor of Val d’Isère. He is famous thanks to the fact he always wears these Scottish kilt trousers and is always raving about his latest music – make sure you sit at the bar or say hello.  Le Blizzard is one of the oldest and loveliest hotels – it’s a real institution.”

And what about breakfast?

“Going to the bakery of Chevallot and eating a little “Chausson aux Pommes” is my treat.  When January comes, I never miss their famous ‘Galette des Rois” – in honour of the Epiphany, it’s made from delicate layers of puff pastry and frangipane (almond cream).”

Where are your favourite places for lunch on the slopes?

“I like Edelweiss in le Fornet, which is off-the-beaten-track and has a real family feel to it, combined with very memorable food. I love the restaurant La Grande Ourse, a Val d’Isère institution where the old-school families have been coming forever.  I am also really looking forward to the reopening of La Tête de Solaise, which will turn into a hotel as well as a restaurant. It’s so exciting to have new destinations like this. Finally, it’s always good to go to the Bar de l’Ouillette overlooking the lake, the terrace is fantastic, particularly when the sun is out.” 


What is your pick for Apres-ski? 

“Try Le Cocorico, which is the new hotspot. La Baraque is great for later in the evening, and we sometimes go to the bar Chez Jules, which is very nice, and set in the heart of Val d’Isère village.” 

How do you keep the kids happy?

“As a thing to do with kids, visit the Ferme de l’Adroit: the farmers keep it beautifully pristine and you can interact with all the animals, which makes the kids super happy. They make their own cheese, which you can pick up in the deli, or stop for lunch. It has a really authentic French mountain feel to it.”

Any dining experiences outside of the box?

“Yes, try the restaurant “Au Bout du Monde” in le Manchet.  They pick you up with dogs’ sleds and you have an aperitif in a yurt – it’s a fantastic thing to do. 

There is also a really fun sledging night where you have dinner and an aperitif up the mountain and then you go downhill with sledges and lights. It doesn’t have a name as such, but you book it in Evolution 2 in Val d’Isère, near the Rond Point des Pistes.  It’s a really memorable thing to do with friends – I have done it many times.”

Who is worth mentioning in your Val d’Isère network? 

“I love the Frison family, who own l’Etincelle, a chic new restaurant that opened this season at the foot of Solais. They are the ones behind the legendary Les Clochetons, a stone chalet set on the piste that serves the best traditional Savoyard food. Then there is the Cerboneshi family, who are running La Mourra and Le Blizzard, two of the top hotels in town, both of which have some of the best restaurants and bars in town – the kind you could spend all evening in. They are amongst some of the most tasteful, humble people you will ever meet. They know how to create a warm atmosphere coupled with delicate yet authentic decoration.  They are the essence of the Alpine feeling. “

What is your secret tip about Val d’Isère

“I am a big fan of the second week and third week of January. It’s less crowded, the vibe is unique and the ski conditions tend to be excellent.”

Why do you love Val d’Isère

“Val d’Isère is a village where you can walk everywhere, you don’t need a car as everything is walking distance or taking a free bus if you are feeling lazy. I really feel on holiday when I am there and am always inspired by the beauty of the mountains.  It’s also a resort that is very serious about sports and skiing, which makes it even easier to disconnect from work life.”

How do you see the future of the resort?

I think the plan to upgrade the resort, known as Le Coin de Val, will make it even more of a beautiful village. The man behind the architecture, Jean Charles Covarel, is the heir of Michel Covarel, who is credited with turning Val d’Isère into the resort it is today. He is a man of taste who understand the Alpine savoir vivre, so its set to become even more charming. 

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