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Chamonix ... why not ? Or Val D' Isere ?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

Few days ago I received a phone call regarding my work. Basically, it was an offer I could not refuse. The only problem was that new project would start Jan. 21 and I had already had my annual Lake Tahoe trip planed for Jan. 26th. No problem - quick call to Southwest, no fee to change flights, make new car and hotel reservation and ready to go. But then, I found out that tickets and hotel and car went up and suddenly whole trip became more expensive. Maybe, just maybe... quick check of award availability and ... bingo !!! For a little bit of miles more than a domestic flight I can get Swiss Airlines flight to Geneva. No need for car and gas, hotels seem reasonable and lift tickets are cheaper. Bottom line: for few hundred $ more I can make it to Geneva and ski the Alps. So, I booked my ticket and now I am waiting to go, Jan. 8th- Jan. 20th

 

Questions:

 

Where to go?

Chamonix comes to my mind with two daily trips to Verbier and Courmayeur (free buses to both, about hour away, included in Chamonix pass).

Got great offer from Les Munieres, but would like more than just skiing experience - town atmosphere, sights and smells are also important. Can't stand snobbiness. 

 

Where to stay?

Making and prepaying reservation for a hotel/apartment based on internet reviews or just wait to get there and get the place after seeing it. Something for under $100 a night seems reasonable, any suggestions here are highly appreciated. I can get studio efficiency in town of Chamonix for $500 weekly. Sounds reasonable to me.

 

How to get around?

It appears that shuttle bus system is well established and hassle free, any insights on this?

 

Gear:

Swiss has a very generous "ski gear flies free" policy - in addition to first checked bag, so I think I am bringing my Elan Spires. Just in case, if I want to check something different or conditions ask for different set of skis, can anybody recommend good ski shop, also for servicing equipment?

 

Conditions:

I know weather is unpredictable, but what conditions to expect and are there any areas to have more reliable snow in early/mid January?

 

Fun terrain to ski:

I don't know what level I am. instructor put me in "advanced" group lessons last year at Alta. I am comfortable on "black" runs, some "double blacks" are little bit much for me (i.e. Mott). "Advanced beginner" I would like to say:)

Guide or not and how much would that cost me (joining a group. can't afford anything "private") ?

 

Anything else I should know?

post #2 of 23

I'd suggest splitting the trip into two pieces. First, stay from the 8th to the 13th in Chamonix. Then, do the 13th to the 20th in another resort (Verbier, Val d'Isere, maybe somewhere lesser known like Flaine or Les Diablerets).

 

The reason is that hotels in most resorts prefer 7-night stays (either Saturday-Saturday or Sunday-Sunday). But, Chamonix is a proper town/city and has enough hotels to get a decent deal for fewer than 7 nights. So, you stay in Chamonix until the weekend and then do a typical 7-night stay in the second resort. You'll probably want to book accommodation in advance. I'm not sure too many places are set up for people to just roll up and book a room on site.

 

If you want a pretty village for the second resort, I'd recommend Les Diablerets (it's also got the convenience of a train to Geneva). If you want a lively village, I'd recommend Verbier. If you want easily accessible terrain, I'd recommend Val d'Isere (not that the others are really inconvenient). They all have good terrain and nice villages and you can't go wrong with any of them, so it just comes down to which feature is most important to you.

 

Your Elans should be just fine for the whole trip, and there are plenty of shops in each resort that can service them for you.

 

One side note: don't make plans for day trips to anywhere other than Courmayeur. All of the other resorts mentioned are part of combined ski areas with more terrain than just about anywhere in North America (only Whistler-Blackcomb can compete with some of these places). For example, it takes 1.5 to 2 hours to ski across the entire Espace Killy (Val d'Isere and Tignes) edge to edge, and that's taking the most direct route on piste at fairly high speed, riding high-speed lifts, and bypassing tons of terrain along the way. The Four Valleys area (Verbier and neighbors) is the same.

 

Going to those resorts for just one day is like leaving one 3-hr-long movie that you haven't finished yet to watch 30 minutes of another 3-hr-long movie and then trying to go back to the first movie again. It's like leaving Snowbasin at 11:00 to drive down and ski a couple of hours at Snowbird/Alta, then trying to get back to Snowbasin for the last couple of hours of the day.


