Posts Tagged ‘val d’isere’
Nowhere does après ski quite like France!
There’s nothing like a busy day on the piste for working up a thirst. And there’s definitely nothing quite like that first grande biere or vin chaud for satisfying that hard earned thirst…apart from a cheeky après ski cocktail that is.
Here’s our guide to some of the top tipples you should be tracking down in the French Alps this season, and how to make them at home.
That’s right, what better place to start our mixologist’s guide than with the Après Ski itself.
Make it at home?
10ml measure green crème de menthe
4 fl oz sparkling lemonade
Shake the vodka, Pernod and crème de menthe with ice, and after that strain into a highball cup with a few of ice cubes inside it. Add the lemonade. Enjoy with a sprig of peppermint and a piece of lemon.
On the piste?
For true glitz and glamour head to Courcheval 1850 and the Parisian style cocktail bar, Purple Cafe.
Fancy a local French twist on the Mojito? Try the Chartreus’ito, substituting rum for the herbal Alpine liqueur. Guaranteed to warm those cockles.
Chartreuse is one of the oldest and most mysterious spirits around…with nearly 400 years of history and the added kudos of being produced by Carthusian monks. Allegedly only three monks from the order know the secret recipe – each hold one third of the recipe and have taken a vow of silence. Its origins are said to be as an elixir of life!
Make it at home?
Mix 1/4 lime and sugar in a glass
Add fresh mint leaves and ice cubes
And 50ml Green Chartreuse
Top up with soda
Stir and serve with straws
And what could be better than a sunny day on the slopes? A Chartreuse Soleil!
1 part Green Chartreuse
6 parts orange juice
On the piste?
You’ll find Chartreuse just about anywhere in the Alps and L’Alpe D’huez is one of the closest resorts to the spirit’s Grenoble home.
Meribel and Val d’Isère have become synonymous with toffee vodka. This can be enjoyed as a fiery shot but why not linger over a long drink such as the Toffee Apple.
Make it at home?
50 ml Toffee Vodka
25 ml apple schnapps
25ml apple juice
12.5ml lemon juice
Over Cubed ice
One spoon of grenadine
Add to shaker Toffee Vodka, apple schnapps, apple juice (the sharper the better) and lemon juice.
Shake and pour into a Collins glass with cubed ice, then add one bar spoon of grenadine to create that marbled look and garnish with a piece of fresh apple.
On the piste?
Head to be Meribel or Val d’Isère, the home of Thunder Toffee Vodka.
Another local speciality, St Germain is made from elderflowers grown in the French Alps and makes for a very refreshing cocktail.
Make it at home?
Champagne or dry sparkling white wine
25ml St Germain
Topped with club soda
Fill a Collins glass with ice.
First, add St Germain, then champagne, then club soda. Stir well, and garnish with a lemon twist.
On the piste?
Where better to sip a refreshing cocktail than the heart of Paradiski at Plagne Soleil with its sunny climate and spectacular views of Mont Blanc.
Génépi is the general term in the Alps for a home-made liquor featuring local mountain flora (the herb, Artemisia). For a warming aperitif try it mixed with spirits and apple juice for a long drink.
Make it at home?
In a shaker filled with ice, pour:
25ml syrup blue Curacao
Shake for 10 seconds and serve in a tall glass.
Or go for something a little more frisky…
25ml peach cream
6cl orange juice
25ml cassis liqueur
Place 2 ice cubes in a tumbler and pour the ingredients in the order of the recipe.
On the piste?
You won’t have to search far in Avoriaz to find a bottle of Génépi behind the bar.
The title of this suitably fruity cocktail may remind you of skiing off-piste…
Make it at home?
ke it at home?
25 ml crème de cacao
25 ml cherry liqueur
25 ml cherry brandy
25 ml cream
Shake ingredients together and pour into glass. Add a little more cream on top, then add a cherry to garnish.
On the piste?
Also known as the Ski Bunny or Snow Bunny, this is ideal when you want a hot chocolate with an edge.
Make it at home?
25ml Triple Sec
1 Cup Hot Chocolate
Top with Whipped cream
Heat mug. Pour in hot chocolate, add Triple Sec and stir. Top with whipped cream or marshmallows. Sit by the fire place and enjoy.
On the piste?
