Family Ski Holiday in Val d'Isere
Posted on - Fri 13th April 2012
We love to take our family skiing at Easter when it is warmer and the days are longer and this year we decided to head high to snowsure - Val d'Isere.
With 2 families, 7 children from 6-14 years old plus a granny and a great aunt, we needed a resort that had plenty to keep everyone entertained both on and off the slopes and Val d'Isere definitely fitted the bill even with it's reputation for challenging skiing. Val d'Isere may not be the first choice for many families because of this reputuation (many of the green/ blue runs would be graded harder elsewhere), however, with the right ski school, children quickly learn the skills needed to cope with the terrain and are soon wizzing around the bowls and skiing back into resort with the right conditions. Even our just 6 year old, skied down the challenging red Solaise run at the end of the week. She found the slushy bumps great fun and we were surprised at how quickly she made it down.
If your children don't start ski school on your first day's skiing then make sure you take the children on the nursery slopes to start off with. This will give them a chance to get their ski legs back. In Val, the main nursery lifts are free so you don't even need to buy a pass if it's just for a few runs the day you arrive. If you head straight up the main lifts then even the greens in Val d'Isere are more challenging than most other resorts. We found that our youngest (nearly 6 years old) got tired/ needed the bathroom but didn't tell us in time so take your time and stop frequently. On your first day, you'll also not really know what the slope conditions are like so be cautious.
We used Progression Ski and all the children had a fantastic week. The Instructors are a mixture of nationalities but we especially liked the Danish duo of Nicholas and Nicholai who work only in the school holidays. This means they are fresh and raring to go especially come Easter. Full-timer, Woody was a big hit with our 6 year old and the kids loved the Acticross on Bellevard or as it was nicknamed 'the playground in the snow'. It's a great place for the children to gain confidence and by the end of the week our nearly 6 year old was coming down the steep red Solaise run with a smile on her face (ok it was slushy bumps which helped keep her speed down).
The nursery slopes in the resort centre offer free lifts for beginners and after that most lessons take place in either the Solaise bowl or the Bellevard sector with the beginner/intermediates returning to the village at the end of the lesson by chair, cable car or gondola. As the lift system is so quick and efficient this only takes up the last 10 minutes of the lesson.
We found that the older children (intermediates on their 3rd week skiing) were all skiing down into resort by the 3rd day and by the end of the week some had skied the black Face run.
Where to ski with the kids
After lunch we either skied in the Solaise bowl, up in Le Fornet or took the children up to the Acticross in Bellevarde. With the slushy conditions we normally brought our 6 year old back into resort by lift but all the other young ones skied into resort no problem. If the pistes had been hard-packed then this may not have been the case.
For our last family ski day together we headed to the quiet Le Fornet sector where the snow, following a few centimetres of fresh snow, was excellent. The children seem to love jumping off the side of the piste and trying a little bit of the fresh snow on the side. We all enjoyed a mug of hot chocolate in the new restaurant at the bottom of the glacier before heading down the bottom for lunch. Runs into resort were slushy by this time but this didn't deter any of the young ones and in fact probably helped keep their speed in check. After lunch we headed over to the Solaise sector via the 'up and over' chair lift back which is always a hit with the children. (bit like a ride at legoland was one comment)
Where to ski while the kids are at ski school
With 4 hours to ski, we managed to get a lot of skiing done. We even got powder tracks up on the Grande Motte - the highest point in Tignes, which was a bonus really when it was raining in resort and the visibility was poor. The clouds cleared just as we reached the top of the cable car and we were very lucky.
What to do after skiing or on a bad weather day
The new swimming pool in Val d'Isere is excellent. The first time we went was a Wednesday and a bad weather day so it was busy. This wasn't so great if you were wanting to lane swim in the 25 metre pool but the children loved the fun pool with it's water features and bubbles. We went back on the Friday after skiing (4pm) and almost had the pool to ourselves. If you want to do lane swimming and have a lane to yourself then it's probably best to go early or late in the day (opening hours are 10am - 9pm but do couble check the website - www.centre-aquasportif.com).
