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Val D'Isere / Tignes (aka "Espace Killy") Trip Report 1/27 - 2/6/2017 (Part I of II)

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My 2nd ski trip with my now 15 year-old nephew (The Kid), this year we visited Val D'Isere / Tignes to celebrate Chinese New Year.  

 

Day One - 1 /27 D.C. to Geneva 

 

Left work straight to airport, 7-hour direct flight from D.C. to Geneva. Arrived to Geneva at 7:30 am, and waited  ~2 hours for my nephews flight at 9:40 am.

The Kid was very excited to see me and gave me a big hug.  We ate lunch at the airport food court before catching 12 noon shuttle to Val D’Isere.

 

We did not need to get off bus to clear immigration and customs when we crossed French border.  How strange!

 

During our 4-hour bus ride to Val, we passed many small towns, and finally we were on the curvey winey road slowly ascending.  We arrived to Val around 4 pm. 

 

Priority no. 1 of the day: picked up ski gears for The Kid. 

It was a slow day at the rental shop (Snowberry), so the guy did the boot fitting was able to spend more time with us.  He tried out 2 different pairs of boots before deciding.  As for skis, rental shop guy suggested Salmon x-drive 154 cm on piste skis for him.  The guy was very patient and he took the time to explain the relationship b/w DIN setting, length of the skis, skier levels.   Learned something new everyday!

 

For me, I brought my 143 cm Dynastar Exclusive skis, I planned to rent few days (for demo) and used my own skis for few days.  Turned out this was a stupid decision, details more to come below.

 

By the time we got our gears, the lift ticket office was already closed.  So we went back to our hotel, shower and went out to this restaurant (L'Avancher) famous for Raclette for dinner. 

 

Raclette cheese on the plate.  

 

 

 

Our hotel in Val D'Isere

 

From our hotel room, we can see the famous "La Face" run.  Some nights, lights were turned on. 

It does not look steep, but it is steep!  

 

 

Day Two 1/28 - Happy Chinese New Year everyone!

 

Picked up 8-day lift pass at the office before 9 am.  Was on the Olympique Telecabine (gondola) little after 9 am.  This gondola serves the Bellvarde area.  

1st run of the day:  Mont Blanc (Green), I found it a bit tricky because it had a double fall line and I was nervous.  Afraid that if I didn’t turn soon enough, I would fall off the cliff. 

 

Snow condition wise, it reminded me of the east coast compact snow, trail surface a bit "hard".  Val hadn't had any snow for ~2 weeks.  

 

We did 3 more different runs: Vert, Genepy, Grand Pre (all green) and Club de Sports (blue) before I noticed something went very wrong…… my skis refused to turn, it felt sticky and it just “hanged on” to the snow, even when I tried to side slip, it did not slide.  I suspected it was the wrong wax (i had it tuned and waxed in the U.S. before this trip).  I told The Kid, I needed to change skis.  So we went back to the same ski rental shop (Snowberry), the woman recommended 149 cm Atomic Vantage.  She also examined my own skis and thought nothing wrong w/ wax. 

 

The entire process took about half hour, we went back to Olympique Telecabine (gondola), picked another green run (3 J and Vert lower part) to La Daille base. With the new skis, it was a bit better.  Still at times, I felt my skis was “overpowering” me, it turned before my body reacted to the turns. 

 

Vert lower part was a narrow cat walk, parts were bit steep, which I found were bit challenging, I had small anxiety attacks throughout this run because of the narrowness and steepness.  This means: I plowed most of the way down. 

 

Now the most interesting part of the day.  We picked a blue run (Santon) to descend down to the base.  Santon was a narrow natural half pipe with cliffs on both sides.  (In summer, this is a river.) It became narrower and the centre part was icier as we descended down.   Few people got stuck and fell.  I think this had a negative impact on me.  In the last ⅓ of the descend, I fell and could not get up.  People just skillfully skied passed me.  I think by the time I finally got up, I was paralysed with fear.  I tried to side slip, but I was sliding down at a speed faster than I was comfortable with. I changed to plan B,  I took off my skis and tried to walk down, not possible either because it was so icy.  So, plan C, I sat my butt down, put the skis and poles on my lap, and slide down.  It worked even though my jacket collected lots of snow by the time I made to the bottom.

 

The Kid was patiently waiting for me in the bottom.  It was about 3 pm?  He suggested we called it a day.  I said, but I want to end the day with a good run, not a bad run like that… So we went to the main base.  We took this Village chair lift (free), and skied down this green run for the newbies.  Then, we saw the disc tow next to the village chair.  We tried that also.  That was the first time I successfully managed a disc tow without falling.  Finally, I felt a bit better. 

 

(sorry no photo this day.  It was an overwhelming day with the wrong skis and the Santon run).  

 

 

Day Three - 1/29 blue bird day 

 

What a beautiful day it was!  Blue sky with a bit of sun peeking out.  We headed out to the Solaise Telecabine (gondola just built the past year?).  I really liked this area because the trails were wider and had nice pitches, snow condition was decent, trails were freshly groomed.  In general, I like this area better than the Bellvarde area (access from Olympique Telecabine) that we explored on Day Two.  I had my confidence back after skiing few runs off this area.  

 

2nd day of using the same skis Atomic Vantage.  I adapted to the skis a bit better than yesterday, but still at times, I felt my skis were outperformed me….

 

During one of the chair lift rides in Solaise, The Kid spotted a rope tow, asked me what it was and how to use it.  So I was happy to show him (thanks @Marznc).  This rope tow reminded me of the rope tow in Alta.

 

 

Highlight of the day - Leissieres chair.  Dang!  This was some impressive chair.  1) It crossed the ridge between 2 ski areas  2) this chair was for upload and download (since there was no trail between the 2 areas). I’d pretty confident to say, once you’ve ridden this chair, there is very few chair in the world will impress you further.

 

Leissieres chair 

 

 

This is the graphic illustration of the chair - it serves 2 different ski areas, crossing the ridge (highest point).

 

Photo below: I was about to "cross" the highest point of the ridge

 

Photo below:  right after passing the highest point, descended down to the ski area - Pissaillas

 

I wasn't doing a great job of catching the vertical in descend for this chair. But the vertical was huge, I could hear people in front me screaming after they passed the highest point and descended down.  

