Val D’Isere is one of the most famous ski resorts in the French Alps. It is located in the department of Savoie, on the border of the Vanoise and Grande Paradise national parks. The first ski lift appeared here in the 1930s and in 1992 the resort was completely modernized in preparation for the Winter Olympic Games. It is now part of the Espace Killy unified ski area (named after three-time Olympiad winner Jean-Claude Killy) and hosts the Alpine Ski World Cup every year.
Being a very modern resort in terms of infrastructure, Val d’Isere has retained its authentic architectural appearance nevertheless. The new buildings hide behind wooden and stone facades typical of a 10th-century Savoyard village and the streets are illuminated by antique lanterns at dusk, creating a cozy atmosphere. But the lifestyle here is far from medieval – a lively sports and entertainment program does not stop at the resort for most of the day.
How to get there
Geneva and Chambery are the closest to Val d’Isere of the major cities with international airports. From there you can get to the resort by bus or a rented car, the journey will take about 2-3 hours. There is also a regular shuttle to the resort from Lyon and Grenoble airports. An alternative option is to get from any locality in France by train to the Bourg St Maurice railway station, then change to a bus.
The ski area around the resort is spread over a several thousand hectares, it is divided into three zones: Soleis, Col de Liserand and Bellevard. The total length of marked slopes reaches 300 km, about 30 percent of which are runs intended for experienced skiers or snowboarders. There are 135 slopes in total, served by hundreds of lifts, including 10 cabins, 50 chairlifts and 40 drag lifts. The highest point is on the Grand Mott Glacier (3656 meters). The ski season begins in December and lasts until May (the exception is the glacier zone, where you can ski all year round), the thickness of the snow cover on the slopes varies from 140 to 300 cm.
Val d’Isere offers to beginners the sloping pistes at the top of the Solaise, interesting albeit difficult to access runs in the Col de l’Iseran area, the green Madeleine piste, which runs through scenic countryside near the Santons and Vallon forests. The Verte, which is one of the longest light slopes in the world, stretches from the Col de Fresse mountain. Its length is almost 7.5 km. Intermediate skiers should try their hand at the blue Criterium or the reds Orange and Oreiler-Killy, where women’s competitions are held typically. Well, the real pros will appreciate the legendary Olympic black track called Face that has varied terrain, an average slope of 35% and sections where the slope reaches an impressive 63%. It descends from Rocher De Bellevarde to the very center of the resort.
The resort is also renowned for its extreme freeride opportunities. The most popular slopes among adrenaline junkies are either at the Pissaillas glacier, where starts a descent through the narrow Gorges de Malpasse gorge to the village of Fornay, or at the Galisse, Grand Ruess and Le Forne zones.
There are two snowparks with halfpipes, jumps and jibbing pieces for snowboarders. In addition, there are over 40 km of flat runs. For those who have just started skiing or snowboarding there are 15 ski schools offering their services, including ones for children (students who are 3 years of age and older are accepted).
Ski-passes and equipment
In Val d’Isere the cost of a ski pass for an adult is 62 euros per day, for children under 13 years old and the elderly (65-74 years old) it is slightly cheaper – 50 euros per day. The weekly pass is currently discounted and costs 368 euros for an adult and 295 euros for a child. A family ski pass is purchased for at least four people. It must be either two adults and two or more children or one adult and three (or more) children. Its price is 295 euros per week. A seasonal ski pass will cost 1430 euros for an adult and 1140 euros for a child. Buying a subscription for 7 or more days gives you access to the resort’s swimming pool free of charge.
In total, there are about 20 equipment rental shops in Val d’Isere. Skimium and Intersport shops are especially popular. It is more profitable to book the equipment online. In this case, you can get a discount up to 20%. Renting skis and snowboards will cost about 30-50 euros per day.
Accommodation options at the resort are represented by hotels, apartments and chalet-style residences. The five-star Christiania, Les Barmes de l’Ours and Le Savoie, the four-star Hotel l’Aigle des Neiges and Le Samovar, as well as the three-star Auberge Saint Hubert and Avancher received the highest reviews of all the hotels there. Most of the hotels have SPA zones and massage rooms. It is worth noting that the level of housing prices is quite high, so it is better to look for a budget accommodation in the vicinity, for example, in the villages of La Fornet and Le Laisinant.
Recreation and entertainment
The resort offers a wide range of entertainment for every taste: paragliding, rock climbing, dog sledding, snowmobiling and even ice diving. The village has a sports center with play areas and a water complex with a 25-meter swimming pool. Also, as Val d’Isere is positioned as a family ski center, there are many activities and places for children, including the Children Holiday Village, where the organized activities for children are led by a team of animators and ski instructors.
Val d’Isere has a large selection of restaurants serving a wide variety of cuisines from all over the world, starting from traditional Savoyard and ending with American or Mexican cuisines. L’Atelier d’Edmond, the owner of two Michelin stars, and the romantic La Grande Ourse stand out from the fashionable establishments. In addition, there are many pubs, bridge clubs and nightclubs.
Val d’Isere is unlikely to appeal to fans of noisy parties, since it is primarily focused on family vacations and the fun usually takes place within the framework of festivals. It won’t please supporters of democratic prices either – living can significantly hit the wallet. Another disadvantage is the overloaded lifts and some of the descents during the peak season. However, all this is quite normal for such a popular resort. There are definitely more advantages here: guaranteed snow, a sufficient number of snow groomers and snow cannons, an abundance of high-difficulty tracks and a huge space for freeriding.