You’ll need a Hot Bunny after tackling the slopes of Europe’s highest ski resort, Val Thorens.
Arguably one of the most sophisticated cocktails, the French 75 is said to have originated at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in 1915, created for returning World War I fighter pilots. The combination was said to have such a kick that it felt like being shelled with the powerful French 75mm howitzer artillery piece.
Make it at home?
1/2 oz lemon juice
Pour the lemon juice or gin and Cointreau into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
Strain into a chilled Champagne flute.
Carefully add the Champagne.
On the piste?
The snow arrived in the nick of time for 2012, but with the dozens of options available, how do you choose which French ski resort to spend your hard earned pennies on this season?
In an attempt to match you up to a resort that you will love, channelling Cilla Black from her Blind Date heydays, we’ve put together three compelling reasons to pick our selection of cool contenders…
Alpe d’Huez – There’s no chance of getting bored in this traditional, historic and lively resort…
- Airboarding – A new(ish) snow sport has arrived en piste. This time on an inflatable grooved sled-like cushion. Airboarding allows you to hurtle down the mountainside head first while lying stomach-down on the board. This, of course, poses a slight hazard to fellow skiers so Alpe d’Huez hosts Airboarding and ‘snow toys’ sessions at the Poutran lift every Friday between 10am and 4.45pm.
- Alpe d’Huez Ice cave – Whimsical ice sculptures are carved annually in this cave gallery at 2,700 m. The Alpe d’Huez ice cave was dug into the snow by two high mountain guides, Bruno Gardent and Bernard Lambolez. It is accessible via the Grandes Rousses DMC lift. This year’s themes are ‘The Garden’ and ‘Biodiversity’.
- The world’s longest ski run – At 16 kms and with a vertical drop of 1,820, Sarenne is the world’s longest ski run. Once a month during the ski season you can even ski Sarenne by moonlight after a meal atop the Sarenne Glacier.
Where to stay in Alpe d’Huez:
Pierre & Vacances Residence L’Ours Blanc – The recently refurbished Pierre & Vacances L’Ours Blanc residence is located in the centre of the resort. The pretty wood-decorated building has superb views over the valley of the Massif de l’Oisans providing direct access to ski lifts and the Olympic skating rink.
Pierre & Vacances Residence Les Bergers – Less than 100 m from the ski lifts each apartment features a balcony with views over the resort on one side and the Ecrins mountain range on the other. Facilities include a swimming pool and heated relaxation room, sauna and a restaurant.
Val d’Isère – One of the original ski resorts and still one of the best. Challenging skiing with superb nightlife.
- It’s high up! It’s a no-brainer really, if you’re after lovely fresh white powder, choose a resort that’s at high altitude – it’s colder up there and there’s more chance of snow. Val d’Isère’s position offers skiing from 1550m-3470m, that’s the height of more than ten Eiffel towers stacked on top of one another.
- Olympics standard slopes – The location of the 1993 Olympics men’s downhill race, Val d’Isère provides immediate access to 300 kms of groomed slopes in the Espace Killy ski area, with further opportunities to ski in first class off piste powder AND in neighbouring Paradiski and Three Valleys systems. There’s enough here to challenge even the most experienced skier.
- Dick’s Tea Bar – It’s legendary for après ski partying attracting big name DJs, and its Val d’Isère premises have just re-opened for the season with a makeover.
Where to stay in Val d’Isère:
Pierre & Vacances Residence Les Chalets de Solaise – Self catered apartments with access to the outdoor heated swimming pool and wellness area and located at the heart of Val d’Isère.
Pierre & Vacances Residence Les Balcons de Bellevarde – Typical of the Val d’Isere region with its pretty wooden and stone-clad front, ski apartments facing the slopes and balconies for all-day sunshine.
Belle Plagne – another action packed resort, in fact, if skiing is not your thing you can pack in a week’s worth of snowy fun without ever strapping on a pair of skis!
- Adrenaline activities – The bob experience: an exhilarating 19 bends worth of Olympic bobsleigh run, a giant zip slide high wire, an outdoor ice climbing tower, access to four free-style snow parks and snow quad biking. Yo name but a few…
- Child friendly – With snow kindergartens, a sledging track and crèche facilities – there’s plenty to occupy the little ones in Belle Plagne while you get on with some serious adrenaline sports.
