|The essence of La Folie Douce|
France. The traditional wisdom is that France is not the country for great after-ski. The Austrians can do it. The Swedes can do it. The French can not.
Except in La Folie Douce, situated a lift ride above Val Thorens at 2600 meters. This bar boasts to have the dance floor on top of the world. There are higher dance floors elsewhere, but not with this kind of action and intensity, or with the crowds. Even on a mid week bad weather day in off-season, their large terrace is packed. On a better day even the nearby hills fill up with people who want to join the party and listen to the music show.
|Mister FLUOOOoooh, the MC|
When we asked around for after-ski recommendations in other Les 3 Vallees villages, we got blank stares. After-ski? Even the bartenders in our own village said that they did not know any good after-ski places. How can a bartender not even suggest their own bar as a good after-ski place? This just shows how bad after-ski is in France. However, after a while a pattern started to emerge. Most people that we asked from pointed us towards Val Thorens. The Internet told us that La Folie Douce is the place.
As we descend towards the site from higher up in heavy fog, we can barely see the next piste markers. But the music begins to emerge from the fog. We no longer need the markers, we can just ski towards the sound.
|Me, dancing on a table. Sort of.|
|The nearby mountains provide a convenient overflow area for the party|
La Folie Douce runs a music show complete with singing MCs, saxophone players, dance girls, and champagne showers. On our visit, Mister FLUOOOoooh was acting as the MC and Fabien Kisoka was on the sax. The dance girls are from the audience.
|Mister FLUOOOoooh, with a dancer from the audience|
|The saxophone player, Fabien Kisoka|
Action on the Dance Floor. Table.
While La Folie Douce is at 2600 meters, the dance floor is in practice at 2601 meters, given that most of the people are dancing on tables. The tables are extremely slippery, however, particularly for ski boots. I was not afraid of falling while skiing on my trip, but I was afraid falling down from the tables. I was glad that I had a helmet on, but I missed my back protector. Oh well, at least I had my big backpack (complete with shovels and other necessary bar gear) with me.
And if you decide to stay on the floor for safety, be aware that there might be stage divers to the crowds below or falling table dancers. And since about half of the dancers seem to be hanging on to bottles of alcohol, there is always the danger of beverages raining on you. I had my new camera tested here for beer-proofness. The test passed.
There's usually someone either on stage or on the floor who strips semi-naked. I decided to not include too many of those pictures or videos on this blog, but you can find plenty of material about this place in the Internet.
|Proper equipment for the after-ski?|
|The bar serves alcohol|
Entrance to the bar is free, but they occasionally check backpacks for alcohol. The checks seem inefficient, given the number of people drinking from their own hard liquor bottles.
You should also be aware that since the bar is not in the village, people have to ski back to Val Thorens, often after having spent a couple of hours drinking that hard liquor. This presents some dangers. On our exit from the bar we were hit by a stray snowboard. Luckily no one was hurt. Be aware of the dangers, however, and look around you. Do not stay in this area longer than you have to.
|Are you ready? Are you READY? ARE YOU READY?|
If you are not staying in Val Thorens, getting back to your own area is a problem. The Bouquetin telecabine starts next to the bar, but the last run is at 4:30 pm. You have to take this if you need to get back to Meribel. There is no backup bus transport, and the taxi for that 60 kilometer trip will be expensive.
If you are staying further down in the valley, for instance in Les Menuires, then you can ski down from Val Thorens by taking the Plein Sud, Cairn, and Bd Cumin and ski trails. Even then, if you leave when the bar finally closes, the darkness and an army of snowcats may make the trip uncomfortable. In addition, when you reach Les Menuires you will be at the bottom of the valley and the lifts will not be operating. My recommendation is to step up to the road near the Reberty and Masse 1 lifts and wait for the local bus. This succeeded for us on two nights out of three. On the third time my friends had to walk up an hour to reach our cabin.
Another option for going back to Les Menuires was to take the Bouquetin ski lift and then ski down either the Alpage or David Douillet ski runs to reach the different ends of the Les Menuires village.
|The bar is easily reached from Val Thorens by ski lifts|
The party begins at 2 pm every day, and runs until about 5 pm. Champagne glasses are 10 €, beers 6 €, diet Cokes 5 €. They also serve food, but I did not try it. There is also a VIP area for those guests that prefer to pay more and avoid the crowded terrace.
|Champagne, 140 € per bottle|
|Or, get it for free|
This is the place for after-ski in Les 3 Vallees and even the entire France. Possibly the best after-ski place in the world. I certainly have not seen anything like this before, but I confess that I still have a few after-ski bars to test. You might want to go to Val Thorens just for this, even if you don't care about the great skiing in the Les 3 Vallees area.
Photo credits (c) 2012 by Jari Arkko and Ari Keränen. Video credits by Jari Arkko, La Folie Douce and Vimeo.