It may be the last month of the year, but in Val d'Isère, December is when the ski lifts are newly open and the Christmas holidays are on the horizon.
We can expect sports competitions, opening parties, and there will obviously also be lots of festive celebrations including a visit from a certain Papa Noël. As you are no doubt aware, most things in December revolve around the last two weeks of the month, schools break up and travellers from near and far descend on the valley. There are a plethora of events coming up, from parades to special Christmas menus and New Year's blowouts.
Read on for a look at what we like to do in resort throughout December.
What are the weather & snow conditions like in Val d'Isère in December?
Thanks to the high altitude and geography of Val d'Isere you are guaranteed great snow and a white Christmas. It's definitely cold up there with temperatures averaging from -7°C to 0°C, and around eight days of snowfall. Make sure thermals are on your Christmas list.
What's on in Val d'Isère in December?
The Christmas Village usually runs until just after Christmas Day in Val d'Isère with a whole host of festive events. From giant snow and ice sculptures to torchlit descents, concerts, pageantry and the arrival of Father Christmas – get down and join in the fun in the centre of resort. Father Christmas will arrive outside the Tourist Office in Val d'Isère on December 24th. You can pay him a visit – he'll be in the company of his little helpers so you can hand him your Christmas wish list or have your photo taken. Santa also likes to ski and can be spotted out on the slopes earlier in the day.
Christmas in Val d'Isère
With so many families visiting for the festive season, there is a real child-like excitement as the big day draws ever closer, and usually there's an opportunity to spot the main man himself meeting and greeting people. To prepare you for your French Christmas, here are a few festive facts that make the French Santa Claus a little different:
- Rather than a red hat, Père Noël wears a red cloak with a hood trimmed in white fur - a small difference easily unnoticed.
- Children do not wake up to presents under the tree on Christmas morning, because traditionally le Père Noël brings toys to good little boys and girls after evening Mass on Christmas Eve.
- Children do not leave milk and cookies for Papa Noël, but at the very least they'll leave him a glass of Calvados or wine.
- Children do not hang stockings, but rather leave their shoes and slippers out and if they have been good Père Noël will fill them with treats.
- Children in France behave around the holidays out of fear of Le Père Fouettard, who follows Père Noël to discipline naughty children.
Whilst Val d'Isère is full of great après-ski spots, the mother of all that is après ski, La Folie Douce, will no doubt throw as crazy an opening night as ever. Their signature après-ski parties, complete with Champagne spraying, live DJs and performers, will draw the crowds to their terraces this winter.
School holidays Skiing
The lift company usually schedules opening around the middle of the month, with full opening planned by Christmas. Of course, this absolutely depends on snow conditions, so keep an eye on our news page and social media as we'll let you know as soon as there's any new information.
Christmas and New Year is a popular time for families so the slopes are noticeably busier as soon as the holidays begin. Fortunately, the Tignes-Val d'Isère ski area is so vast, that even in high season you can find quiet slopes and minimal lift queues. Here are our insider's top tips for the school holidays:
- It will be almost impossible to book private lessons over this period, group lessons are the best option. Make sure to get your ski and snowboard lessons booked well in advance to avoid disappointment.
- If you're not in ski school, be an early bird. Arrive at the lifts before they open so that you get up and away before the ski school classes set out around 09:15.
- Ski over lunchtime. The slopes are calmer between 12:00 and 14:00 while the French take a leisurely lunch break.
- Pre-book your lunch and avoid the queues. Some restaurants offer a Click & Collect service. It's the best way to avoid the queues and make the most of your time in the mountains.
- Seek out the peripheral areas. Try to avoid the busy main ski areas closer to the resorts and head to the edges of the valley. A bit of exploring never hurt anyone and you may find quieter lifts outside the main hubs.
- Get off-piste. Competent off-piste skiers can book a local mountain guide and explore the vast off-piste areas in the valley or even go touring to find complete solitude in the backcountry.
Things to Do
Christmas is synonymous with school holidays. As hundred of children and their families descend on the pistes, Val puts on a show for them. Around Christmas and New Year week there are a couple of interesting sledging activities you and the family can take part in. You can take on the Yooner sledge on the floodlit Savonette slope. Light, manoeuvrable and very comfortable, Yooner sledges offer fun and excitement right from the very first turn. Suitable for children over six accompanied by an adult. Also try your hand at the Snake Gliss, the sledging of the future. A group of two to 10 people are linked together in a chain to try and snake your way down the slopes. Snake Gliss takes place on the Savonnette piste and children must be over four and be accompanied by an adult. Both take place early evening after the slopes have closed for the day.
Criterium de la Premiere Neige
One of the biggest events of the season takes place in December. The World Cup downhill & giant slalom ski races. Two days of racing with the World's best slalom racers competing on the OK slope in Val d'Isere. There is a top brand accessories exhibition, ski testing and savoyard specialities. Enjoy the fabulous atmosphere, the evenings turn into a street party with rock concerts and DJs.
After the après fun, experience the magic of Christmas in the Alps with entertainment and fireworks on the slopes of Val d'Isère. The ESF ski instructors will treat you to a torchlit descent and ski show while you enjoy a glass of mulled wine. The party starts from 18:00 at the Savonnette nursery slope and entry is free.
Bars & Clubs
For some Christmassy après-ski fun head to La Folie Douce from 14:00. Their famous parties will have a distinctive festive flavour on Christmas Day. Expect lots of Santa and elves costumes, plenty of bubbles flowing and the Folie's signature live entertainers performing on the tables. Families are also well catered for at La Folie Douce – this holiday season the little ones will be given drawings to colour during lunch at one of their restaurants with which they can win special gifts.
New Year's Eve
Always a big night, the village is full of revellers popping Champagne corks. Sparkles and snow go together very well and Val d'Isère brings the two together on New Year's Eve, when the village will be transformed into a pedestrianised zone and lit up with thousands of different colours. Hot chocolate, vin chaud, ice sculptures, DJs, live music and sparkly lights are a winning combination, don't you think? The event takes place early evening and the main road will be closed between the two roundabouts. Elsewhere the restaurants will be busy, so it would be best to make a reservation to ensure you can get a table, and many of the bars and clubs are ticket-only, so if there's somewhere you plan to see the New Year's in, make sure you've planned ahead.