Après-ski and non-skiers
Val d’Isère might have world-class skiing, shops, restaurants and nightlife, but at heart it is still a village. Its older residents remember the time when people slaved throughout the brief summer to put aside enough food and fodder to survive the long winter, and even we recall seeing locals sharing their living room with their cows. Nevertheless, there is a lot more happening in Val d’Isère than in your average British village!
Every Thursday cars and buses are banned from the village centre, which becomes a pedestrian zone with light shows, ice sculptures, live music and stalls for an atmospheric stroll between skiing and dinner.
There are regular firework displays to celebrate festivals and holidays, and usually a torchlit descent too, where up to 100 instructors ski down the vertical kilometre of La Face carrying flaming torches as they descend – it’s a wonderful sight.
There’s a market every Monday selling ski clothes, sunglasses, gloves and hats, regional dried meat and cheese, bread, sweets, and Alpine curtain material and cushion covers.
The Baroque church is always open and worth peeping into, with actual services taking place on Saturdays at 6pm, and Sundays at 10.30am.
There are marked walks around the village, guided walks in English, visits to the dairy farm with cheese-making and tasting, and one of France’s best pâtisseries (with pastry-making classes) in the centre of Val d’Isère.
Bars and music
There is something for everyone: beer and live music at the Moris Pub; classical recitals in the church (see below for specific dates); dancing the night away at Dick’s Tea Bar or Doudoune; locals, live music and tapas at the Jack; pool and Scandies at the Petit Danois; rugby players at the XV; young Brits at the Pacific and Saloon; cocktails at Victor’s; champagne at the Blizzard; louche night bars, like Café Face; tea rooms and piano bars, as well as dozens of friendly little bars in the hotels and restaurants.
Val d’Isère has two restaurants with one Michelin star: Les Barmes de l’Ours and L’Atelier d’Edmond. There is a folder in YSE chalets describing the best 20 or so restaurants as suggestions for the chalet night off, or for a lunchtime treat, for every budget. We can send you a copy on request. Non-skiers can buy cheap lift passes and join skiers for lunch on the slopes. Please see the Ski pass and discounts page for pedestrian lift pass prices.
Mountain restaurants accessible to pedestrians in the Solaise area:
Tête de Solaise. Access via Solaise cable car. Big terrace, large self-service and a smart waiter-service restaurant in marquees outside.
L’Ouillette. Access via Solaise cable car and a walk across the slopes to the base of the Madeleine Express chair lift.
Les Clochetons. In the Manchet valley, access by bus or quite a long walk.
Le Peau de Vache (formerly known as La Tanière). Access via the Bellevarde Express chair lift. Never crowded but check return journey before going!
Bellevarde. Access via L’Olympique cable car or the Funival, followed by difficult short walk. Stunning views and decent food.
La Fruitière and La Folie Douce. Access via La Daille bubble lift. Choice of self-service or smart restaurant, big terraces and live music every afternoon.
Le Signal. Access via the Fornet cable car. Choice of restaurant or self-service.
There are also plenty of good restaurants at resort level where skiers can join non-skiers for lunch: Atelier d’Edmond, Arolay, Crozets, Grande Ourse, Sana, Clochetons, Tufs, Vieille Maison.
The ultra-modern sport and aquatic centre has lane swimming, rapids, a bubble area, water sprays and a rock padding pool with a slide and balls for younger children, as well as aqua aerobics classes in English. Also squash, table tennis and badminton. Your first visit to the pools is free when you show your ski pass, though there are supplements to pay for the spa (sauna, jacuzzi, steam bath, hydro-massage, etc.), climbing wall, and the gym overlooking the pool.
Massage and physiotherapy
The physiotherapists at Bonne Santé can treat long-term or recently acquired sports injuries in their town-centre clinic or in the comfort of your chalet. They also offer a range of sports and relaxation massages, and are recognised by most insurance companies for injury treatment. Prices start at €50 for a 30-minute massage.
For a new injury, ring PhysioVal who will give a free 10-minute opinion. An intitial 20-minute consultation is €40 and treatments then cost €100 for an hour’s physio, massage or pilates.
Destination Pamper (formerly Pamper Off Piste) is a mobile massage and beauty service operating throughout the Tarentaise, visiting clients in their own chalet, with treatments starting at €75 for an hour between 10am and 3pm, or £95 for an early morning or afternoon/evening session.
Mountain Equilibre Massage is based in the English medical centre and charges €45 for a 30-minute massage. There are also spas with small pools, steam rooms and saunas in numerous hotels in the centre of Val d’Isère.
Val d’Isère has two cinemas with films in French and English.
Other indoor activities
Bridge tournament 5pm daily in the Maison Charvin opposite the church. Chess club on Sundays at 5.30-6.45pm in the Salle du Conseil Municipal.
Outdoor skating rink, open daily 2-7pm.
Toboggan and bodyboard races, floodlit parallel slaloms, cross-country ski relays, etc., on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5.30pm at the foot of the slopes – one activity each evening. Entry is open to all.
Cross-country ski equipment is hired from our recommended Mattis ski hire shop, and there are circuits at village level at Laisinant and La Daille, along the Manchet valley, or around the Lac de l’Ouillette at the top of Solaise (pedestrian lift pass required).
The ESF, Evolution 2 and Mountain Masters all run guided snowshoe excursions to remote parts of the valley, to spot wildlife or just enjoy the silent forests. Joining an afternoon group with the ESF from 2.30-5pm (2-5 during school holidays) costs €36 per person (€43 in school holidays), or meet at Killy Sports in the village centre for a 3-hour excursion with Pascal Berthes of Mountain Masters for €48. Day walks and even a snowshoe dinner, walking to Fornet, also available.
Not so silent is ice driving on the BMW ice circuit, from €33 for 3 circuits. Cars, bikes and karts.
Evolution 2 also offers a range of activities: ice diving in Tignes le Lac, €85 for a daytime dive, €107 for night dive. Ice climbing at La Daille, €98 for 3 hours. Parapente, €85 for tuition and a 10-minute flight. Speed riding (skiing while attached to a kite), €100 for 3 hours. Helicopter rides from €78 for 10 minutes over the Espace Killy, or €245 over Mont Blanc. Husky sledding from €98 for 2 passengers. Snowshoe walking with helicopter return €105, or just a half-day excursion for €38.
Altitude Biathlon brings the Olympic biathlon shooting event to Val d’Isère for anyone to try. Minimum 8 people, €130 per shooting area, with 1 or 2 people per area. Sessions last an hour, or longer if it’s not busy.
Frost Gun Freestyle, 16-18 February 2016. The world’s best freestyle skiers compete on a spectacular jump ramp at the foot of the Face de Bellevarde, with live DJ each night, and hot chocolate and vin chaud stalls by the piste to keep you warm as you watch.
International Classical Music Festivals, 26-28 January and 8-10 March 2016. Concerts in the church at 6.30 each evening, cost €17 (€14 for children).
Winter Golf in the Manchet Valley, 29 March-3 April 2016. 9-hole golf course. 6 days of competition for professionals and amateurs.
International Film Festival, 18-21 April 2016. Free entry to watch films of adventure, wildlife, travel and sport from around the world.