2 of the biggest ski destinations in Europe fight it out this weekend in the group stage of the UEFA EURO 2016. On Sunday 19th June, the France and Switzerland football teams go head to head at the Grand Stade Lille Métropole. Both contries are big favourites for many skiers and snowboarders, but which one will be crowned King of the Alps? We compare the slopes, après and cuisine to find out…
SwitzerlandMost resorts in Switzerland are set at a high altitude, bringing guaranteed snow as well as glacier skiing and good conditions throughout the season. Many of the ski areas provide long runs and challenging pistes, making it particularly good for skiers at a more intermediate to advanced level. There are, however, still opportunities for beginners. The resort of Wengen has a ski school as well as a blue piste and a ‘slow speed zone’ for those just starting out. From stunning scenery to plenty of pistes, backcountry runs and snowparks, Switzerland certainly has a lot of variety. The Graubunden ski area is Switzerland’s largest alpine area, offering a whopping 225km of skiable piste. Head to Verbier and you’ll find your ski area expanded to across the 4 valleys, which includes the neighbouring resorts of Nendaz and Les Collons. If you visit Zermatt you’ll soon spot the famous Matterhorn peak (pictured above), which is often featured in many photos of the resort. There are some great advanced runs here as well as the opportunity to do some heliskiing for those who are looking for a new challenge. It is also the highest altitude resort in the country sitting at a top height of 3900m.
For the adventurous ones out there, Flims Laax is home to 4 snowparks (including Europe’s largest half pipe) and a glacier for spring and summer skiing.
France Much like Switzerland, France also offers plenty of variation, from high altitude resorts to snowparks and glaciers. Snow reliability is high and the majority of resorts offer good snow conditions throughout the season. Les Deux Alps is the highest resort, standing at a top altitude of 3600m. The resort experiences long sunshine hours and boasts 220km of piste, a board park and a halfpipe. There are plenty of linked ski areas such as the massive 3 Valleys with its 600km of runs. Portes du Soleil is one of the largest skiable areas in the world, with lots of ski-in ski-out accommodation which is ideal for families and kids. For your freestyle fix, the Paradiski area has four snowparks and two half-pipes. France caters equally well for beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers. Alpe d’Huez has lots of blue runs, beginners only areas and no abundance of ski schools. If you like backcountry skiing, Tignes has some fantastic off piste opportunities, as does Val d’Isere. There are also numerous glacier resorts in France, including Tignes, some of which offer skiing all year round. Winner: France
La Plagne, part of the Paradiski area in France
Switzerland The après scene in Switzerland is a little on the small side, with not a great deal of après venues on offer. However, each of the bars makes up for it, with resorts such as Verbier known to have some fun and lively nightclubs. As well as nightclubs, expect to find discos, jazz bars and quiet pubs – something to cater for every taste.
France France is home to some well-known après venues, like Rond Point in Meribel and the legendary La Folie Douce, which has bars in Val d’Isere, Meribel, Val Thorens and Alpe d’Huez. Ibiza Rocks the Snow Festival is also held yearly in France, bringing some great partying and music to the mountains. All in all, expect some wild après, live bands every night and quieter venues where you can relax with a drink. Winner: France
Folie Douce in Val d'Isere
Switzerland Switzerland is the home of the delicious Fondue as well as a whole other collection of comforting mountain foods. Enjoy Käseschnitte (cheese on toast), Raclette (melted cheese scraped overmeat, bread and vegetables) or fried potato Rösti’s. To satisfy your sweet tooth, Switzerland is a great place to find Swiss Chocolate and no end of delicious cakes and pastries.
France Most dishes found in the French mountains are cheese, potato or bread heavy. Traditional French dishes include Tartiflette (baked cheese, potatoes and meat), Beaufort Tart (a cheese and pastry tart), sweet crepes and pastries. Winner: Switzerland
Swiss cheese fondue
Winner: France This one was a very close call – both countries have some excellent skiing, après and food and are both firm favourites for many snowsports enthusiasts. The winning streak came from France due to its ability to cater equally to beginner, intermediate and advanced abilities. It also knows how to throw a mean après party to end the day!