Edited by CerebralVortex - 12/13/12 at 7:20am
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thank you CerebralVortex,

 

your insight opened up a lot of options and after some considerations and not wanting to go any further with deliberations I made a reservation for Val D'Isere. Chamonix was too much of a hassle for a single traveler to make a quick reservation. On the other hand - Val D'Isere accommodation office returned multiple offers that seemed too good to turn down. Le Fornet apartment suits my needs - close to the lifts, self catering and away from hustle and bustle but still close to action. Restaurants seem fine. 4 fine books will keep me occupied.

 

Similar offers for Chamonix came back $400 more.

 

So, this is final. if any EpicSki guys are around Val D'Isere area between Jan8th an 19th - lets have fun !!!

 

I will post my observations after the conclusion of the trip.

post #4 of 23

Nice one.  Sounds like a great option.

 

Try to post a few photos when you get back so we can check out your trip.

post #5 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by goranmilos View Post

Thank you CerebralVortex,

 

your insight opened up a lot of options and after some considerations and not wanting to go any further with deliberations I made a reservation for Val D'Isere. Chamonix was too much of a hassle for a single traveler to make a quick reservation. On the other hand - Val D'Isere accommodation office returned multiple offers that seemed too good to turn down. Le Fornet apartment suits my needs - close to the lifts, self catering and away from hustle and bustle but still close to action. Restaurants seem fine. 4 fine books will keep me occupied.

 

Similar offers for Chamonix came back $400 more.

 

So, this is final. if any EpicSki guys are around Val D'Isere area between Jan8th an 19th - lets have fun !!!

 

I will post my observations after the conclusion of the trip.

i am there for new years - well ~Tignes, but got friends in val i will be skiing with and do a night with... shame its the week before -

 

you will love it here... i am at least into my 20th week in espace Killy and still my fave place in Europe to ski... 

 

there are some great restaurants... i wish i would remember the names rather than just where they are.... if you like duck - there is a restaurant under the warmup place(main street, glass doors) with the best duck i have ever had... accross from the danish bar - a wooden building that looks wicked next to the first round about - does the best fondue by a long way!!!

post #6 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by goranmilos View Post

Thank you CerebralVortex,

 

your insight opened up a lot of options and after some considerations and not wanting to go any further with deliberations I made a reservation for Val D'Isere. Chamonix was too much of a hassle for a single traveler to make a quick reservation. On the other hand - Val D'Isere accommodation office returned multiple offers that seemed too good to turn down. Le Fornet apartment suits my needs - close to the lifts, self catering and away from hustle and bustle but still close to action. Restaurants seem fine. 4 fine books will keep me occupied.

 

Similar offers for Chamonix came back $400 more.

 

So, this is final. if any EpicSki guys are around Val D'Isere area between Jan8th an 19th - lets have fun !!!

 

I will post my observations after the conclusion of the trip.

 

That's surprising. I thought Chamonix would have been a bit easier to book for a single traveller given the larger number of hotels.

 

Val d'Isere will have loads of terrain for you to enjoy, especially around le Fornet. The Foret run seems to alternate between being a groomed black and an ungroomed "nature piste" (aka, bump run). This year, looking at the map online, it looks like they're going for the groomed black option. That said, sometimes they don't feel like grooming it and they partially rope it off, so you might get some good powder in there. I've even seen the Mangard (blue) and Cognon (red) ungroomed for a day or two after a dump once.

 

Off to the skiers left from the top of the Signal drag, there's a bowl that usually has good snow even when the rest of the mountain is windswept and icy. The drag lift itself is a bit of an experience as well, going up a fairly steep slope.

 

When using the Leissieres Express to get to the rest of the mountain, keep in mind two things. First, the wind sweeps through that valley, so zip up and be ready for a cold wind. Second, it's one of the scariest lifts (for those afraid of heights) you'll ever see. When you go over the top and start back down, if you're afraid of heights, don't look down.

 

If you're looking for some nice untouched snow, head over to the Ski Tranquille area. None of the hardcore skiers go there because it's all greens, but there are a couple of places where you can jump off piste and ski some nice powder. If you're looking to ski in and around the trees (without some of the dangers of the le Fornet trees), head over to le Daille.

 

And, of course, there's all the terrain in Tignes. If the visibility is good, it's worth the time to get to that side of the mountain. But, if the snow is falling and visibility isn't great, it's probably not worth the trip. Almost the whole area is above tree line, so it'll be tough to see.

