Making up for lost time in Val Thorens


Making up for lost time in Val Thorens

The alpine heights – and the cosseting confines of Le Fitz Roy hotel – are the perfect setting for some overdue family bonding

Amy Everett

BY Amy Everett30 March 2022

I was on a sparkling piste in France, days into the very best week of my year. The toughest task on the agenda had been calculating how many génépi shots was too many to ensure a safe descent (three, as my left knee still attests).

But something was happening. Chefs still in their whites flooded restaurant terraces, instructing skiers to head home. Gruff lift attendants packed us in tight, apologising that there’d be no further service. Back at our chalet, we watched in disbelief as Emmanuel Macron instructed hospitality venues to close from midnight – when the country’s land borders would also close. We packed our bags.

Fast forward to March 2022 and, after what feels like a decade, I can hardly believe I’m back at 2,300m altitude. Finally, a few days in gleaming Val Thorens, feeling blessed in countless ways: the brightest of bluebirds, a healthy dusting of snow and, this time, I’ve got my father in tow.

Covid putting paid to his own long overdue ski trip, it felt only fair to make Dad my plus one; the man who worked tirelessly to impart a love of bombing down 90-degree slopes in all weather. Conditions above -10C ‘aren’t cold enough to make you feel like a proper explorer’, apparently. Why Mum never took to the sport, one can only guess. Slotting into my bindings with that oh-so-satisfying click, I’m delighted to see reports of sunshine all week. Dad eyes up the Peclet glacier known to enjoy year-round snow.

I look forward to his empirical study of Zoom quiz questions being swapped out for piste maps, relinquishing full control of navigation stress – until we remember that these days, reading glasses are needed (as well as the goggles, the sunglasses, the contact lenses… sigh). I assume leadership in a most unlikely role reversal, leading us the wrong way down – or the long way back up – every single slope we tackle.

Getting enough family time has become all-important since 2020 and, as four nights in a twin room with my old man fast approached, I anticipated more than most would deem necessary. Stepping into our slope-side home at Le Fitz Roy, we thankfully find more than enough room to spread out.

Balconies open onto endless white slopes, thrill-seekers skittering past with a satisfying swoosh. Inside, luxuriously thick woollen rugs, velvet drapes and Diptyque products ensure you feel completely cosseted, as if hunkering down inside an extremely well-appointed snow globe.

Drying snow-covered salopettes while coffee brews on a state-of-the-art machine, attention turns to exploring the cocktail bar. Crackling fires, fur throws, soothing live music and seriously good Pinot Noir: yep, we thought, we’re going to manage just fine.

You can devour homemade cookies the size of your ski helmet while watching tipsy skiers tackle the runs back from infamous bars, or do as I did and drag your Pops for a dance on the table; a twinkling view of the sun setting behind slopes just beyond.

Beaufort cheese and heaving platters of impossibly rare côte de boeuf await at Le Fitz Roy’s eponymous (and excellent) restaurant, if you’re seeking refinement. A quick wander around the not-shy-of-a-party town itself has my father wishing he was 21 again (don’t we all) but a stand-out meal – and the magnificent French dessert buffet – at Le Base Camp reassures us we’re exactly where we’re meant to be.

We start our final morning with a spoiling spa session, then wander through the snow-covered yet sun-drenched town sniffing out artisan coffee, baguettes and chocolate. We’re so engrossed in the local market’s embarrassment of riches – charcuterie, cheese, nougat and sweets are laid out every Tuesday and Thursday right through the year – that we almost miss our transfer.

After tales of hammam scrubs and candied almonds, I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll convince Mum to join next year. Then Dad gets his hands on the spring/summer Trois Vallées activity list and we’re done for: canyoning, rock climbing, mountain biking, archery… and glacier hiking. My thoughts wander to génépi once more: I suspect we might need the whole bottle.

Traverse the Alps in style all year round: read our guide to one of Europe’s best train journeys