Val D’Isere has quite a reputation for being one of the nicest, and fanciest (by which I mean poshest) resorts in the alps. Which is why I was amazed to be heading there with 350 students from Oxford Brookes.
At this point I had been transferred across from Alpe D’Huez in preparation for arrivals day. The usual brief explore around the town, followed by some lovely admin work got us ready for the masses to turn up. I was thankfully on Coach Driver duty, meaning I spent the day sat in a warm van ferrying drivers to their hotels. Certainly a step up from the freezing duty I had in VT, and really quite a pleasant day really. All of the students were in hotels within the same small area, along with the reps who were distributed between the various buildings.
The towns nightlife is quite impressive, much more suited to the amount of students we had than some resorts (but I’ll get to that in Les Arcs) Plenty of English staffed bars with plenty of space meant we had a nice choice of locations throughout the week and didn’t need to double up too often. Saloon, the sister of the VT bar was good fun, and really suited the group. Morris Pub was great for an afternoon of Apres with loads of space although the usual clientele seemed a little shocked to have their bar invaded by ski boot wearing teenagers. The clubs also offered just what we needed, The Bunker (under the famous Dicks Tea Bar) offered classic alpine club life, while Graal allowed us to take over the entire joint and have exclusive Brookes parties.
Snow conditions hadn’t improved much from ADH but there was fresh snow on the way in and some good spots if you were lucky enough to find them. Day one was incredibly windy, which put a lot of people off, but after rolling up to a little chair, to find it they were just about to open meant we were first in line to hit a fresh run. Only a green waited for us at the top, and a closed blue. We took the blue and found out why it was closed. The run was in desperate need of grooming, but we had a lot of fun with it, the moguls at the top had collected the fresh snow in the hollows making a sea of powder with deadly islands of ice poking up. Further down were wind-lips and as the piste flattened out the moguls disappeared. Near the bottom was a perfect rock drop that we ended up seshing a few times, even hiking up to finally ride it out.
The lower slopes of the resort were mostly an awful mix of ice and dirt but when there’s a run it’s hard to make the decision to take the gondola back down. Many complaints during the week about the icy conditions, but it was possible to avoid these runs if you stuck to one area in the mountain. The skiable area spreads over to Tignes, which opened up plenty more riding without any major icy patches. The Tignes side had a similar ridable area making the total size pretty massive, but it also offered a snow park that was actually built. Nicely shaped kickers and a few rails made the riding fun and with enough options to keep a park rat happy for a day or two. The pro-line wasn’t open, but for me that’s not a problem, the mid-line kickers are plenty big enough to give me a fright. With the small line being right next to an easy piste it was very easy for beginners to access and attempt, which is both good and bad. I’m not against new people trying to learn park, but when there are skiers hitting jumps while snow-plowing it’s clear they need to build up their ability on the pistes before causing problems going too slowly through the park.
One day later in the week was a complete white-out with high winds, so instead of risking our wrists on the ice we decided to build a little kicker on the slope around the back of our hotel. In hindsight we built it in the wrong place, with an awkward tree-hugging run up and a steep landing, but it was still great fun to sesh on a hang-over day. I managed to get my confidence with wild-cats, a trick similar to a backflip but over the tail end of the board.
The night of the week we hosted a slalom race and kicker jam for the uni. It was amazing to watch how quickly the piste-basher could build a kicker out of nowhere. The racing went well, with plenty of silly costumes and free wine and the competition was hotly contested. I can see this becoming a regular feature for a lot of unis.
The week was great fun, and Val is good resort (if a little expensive) I just hope we behaved well enough to get back next year.