- Keep on trekking – Glacial snow shoe treks, husky teams along with some superb cross country skiing opportunities will help you to explore the region and take in its beauty at a slower pace.
Where to stay in Belle Plagne:
Pierre & Vacances Residence Les Nereides – Located in the heart of the ‘Paradiski’ domain, with easy access to the slopes from the residence. These self catered ski apartments have recently been fully refurbished.
Pierre & Vacances Residence Residence Les Constellations – Situated directly on the slope, the wooden and stone chalets blend into the snowy backdrop in this peaceful setting.
Flaine – A stylised modernist French mountain resort and the perfect choice for those with young families and ski beginners.
- Paradise for beginners and kids – Flaine’s wide snowy boulevards are perfect for beginners and those with less skiing experience and there’s plenty of free activities and family focused fun on offer too. Excellent ski schools are also available for anyone who is slightly less confident on two skis, and there’s even a week dedicated to children from 4-13 April 2012.
- Free lifts – No need for lift passes so you can ski for free!
- Modernist architecture and art – It’s not to everyone’s taste but if you have a penchant for Bauhaus, architect Marcel Breuer’s buildings won’t disappoint. And there’s plenty of art to see too including a sculpture park containing works by Jean Dubuffet, Pablo Picasso and Victor Vasarely. The cultural centre, Art de Flaine, also hosts exhibitions of contemporary art.
Where to stay in Flaine:
Pierre & Vacances Residence La Foret – A residence with easy access to slopes and in the heart of the resort.
Pierre & Vacances Premium Residence Les Terrasses d’Eos – Stone and timber chalets, lit by large bay windows with a warm and elegant interior finish and nestled in a spruce forest.
Our customer blog of the month belongs to Ben Goodwin whoy won a competition in March to spend a week skiing on Val D’Isere. Ben and his partner Luca travelled on the Snowtrain from Paris to Val d’Isereand stayed at Hotel Latitudes Aigle de Neiges. They share their travel diary with us :
Val D’Isère – March 20th-28th
“Sunglasses… check. Factor fifty… check. Into the bag also went Top Trumps: High School Musical Edition and more thermals than you can shake a stick at and, before you can say un, deux, trios, our Virgin ‘Pendolino’ was snaking its way into Euston station. Our holiday had finally started and, as my partner Luca mastered the Underground map, I was dreaming of Val D’Isère.
Ditching the Tube, we had a rather unglamorous walk to the newly refurbished, but certainly very glamorous, Saint Pancras station. Having never travelled Eurostar before, I revelled in having to go through Passport Control to get on a train.
What felt like minutes later, we were being spat out the other side of the Chunnel and we both spent the next hour or so gawping at anything remotely ‘French’ through the windows, from a cash ‘n’ carry in Calais to a man in a passing station who seemed to have onion draped around his neck.
Then came Paris, albeit in a flash. We had less than two hours in the Capital of Love, which, for us, turned out to be an argument on the Metro and a few cheeky snaps of the Eiffel Tower (with our hefty luggage in tow). Still, there was plenty of time for l’amour in Val D’Isère.
We barely had time to grab a baguette before we were to depart on the Snow Train. Just its name alone evoked a bygone era, when train travel was seen more as merely getting people from A to B. Although, it was hardly the Orient Express once on-board, the accommodation was comfortable and we managed to get an entire couchette to ourselves. It was as if we were about to have a holiday within a holiday; a train, where you not only sleep on, but you can party too. Oh, yes!
The Snow Train comes equipped with its own disco carriage and we utilised it to the max as well as the adjoining bar. With the bass pumping, drink in hand and lights flashing around us, we danced the night away with fellow skiers, heading to the various resorts in the French Alps. Goodness knows what any sane Frenchman would’ve thought if they happened to see our train whiz by on that night…
Saturday began with a hangover, but I was too excited to mope around and instead, we got dressed and watched the train crawl around the mountains that were towering above us by now, occasionally letting passengers off. Our stop was the last… end of the line. Bourg-Saint-Maurice. We had a couple of hours in this pretty town before our bus to Val D’Isère. Naturally, we headed straight to a café for a bit of petit dejeuner.