 

Interesting fact:  when there was lots of snow, after crossing the highest point, some people actually jump off the chair and skied off piste.  

 

Since this chair is for upload and download, you see people coming back.....  

If you are naughty, you can throw snowballs to people as they are approaching you....  

 

After that impressive chair ride, we took the Mangard (blue) run towards La Fornet base for lunch.  Even though this run had some steep parts, and parts with chunky snow in a narrow trees-lined trail, I managed it with a flying color.  This was definitely a confident booster run.  For that reason, I like this run!

 

We made a lunch reservation at this Michelin 2-star restaurant. Sweet deal: 29 euro for a 3-course lunch at the bistro (1st floor).  

 

 

 

 

After lunch, we headed out to the glacier part in Val D'Isere by another gondola.  

I took this photo from our lunch place, this is the gondola station to the glacier in La Fornet. 

 

 

We arrive to the Glacier in Val D'Isere !

 

Another angle of the Glacier in Val D'Isere

 

We did minimum exploring in the glacier area because it was late in the day (passed 3 pm).  

 

We decided to start heading back to the main village base.  To do that, it took some efforts in navigation and it was not as straightforward as you thought!

Basically, we skied down couple runs, bypassed the rope tow, got on the magic carpet then finally the Solaise gondola to head back to the village main base.  

 

The magic carpet was newly built with double “conveyor belt”. This is the only way to access the Solaise Telecabine (gondola) if you are returning from the glacier area. I think the reason they built this was, the distance was too short for a chair lift. 

 

Anyway, The Kid was amused to see this magic carpet serves everyone, i.e. both newbies and expert skiers.  For me, I have never seen so many advanced skiers on a magic carpet!

 

Thought of the day:  

The French way of doing things can be a bit convoluted and chaotic at times.  But behind the chaos, there is usually a good reason to it.  So you just have to go with the flow and it will be ok!  e.g. this magic carpet thing. You just need to get on it, so you can be on your way to the base! 

 

We still  opted to finish the day with the village chair and disc tow ride.  I think this became our routine now. 


Tomorrow will be the 1st day of his 5 half day ski school.  I can sense his excitement in the evening. 

 

 

Day Four - 1/30  Flat light day

 

Today was bit overcast. I dropped off the kid at ski school.  

 

Photo: The Kid's 1st day of ski school

 

I spent the rest of the morning to check out skis shops in town and also switched out my rental skis.  The guy at the shop suggested Salomon Kiana 151 cm and he also thought the Atomic Vantage was a bit above my level.  (no wonder I struggled w/ Vantage at times.). I happily obliged to his suggestion. 

 

I took this photo while strolling in town.  Water from the faucets was all frozen! 

 

I picked up The Kid from ski school at 12 noon and headed out to the mid mountain for lunch.  We ate at this place (near the Borsat chair lift) couple times.  Food was ok, but the location was convenient.  

 

In the middle of our lunch, snow started to come down.  

 

Since it started to snow, we decided to play safe (to avoid potential whiteout), we stick with the place we know:  Bellvarde area.  We did few runs and noticed the flat light.  I was a bit scared and my Oakley Prizm Rose goggle did not perform to my expectation.  We then moved to the lower part of the mountain, visibility did not improve too much, we started to head back to the village main base by 4 pm.

 

Again, we finished the day with the village chair run. 

 

I skied only half day today.  My skiing today was not as good as yesterday.  Probably I was a bit timid in the beginning w/ my new skis.  I felt OK after couple runs.  Anyway, Kiana worked better for me, it performed at my level.

 

Day Six - 1/31 Cloudy snowy flat light day

 

It snowed non stop for 24 hours (since yesterday).  

 

I dropped off The Kid for ski school in the morning and then went back to hotel for a nap. Felt much better afterwards!  I picked up The Kid at 12 noon and then we headed out to Tignes because we made a lunch reservation at this restaurant at 1:30 pm. 

 

Tignes has 3 base areas.  We could not find this restaurant at Tignes main base, realized the restaurant was located at a different base, and we needed to take a bus to get there.  An older local Frenchman was kind enough to show us the way to the bus stop.  During that short walk, he saw how we struggled to carry our skis and poles.  He said: “you are not carrying your skis like a real skier, this is how you should do it. “  Then he showed us how to do it.  He was very cute. I learned something new everyday!

 

The bus ride was 15 mins.?  It was good because we got to check out Tignes and contemplating the idea of staying here next time.  

 

Based on what I saw, Tignes base is more contemporary, versus Val D'Isere has more traditional feel.  Trails at Tignes were more “consistent” to the ratings, vs. Val were not.  For that reason, I felt more comfortable and confident skiing at Tignes, because I know what I am expecting and there’d be less suprises. 

 

The restaurant we went was known for it's beef dishes.  The Kid had steak tartar, and I just had a soup.  After our late lunch, we figured skiing back to Val D'Isere would take some cris cross and might take a bit longer time to get back.  We started moving quickly!

I was again impressed by the lift systems here.  This lift in Tignes has double loading:  2 quad chair side by side, every other chair to a location in Tignes and every another to Val D'Isere.  So you really need to be sure you wait on the right side.  We also saw this one lift tower handles both the gondola and chair lift.  Amazing!!!

 

The rest of the afternoon continued to snow, with flat light. Usually, the runs were pretty bumped up by afternoons.  But with the flat light, I could not really see any bumps, so I just dealt with the bumps as they came.  I became stress-free in flat lights!  (I usually become nervous when I see bumps)

It was snowing quite hard and I had to keep wiping snow off my goggles, I wish my goggles could have the "windshield wipers" like my car.  

 

This afternoon's snow condition in the mid mountain and base reminded me of WB's wet snow.  By the time we got back to village base, I was soaking wet through and through. We still finish our day with the routine, ski the village lift chair as our last run of the day.

 

 

Day Six 2/1  Blue bird powder day. 

 

After 36 hours of snow, Val D'Isere got ~1 feet of snow. I  started skiing this morning as soon I dropped off the kid at ski school.  I took Solaise Telecabine (gondola) to the Solaise side and then off to the glacier for some powder skiing. 

 

First stop: Le Lounge off Solaise Telecabine.

 

Photo: External view of Le Lounge.  To the right is Solaise Telecabine (gondola). 

