Oh, you thought we were finished professing our love for our holiday getaway to Val-d’Isère? You were wrong. So very, very wrong.
If you read the first post detailing our #LTfriendsgiving weekend in this snowy alpine town, you’ll know we spent the majority of our time eating and drinking with our feet up by the fire. Though we could have happily camped out in our chalet for the entire weekend, Saturday morning marked the official opening of Val-d’Isère’s ski season. As long-time (but admittedly infrequent) skiers, Carolyn and Jeff were itching to hit the slopes, and though he had never skied before in his life, Sean was willing to give it a try. When in Rome/Val-d’Isère, ya know?
photo via instagram // @lazytravelers
One of the major perks of visiting Val-d’Isère with VIP Ski was that VIP did all the work when it came to arranging our day on the mountain. Early in the weekend, VIP sent someone straight to the chalet so we could purchase lift tickets, and they dropped them off before we even woke up on Saturday morning. Sean was offered arrangements for a ski lesson, which he proudly refused, and it was decided that Carolyn and Jeff would take him along and attempt to teach him the basics. So, after a delicious hot breakfast on Saturday morning prepared by our chalet hosts, Charity and Josh, VIP sent a van to pick us up and drive us to the ski rental shop in town, Oxygène.
Upon arrival at Oxygène, we were greeted by a Jack Russel pup (always a good sign) and immediately the shop manager, Adrien, and his team got to work finding rental equipment for all of us. As a first-time skier, Oxygène made sure Sean felt comfortable and safe in his skis, and explained how he should feel in his boots and helmet. Oxygène offers skis and snowboards for all skill levels, both adults and children, and ensured we found a pair that matched best with our experience and time on the slopes.
Once we had all of our gear, we loaded back into our VIP Ski van, which was meant to drop us at the nursery slope for Sean’s first attempt on the skis… only to find that the nursery slope hadn’t yet opened for the season! Quelle horror! After a few calls back and forth with the tourism office, all the while Sean working up a nervous sweat, it was decided we would take the funicular from the base of La Daille to the very summit, where we were ensured there was at least a few beginners’ slopes.
As we rode the funicular to the summit, Sean was confident that he’d catch on quickly and Carolyn and Jeff felt pretty sure that they possessed the patience and know-how to teach a beginner skier. And then, at the top of the mountain, with the snow and wind whipping in every direction, we surveyed the slopes before us. No matter which direction we chose, the initial descent was far too steep for someone who was clicking into skis for the first time.
Trying to remain positive, Carolyn took off her skis and walked with Sean down the first part of the mountain until we came to a more level surface. There, after a few quick instructions on “pizza pies” and “french fries,” (Sean told us later that apparently this bit of the instruction greatly confused him), we urged Sean to take his first turn on the skis. Approximately 3.5 seconds later, he was on the ground.
This happened pretty much over and over, with Sean getting progressively more frustrated with each attempt. Thankfully, Jeff remained patient (we chose to remain silent on the patience levels of the wino), and managed to instruct Sean for a few marginally successful– read: upright– seconds on his skis as we descended the mountain. In the end, Sean took off his skis and walked down a good part of the trail until we reached a chair lift that would take him back to the summit, where he could catch the funicular back down the mountain.
As Sean set up shop in a bar at the base of La Daille, the wino and Jeff gave the slopes another shot, enjoying the beautiful, though challenging, trails from the summit. About halfway down, we stumbled upon La Folie Douce, Val-d’Isère’s most popular après-ski spot. Since it was earlier in the day, La Folie was still somewhat quiet, but we couldn’t pass up a cold beer and a little people watching at the famous club.
Later at the chalet, wine in hand as we warmed our feet by the fire, we reflected on our experience. Takeaways:
- Skiing in the Alps, especially in a place as beautiful as Val-d’Isère, was an experience we’ll never forget.
- Taking a first-time skier to Val-d’Isère’s summit, even with the presence of green trails, is definitely not recommended.
- If a proper lesson with a certified instructor is offered, TAKE IT.
- Après-ski is an absolute must.
Meanwhile, back at the chalet…
While the wino & co headed out for the slopes, pregs mcgee (aka: the romantic) decided to kick back with some good ol’ fashioned R&R back at the chalet. Though we tried to sort this out in advance, it was tough to know what would be open and available for the very first weekend of the season — more than a few hotels didn’t have their spas up and running yet, and we honestly didn’t do more than a quick google search because lazy.
As is customary, the romantic left it til the last minute, and figured once we knew when the rest of the crew was heading out to ski and snowboard, she’d try and sort something through VIP Ski. Unsurprisingly, they totally pulled through with a recommendation for an in-chalet treatment with Pamper off Piste.
A part of Destination Pamper, Pamper off Piste sends a licensed massage therapist to your chalet for a treatment of your choice. Naturally, Ashley opted for a maternity treatment, which included a 60-minute massage and either a manicure or a pedicure. Because reaching her toes was already a struggle at 32 weeks (you should see her now…), she opted for a pedicure. Armed with a transportable massage table and a variety of Pinks Boutique products, Kate, one of Destination Pamper’s owners, showed up ready to go!
photo via instagram // @lazytravelers
Because no one else was home, Kate set up shop in the chalet’s living room, and revealed that, like many of their therapists, she’s actually a trained physio. After 90 minutes of bliss, Ashley can confirm: this is the perfect arrangement for anyone who might opt to stay inside for the afternoon, whatever the reason.
But don’t worry, snowbirds — if you’re into skiing, it’s pretty ideal for you, too. The physios ensure that the more athletic among us who might need some post-skiing recovery.
- Ask your chalet hosts to help you pick the best spot for the massage. The upstairs bedrooms at Madrisah wouldn’t easily fit a massage table, but because no one had been staying in the downstairs room, the heat was never turned on and it was way, way too cold for a last-minute spa sesh. There was probably a better alternative than the middle of the living room (which was still pretty chilly, since the fire hadn’t been started yet), and it would have been worth enlisting Charity & Josh to help sort after breakfast and before the treatment.
- Don’t expect a traditional spa experience. The treatments are all about working your muscles and resolving tension, but there’s a lot more communication than your standard massage to ensure that the right areas are being worked and relaxed. The result is the same, and you still end the session feeling completely amazing.
- If you book between 10 AM and 3 PM (Pamper off Piste off peak, if you will), you get 20% off!
And that, little loves, is a wrap on our amazing weekend in the French Alps. We spent our last night enjoying a delicious dinner at the chalet prepared by Charity & Josh, and remained in complete denial that our trip was already coming to a close. But alas, early the next morning it was time to head back off in our Auto Europe SUV, and make our way to Geneva.
We don’t know where #LTfriendsgiving will be in 2016, but we can tell you this much: it has a LOT to live up to.
the romantic & the wino
All opinions (including Sean’s first-time ski frustrations!) are our own.