The magnificent Val d’Isere ski resort is a firm favourite among many skiers and snowboarders. With access to the world class Espace Killy slopes, legendary après ski and a huge selection of ski chalets and hotels makes Val d’Isere a popular ski destination for seasoned riders and new comers to winter sports alike. The Espace Killy ski area is made up of 300km of remarkable pistes that surround the Val d’Isere and neighbouring Tignes villages. With 2 glaciers and heaps of skiing above 2000m, Val d’Isere and Tignes are considered 2 of the most snow-sure resorts in the Alps which make them a perfect choice for early and late season ski holidays as well as guaranteeing great snow conditions throughout winter.
Don’t miss these 6 experiences on a ski holiday in Val d’Isere:
In excellent snow conditions ski the Lost Valley (Vallée Perdue) down to La Daille. It’s tricky to find but it’s definitely worth the effort as there is some of the prettiest ski runs and the best tree skiing in Val d’Isere here.
Skiing down to into Val d'isere
Have an après session at the legendary Folie Douce Val d’Isere, the Mecca of the European party ski scene. If you manage to drag yourself away from Folie before the lifts close, you can ski back over to Val d’Isere and continue the party at the bottom of the slopes at Coco Rico. Otherwise you can ski down from Folie to La Daille and take the ski bus to Val d’Isere town.
Apres at Folie Douce Val d'Isere
Also known as the ‘up and over chairlift’ or the ‘scare chair,’ the Leissires chairlift straddles the mountain peak between Solaise and l'Iseran and takes you up and down the vertical mountain walls giving you a unique perspective of the gorgeous views from both angles. You must ride the chairlift both ways for the full experience!
Leissires chairlift back to Solaise
Probably the most well-known bars in Val d’Isere. Catch The Dominos at their weekly set during the ski season and party into the early hours at the English Pub themed bar. The renowned Moris Pub is located under Chalet Hotel Moris.
Iglu Ski's Scottie at Moris Pub
The Espace Killy is extremely lucky to have 2 of the best snow parks in France; the Val D’Isere Park at Bellevarde and the Tignes Park at Col du Palet. Freestyle skiers and snowboarders in Val d’Isere will love the 25 rail features and 3 boardercross tracks whilst beginners can test their new skills at the large small feature area on the other side of Bellevarde.
Val d'Isere snowpark
Get you fondue fix at La Cassarole in Val d’isere town, enjoy scrumptious alpine burgers and steaks at the mountainside La Fruitiere and sample local delicacies at the ‘Best Mountain Restaurant,’ Le Signal. (Awarded at the 2015 World Snow Awards)
How to get there? View the largest selection of ski deals to Val d’Isere.
Like this blog? Read 6 things to do on a ski holiday in Meribel
Meribel is one of the prettiest large ski resorts in France which is why it attracts thousands of Britons each season. Combined with its central positioning in the largest ski area in the world, its charming tree lined ski runs, abundance of alpine ski chalets and lively après scene, there’s no surprise that Meribel is one of the most popular ski resorts in Europe. Here’s the lowdown on the on the best things to experience on a ski holiday in Meribel.
Attractive village with tree lined ski runs
A trip to Meribel isn’t complete without an outing to Le Rond Point. The ‘Ronnie,’ as locals call it, is open all day long with a delicious restaurant open for lunch, a huge terrace and snack bar for afternoon beers and chilling out in the sunshine and live apres bands 7 days a week between 5-7pm. Le Rond Point is unquestionably the best apres bar in Meribel.
The bar is situated in a perfect sun trap of the slopes which makes it the best bar to be in during good weather. The fantastic piste side location allows you to ski back down to Meribel after a wild apres sesh.
