Val d’Isere is a popular, attractive and sophisticated winter town, which is connected to Tignes by the excellent lift system to form a sizeable ski area of 300km of pistes and 78 lifts, offering a good variety of snow-sure slopes for everyone from complete beginner to expert, (though perhaps not the best choice for groups of beginners). Val d’Isere and Tignes are naturally linked without the need for long and boring connecting trails or lifts and together with the excellent piste grooming and the ever improving lift system, which ensures the resorts popularity never wanes.
Val d’Isere village sits at a respectable 1,850m, with the top slopes at an altitude of nearly 3,400m. The top lift in Tignes is on the Grande Motte glacier and reaches 3,456m. Snow cover is reliable throughout a long season and is augmented by the largest snowmaking facility in Europe.
For those on any budget Val d’Isere its not exactly an inexpensive resort and prices for dining on the mountain, or village, can rival those in Switzerland, however as many people return each year perhaps that speaks volumes for some of the most varied and exciting slopes in the Alps.
The village stretches for three miles along a narrow plateau flanked by steep mountains on both sides, from La Daille at the entrance to the resort to the hamlets of Le Laisinant and Le Fornet at the foot of the Col de l’Iseran. Mature trees line the main street and cars are confined to underground car parks and a giant open space at the arrival point after the drive up from Bourg St Maurice.
The quantity and quality of lift-accessible off-piste terrain is one of Val d’Isere’s prime attractions, offering high-altitude glacial zones, super-steep couloirs and powder-filled bowls. The three distinct sectors that form Val d’Isere’s pisted ski area also have their own distinct characteristics. The Pissaillas Glacier/Le Fornet sector, at the highest and easternmost perimeters of the area, has the quietest and most reliably snow-sure slopes and contains some good cruising runs through the upper Iseran Valley.
The central Solaise sector is Val d’Isere’s original local ski hill, offering motorway-wide blue and red pistes that sweep through a high snow bowl and run down to the edge of the village via quite challenging sections, through the wooded slopes above the central base area.
The Bellevarde sector is draped over an expansive snow bowl above Val d’Isere and La Daille, and houses the resort’s two famous downhill courses: the Face black run, which challenged the world’s elite ski athletes during the Albertville 1992 Winter Olympics and the 2009 World Alpine Ski Chamionships; and the OK red piste, used for the Criterium de la Premiere Neige races. This sector also houses Val d’Isere’s acclaimed snow park and is interlinked with two sectors of the Tignes ski area.
Val d’Isere is quite a large village or small town, with many hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, shops and amenities. The diverse international clientele, drives a very cosmopolitan and vibrant apres-ski scene, arguably the best in France, with the action kicking off around three o’clock onwards at the renowned Folie Douce slope-side terrace bar at the upper terminal of the gondola above La Daille and continues at a host of lively venues gathered around or near the central base area at Val d’Isere; the Saloon Bar, Pacific Bar and the Moris Pub are longstanding favourites.
Live music sessions are a frequent and popular feature of many of the resort’s bars, most of which remain very lively until late into the night; four nightclubs (Doudoune, Dick’s Tea Bar, MBC and Le Graal) then pick up the baton until the wee hours, for those who can last the course!
Despite the fact that a high percentage of guests are accommodated in catered chalets and half-board hotels, Val d’Isere supports more than 60 busy restaurants, ranging from simple snack-food bars to swish Michelin-starred establishments, with lots of good quality venues somewhere in between; recommended restaurants in that latter category include Bar Jacques and 1789 in central Val d’Isere and Le Barillon down in the satellite base station of La Daille. Whatever your choice of accommodation though you can’t fail but enjoy a Ski Holiday to Val d’Isere.