Monday, January 17, 2022
Val dIsere Travel Guide - Travel S Helper

Val d'Isere

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Many consider Val d’Isère to be one of Europe’s best winter sports destinations. Year after year, ardent ski, snowboard, and party fans flock to the stylish and beautiful resort, which is complemented with world-class ski terrain.

Val d’Isere is one of the world’s best ski resorts. It boasts wide, high-altitude snow-sure slopes that it combines with Tignes to create the Espace Killy ski area. The town itself, despite its size, is more appealing than most ski resorts, with a diverse range of restaurants, pubs, and nightclubs.

The Espace Killy is rightfully famed for both the quality and amount of skiing available. There are 300km of snow-sure pistes and approximately 90 lifts here, more than enough to keep even the most enthusiastic intermediate entertained for a week. For specialists, there is lots of off-piste, some of which is highly challenging and most of which is readily accessible through the lift system, but a lengthy uphill climb or long traverse may be required. The options are practically unlimited for skilled ski tourers with skins and powerful legs.

It’s a veritable skier’s paradise with something for everyone, from absolute beginners to expert skiers. The nightlife off the slopes is unrivaled, with vibrant pubs to enjoy the famed après scene, trendy bars for a beverage, and a handful of nightclubs to get your groove on.

Val d’Isère has a plethora of eating alternatives for you to enjoy. Choose from classic Savoyard restaurants, sophisticated bistros, or more comfortable (and less expensive) restaurants and pubs providing a variety of ordinary foods from throughout the globe. Accommodation in Val d’Isère is rather expensive, as is dining out and partying, but you are paying to be in one of the world’s most recognized ski resorts.

Although there are cruisey blues and novice regions, the skiing is best suited to expert skiers, who will appreciate the numerous demanding pistes and legendary off-piste chances. The Val d’Isère calendar is jam-packed with all kinds of events and festivals taking place at the base of the slopes, most notably fireworks and contests. Val d’Isère is a location that has it all: facilities, world-class skiing, and a thriving nightlife.

The state-of-the-art Solaise gondola, which opened in December 2016, is the most recent addition to the ski resort. There are 91 cabins, each with a 10-person capacity, heated chairs, and WiFi, so there will be no bottlenecks during peak season. The voyage up takes about 7 minutes, making it one of the world’s quickest gondolas. At the summit, there’s an American-style Day Lodge with a bar, picnic area, kids’ section, and two sun terraces to take advantage of the breathtaking views. There’s also a fantastic beginner’s area up there, where beginners may learn the fundamentals at high altitude.

Val d’Isere is a serious candidate for the title of greatest ski resort in the world. Such recognition, however, comes at a cost: Val d’Isere is one of the most costly ski destinations in the Alps.

Val d’Isere info card

Resort Altitude1850m
Highest Lift3450m
Total Piste300km
Longest Run10km
Directions of SlopesN, S, E, W
Uphill Capacity149425
Total Lifts89
Gondolas/Cable cars10
Chairlifts45
Drag Lifts34
Snow Parks2

Best time to visit Val d’Isere

Val d’Isere is ideal for skiing from the beginning of December to the end of April due to the existence of the Pissaillas glacier, a high height, and a huge neighboring region. Aside from the Pissaillas’ snow-sure character, the bulk of the slopes are located over 2,500m height, perfectly positioned to get the finest snow coverage. To top it all off, there’s another 150km of terrain in the Espace Killy, including Tignes’ Grande Motte glacier. The slopes face North, South, East, and West, with lots of south-facing pistes for warmer mid-winter skiing and colder north-facing pistes for later-March skiing so you can enjoy the sunlight while avoiding the slush. Over 300 snow cannons are stationed around the glacier and nearby locations to maintain the pistes in superb shape when Mother Nature needs a helping hand.

Val d’Isere is alive with festive spirit during the Christmas and New Year holidays, and it is a favorite destination for families during school vacations due to its wonderful snow and diverse selection of activities.

Snow conditions in Val d’Isère

Wherever you go, the snow conditions in Val d’Isère are impossible to surpass. Because of its high altitude, Val d’Isère is accessible in most locations even during severe snow years. Because of how high the town is, all runs back into town remain open practically all of the time. The bulk of the routes are located above mid-mountain, ensuring long-term access.