 

What you see as you walk in...

 

Like many typical Chinese tourist, I spent too much time taking pictures inside public restrooms. Because I can't help it!  This place was too impressive, even the bathroom!  

This is the view from the Ladies' room. It has a huge window overlooking the mountain.  

 

 

 

This was the 1st day I saw so many people went off piste, and heli skiing.  Without The Kid as my “human GPS”, I had to stop often to look at my cheat sheet (the kid made me) and the trail map to make sure I was heading to the right trails and right lifts.

 

The snow condition was beyond amazing, reminded me of Alta and Sunshine snow conditions.  Surly, Val D'Isere grows on you and now I am quite fond of here. 

 

I supposed to meet the kid at 11:45 am for lunch at Solaise Le Lounge.  But I took the wrong gondola and then had to take a long detour (my sense of direction was very bad).  I was >30 mins. late when I arrived to our meeting place.  The kid was worried sick.  I felt very bad. 

 

We had lunch at Le Lounge, built 2 years ago. It was a very contemporary 2-floor building with glass windows overlooking the slopes from different angles.  (Even the restroom has this huge glass window overlooking the slopes).  

 

Le Lounge only has a coffee shop on 2nd floor. But the setting was so inviting, we spent an hour here just to enjoy the view.  By now, I am falling in love with Val D’Isere.  Great powder skiing, magnificent views, what’s more to ask for ? 

 

 

Food at Le Lounge was not so expensive.  He had 3 different pastries (chocolate croissant, regular croissant, raison croissant) and hot chocolate, I had a cafe mocha. Grand total: ~12 Euro.  

But the view...  it is priceless!

 

Behind the coffee shop, it has a sitting area where you can relax.  Also has a kids area with big screen TV on the 2nd floor.

 

Coffee Pastry shop

 

 

After lunch, the kid suggested we head back to the glaciers and tried out the disc tow and T bar.  I happily obliged.  Compared to last year, one huge progression I made during this trip was, I became more open to try new things.  Last year at WB, the kid wanted to do T bar and disc tow, I flatly said no.  I think I finally realized, it was ok to try these new things, I would not get hurt from trying them. 

 

Afternoon the trails got bumped up pretty bad.  But with the powder snow, I felt very comfortable navigating through the bumps because they were so forgiving, I could ski over, around, whatever….   I did not loose control or fell.  I was no longer afraid of bumps!   Actually I kind of like bumps because they slowed me down.

The kid, on the other hand, was not so fond of bumps, he said they were hard on his knees and they slowed him down….

 

We finished the day with our routine village run.  Another great day of skiing. I think my confidence level and ability level grew stronger each day.   I was comfortable to ski faster, ski in icy conditions and bumps. I really like skiing in Europe. 

 

After 5 days of skiing here, I encountered, French, German, Australian, British, Italian; but no American or Canadian yet.

 

Day Seven 2/2  - Overcast day

 

I started skiing as soon as I dropped the kid at his lesson.  Headed out to Solaise and glacier side again, because that side has the best snow conditions. 

 

I stopped at Piste “L” (blue but a difficult one, more like red), debated if I should go down there myself.  Since I saw the Kid’s GoPro recording the night before, it was similar to Santon, but wider half pipe with steeper part in the beginning of the run.  I chickened out, I headed out to Glacier side at Val D'Isere. 

 

I  skied down this Vallon (blue run) trail off Solaise area, it was another natural half pipe but much shorter, wider than Santon and since it was early in the morning, the snow condition was still good.  I enjoyed half pipe if it was not icy and wide.  I enjoyed that Vallon half pipe so much that I repeated 2 times and headed back to Bellvarde side to meet up with The Kid for lunch. 

 

We decided to go to Tignes for lunch.  This place called Le Plate, privately owned cafeteria, great view but bit more expensive.  So, it was worth it.  This place was different from Le Lounge.  It was outside seating.  I found it was a bit cold and windy.  Since it is private, you'd need to pay to use their restrooms...  

 

We decided to spend the remaining day at Tignes.  Remembered I said before that I liked Tignes?  Now I changed my mind!  There were way too many snowboarders in Tignes than Val D'Isere.  I got hit by a snowboarder once, the person just took off.  Second time, it was a close call with another snowboarder going on high speed.  

 

The condition was not as good yesterday and I did not ski well.  Combination of reasons: I had a new rental ski Rossi Famous 2,  a carving ski.  I felt like I had to carve more than I wanted. My knees were hurting from 2 consecutive day of skiing.

 

The Kid wanted to ski more in Tignes but I wanted to call it a day.  He might be a bit frustrated because I wanted to finish early today, I was skiing so slow and he had to wait for me often.   

 

We got back to hotel early. I proposed that he asked (again) for his parents' permission to ski alone, checked back with me every 30 or 45 minutes, and we would bring our walkie talkie. 

It was good that his parents finally agreed.  Since he wanted to do more exploring in Tignes the next day, we discussed our meeting points at Tignes during dinner time. 

 

Day Eight 2/3 - Another blue bird powder day

 

We got another round of snow.  Overnight snowfall resulted in 12 - 15 cm of snow. I tried to wake up The Kid at 7:15 am, he ignored me.  I then said to him, we got more snow overnight, take a look.  He got up immediately!  (kids!)

 

Today was his last day of ski school.  This Australian snowboarder in his class wanted to learn skiing, he skipped 2 days out of 5-day ski lessons in total, because he wanted to take advantage of powder day.  Today, he was no show again. But I couldn't  blame him.


I supposed to meet up with The Kid in Tignes (the same spot near this restaurant we had lunch), I was late again!  Same reason, I got lost, had to take a detour and then missed the bus stop to get off.  It should only take me ~1.5 hour to ski from Val D'Isere to Tignes, but I took more than 2 hours.  Me and my sense of direction, it is hopeless!   

 

After lunch, The Kid strategically planned out a route in Tignes, so that he could maximize his time in exploring the areas and; I could minimize my skiing (knees still hurting).  

 

Like all previous days, I just followed him and trusted him that he would not take me to terrains beyond my ability.  But guess what, surprise of the day. As we got off this chair in Tignes, he said: "Well you need to go down on this red run (advanced blue), no other options to go down....but it was not bad"  I thought to myself: "Yes for you. But not for me." While I was contemplating how I should manage this, he already reached to the bottom of the trail....