Meribel is fortunate to accommodate 2 large snowparks. The Moon Park is open to skiers and snowboarders of all levels. This park is brilliant for beginner to intermediate freestylers with some jumps specially designed for beginners, and well as tables, rails and boxes for all abilities. DC Area 43 (the Plattieres Park) is one of the best snowparks in Europe. It is well maintained by a team of professional park shapers and attracts top level freestylers from around the world. The park is 1200m long, has 2 half pipes and is served by 2 lifts allowing easy access for skiers and snowboarders.
DC Area 43 Snowpark
Dance around in your ski boots at the best après party in the Alps. The vibrant mix of DJs and performers creates a unique party experience exclusive to France.
Photo: La Folie Douce Meribel Facebook
Your lips will never forgive you (even if your hips do) if you don’t try one of the infamous Montagne Burgers in Meribel Mottaret. Discover the best lunch in Meribel with the perfect combination of a burger and raclette in a bun the size of your head! The shop is located in the centre of Mottaret, next to the Sherpa supermarket.
Take advantage of being situated in the heart of the largest ski area in the world and visit neighbouring resorts Courchevel and Val Thorens. If you are an experienced skier, why not try ticking off all 8 ski villages in 3 Valleys during your ski holiday in Meribel?
If you are still wanting more after a day exploring the 600km of piste, Meribel has plenty of non-ski activities for the evenings, a day off the slopes and for non-skiers. As well as Husky sledding, paragliding, skidooing and snow shoeing excursions, the Olympic sports Centre is filled with activities to enjoy some down time. There is ice-skating, swimming, a climbing wall, ten-pin bowling, a gym and spa with a sauna, steam room and treatment rooms which offer a range of massages and beauty treatments.
Meribel is one of the best all-round ski resorts, making it an excellent options for beginners to experts, to snowboarders and groups with non-skiers.
How to get there? View the largest selection of ski accommodations and Meribel ski holiday deals
In December 2015 Peter, Marco and George took to the sunny slopes of Tignes for their start of season ski trip with ski holiday partner Ski Total. Ski Total provide affordable ski chalet holidays in many of Iglu Ski’s top selling ski resorts, including a brilliant selection in Tignes and Val d’Isere.
Peter talks us through his time in Tignes and Val d’Isere, what he thought about the slopes, what he got up to off the slopes and much more in his account of his trip to the mountains in mid-December...
Tignes, togther with Val d'Isere forms the Espace Killy ski area in France
It was the Chalet Alaska that was to be our home for the duration. A 24-26 person property, built into the hillside in Tignes Le Lac and just a couple of minutes’ walk to the lifts the Alaska is warm and comfortable chalet, equipped with sauna and hot-tub (I don’t go anywhere these days unless there is a hot-tub). After a bit of a rocky start to the trip involving a ‘misplaced’ passport and subsequent missed flight, I finally arrived in resort at 22:30. I tipped out of the transfer bus at the resort headquarters, Maison de Tignes, where colleague Marco came to my rescue and marched me up the road to the Alaska where I dumped my bags before heading straight out to ‘Loop Bar’, a popular and lively apres venue in the resort centre, right by the bottom of the piste, at the end of Promenade du Tovière. It was here I met the chalet staff, Marcus and Annabelle, who had been kind enough to plate me up some soup, duck and sticky toffee pudding that the others had been able to enjoy at dinner time while I was still battling my way, alone, to the Alps. But I found this out when I arrived at the bar.
Peter at the Grande Motte Glacier in Tignes
After a surprisingly comfortable night’s sleep it was time to hit the slopes. Where the rest of Europe had been suffering from a poor start to the season, with plenty of green on the mountains where it should be white, Tignes’ altitude had enabled it to retain the covering of snow it had received weeks before, giving way to some of the best early season skiing on the continent. A morning carving ensued as we gradually made our way across the Espace Killy area over to the neighbouring resort of Val d’Isere, where the conditions continued to be nothing short of awesome, considering we were only a week into the season.
