Val d’Isère close to its best

8th February 2010, by Chris Gill

The sun before Tuesday's storm – editor Gill on the VdI nursery slope

The sun before Tuesday's storm – editor Gill on the VdI nursery slope

Minus 16C was showing on the car thermometer as we parked at Le Laisinant just outside Val d’Isère on Monday, day three of our six-day tour of Tarentaise resorts. Not the ideal conditions for riding a long, bubble-free chairlift entirely in the shade. But it was too early in the day to be scrapping Plan A, so we put on every available garment and went for it.

In fact, the temperature had a more serious impact on piste conditions than on editorial fingers and toes – pistes that got Sunday’s afternoon sun were naturally somewhat crunchy early in the day, after a night that must have dipped to minus 20C.

The plan was to check out Solaise, then Le Fornet, have an early lunch, then up to the Pissaillas glacier, then zip back across Solaise to town, and up Bellevarde for a final play on the Grand Pre chair – for my money the most interesting slope on the back of Bellevarde.

It’s only the start of the French school holidays this week (the high-pressure fortnight starts this coming weekend, and the notorious Paris break starts the weekend after that) so the place is not too crowded, there were no queues to speak of, and the plan went like clockwork.

As on Sunday in Tignes, the weather today was perfect and the skiing nearly so. The Pyramides Express chair above Le Fornet and the Montet drag at the top of Pissaillas took us to plentiful powder that still had some life in it – the first of these, in particular, accesses some excellent safe terrain.

We descended to Val at about 3.30, before the real rush hour but late enough to ensure that the red Piste M was unpleasantly crowded, so we opted for the black Rhone-Alpes followed by Combe Martin. There were some icy stretches, but my guess is M would have had those, too, and the lack of crowds on the black made it mostly a pleasure – particularly the final Combe.

Across on Bellevarde for the last hour of the day, we had the best powder of our two days in Espace Killy on the friendly rolling terrain off the Grand Pre chair – knee-deep, and not skied out, although obviously not virgin. It would have been good to finish on that high note, but the blue Santons gunbarrel to the valley was its usual miserable self – icy and busy. We should have taken the black Epaule, I guess.

Back in town we caught up with tourism press officer Jane Jacquemod for a glass or two. Her daughter Ingrid is in with a chance of a podium place in the Olympic downhill and super-G about a week from now. Ingrid has dual British-French nationality, so we’ll be pretending she’s skiing for us.

The forecast is now saying snow on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, which should work reasonably well for us. On Tuesday we’ll aim to ski Arc 2000 in the morning and move down to the lovely woods above Peisey-Vallandry in the afternoon. Watch this space.

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