Val d'Isere: A Charming All-Round Ski Resort in the French Alps
Somewhere at around an altitude of 1850m lies a quaint village with no more than 2,000 residents who are outnumbered 15 to 1 by winter tourists that swarm with the first snow to enjoy the huge 10,000-hectare skiing domain with the 300km well-maintained slopes of Espace Killy (named for Olympic hero Jean-Claude Killy) which cut through magnificent snowfields that go on forever. With amazing views to share and pistes for all levels, from kids to experienced skiers, Val d'Isere is the ultimate winter destination for those into activities that involve lots of snow, a fab apres-ski scene, interesting off-piste activities, good food, luxurious accommodation, and a vivid nightlife in the Savoie area of France.
Considering the fact that Val d'Isere was nothing but a farm community in the years before Christ, one can understand that it has come a long way. So, it is no wonder that it is now a colorful winter sports heaven that hosted the 1992 Olympics (see the challenging 915-meter-drop Bellevarde downhill that was designed for the Games – some parts have a 630 angle) and provides terrains ideal for cruisers, powder skiers, and snowboarders alike, taking more than 135,000 skiers an hour, uphill to show off their skills at dramatic descents. Of course, nobody complains about the broad range of dining facilities, from reasonably-priced pizzerias to more exclusive eateries serving authentic French dishes, either!
All About Superb, Limitless Skiing
1. For Families with Kids
Sharing itself with Tignes, Val d'Isere is also a family-friendly resort (has the Famille Plus label) that provides facilities with a safe learning environment so the little ones can learn how to ski or snowboard in specially designed slow skiing zones. There are also lots of events organized by the resort to please and entertain families. What is more, you may find facilities that provide child-watching services so your kids can have their version of a winter holiday while you run down the slopes!
2. For Skiing Enthusiasts of All Levels
The ski area begins at around 1550m. However, more than half the pistes are above 2200m while some also go up to 3,450m. Snow cover is guaranteed here from early December to early May, and one can easily hit the slopes (the mountain is divided into 4 sectors – two of which are reached directly from the resort) of Val d'isere or neighboring Tignes.
There are some great runs, starting with some nursery slopes beside the center of the resort, at the bottom of the pistes, that suit beginners, the Solaise run (accessed by the Solaise gondola that reaches the top in 7 mins) and the beginner area at La Daille.
The fast and flattering run of Trolles into Tignes is perfect for skiers that prefer to ski on easy wide reds. Below the Grand Motte await the blues which feel somewhat pleasantly remote, as well as tree runs and, of course, the famous and deeply challenging La Face black run and the Rhone-Alpes black (FIS women's downhill course) at 2,560m. Bellevarde is on the other side of the resort and rises up to around 2,800m.
There are also opportunities for ski touring while visiting Val d'Isere, so don't be surprised if you see groups of skiers on big trips into the wild! If you have the time and patience to change several lifts and pistes, you can also travel all the way from the top of the Pissaillas glacier to Tignes Les Brevières, right beneath the 3,488m Pointe du Montet summit.
Compared to other major ski resorts in the Alps, Val d'Isere is a step ahead as it offers more than 8 mountain access points (from La Dalle to Le Fornet), which, in high season, is a relief for skiers and snowboarders that want to avoid rush hour queues.
Finally, the Oakley Valpark located at the foot of the Marmottes chair (in the La Daille/Bellevarde sector) is a great place to exercise and sharpen your skiing talents as it provides an impressive plethora of kickers and rails that match all standards.
Off-Pistes FunIf you feel like challenging your driving skills, you can consider learning to control a car on snow (see Val d'Isere Ice Driving) and all that at speed! The dare takes place on the main road heading to La Daille (at Circuit de Glace) and promises adrenaline-pumping moments.
Fancy indoor activities and some relaxed after-skin time? Go to the Centre Aquasportif and treat yourself to spa treatments or watersports, among others. And, after a long and exciting day either on or off the pistes, there is nothing better than enjoying the luxury and comfort provided at your rented chalet or apartment. With all the modern amenities one seeks while away from home and the coziness required for an excellent stay, chances are Val d'Isere will become your new favorite winter destination!