Marco and George, Iglu Ski Sales Experts
Val d’Isere is home to Ski Total's new flagship Chalet Hotel Le Savoie; part of their exclusive and high end Platinum range located on the main drag, only 3 minutes from the Solaise chairlift. Having formerly been an independent 5 star hotel, the beautifully decorated and charming Chalet Hotel Le Savoie boasts an array of lavish, modern and spacious suites; an airy dining area complimented by an extensive bar and a conservatory; an in-house ski hire shop and a spa area with an indoor pool, two whirlpool hot-tubs, two saunas, a steam room, a modest fitness area and massage treatment rooms that provide a haven for achy, post-skiing muscles. The children’s play room even has a Playstation.
With the day’s formalities over, the rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the vast Espace Killy area before being treated to night-time tobogganing and hot vin chaud by resort staff, followed by a generous buffet dinner at the nearby Italian restaurant, L’Escale Blanche.
Top: View of Val d'Isere from Chalet Hotel Le Savoie. Bottom: Tobagganing by night
The evening was spent in the Marmot Arms pub, a friendly establishment on Rue de la Poste, where the barkeep embroiled us in a Jenga ‘tournament’. Except, by the time our table finally knocked down our monstrous 34 layer tower (narrowly missing the pub record of 38 layers), everyone else had got bored. I won by default and was awarded with a pint.
The first order of business the next day was a visit to Chalet Arktic and Chalet Atlas, located next to each other on Chemin de Crouze, 150m from the Chardonnet lift and piste.
The team in Tignes Val Claret with the Grande Motte (Glacier) Funicular in the background
Chalet Arktic is a fantastic, polished property that, like the Savoie, benefits from being part of Ski Total’s Platinum range. As well as an enhanced menu, extras such as fluffy bath robes, luxury toiletries and slippers add that little bit of sparkle to an already superb holiday.
With its ideal location, modern interior design and really quite excellent indoor pool and outdoor hot tub facilities, it’s not difficult to see how this is one of the most popular chalets in Tignes. The floor-to-ceiling windows and the terrace on which the hot-tub can be found afford stunning views over the lake, Lac de Tignes, from which the village gets its name. The coffee table in the lounge area is particularly interesting (as coffee tables go); an entirely unique and hand-made piece, made from parts of a dismantled cable car, it’s a curious assortment of cogs and gears laminated between two sheets of glass. Next door the Chalet Atlas, which shares the same breath-taking views as its Platinum counterpart, again has a sun terrace, outdoor hot-tub and sauna. Also benefitting from being a few metres closer to the lift and town!
The highlight of the trip followed that afternoon when we ventured up to the top of the Grande Motte glacier. With the pistes being relatively quiet anyway, by patiently waiting a few minutes for everyone else to disembark the gondola and set off, we had the slopes entirely to ourselves. With amazing scenery and no-one but Marco and George to see when I inevitably stacked it, we had an enjoyable ride back down the slopes all the way into Le Lac. At the bottom of the run we met up with the others at Tignes Cusine, next to Loop Bar, and enjoyed an incredible chilli beef burrito, which I heartily recommend. A quick jaunt that evening to nearby Tignes Le Lavachet, via the efficient and free bus service, and a visit to the cleverly branded ski hire and clothing shop, ‘Tignes Spirit’, yielded a hooded top that I am proudly wearing as I type.
The Grande Motte Glaceir in all it's glory at 3100m
The trip drew to a close after a quick pint at the Marmot Arms and a (relatively) early night in anticipation of the 04:30 transfer pick-up. Having spent just two days in Tignes it’s clear that there is so much more the resort has to offer. There is a reason why people go back year after year; the vastness of the Espace Killy ski area is astounding, and the presence of the Grande Motte glacier bears some of the best early season skiing you’ll find this side of the Atlantic.
Words by Peter Fleckney, Iglu Ski Sales Expert
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