Afterwards, there was a market on offer and, still with our heavy cases in tow, we checked-out the local produce. In doing so, we came across a stall with a goat sat in a wheelbarrow. A pleasant lady there informed us she (the goat, I mean) was called Brigette and they were raising money for a herd (which Brigette belonged too) up one of the mountains and would we like to buy some honey-flavoured sweets to help? I’d never really heard of anything so bizarre, so, of course, we bought two boxes. They also had a chinchilla in a wooden box, but I never asked why it was there.
I slept all the way on the coach to Val D’Isère so couldn’t tell you about the wonder that is the Tignes dam, or indeed, the mountain road itself. We were soon in Val D’Isère. It was like we’d entered a Winter Wonderland, whereby someone had created the perfect alpine model village and somehow made it full-size. Dazzled by the beauty of the lodges we slowly made our way to our hotel.
Our hotel, Aigle Des Neiges, was equally stunning and we quickly checked-in to get settled into the room. Our room was lovely; all mod. cons with loads of products for us to play with in the bath and even slippers for lounging around in. I mustn’t forget our accommodation’s pièce de résistance, that it was only a stone’s throw (literally) from the slopes and we had an unspoilt view of all the snow-action from our room.
Skiing was very much off the menu on our first day however, and we spent the rest of Saturday pottering around the town, getting to know all its nooks and crannies, of which, there are many. Naturally, along the way, we stopped for several coffees, which later developed into slightly stronger concoctions and before I could see what was happening, I knew I’d wake up the next day with a sore head again.
Forget petit, our hotel was serving grand dejeuner. My eyes were bulging, as I literally couldn’t decide what to try first. They even had sausage and bacon! We both ate so much that it allowed us to skip lunch, thus saving a few pennies. Well, we are in a recession.
After getting over the event that was breakfast we decided to dip our toes into the water (or should that be snow) and try out the slopes. Skiing would come later, but we started our ‘snowsperience’ on a good old fashioned sledge. We slapped on the sunscreen (the sun seems to be more powerful there than Costa Brava in July) and added a few extra layers and got down to business.
I have to say, it was the most fun I’d had in ages. Of course, we were the only grown adults on sledges next to the toddlers, but we didn’t care. We were on holiday and this was good, clean fun. As the afternoon progressed, we gradually went higher and higher up our chosen slope, paving the way for faster runs and even more exciting crashes as we dodged other skiers, wildlife and the aforementioned children. I have no idea about snow quality and the like, but it was perfect for sliding along.
After tiring ourselves out, I was blessed to be given a ‘lift’ home and my boyfriend towed me back to the hotel on my sledge. Four-start
luxury, it most definitely was.
A nice quiet meal was followed by a bottle of plonk infront of MTV.
…and woke to Lady Gaga’s latest video. It was a new day and the sun was still shining. In fact, it was Luca’s birthday and after showering him with cards and presents I nipped out to the Post Office to send home some postcards (mainly to gloat to friends and family back home, but isn’t that what they’re for – I mean, who takes ‘wish you were here literally?’).
Following another breakfast fit for a King… and Queen we made our way to the ski hire shop, both feeling a mixture of excitement and nerves. Neither of us were seasoned skiers. Well, to put it bluntly, I’d only done it before in Holland – perhaps the world’s flattest country. Still, we had confidence on our side and they say it’s like riding a bike, you never forget how to do it. Although, I couldn’t tell you the last time I rode something with pedals.
Needless to say, skiing didn’t come back naturally and we spent Monday morning falling over, grunting in frustration and cursing the wooden planks beneath our feet. At least we looked the part! However, we persevered and after practice, patience, oh, and a bit of coaching, we managed to get our ‘snow legs’ back and we on our way to becoming the next Jean-Claude Killy. Well, that’s a bit of an over-exaggeration, as come five o’clock, we’d still not left the relative safety of the nursery slopes. But, still, it was a start and there was always tomorrow.
Besides, there was air boarding to be done. It seems, every night the local tourism board offers various activities and the first one we tried out was where we had to throw ourselves onto a small, inflated dinghy-esque object and manoeuvre our way down a slope (again, trying not to knock-out several children along the way). Air boarding was great fun… I guess it can best be described as upside-down sledging.
