Snow patrol: Top tips for skiing in Val d’Isère
Globetrotting entrepreneur Roman Carel shares his tips.
What are the insider spots that make the world-class ski resort of Val d’Isère so special?
What is your connection to the resort?
After looking at chalets for sale in Val d’Isère, my parents immediately fell in love and bought a place in 1974; I was born two years later. It was quite rustic when I was growing up, but it was always a serious skiers’ destination rather than one for ‘hot chocolate’ professionals. The resort just keeps getting better and better thanks to the continual improvements of the lift infrastructure, which means you rarely have to queue like you do in the Three Valleys.
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.
Go to the bakery of Chevallot and eat a little “Chausson aux Pommes” – that’s 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).
Lunch on the slopes
I like l’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 also really enjoy the stunning views from Le Refuge de Solaise which opened at the end of 2018, which is 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.
Try Le Cocorico, which is the new hotspot on the slopes. 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.
Keeping the kids happy
Visit the Ferme de l’Adroit: the farmers keep it beautifully pristine and you can interact with all the animals, which leaves kids with beaming smiles. They make their own cheese, so be sure to stop by the deli or stay for lunch. It has a really authentic French mountain feel to it.
Dinner outside the box
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.
Who to know
The Frison family who own l’Etincelle, a chic new restaurant that opened in 2019 at the foot of Solaise. 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 run 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.
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.
What’s to love
Val d’Isère is a village where you can walk everywhere. You don’t need a car as everything is within walking distance or take 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.
I think the plans to upgrade the resort, the project 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 understands the Alpine savoir vivre, so it’s set to become even more charming.