 

In town, there's a hole-in-the-wall pizza place that makes great crepes (the pizza is ok). If you're walking through town with le Fornet at your back, it'll be on your right where the sidewalk goes down a few stairs and there's a little overhang with rock pillars. I highly recommend getting a crepe with cinnamon and sugar and eating it there at the tables outside.

post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 

It is really surprising that multiple inquiries for Chamonix accommodation were almost all ignored, other than few responses and those offers ranged between 800E and 1100E for 10 nights. My understanding that Chamonix might be set up to accommodate weeklong stays with weekend arrivals/departures. I did have 1 or 2 weeklong offers for Chamonix that seemed reasonable but I felt little bit reluctant changing accommodation and/or place on such a short stay.

OTH, Val D'Isere offers are still coming and although it appears that Tignes is a bit cheaper, I booked Le Fornet 35sq.mt. studio for about 520E. It is walking distance to Fornet Cable Car.

It seems fairly easy to book stay if based in Europe, there appears to be abundance of competing travel agencies offering all options for ski holidays.

Thanks again CerebralVortex, I already put those runs on my list.

If anybody is heading in that direction and is willing to post updates, observations and advices on conditions and "must do" types of ski experiences while there - please post it  on EpicSki.

Any advice on getting to Val D' Isere, www.apski-bus.com seems the only shared option at reasonable price, but they offer 3 departures daily and that would mean long wait at the GVA. 

post #8 of 23

dont worry i will do a trip report and video form my new years trip and plenty of pics... 

post #9 of 23

Im going to Chamonix with my family over new year. Found a hotel, brand new BTW, we are about the first guests I was told, that takes odd bookins. 5 nights, thursday to wednesday.

post #10 of 23
Thread Starter 

Just tried to edit the thread title. It is Val D' Isere. scottydonald, thanks for guidance as well as CerebralVortex. After researching a bit more - I am set on Val D' Isere. In regard to accommodation - Chamonix did come out more expensive which was not a detrimental factor, considering reputation of Val D' Isere as a very "pricey" town. Access to skiing with minimal bus riding and considering my skiing ability - it seems Val D' Isere would better fit my needs and abilities. 

 

So, if any of you Eurozone guys are around the area and would like to hook up for some skiing and gourmet cooking and wine drinking in the evening (love to cook and sort of good at it) let me know. 

 

Insights are welcomed !!!

post #11 of 23

i arrived today in tignes and conditions look awesome...

 

supposed to be some light snow tonight and a good heavy fall on tuesday so should be some good POW....

post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by goranmilos View Post

Just tried to edit the thread title. It is Val D' Isere. scottydonald, thanks for guidance as well as CerebralVortex. After researching a bit more - I am set on Val D' Isere. In regard to accommodation - Chamonix did come out more expensive which was not a detrimental factor, considering reputation of Val D' Isere as a very "pricey" town. Access to skiing with minimal bus riding and considering my skiing ability - it seems Val D' Isere would better fit my needs and abilities. 

 

So, if any of you Eurozone guys are around the area and would like to hook up for some skiing and gourmet cooking and wine drinking in the evening (love to cook and sort of good at it) let me know. 

 

Insights are welcomed !!!

 

Normally, I'd be happy to meet up. But your dates fall between my two January trips. I'm in the office most of the days you're skiing. I'll be in St. Anton all next week, and then somewhere (still havent booked yet) from the 19th/20th to the 26th/27th.

 

If you want an interactive map of the area, the Tignes site has a good one. http://www.tignes.net/en/skiing-in-tignes/ski-run-map-28.html

post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 

It will be so good to come out and ski and have fun. Countdown ...

post #14 of 23
You will love it! Val d'Isere is, IMHO , having spent multiple weeks there, is one of the best resorts in the world. Would be a very tough choice between it and st Anton if I had to choose. Not evn whistler/blackcomb in NA can compare with the scale. If you get the chance , start out early and make the trip down to tignes la breviere. Some great spots for lunch and gives you the feeling of a "tour".. Other must dos, on the Val/la daile side , Piste Perdue. At le Fornet, you can also make some awesome tours round.

Enjoy!
post #15 of 23

well i get home tomorrow... been in london since yesterday after flying back from Tignes... 

 

i will certainly have a trip report less video by tuesday night for you to look at...