For Luca’s birthday, I wanted to do something a bit special, so managed to find a quaint little restaurant away for the main drag that did fondue (most places do it in Val D., but this place had tonnes of character to boot) a traditional Savoyard dish. As with most of the places we ate at, you couldn’t fault the grub. Sure, it was pricey, but worth it to dip huge chunks of French crusty bread into a cheese sauce that takes your taste buds to seventh heaven.
Another day was had on the slopes and we managed to go a bit higher, a bit faster and a bit longer. Plus, neither of us fell over, so a successful ski, I would say.
Before we went for some après ski, we tried another snow sport, this time snake gliss. The only way to describe it is like the name suggests, a snake, which is formed of little one person carriages that have bobsleigh-type groove underneath. The person in front ‘drives’ the contraption and everyone else merely follows on. Sounds awesome, and it was, for a bit at least. The novelty soon wore-off and you never get to go as fast as you would like. Still, next time I’m at a dinner party, at least I’ll be able to boast that I tried snake gliss. Although, they’ll probably be none the wiser of what it actually is.
In the evening we went to the cinema, which obviously catered for the, what seemed, mainly English visitors to the resort. Many of the films they showed whilst we were there were in English but with French subtitles. Inside, it looked like the building hadn’t changed much since the silent era and, the heating had broken the night we went, so my view of the screen kept getting blurred by my heavy breath. Still, it was a night out and the film was good.
We were both feeling a bit off-colour Wednesday morning, so we took it as an opportunity to have a bit of time off-piste. Come the afternoon and we ventured onto the main shopping street and stocked-up on some tasty treats from the Spar. In there, we saw an advert for a free dance class that evening entitled ‘biodynamique.’ Of course, we were both intrigued and several hours later we found ourselves outside a public hall on the edge of the village.
We seemed to be waiting ages, but no-one came and then it started to snow heavily, so in the end, we just went inside and there we were greeted by a dozen or so middle-aged French women dressed in their finest velour. When they realised that neither of us spoke fluent French one of the ladies stepped forward and intervened with her excellent English. Clearly, foreigners weren’t expected but we were made to feel welcome and the lady explained the meaning of biodynampique. The technique was developed by her friend who wanted to create a base form of dance, similar to Esperanto in the language world, so that people could then go on and learn any kind of dance from the four corners of the globe. I certainly felt excited that we were to try something that few others had experienced.
Then in a flash the dance teacher had arrived in the shape of former ballet dancer Rafael Baile. We were told to express our bodies across the hall in spirals, with hand jives and chanting like tradition Māori folk. A brief break came and we were treated to a glass of non-alcoholic cassis and a slither of quiche.
The culture continued to flow the following day as we decided to sign-up for a historical tour of Val D’Isère. It sounds quite dull, especially in a place as small as there, but, our guide took us right back to the village’s formation up to it becoming the popular ski resort it is today. We learnt about disease (the historical ones) religion (notably, were the stories of how the villagers scrimped and saved to get the church built) architecture, family life and the traditions of the region.
Back in the centre of the village, Nuit Rouge was kicking-in. The so-called ‘Red Night’ is called that because traditionally, during the thick of winter, flares of that colour are let-off from the rooftops with an accompanying light show. However, by March it was still too light come seven o’clock, so there was no red to be seen (surely they could’ve put it back an hour or so!). Regardless, we got a glass of vin chaud (mulled wine, to me and thee) there was a really good band playing in the main square and circus performers were running up and down the street. Also, an ice sculptor was hard at work, WOW-ing the crowds with his handy-work. Ag
ain, this event was another freebie thanks to the tourist board, who clearly go out-of-their-way to make sure your average tourist has an above-average experience.
Not prepared to brave the dizzy heights of the mountains surrounding the village on skis, we decided to scale Bellevarde on foot. Well, I say on foot; we got the cable car up! On top, the weather was less than desirable and thus, the views non-existent. Plus, me and attitude don’t mix well, so I was moaning to Luca after about five minutes that I’d had enough and we soon made our way back to the more pleasant height of Val D’Isère’s 1850 metres. Still, we took the Funnival back to the village, which is a train that cuts through the mountain and shoots out on stilts much lower down at the other side. Very exciting!