 

That red run was steep with big bumps, but it was wide.  I was very scared initially because I thought it looked icy.  (I could handle bumps by now but ice, still a no.) To my surprise, I managed each turn okay because it was not icy.    So I just took my time, handle 1 turn at a time.  Believe me, there were moments that I really want to strangle The Kid after I made my way down.  But as I reached to the bottom, I thought to myself: "hmm, it wasn't so bad, it was the first red run I did here, and I survived it!" 

 

So, off we went again to another area in Tignes to explore.  While I was waiting for The Kid at a lift chair (he went to explore on his own), the lift guy came to chat with me.  I guess they normally do not see many Asians, when they see one, they are curious to learn more about you. He asked me all sorts of interesting questions: where are you from?  Are there any ski resorts in China? Which part of China?  How many?  

 

By the time The Kid finished exploring Tignes, it was quite late.  We barely made to the last gondola back to Val D'Isere at 4:30pm.  It was a good day overall.  The Kid got what he wanted, I survived the 1st red run and had the rest I needed.  

 

It started snowing again and The Kid wanted to try "La Face" on his last day (tomorrow).  

 

Day Nine 2/4 - Au Revoir Val D'Isere 

 

The day started with overcast, visibility was not very good.  I turned The Kid loose and let him went exploring himself.  He decided not to do La Face run after all  because of poor visibility.  For this, I applauded his decision, a wise and level headed one.  For me, I spent my last morning in Village chair.  Then I went back to the Solaise area, I just did 3 runs off the magic carpet. I did not want to venture out further because we had to catch the 1 pm bus back to Geneva.  I did not want to get lost and be late again.  

 

My last ride of the Solaise Telecabine.

 

 

The runs below the Solaise Telecabine (gondola) are either red or black, all these runs take you back to the main village base.  

 

We never skied down to the main village base, because all those runs are steep....  we always take the gondolas, either Olympique Telecabine or Solaise Telecabine.  

 

 

 

 

 

The Solaise Telecabine (gondola) was built in recently.  They had to cut down some trees to make "ways" for the gondola.  See the exposed tree trunks.  

 

One of the side trails off the Solaise.  

 

 

 

Final thoughts:

 

1) Skiing in Europe is not expensive.  We bought 8-day ski lift ticket at $334 per person, 8-day boots + skis rental $240, 5 half-day lesson - $235.  Calculated it out per daily cost, it is still cheaper than the cost of 1-day lift ticket at some big U.S. ski resorts. e.g. Stowe, Vail, Aspen...

 

2) There are more ski school options.  Unlike U.S. where there is only 1 ski school per resort.  I think this is a good idea because competition breeds better quality and value.  

 

Before our trip, The Kid did some research on his own and narrowed down to 3 ski schools (ESF, Oxygene, Evolution 2).   The first 2 days, we visited those 3 schools, and asked about the price, instructor to student ratio, language (whether it is a bilingual instruction or english only). Evolution 2 had a promotion: $195 for 5 half day, but it had 5 students signed up for the class when we checked.  ESF is the most expensive ($285?) and has the highest student to instructor ratio.  Oxygene is $235 for 5 half-day, only 2 students signed up when we checked and it is English only instruction.  We went with Oxygene.

 

The Kid was very happy with his choice.  He liked his 21-year old Italian instructor a lot because he found the guy was very good at teaching teenage kids. He felt he progressed more this year than last year at WB. Now he started to learn carving, which he likes it very much. 

 

3) No chair lift chat because Europeans don't want to be intrusive. 

 

4) No queueing to get on lift chairs. No such thing that you have lift guys call out "first row" or direct the traffic.  

 

5) I found trail rating at Val D'Isere is not very reliable and consistent.  Some green runs are actually more difficult than blues.  I experienced some surprises when I skied on the greens and blues. Even though a run is rated as green, there can be portions of the run that are challenging (icy, bumpy, narrow or steep) because one run can be very long.  (felt extra long if you are struggling!).  

 

6) Tignes on the other hand, trial rating is more reliable and consistent.  Less surprises.  

 

7) Trials are normally get pretty bumped up within the first 2 hours, at least for the trails that I skied on.  

 

8)  This place was impressive, I’ve never seen mountains and lift systems in such vast and mature scale.  You have: rope tow, detachable disc tow, 8-person detachable chair lift, double loading lift chairs, funicular, gondolas, magic carpets to take you from one area to the next.  It was so efficient.  

 

9) Definitely a plus if you have a good sense of direction.  Because it can be tricky to navigate your way around at times.  I was very lucky (& thankful) to have The Kid as my guide.  He is like a human GPS.  Before the start of our trip, he already knew the trails, lifts like the back of his hand.  

 

10) If you are interested in the lift systems, or riding different kind of lifts, Austria is a very good place to visit (I learned from my nephew).  Of course, Val D'Isere / Tignes is not so shabby either!  The Kid loves to ride different chair lifts, so this place meets his interest.  

 

By the end of this trip, I become:

1) better in skiing bumps

2) more comfortable in handling faster speed

3) extremely proficient in cutting lines and I can now subtly make my way from the last row to the gate in no time! (But this won't help me much in the U.S., will it?) 

 

Last but not least, I want to thank you to the folks who responded to my threads about this trip.  Special shout out, but not limited to @CerebralVortex, @marznc, @LiquidFeet, @snowbunny 


Edited by fosphenytoin - 2/11/17 at 6:08pm
post #2 of 38

Great TR!  Nice to hear about skiing in Europe from an intermediate's perspective.  The Kid sounds like a good ski buddy. :)

 

Do you think the trip had enough ski days to justify the travel time and cost to get there from the U.S. east coast?

post #3 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 

Great TR!  Nice to hear about skiing in Europe from an intermediate's perspective.  The Kid sounds like a good ski buddy. :)

 

Do you think the trip had enough ski days to justify the travel time and cost to get there from the U.S. east coast?


Yes, The Kid was an excellent ski buddy, I was very fortunate.  I supposed to take care of him but I think he took care of me more than I did for him.  He was very cognizant of my limited ability, when we skied together, he only chose runs that were suitable to my level.  He also paid attention to the slope orientation, based on the sun exposure, we avoid certain areas depends on the time of the day.  

