World Cup Val d’Isere: Killer Course, Insane Terrain & an Après Scene to Match

18th December 2013 | Shauna Farnell

News Regions: France

Resorts in this article: Val d'Isère

Val d’Isere village

The Val d’Isere village, in spite of dating back nearly 400 years, is popping with dance clubs and après ski bars.

Copyright: Andy Parant

Part of the gigantic Espace Killy ski area that also includes Tignes, Val d’Isere is one of the most expansive and impressive stops on the World Cup as far as ski terrain goes. Hosting the men’s giant slalom and slalom Dec. 14 and 15 and women’s downhill Dec. 21 and giant slalom Dec. 22, you’re guaranteed great turns of your own here and as one might expect in France, exquisite eats around every corner.

Lying in France’s southeastern Savoie Rhone-Alpes region just a snowball’s throw away from Italy, Espace Killy (named after the region’s most successful ski racer, Jean-Claude Killy), is home to a sprawling 300 kilometers of slopes—including two glaciers—served by 90 lifts.

Most of the terrain is well above tree line and although there are beginner and intermediate runs, much of Val d’Isere is notoriously steep. Plus, the region gets a significant amount of sun and blue skies, so if you dare to venture down one of craggy chutes on a clear powder day, you can’t help but feel you are starring in a high elevation ski video.

What’s more, the village, in spite of dating back nearly 400 years, is popping with dance clubs and après ski bars, so there’s no reason to feel like anything less than a hero.

WATCH THE WORLD CUP

Val d’Isere’s Bellevarde slope is one of the longest and most technical on the men’s giant slalom tour, plummeting down the face next to Val D’s Olympique gondola that originates in the resort’s main village hub, making for a massive crowd and exciting spectacle. It also helps that the Val D races are free for spectators, meaning that nearly the entire resort makes a point to stop and watch, and the crowd is thick with colorful costumes and crazy hats.

Although one wouldn’t immediately peg the French as avid ski racing fans, given that Val d’Isere hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1992 and has been hosting World Cups since 1968, there is an unmistakable pride permeating the festivities. Ted Ligety and Austrian Marcel Hirscher have traded off dominance of the GS course the last couple years while France’s own Alexis Pinturault is the defending slalom champ.

The women’s races take place down the road in the village of La Daille—accessible by ski trails or funicular from the top of the Bellevarde, or simply by turning off the main road about two miles before you reach Val d’Isere. Lindsey Vonn has won a whopping seven races in Val d’Isere—two at the harrowing 2009 World Championships and five on the La Daille course. Because the region is abundant with cheese farms, one of her victories brought her the grand prize of a milk cow, which typically—along with the farmer who cares for it—can be found among the ringing bells in the finish area. The Dec. 22 giant slalom will be a true free-for-all, since Val D—a mainstay speed venue for the ladies—hasn’t hosted a women’s World Cup GS since 2002.

Val d’Isere is one of the most expansive and impressive stops on the World Cup as far as ski terrain goes.

WHERE TO STAY

There’s some sort of lodging every 10 steps in the village, but for a true rustic yet unquestionably French experience, the five-star Hotel Christiana delivers every luxury you could possibly want in a large chalet just a short walk from the gondola. Each of the 69 rooms or suites are equipped with beautiful oak furnishings, there is large heated pool, full fitness area, spa with every variety of massage and a beauty salon for the ultimate winter mani or pedi.

The array of fruit and pastries at the breakfast buffet is guaranteed to keep you charging on the mountain all morning. Besides the exquisite entrees on the dinner menu—monkfish with potato risotto, lobster tail roasted in butter or steak tartare that disintegrates in your mouth—the salads, meats, cheeses and roasted veggies in the hor d’oeuvre buffet alone with blow you away.

Val d’Isere breakfast with a view.

EATS

This is France, right? So don’t hesitate to have a glass of local wine with your lunch. Possibly the best on-the-mountain eats you’ll ever come across in your life is L’Edelweiss in La Fornet. Beef stew has never been so tender and fois gras burger never so deliciously exotic.

There are many highly touted dinner options—a handful Michelin-rated—but of those, the best little place tucked into a transformed carpenter’s workshop in the village of Fornet is L’Atelier d’Edmond. Complete with log fire and stone walls, every menu item is carefully and creatively designed, from the lamb delights to the citrus-infused meringue desserts. But if you’re here for a feast—and you should be—go for the eight-course Menu Degustation.

NIGHTLIFE/APRÈS SKI

Val D is known for partying, and you can follow the music and laughter into 12 different après haunts on any given evening. For live music and DJs, a tasty mojito or spiked hot chocolate and a packed dance floor ‘til the wee hours, hit Le Petit Danois.

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