This was my first trip to Val d’Isère since the resort invested €16m and two years in a complete and extensive redevelopment of the beginners’ area at the top of the Solaise lift. In the old days, you could say many superlative things about Val d’Isère but not even its biggest fans could claim it was a go to resort for beginners or early beginners. This development has changed all that.
Solaise is one of two mountains accessed from the main ‘front de neige’ lift area in the centre of the main village. The new sleek Solaise gondola whisks you up the mountain in just seven minutes. Barely time to send your tweets and facebook posts on the free Wi-Fi.
Carrying up to 3,600 people per hour, the gondola increases capacity by 40% over the previous lifts. And those who don’t fancy a long steep descent at the end of a tiring day will be delighted to collapse instead into the luxury of heated seats.
At the top of the Solaise lift there is brand new building – Le Lounge (more of that anon) and a dedicated beginners’ area protected from the main pistes and the distraction of other skiers flying by. Bulldozers shifted a million tons of earth re-landscaping this area changing the average gradient from 16% to 7%. On the Val side of Solaise, the old Terrasse button lift has been replaced with a covered magic carpet with another replacing the short double chair lift on the other side.
To my mind, a huge benefit of this super easy beginners’ area is the views it provides over the runs which are a natural next step for new ski fans. For many beginners, if they can see the slopes they are being asked to ski, it greatly helps their confidence level and there is easy access nearby to several rolling blues pistes, providing a constant motivator for taking it to the next level.
So back to Le Lounge. This new day lodge is guarded by a giant blue crocodile immediately next to the top of the Solaise gondola. The location is perfect for last-minute, nervous pre-ski school trips to the loo, or a reviving post-lesson hot chocolate.
What’s perhaps unexpected is the very reasonable prices and the fact that you don’t need to buy anything to make use of the space. There are tables, chairs and a lounging area (all with free Wi-Fi) making it perfect for a picnic stop. For the younger ones, there is a stepped seating area showing cartoons.
The big panoramic windows invite you to sit for a while and people watch. And because the new gondola makes it so convenient and quick for pedestrians, this is the perfect way for non-skiers to meet friends for lunch on the mountain.
Kate stayed with Mark Warner in the Chalet Hotel Val d’Isère.
Typical prices for April are £829pp (based on 2 people sharing), which includes flights, transfers, accommodation, chalet board basis (breakfast, afternoon tea and 3 course evening meal with wine) and evening childcare. The Chalet Hotel Val d’Isère has free Wi-Fi.