 

In terms of cost, excluding airfare, 3 main expenses are lodging, meals, and lift tickets.  (assuming you are not taking lessons or renting gears.)  

Food on the mountain is not necessarily cheaper than U.S. but it offers far better quality to value ratio.  i.e. you get better quality / tastier food for the same price you are paying in the U.S. 

 

For lodging, we stayed at Val D'Isere and paid $1960 euro for 8 nights for 2 of us, breakfast included.  We also chose half board: 5-course dinner at additional $38 euro per person. 

The hotel we chose was only 5 min. walk from the main base, so it costed a bit more.  

Same idea as the U.S., one can choose to stay a bit far from the village for less $$ and then bus in daily.  

One can also save some cost by not opting for the half board.  I decided to go w/ half board because of convenience. Also, I figured The Kid only gets to experience this once a year, so I don't skimp on him.  

 

(For Val D'Isere & Tignes, one can choose to stay at Tignes, which costs less.  The only caveat is, it takes a bit of time to ski your way from Tignes to Val, by the time you arrive to Val, it'd be late morning.  So you will only have few hours to explore Val before you need to head back to Tignes. 

There is a bus runs between Val D'Isere and Tignes but we've never taken it. I don't know how much it costs.)

 

For lift ticket at Val / Tignes, it is about ~$45 per day.

 

As for travel time, flight time (~7 hours) + 4.5 hours bus ride, it does take one solid day each way.  

 

Skiing in Europe is definitely more appealing.  We are thinking of Solden, Austria in 2019.  (The Kid is interested to visit the U.S. in 2018.) 

 

My typical breakfast. Much better than the U.S. continental b'fast. It has baguette, different croissants, parma ham, yogurt, cereals, fruits, varieties of bread and cakes, cappuccinos / cafe au lait / chocolate / milk / juices.

 

5 course dinner started with soup (no pic)

Appetizer

 

2 main course to select from, usually it's seafood, meat (steak, lamb, pork chop).

 

Cheese tray - 4th course

 

Dessert 5th course. 

 

I took photos of our dinners every night.  Let me know if you guys want to see more food pics!

post #4 of 38

FYI, Switzerland and France are part of the Schengen border-free area, so that's why you don't have to go through passport control at the border.

 

I definitely agree about the trail ratings at Val d'Isere. The blacks are the only ones that are consistent. For everything else, some are accurate and some are underrated (Santons should be a red and Piste M should be a black).

 

I'm glad you got some snow. A lot of areas didn't have any for quite a while up until the beginning of the month. It makes a big difference on those long runs.

post #5 of 38

Oh, another resort that might be worth looking into for your next trip is Arosa. Now that it's connected to Lenzerheide, it has a lot of terrain accessible from a nice town. You can get there by train from Zurich, which is a scenic journey.

post #6 of 38

Fantastic Trip Report. Very thorough, love the pics. Featured it on our homepage and social pages! 

post #7 of 38
Thanks for sharing. Well done! You may be an intermediate skier, but you function and report like a very sophisticated traveler. And you have visited a place that is on the bucket list for many advanced/experts and provided great information. Your 15 y/o nephew seems like an excellent asset as a travel buddy and you are a fantastic aunt to share ski experiences with him that he will never forget.
post #8 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CerebralVortex View Post
 

I definitely agree about the trail ratings at Val d'Isere. The blacks are the only ones that are consistent. For everything else, some are accurate and some are underrated (Santons should be a red and Piste M should be a black).

 

I'm glad you got some snow. A lot of areas didn't have any for quite a while up until the beginning of the month. It makes a big difference on those long runs.

Thanks for the confirmation about trail ratings!  I was feeling a bit overwhelmed after the 1st day, worried how I could survive 7 more days if the blues were so difficult... 

 

Curious to know, why they did not bother to "re-classify" the ratings for certain trails?  In a way, it is misleading....  No wonder I see more beginners than I'd normally expect on some of the difficult green / blue trails, e.g. Santon (blue), Vert (green), Mangard (green).  

 

Yes, I guess we got lucky.  It snowed 3 times during our 8 days stay. 1st time snowed for 36 hours but due to warm temperature, we only got 5 cm accumulation.  2nd and 3rd snowed quite heavy.  On my last day there, I heard blasts from afar, I think they were triggering small avalanches?  

post #9 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CerebralVortex View Post
 

Oh, another resort that might be worth looking into for your next trip is Arosa. Now that it's connected to Lenzerheide, it has a lot of terrain accessible from a nice town. You can get there by train from Zurich, which is a scenic journey.


Thanks for the info.  I do prefer train ride over bus, I think it is safer too.  We will look into Arosa.  

 

My nephew likes exploring different lift chairs, gondolas, disc tow, etc.  So, Austria is the place to go....  

post #10 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post

Thanks for sharing. Well done! You may be an intermediate skier, but you function and report like a very sophisticated traveler. And you have visited a place that is on the bucket list for many advanced/experts and provided great information. Your 15 y/o nephew seems like an excellent asset as a travel buddy and you are a fantastic aunt to share ski experiences with him that he will never forget.


Thank you for the compliment.  I can't take all the credits to myself.  The Kid and his father (my brother) are the sophisticated travelers.  They chose Val D'Isere for the destination, with 2 glaciers so it's "snow sure".   The Kid's father suggested the restaurants (including the Michlin 2-star for lunch because it is affordable). The Kid planned out the routes and decided what day we should go.... I just dutifully followed and chaperoned as needed.   

Yes, I hope he will cherish the memories for our ski trips.  I know I will.  Thinking back, the best day of skiing for this trip was not skiing on a powder blue bird day, but it was the afternoon that he showed me how to use the disc tow and t-bar, then how we got on the t-bar together. 

post #11 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by fosphenytoin View Post
 

Thanks for the confirmation about trail ratings!  I was feeling a bit overwhelmed after the 1st day, worried how I could survive 7 more days if the blues were so difficult... 

 

Curious to know, why they did not bother to "re-classify" the ratings for certain trails?  In a way, it is misleading....  No wonder I see more beginners than I'd normally expect on some of the difficult green / blue trails, e.g. Santon (blue), Vert (green), Mangard (green).  

