Give it a try if… You like skiing, and you have not been here yet.
Steer clear if… You only feel comfortable going against the flow.
Talking of big-box destinations, here is one which no ski lover can afford to miss – unless, of course, he/she simply cannot afford it. I am talking about Espace Killy, the 300Km resort on the French Alps which comprises the glorious (and still bewitching) Val d’Isère and the fresher, wilder area of Tignes.
From Medium to High-End
I remember growing up and hearing my posher friends boast about their latest holidays in Val d’Isère. I guess they still might be around today, perhaps with their kids. The village has not lost an ounce of its charm; you are bound to fall in love whether you slide down the slopes and watch it gradually taking shape from a few scattered chalets, or you walk around this icy bonbonnière wrapped in warm evening lights. In contrast, Tignes bears the trademarks of younger generations: a simpler (yet all but shabby) ambience, an array of kebab & pizza on-the-go and a focus on the slopes – which many deem superior to Val’s.
Want to know more? Here are a few detailed tips.
Do’s and Don’ts
For a sneak preview, check out tipsology’s Espace Killy 2012 photo gallery on Flickr.
LODGING – Moving between the two sides of the resort can be a bit of a hassle, so be smart: sleep in La Daille, just 2 kilometers from the center of Val d’Isère. A gondola will carry you just one slope away from Tignes, while if you want to ski in Val d’Isère you can either take a funicular or a frequent free shuttle (one every 4 minutes!). Keep in mind that while flats are cheaper in La Daille, its only supermarket applies criminal surcharges – here, again, the shuttle will prove especially convenient.
SKI RENTAL – Ski rental prices are averagely French-high in Tignes, and quite prohibitive in Val. Book online in advance, but be aware that even on Skiset.com fees vary according to the specific outlet (I found a good deal by selecting Killy Sport, beside the Tourist Office). My skis for this week: Rossignol Zenith Z76 Aramid Basalt TP12 (a fun choice, but I found them a bit too fast).
SKIPASS – Without any doubt, buy the full Espace Killy pass. You will not regret it.
SLOPES – Here is Espace Killy’s piste map (plan des pistes). Apart from the usual fillers, slopes are good to great in this resort. Although the best ones are scattered here and there, two nice areas are the one around Aguille Percée and the one on top of La Daille. My advice is to try each single slope in the resort, except maybe for the insane black Forêt, without missing (to name but a few): Orange, Double M, Roche, Ancolie, Cyclamen, Corniche and of course the mythical Face Olympique and OK.
RESTAURANTS – Food quality is quite outstanding around here. Among several options, I sincerely hope your budget allows you to try at least two expensive, but unforgettable on-piste restaurants: the creative and legitimately pretentious Le Signal – be careful, you want to eat upstairs, not at the self service! – and the more typical, but equally upscale L’Armailly, whose gorgeous menu also includes a wonderful tartiflette. Both are worth a visit even if you are not a skier; as a returning customer, I have enjoyed some of the best meals of my life there (I mean it). Do not go without booking!
INTERNET CONNECTION – I had to shell out 30€ for a 1-week wireless pass with Internet Ici; the quality was not bad in La Daille, but the cheeky bast***s have set such a short timeout limit that by the time I finished reading a sentence, I had to reconnect. I bet (and hope) their current monopoly is doomed.
APRES-SKI – …what? 🙂 Ok, ok, I cannot skip it this time, since on top of La Daille’s gondola you can find one of the most famous après-ski joints ever: La Folie Douce. A bit too mass-market for my taste, but do pass by one day around 3.30/4pm and you will be surprised.
sSSHtip (do not tell anyone!) – On Monday afternoons in the Val d’Isère market, and on Wednesday afternoons in front of the Bellecôte residence in La Daille, you will notice locals queuing in front of a while truck. It is the Boucherie des Arcades, where young Frederic, a sort of grown-up version of Heidi’s Peter, sells meat and other specialties of unmatched quality. Sorry to my vegan friends, but I did not even remember that meat could taste this good! Wherever you are travelling from, go on Monday and shop for the whole week: from the melting fillets to the delicious paté en croûte, you will most certainly get hooked on this friendly protein dealer, who might just give you the wildest “pepper high” of your life.
UPS Score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 8/10 + wow!
tipsology’s Espace Killy 2012 photo gallery on Flickr.
A post with general advice on the area – Skiing in France: unnerving