 

the place does need some fresh snow but the base is awesome...

post #16 of 23
Thread Starter 

I am back from one of the best trips I have ever taken and what a great snow filled experience I had ! 

 

After a very uneventful flight to Zurich and on to Geneva, I took a "shared" transfer to Val D'Isere. This turned to be a private transfer since the rest of the passengers did not show up so I had an opportunity to enjoy in scenic 3 hour ride through the beauty full French countryside and up through the valleys and mountain passes to Val D"Isere. The driver mentioned that there has not been fresh snow for couple of weeks but that there are some changes in the forecast and snow is on the way. As soon as I checked in my chalet, the skies turned gray and shortly after the most priced gift of ski Gods to skiers started materializing. Having to deal with effects of jet lag and anticipation of my first ski day, I spent most of the night watching through the window snow piling up - 5cm, 10cm, 15cm, sleep 1 hour, 25cm...

 

 

 

 

By the morning there had been new 40cm of snow in front of chalet. By the way chalet is located in La Fornet part of Val D'Isere which is essentaly at the far end of the town and is connected to the rest of the ski area via Fornet aerial tram. This is how it looked on the run out of the Foret run which is usually groomed and packed snow:

 

 

AppleMark

 

Powder day !!! The ride up was shared with few other powder enthusiasts:

 

 

AppleMark

 

 

Took few additional lifts up to the top of the Pissaillas ski area just to discover that conditions were actually very bad (it was still snowing pretty hard) with very low visibility. Lesson No.1 when skiing in the Alps: since most of the skiing is above tree line, it is very easy and dangerous straying of the marked "piste" and ending up somewhere on the bottom of a large cliff. Few very cautious runs of the Pyramides chair and back to the woods of Foret where I was hoping for better visibility. And this is what I found there:

 

 

 

 

Pretty much all of this just for me !? It is very steep run through the forest in waist deep powder. Spires performed well in these conditions, wish I had powder cords with me after spending 20 min. looking for my lost ski which released after a "minor" accident. Few exhausting runs through the forest while the snow kept falling and falling. In hindsight it was not a very smart decision skiing in this area after a major dump since it is very avalanche prone area and I was alone without wearing a beacon (one side note - lot of people wearing beacons, air bags and shovels, almost more than helmets. This should have told me to be more careful but my excitement took over - very bad, I know). Lesson No.2 - these keep piling up fast.

 

Back to the chalet after a very exciting and exhausting first day.

 

Day 2:

 

 

AppleMark

 Endless powder fields, looking towards summer ski area on top of Pissaillas Glacier.No script would have had this better since it was a Saturday and it is a travel day for most tourists and all these goodies just for few of us. Time to practice some off piste powder skiing of course staying within a sight of marked run area. I must admit my powder skiing skills are very poor (not many times here in the midwest we have powder days like that and skiing Tahoe or Utah on day like this it gets tracked out in an eye blink - if I am lucky to be there day after major storm). Wish had something wider underfoot (110mm+) and better set of skills, but hey - no complaints here.

After spending half of the day playing in these powder fields I headed over to Val D'Isere and stumbled upon wonderful run which became one of my favorite runs - 

lower 2/3 of Mattis run which leads down to the base of Laisinant Express:

 

 

AppleMark

 

Beautiful views down to the valley with Val D'Isere at the bottom.

 

 

Some chopped up snow since this is usually groomed area and crowds started appearing in the afternoon taking advantage of previous days snowfall. Spires liked this type of conditions the best of all. More exploring the area, some easy groomers of Glacier Express to work on carving technique (Spires not so good in this aspect but good enough to provide tons of fun). Called it a day and noticed that in two days of skiing I discovered less that 10% of ski area! This place is massive !!!

Skied back to chalet through Foret woods again, this time tree runs were all tracked out but still plenty of fresh lines to be found. This is how close to chalet I was able to ski - 30ft. short of ski-in.

 

 

AppleMark

 

 

Day 3 brought same condiotions after some 5cm of overnight snow, enough to refresh the hill. Made my way over to the central area of Val D'Isere (Solaise Express) and had some great piste runs while keeping my eye on the FACE. Of course I couldn't resist and headed over to the top of Bellevarde by taking very scenic ride on L'Olympique cable car.

Face Olypique de Bellevarde is one of the five classic downhill runs in the world and was host to FIS World Championship, Olympic downhill and annual mid December World Cup races.

