In my mind, there is no feeling of freedom like that of cruising down a mountainside making gentle, soft swishing turns through powdery snow so soft that it resembles pillow of feathers. The silence of a snowy landscape has a particular stillness about it that once you’re away from the piste, the shout of a ski instructor or the laughter of children seem so distant, and the feeling of other-worldliness that descends when all you can see is dramatic mountain scenery and perfect blue skies transports me rapidly from the stresses and strains of life. And this is one of the reasons that a snow sports holiday appeals to me so much: as someone who is sometimes guilty, on holiday, of keeping an eye on work emails, occasionally fielding phone calls from the office, and generally finding it hard to relax, skiing provides a pure escape. The cool mountain air, the focus and achievement provided by physical activity and the warmth of a vin chaud at the end of the day, combine to afford an excellent holiday.
When looking for a world-class skiing experience in Europe, don’t look too far past Val d’Isère, arguably the largest jewel in the crown of the French Alps. This historic, picturesque village has long been a playground for the wealthy and famous, and after hosting the 1992 Winter Olympics, the reputation of the the Face de Bellevarde (affectionately known as The Face), a vertiginous black run visible above the village, drew many there to try their luck.
Val d’Isère is linked with the neighbouring village of Tignes to produce the vast ski region known as the Espace Killy, with more than 300km of pistes including those cascading down from the top of the Grande Motte glacier at the dizzying heights of 3,456m. The views are magnificent, and whilst it may be a little way from the summit of Everest, the feeling of looking out on the world from up there is one unlike any other I’ve experienced.
In addition to the snow, it is also the après-ski that draws many to Val d’Isère, and Cocorico, a lively, busy bar with regular live music on the home run for most guests is now the hottest place in town. Unpretentious and fun, those of all ages are soon dancing on the tables as the sun slowly sets in the late afternoon. For late-night fun, the legendary Dick’s Tea Bar opens at 10pm and closes when the last bleary-eyed punter leaves around 5am. Developments in the village mean that Dick’s will be leaving its home of the last 40 years later this season, but the new venue promises to re-open in time for the 2019-20 season.
Val d’sere is a resort that has kept pace with modern infrastructure whilst maintaining the twinkly Alpine charm that so many villages lack, and its picture postcard appeals remains undiminished. For fantastic food and unrivalled service check out www.yseski.co.uk - we haven’t found better anywhere else!