After an omelette to give us a boost of energy we threw ourselves back into the après ski life (well, it was Friday, after all). I suppose Val D’Isère is famous for its nightlife and, although not cheap, there were offers to be found and all the bars put on some form of nightly entertainment. We spent our last night at a newly refurbished bar. I was a bit apprehensive at first (it was essentially an English bar, just with more snow outside and beers that weren’t quite full pints) but the atmosphere was electric and I soon got swept into dancing, singing and drinking games that were taking place all around us.
A week in luxury with stunning scenery and skiing-aplenty was coming to an end and thoughts about the following working week came to mind and I felt sad. Still, we didn’t leave until late afternoon, so we were able to maximise our time by the slopes. Also, the shops were all beginning their end-of-season sales, so I was able to grab a few bargains for friends and family (and a few more for myself!).
The bus took us to Bourg-Saint-Maurice in under an hour and, after stocking up on grub from the nearby Lidl, we boarded for another night on the Snow Train, disco carriage ‘n’ all.
The Snow Train was a treat as before and the transfer on to the Eurostar at Gare du Nord was smooth. Before I knew it, we were back in Blighty, walking from Saint Pancras to Euston and then being transported back to Birmingham.
Val D’Isère and all its beauty were now just a memory but, I knew, one day, I’d be going back…”
P&V have recently launched their prices for 2009 ski season. Save 20% on your accommodation for 2009/10 by booking early. Visit our special offer ski page on the website for more details.
As the end of the ski season approaches, many snow sports fans are taking advantage of cheap late ski deals in the French Alps to get their final fix on the piste before the snow melts.
And the fun’s not over yet! There’s still more than enough of the white stuff on the mountains, and for those with a passion for extreme sports, there’s a new icy thrill in store, too.
If diving in frozen lakes sound like your idea of fun, make your way to the French resort of Val d’Isere where you can take the plunge in Lake Montrionod…
Located just ten minutes away from the resort centre of Val d’Isere and at an altitude of 1064 meters, Lake Montriond has developed into a popular centre for Ice Diving, which is proving a hit for skiers who like to add a little extra adventure to their ski break.
While it’s undeniably a sport for daredevils, have no fear: qualified guides will show you the ropes and help you navigate the ice. You’ll also be linked to an instructor, even when you are six metres under the ice which means even novice divers can give it a go.
You will also be provided with a dry suit and all other equipment.
Lake Montrionod is the third largest in the area, after Geneva and Annecy, its maximum depth is 19 metres, and its length a whopping 1320 metres. In the winter, ice can be up to a metre deep, so diving underneath can really transport you into another world.
Deep ice forms in the winter because the lake is surrounded by cliffs, which are hundreds of metres high, ensuring that the lake is shielded from the sun, and temperatures run very low until spring.
Once you are under water, the dazzling lights and reflections from the bright ice are a supernatural sight to behold. Look out for the weird bubble formations that have formed under the icy sheets and the extraordinary labyrinths that are burrowed in the ice.
The Cameleon Organisation is the specialist dive operator one the lake and it offers icy dips to healthy individuals, aged 16 or over. Dives start each day at 1.30pm, and cost from just 55 Euros per person.
Before the dive, a square hole of 2×2 metres is hollowed in the ice in the middle of the lake, and divers are lowered through.
Heated changing rooms are located near the hole and you’ll receive a very welcome hot drink when you emerge from the icy depths!
The Cameleon Organisation can also arrange pick up from local hotels for groups. If driving, follow the route to Montrion, and the signs for “Lac de Montrion”. Your driving instructor will then meet you at Hotel des Sapins, which is situated at the base of the lake.
For more information about ice diving, visit the website www.cameleon-organisation.com. Please do get in touch with the company before making arrangements, especially if diving in groups: Tél: 04 50 75 00 59. Email : email@example.com
Where to stay:
P&V has five self-catering properties in the Val d’Isere area. All studios or apartments are fully equipped and have comfy furnishings, providing a great base for ski holidays. P&V are currently offering 20% off stays is selected properties.
Top deals include seven nights at the Residence Les Balcons de Bellevarde in a studio cabin, which sleeps four, for just 760 Euros from 21st- 28th March.
For adventure junkies who want to pack as much into their stay as possible, the resort also offers Snowbiking, snowshoe hikes, dog sleds: initiation to driving a team of husky dogs, ice racing, hangliding, microlighting and ice climbing.
Thanks for reading,