The swimming pool is located behind the Olympic Gondola and also has squash courts, a gym and a climbing wall. You get one free entry to the pool with a 6 or 7 day lift pass - just remember to take them with you. For more information go to www.centre-aquasportif.com
For lunch with the kids we often ended up using the Sun Bar at the bottom of the Olympic Gondola. Nothing is cheap in Val d'Isere but this was a convenient location for re-fuelling the kids after ski school before heading up the mountain again. For reasonable value - omelettes, hot dog sausages and chips plus ce cream, the restuarant at the bottom of the Le Fornet cable car was also fine. It can be quieter up in Le Fornet and a good choice if Solaise and Bellevarde are busy. Other popular restaurants in Le Fornet are the Signal (but upstairs) and the Edelweiss (booking recommended) as well as the L'Arolay (in the village) In La Daille we had a lovely but more extravagent and expensive lunch at the re-furbished les Tuffs in La Daille. You may need to pre-book this restaurant especially if you are a big group. Excellent pizzas, salads and fantastic omelettes. In the Bellevard sector the Marmottes gets good reports for being good value.
For ski rental we used Snowberry at the Rond Point (all the main buses end up there). The staff in Snowberry are all very friendly and helpful but it can get busy at peak dates on the weekend so even if you've pre-booked you may have to wait in line. You can book your ski rental online and save up to 40% with Snowberry here.
For apres ski in resort try the Moris Pub. On the slopes the infamous Folie Douce above La Daille has wild music and dancing on the tables and you can get up and down using the bubble. For a quick drink or vin chaud at the end of skiing in La Daille, we like the small Rose Blanche. For Nordic charm later on in the evening try the Petit Danois or Victors. And if it's sport you are after then the Pacific Bar is the place to head to - situated on the high street next to Ogier Sports. They have a large number of screens all showing different events/ matches.
We ate out twice for dinner, once at the Lodge where you can get great steaks, pizzas and seriously impressive ice creams. We also ate at the Perdrix Blanche where you can get lobster and seafood, but we opted once again opted for the steaks and dauphinois which were good but not cheap! There's also a children's menu which includes the usual nuggets, pizza and pasta plus rather bizzarly either a tub of cinema type strawberry/ vanilla ice cream or a packet of haribos. Our kids were a bit disappointed after their Lodge ice creams. We also love the Taverne d'Alsace.
Where to stay
There are a host of fantastic hotels and chalets of all budgets to choose from. The 3 star Hotel Sorbiers, located on the high street was a highly rated by the older members of our party. If you need childcare, then the Mark Warner chalethotels (Cygnaski and Val d'Isere) are always popular. They will get your children to ski school, pick them up, give them lunch and then if required can entertain them in the afternoon.
They also have a creche for younger children and babies.
For all-inclusive ease Club Med Val d'Isere is excellent. Situated up above the Rond Point and on the piste is superbly located for keen skiers.
Driving to Val d'Isere
We took an early morning Ferry (6.30am) as we were too late to book a Eurotunnel at a sensible time that would let us get resort without staying overnight. It takes about 10 hours to drive from Calais to Val d'Isere depending on how often you stop and the speed you drive at. A portable dvd player is highly recommended especially by our children - it kept them entertained all the way there and back. If you can't take the long trip in one then break the journey by spending a night somewhere the other side of Calais.
On the way back we left just before 9am and got to the Eurotunnel at 6.30pm. Roads are excellent but do watch out for radar traps and police traps and the toll costs do mount up. We went via Reims, Troyes and Dijon, the only tricky bit being as you get to Lyon - there are signs for Marseille and Grenoble but not Champery. But if you head for the airport (Lyon Satelas) or Grenoble you should be fine. Also, even though we arrived early for our eurotunnel we still had to wait and hour and a half for the first available train (it was Easter Sunday)
Progression Ski offer 5 mornings 9-1pm.
There also offer bolt on lessons for Sundays.
Cost is 399 Euros per week - this includes a DVD of your child skiing, photo, badge and certificate.
Other good ski schools include:
The development centre – Ages 10 and above
Mountain Masters – situated in the Killy Shop
Val d'Isere is covered by the Espace Killy lift pass which includes Tignes. You can also by a Val d’Isere only pass but there is very little difference in the price. The children didn't ski over to Tignes but ended up with Espace Killy passes anyway as there is a family pass where the 2nd child gets their pass half price. If you are looking to save money on passes then watch out for ski holiday offers where there are deals on lift passes as you can make great savings.
Alternatively, if your children are under 9 or 10 then the following resorts offer free lift passes for children:
9 years and under
8 years and under
Obergurgl - Hochgurgl
Selva (Val Gardena)
St Anton am Arlberg