 

Yes, I guess we got lucky.  It snowed 3 times during our 8 days stay. 1st time snowed for 36 hours but due to warm temperature, we only got 5 cm accumulation.  2nd and 3rd snowed quite heavy.  On my last day there, I heard blasts from afar, I think they were triggering small avalanches?  

 

I think they just don't want to admit that there is no easy way down on certain parts of the mountain. They probably don't want to scare away beginners and lower intermediates. Unfortunately, that leads to people struggling on slopes that they think they should be able to handle, especially Piste M. That thing gets really icy on the steeper sections in the afternoon as more and more people ski down it. I often see people choosing to sit down and slide down the icy sections because they're not able to handle it on their skis/boards. I actually find it easier to ski off the side of that piste (on the skier's right).

 

This year has been strange for snow in the Alps (snow, then drought, then snow, then drought), so you timed your trip well. The pisteurs were probably blasting sections of off-piste terrain that would threaten pistes or buildings below. That's pretty common when they get a fair bit of snow.


Edited by CerebralVortex - 2/14/17 at 1:45am
post #12 of 38

I LOVED this post. 

I'm so intrigued by skiing in Europe.  I'm a novice in international travel, yet an advanced skier.  Any chance you are taking applications for an additional "nephew"? 

post #13 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattSmith View Post
 

I LOVED this post. 

I'm so intrigued by skiing in Europe.  I'm a novice in international travel, yet an advanced skier.  Any chance you are taking applications for an additional "nephew"? 


Haha! You are funny.  If you follow me, think "blind leading the blind".  I can check w/ my nephew if he is willing to accept an apprentice next time we go back to Europe for skiing. 

 

Seriously, in terms of travel logistics, organize a ski trip to Europe is not as daunting as you thought.  We arrived to Geneva Airport, hopped on a shuttle bus to Val D'Isere, 4 hours later, we were there.   Out of Geneva airport, there are so many shuttle buses servicing different ski resorts in France, Chamonix, 3 valleys, Val D'Isere, Les Arc, etc...  With that said, it is really no different than traveling to SLC, then take shuttle to Alta; or flying to Vancouver then take shuttle to WB, or to Calgary and take Brewster bus to Banff.  

 

Trip Advisor is my go-to resource for info. on travel logistics, esp. public transportation.  

 

I recalled what my nephew told me: 

If you are not so good with directions, you need places with good signage.  So, you might want to consider ski resorts in Austria, France is also good.

If you like riding and checking out different chair lifts, Austria is very good.  

If you want scenery, Dolomites in Italy is good. The place can be a bit tricky to get to in winter (without driving).  But definitely a place to keep in mind when you become a more experienced traveler.  It is on my bucket list because of it's interesting history and stunning scenery.  

post #14 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattSmith View Post
 

I LOVED this post. 

I'm so intrigued by skiing in Europe.  I'm a novice in international travel, yet an advanced skier.  Any chance you are taking applications for an additional "nephew"? 

 

There has occasionally been an informal European Gathering before... perhaps we should figure out how to have a more formal one sometime (or as formal as Gathering's get at least).

post #15 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbostedo View Post
 

 

There has occasionally been an informal European Gathering before... perhaps we should figure out how to have a more formal one sometime (or as formal as Gathering's get at least).

 

The problem we always run into is a lack of interest. A few of us have tried to arrange gatherings a few different times. Most times, there wasn't enough initial interest to even think about making plans. The one time there was a significant amount of initial interest, almost everyone dropped out by the time the day came, and in the end, there were only four of us (me, @Altanaut, her husband, and one of their friends).

 

That said, we still had a good time http://www.epicski.com/t/128294/euro-gathering-tr-february-8-15-2014.


Edited by CerebralVortex - 2/15/17 at 1:11am
post #16 of 38
CV, as you may know there is always a vote during the current Epic Gathering (Whistler this year, early March) for where the group will go next year. It is implied that whoever makes suggestions will take on job of trip leader (or find a trip leader) if their suggestion is later voted the winning destination by gatherees. I have toyed with the idea of suggesting the next big gathering be held in Europe at St. Anton. However, I've never been to St. Anton and would not be a very good advocate to explain its pros/cons to the group. Would you be interested in providing me with brief info on St. Anton or recommendations for other strong candidate destinations such as 3 Valleys, Espace Killy, St. Moritz, Zermatt, etc? I think factors that would be appealing are to the group, perhaps in this order: good terrain variety including top notch steeps, good snow conditions and resort infrastructure, easy access by plane/train/auto for those coming from US, reasonable lodging costs at several price points, availability of EpicSki members from Europe to participate and provide local knowledge about skiing and resort activities, decent restaurant/apres scene. If there is an existing thread with this kind of info/discussion, you could just point me to that. Thank you. Apologize to OP for hijack of her nice TR thread.
post #17 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post

CV, as you may know there is always a vote during the current Epic Gathering (Whistler this year, early March) for where the group will go next year. It is implied that whoever makes suggestions will take on job of trip leader (or find a trip leader) if their suggestion is later voted the winning destination by gatherees. I have toyed with the idea of suggesting the next big gathering be held in Europe at St. Anton. However, I've never been to St. Anton and would not be a very good advocate to explain its pros/cons to the group. Would you be interested in providing me with brief info on St. Anton or recommendations for other strong candidate destinations such as 3 Valleys, Espace Killy, St. Moritz, Zermatt, etc? I think factors that would be appealing are to the group, perhaps in this order: good terrain variety including top notch steeps, good snow conditions and resort infrastructure, easy access by plane/train/auto for those coming from US, reasonable lodging costs at several price points, availability of EpicSki members from Europe to participate and provide local knowledge about skiing and resort activities, decent restaurant/apres scene. If there is an existing thread with this kind of info/discussion, you could just point me to that. Thank you. Apologize to OP for hijack of her nice TR thread.

 

Not a problem. If you want to create a new thread somewhere, I can add some info about St. Anton, and there should be some others who can add info about other places as well. Just PM me with the thread link in case I don't see it in the list of new threads.

post #18 of 38
CV, rather than start an open thread/discussion about venues at this time could you send me a PM with a brief paragraph or two on how well St. Anton meets my criteria? Don’t spend too much time, but if you think there are one or two other resorts that might rate even better let me know. Also interested in your recommendation for best dates or other questions/issues I should consider. While I haven't skied St. Anton, I have skied elsewhere in Austria and my impression is that St. Anton has diverse terrain, moderate costs, reasonably snowsure, good transportation links, good town for après, etc.
post #19 of 38

This is an informative thread.  Val d'Isere is #1 on my list of places I want to ski but have not yet, and after the recent 3 weeks in Austria my ski area list is now 210.