 

 

View from the cable car down towards Val D'Isere.

 

 

AppleMark

 

View from 2/3 down the Face, good that these fences are there otherwise little distraction with the amazing view, wrong move and plunge to the bottom. I have to admit that adrenalin took over on this run and I didn't feel too intimidated, I would say rather excited to be on this run than overwhelmed with steepness and technical difficulty of the run itself. Since it is southeast facing run it gets icy on spots which requires special attention, I have seem quite a few wipe outs, fortunately it wasn't me.

That day I also discovered great runs off to La Daille side and one of my favorite groomed runs with great challenging options to the either side of groomed piste - off  Manchet Express. In following days Arcelle and Marmottons runs were order of the day.

 

Some flat light and overcast days followed but that usually meant new snow on the mountain. Again, skiing in flat light conditions in the Alps is no fun at all. I was forced to make one day short and visit amazing Oxygen Aquasportif center for some body pampering.

 

By day six I made it to Tignes side and not because I was bored with Val D'Isere side, but because I felt going there to justify my buying the whole Espace Killy pass. Now, from the top of Toviere view opens up towards Tignes area (host of Xgames). Town itself is not very pretty - it mostly consist of mid rise building filled with vacationing tourists and usual selection of restaurants and ski shops. Took few runs off Grand Motte and then headed over to check out another famous runs off the Col des Ves, ungroomed bump fields on one side, steep groomer on the other and lots of still untracked lines in between.

 

 

AppleMark

View going up very slow Col des Ves chair but after enduring harsh winds while riding the chair the rewards are these vast powder fields and great and challenging terrain.

 

Back to LaDaille side to find this bliss:

 

 

AppleMark

 

I think that Elan Spires are made for this, I had great time riding those babies in this soft bumps, tracked out powder and in and out of trees. Hours and hours of fun. 

 

And this is pretty much how the rest of the trip was going. And some random picks of favorite sights and places:

 

 

My fav restaurant L'Arolay.

 

 

Every morning's path to paradise.

 

On the way out of the mountains, another storm with healthy dose of snow was heading toward the Alps. Alps are experiencing great snow season and it is not too late to head over that way. It is not scary expensive, it is not that hard to get too (especially from the East Coast) and it is great experience that would last a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

Of course each ski day ended up with one (or two, or ...) of these:

 

 

AppleMark

 

Vin Chaude ! Cheers !!!

 

 

PS

 

I would be happy to answer any questions if anybody is thinking going that way.


Edited by goranmilos - 1/21/13 at 11:07am
post #17 of 23
Great trip report! I am heading to Chamonix in March and your post helps stoke the fires. I am going with a group this time; my previous visit was 1 day solo at les Grand-Montets.
post #18 of 23

Excellent, I knew you would enjoy.  And you have only scratched the surface!

post #19 of 23
Wow. Thanks for the illustrated tour. I think your La Daille trees would have been my favorite too.
post #20 of 23

That's why I keep going back to Val d'Isere.

 

Did you find that bowl off to the side of the Signal drag lift? More importantly, did you get any crepes?

post #21 of 23
Thread Starter 

Yes, found that bowl off the Signal !!! Took it down towards Pyramides and then followed Pyramides opposite side from piste down to the Signal restaurant. Day  after the storm, maybe 10-ish fresh tracks altogether - very challenging but one of the most memorable and fun runs. That places has infinite possibilities for finding fresh track for days after the storm. Forgot to mention, the terrain off Cugnai lift is great, only I made a mistake taking a run there late in the day when it was in the shade and slow lift did not help. Interesting that 2 lifts that serve great terrain (Cugnai on Val D'Isere side and Col des Vas on Tignes side) are probably the slowest lifts - keeping the crowds away and providing great snow conditions for days after the storm has passed. Granted I haven't tried about half of lifts available.

 

Oh, forgot the crepes, I knew it,  I forgot something, now I gotta go back !!!

post #22 of 23

That bowl is almost always a good place to find nice snow even if everywhere else is skied out or wind affected, and it's always in full view of the pistes.

 

There's another off-piste run over the back from the Signal, but the avalanche danger is usually a little higher and you have to know where you're going a bit to get back to the pistes to Le Fornet. All in all, it's a good part of the mountain for nice snow.

post #23 of 23
Supposed to dump 30" in Val D'isere over the next 2-3 days bump :-)
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