 

Val d'Isere has an expert reputation and thus strikes me as a poor fit for the self described ski levels of the OP and family.  OTOH the Alps are not having a great year, and they got much better snow than they would have most places during that week. 

 

That week was the last of our 3, and we spent the first part of it in Venice as it had not snowed since the first couple of days of our trip. The storm that hit in the middle of the week was a warm one and thus snowed only above ~5,500 feet. That's why we chose Ischgl for the end of our trip and why the storm was good at Val d'Isere.

 

In terms of criteria for a Gathering James stated, the Alps are a calculated risk.  Steep terrain by the North American standards of Whistler, Jackson, Alta/Snowbird is nearly all off piste in the Alps. That means at many places (including Val d'Isere per dustyfog's TR awhile back) you will need to hire guides just for route finding and assessing avalanche risk. The major upside of off-piste is that most of the Euro skiers stay on piste, so if you get new snow there is far less competition than in North America and you can be skiing some powder for several days as we did in the Arlberg.

 

During the latter two weeks of my trip I did almost no off-piste skiing due to low tide conditions and/or old snow not being very good.  The first week in the Arllberg had a lot of new snow at the beginning, it stayed cold to preserve it, and so some of it was still there at the end of the week.  I also hit some rocks and wrecked a ski on the 5th day in the Arlberg.  My Blizzard Bonafides had 155 days of use, so I was not that upset. I replaced them in Europe for 419 Euros, much less than they cost in the US. 

 

Week 2 in Kitzbuhel, SkiWelt and Saalbach was blue skies, packed powder groomers over vast terrain.  The British visitors at Saalbach raved about how good it was, and for the quintessential Euro ski experience covering miles of runs (185K vertical in 6 days in my case) with great scenery and a couple of amazing lunches, it fit the bill. But if you went over there to ski off-piste steeps that was not happening that week.

post #20 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post

CV, as you may know there is always a vote during the current Epic Gathering (Whistler this year, early March) for where the group will go next year. It is implied that whoever makes suggestions will take on job of trip leader (or find a trip leader) if their suggestion is later voted the winning destination by gatherees. I have toyed with the idea of suggesting the next big gathering be held in Europe at St. Anton. However, I've never been to St. Anton and would not be a very good advocate to explain its pros/cons to the group. Would you be interested in providing me with brief info on St. Anton or recommendations for other strong candidate destinations such as 3 Valleys, Espace Killy, St. Moritz, Zermatt, etc? I think factors that would be appealing are to the group, perhaps in this order: good terrain variety including top notch steeps, good snow conditions and resort infrastructure, easy access by plane/train/auto for those coming from US, reasonable lodging costs at several price points, availability of EpicSki members from Europe to participate and provide local knowledge about skiing and resort activities, decent restaurant/apres scene. If there is an existing thread with this kind of info/discussion, you could just point me to that. Thank you. Apologize to OP for hijack of her nice TR thread.


I am definitely interested in another European ski trip, Austria is on top of my list.  Not sure when does the Epic Gathering normally occur?  If it falls in mid Feb., my nephew may join me as well (school break).  Since I live in the east coast, traveling across the Atlantic is not much different than flying out west coast.  For sure skiing in Europe is more appealing for many reasons!

post #21 of 38

I have the opinion that US east coasters should ski in the Alps much more than most of them do.  Living on the West Coast it's a much higher bar.  Coming from that far it's best to do more than one week, and thus I've only been doing that since I retired.

post #22 of 38

I too love these trip reports for places I've never been, but have only dreamed about to this point.  Even though the skiing itself sounds ho-hum, I welcome the incredible scenery, culture, and other aspects of trips to some of the iconic European spots (Espace Killy, St. Anton, Zermatt, Cortina, etc.).  Perhaps I'll have to follow Tony's lead and just wait until I retire in 25 years.  Hopefully, there will still be some snow left then.

post #23 of 38
The skiing can be far from ho-hum. My 2008 trip was to La Grave. Of course guides are mandatory for that type of skiing.

At an Epic Gathering, groups of 4-5 compatible skiers should be able to hire a guide for $100-$150pp per day. Remember that lift tickets are in the $50 per day range.

A typical Gathering attendee should have guides 3-4 days of a trip to St. Anton or Val D'Isere IMHO.
Edited by Tony Crocker - 2/16/17 at 6:35am
post #24 of 38

Excellent trip report – brings back many happy memories of skiing in France.   I have ridden that Leissieres chair also – it is an awesome experience as you go over the top and the ground drops away.  (I mistakenly remembered is being at La Plagne, but this seems very similar to the one I remember)

 

With regard to potential Gathering in Europe, couple thoughts

  • Given that date of the trip needs to be fixed way in advance, the French high-altitude resorts offer much better chances of good snow (and glaciers in truly bad years) than most resorts. It's a lot of money to invest and get skunked.  Not sure how St Anton compares on that front
  • I think (in France at least) condos are generally lower cost than in the US and may be a better option than hotels.   Rooms are smaller and they are a little less lux, but many more are also ski-in, ski-out which is really nice
  • Ski-school is much more affordable and will take you off-piste.  Instructors (as in most places) seem to enjoy working with better skiers and I could easily see a group of similar-level Epic skiers booking a 5-day ski school and having the equivalent of an expert guide for the week at a very reasonable cost
  • You can do a lot of skiing every day, so 7/8 days all-in would be a reasonable trip from the East Coast/Midwest at least (for ROI on cost and hassle of getting there)

If this does become a serious contention, I can help with knowledge and logistics for French areas

post #25 of 38

Sorry, Tony, had not read your latest post, with regard to guides etc which would be another great option

post #26 of 38
This year was the in depth Austria trip. Next year I hope to be similar for France. The British skiers say the amenities are much nicer in Austria than France.

No question there are more high altitude places in France. Ischgl is the best Austria can do. The high snowfall in the Arlberg is a compensating factor during the January/early February time frame. Our first week there probably had the best snow in the Alps at that time.

If the Gathering is post school holidays mid-March or later, I agree most of the best candidates are in France, with Val D'Isere being #1.

I recall Dustyfog endorsed the all week ski school at Tignes as providing some great off piste skiing.
post #27 of 38

@fosphenytoin , what a fantastic TR you've written, BRAVA!!!  I so thoroughly enjoyed your authentic voice, seeing wide breadth of photos and dining options in Val D'Isere/Tignes.  I wasn't nearly as brave and adventuresome as you when I worked in Geneva for 4 months, and it was during the winter months too.  :hissyfit: I commuted across French-Swiss border every day by bus or bike without clearing immigration and custom because of Schengen but had to have my passport ready; agent occasionally came on the bus to check ID.  I found it most schizophrenic carrying two set of currencies and mobile phone SIM (7 years ago) 6 miles apart.

 

Each one of us can make the best version of our own dream vacation despite naysayers.  I subscribe to the following: most of the time what other people think (of me)... is really none of my business!

 

I look forward to finally meet you in Whistler.  

post #28 of 38

@fosphenytoin , excellent report!

 

My first European ski trip was to Espace Killy for a week last April, what a great place!

 

Yes, the lifts are tremendous - the Olympique Telecabine, the up and over Leissieres chair, the covered magic carpet on Solaise. At the beginning of the magic carpet written on a chalkboard in English was the very helpful message: "You fall, you die" - made me laugh out loud. I am surprised you didn't mention riding the funiculars. (or should I say the funicular at Tignes and the Funival at Val?) Maybe it was because I had never ridden one before, but I thought they were fantastic! The Funival was also great for a ride down at the end of the day to avoid the late afternoon April slush piles.

 

You didn't mention the Tignes Glacier (La Grande Motte). So easy to access - the funicular then a cable car and you are at the top. The main run is rated red but is really a very wide blue. Excellent runs below the funicular as well, my favorite blue run of the week was Genepy.

 

I wish I had done some restaurant research, you found some good spots. I just stopped when I was hungry, so it was hit and miss.

post #29 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rainbow Jenny View Post
 

@fosphenytoin , what a fantastic TR you've written, BRAVA!!!  I so thoroughly enjoyed your authentic voice, seeing wide breadth of photos and dining options in Val D'Isere/Tignes.  I wasn't nearly as brave and adventuresome as you when I worked in Geneva for 4 months, and it was during the winter months too.  :hissyfit: I commuted across French-Swiss border every day by bus or bike without clearing immigration and custom because of Schengen but had to have my passport ready; agent occasionally came on the bus to check ID.  I found it most schizophrenic carrying two set of currencies and mobile phone SIM (7 years ago) 6 miles apart.

 

Each one of us can make the best version of our own dream vacation despite naysayers.  I subscribe to the following: most of the time what other people think (of me)... is really none of my business!

 

I look forward to finally meet you in Whistler.  


Thanks @Rainbow Jenny .  I concur w/ what you said above.  I had a blast, it was a trip that expanded my horizons, learned and seen so much during my 8 days there.  I am no longer a "country pumpkin".  Never in my wildest dream that I would be skiing in the Alps so soon.  I am very fortunate.  

post #30 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by blueroom View Post
 

@fosphenytoin , excellent report!

 

My first European ski trip was to Espace Killy for a week last April, what a great place!

 

Yes, the lifts are tremendous - the Olympique Telecabine, the up and over Leissieres chair, the covered magic carpet on Solaise. At the beginning of the magic carpet written on a chalkboard in English was the very helpful message: "You fall, you die" - made me laugh out loud. I am surprised you didn't mention riding the funiculars. (or should I say the funicular at Tignes and the Funival at Val?) Maybe it was because I had never ridden one before, but I thought they were fantastic! The Funival was also great for a ride down at the end of the day to avoid the late afternoon April slush piles.

 

You didn't mention the Tignes Glacier (La Grande Motte). So easy to access - the funicular then a cable car and you are at the top. The main run is rated red but is really a very wide blue. Excellent runs below the funicular as well, my favorite blue run of the week was Genepy.

 

I wish I had done some restaurant research, you found some good spots. I just stopped when I was hungry, so it was hit and miss.


Thank you.  Yes, Espace Killy will always have a special place in my heart, it was the first ski resort I visited in Europe.  

 

Funny that you mentioned about the funicular.  Actually my nephew and I had a discussion about the pronunciation of "Funival"  (the funicular that takes you to the satellite location La Daille).  We took "Funival" few times.  My nephew pronounced it as: "Funny val."  Every time I heard he said it, I laughed, one time I laughed so hard that my sides started to hurt.  What is the correct pronunciation for this? Whenever I hear "Funival", I associated it with "funny valve".  

 

We did not get a chance to go to the Glacier in Tignes.  Because it was closed the last 3 days (?) we were there due to poor visibility.  We thought the Tignes glacier was a bit more difficult to access, so we did not make it a high priority.  Vs. glacier in Val we did.  

 

Have you tried the Valon (blue run off Solaise Telecabine) and Santon?  both are natural half pipes.  My favorite run in Espace Killy was Valon because skiing a natural half pipe is so much fun!  It can be an addictive experience.  

 

Did you ride the Bollins and Fresse chair in Tignes?  that was the double loading chair - another impressive chair lift in Espace Killy. 

 

As for the magic carpet, no I did not see any msg. in chalkboard.  But it was quite funny during the two times we were on it, one side of the magic carpet stopped abruptly, you could see people on that side "choked" forward and then people groaned.  

 

As for restaurants, my brother suggested us to check out these 3 restaurants.  

1) L'Avancher - in Val D'Isere village - for Raclette.  

2) l'Atelier d'Edmond - Michilin 2-star restaurant.  We opted to have lunch at the bistro, so it is much less $ ($29 for 3 course meal).  The restaurant you can access from the Mangard (blue run) to La Fornet.  After you can take the La Fornet gondola to the glacier in Val.  

3) Trois Capucines - located in Tignes Le Lac.  It is by the Paquis / Chamdaumn lift chairs.  Trois Capucines is quite famous, many locals know about this place for its beef dishes.

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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › EpicSki Community › Trip Reports  › Val D'Isere / Tignes (aka "Espace Killy") Trip Report 1/27 - 2/6/2017 (Part I of II)