The snowmaking operation in Val d’Isere is the biggest in Europe, and the new 2 million Euro facility ‘The Snow Factory’ will offer assured snow cover from November to May. Even in a dry winter, the artificial snow will play an important part in maintaining the ski resort in excellent shape. The ski area is covered with 650 snow cannons, which account for 40% of the total surface.

Val d’Isere Village

Val d’Isere has reinvented itself in recent years with a slew of new wood and stone structures. Most neighborhoods have underground parking, which keeps the village center free of most traffic, creating a pleasant atmosphere.

Val d’Isere is a thriving big-resort community with roots dating back to the mid 1500s. It’s not very attractive, but it’s more than practical, and most of the buildings are neatly coated in wood or local stone. The Avenue Olympique is the primary thoroughfare through the hamlet, and the most of the activity takes place on either side of the road.

Val d’Isere has lately begun on a full upgrade of its services, and the Pure White Val d’Isere initiative has substantially aided in this endeavor. Extended pedestrian zones and an improved transit network have coincided with new huge parking lots and traffic planning. Overall, unlike other French resorts, Val d’Isere is improving.

Hard winters compelled locals to construct sturdy buildings out of local stone, establishing a style that would last for generations. In 1929, Jacques Mouflier, a Parisian, found Val d’Isere behind heaps of snow. And the snow, “as light and fluffy as swan’s down,” persuaded him that this mountain valley was the ideal location for a resort modeled like an Austrian ski hamlet.

However, with the opening of the Iseran Road in 1937, linking the Tarentaise and Maurienne Valleys, the soul of the village was “smothered for a time by city-influenced architectural concepts” until the busy little mountain town underwent an extensive facelift in the years leading up to the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics. Until then, it had become an eyesore, but for one redeeming feature: its charming ancient center.

Val d’Isere was previously a tiny hunting community controlled by the Dukes of Savoie, and the old section dates back to 1553, complete with a historic chapel. It was one of the few churches that survived the French Revolution; when the rebels attempted to demolish it, they were blasted with buck-shot. The town center was rebuilt in genuine Savoyard style in 1987, utilizing wood, stones from the Manchet valley, and flat mountain slate for the roofing.

Val d’Isere’s main street was refurbished in 1998, and the architectural reconstruction project set exacting requirements that are currently followed. In line with the region and its heritage, every new structure must utilize wood and “Lauzes” (broad flat stones).

The satellite settlements of Val d’Isere range from the beautiful traditional atmosphere of Le Fornet to the rather harsh contemporary and higher rise of La Daille. La Daille’s buildings, although not to everyone’s taste, skillfully mirror the jagged grey peaks above and are architecturally noteworthy.

Val d’Isere Ski Resort

Val d’Isere (pronounce it: val de saire/sare/ser) in France’s Rhone Alp region comprises part of Espace Killy, generally regarded as one of the world’s most spectacular and picturesque ski regions. In line with the beauty of its surroundings, the resort is built up of alpine hamlets made up of cozy wood and stone huts. With its old hamlet going back to the 13th century and an eye-catching church spire at its heart, the whole area exudes alpine beauty. And, despite its dreamily traditional aspect, Val’s many pubs, clubs, and restaurants constitute a vibrant après ski scene, with all contemporary comforts at your disposal.

Its excellent aesthetics and superb après are obviously decisive considerations for selecting Val d’Isere ski trips, but the world-class skiing and snowboarding terrain is what truly seals the deal. At an elevation of 1850m, the resort is ideally positioned for consistent snowfall throughout the season, often opening earlier and closing later than most other resorts. Some consider the snow-sure slopes to be the greatest in the world for intermediate and advanced levels, and they’ve been home to some of the biggest names in winter sports, including Olympic legend Jean-Claude Killy, for whom the region is named.

This powdery terrain is accessible by a fantastically quick and efficient lift system, and a Espace Killy lift pass gives you entrance to Tignes (which forms the other half of Espace Killy). There are 300km of slopes to explore, including two glaciers, two snowparks, slow-paced novice regions, and seas of off-piste.

Val d’Isere appeals to couples, groups, and families alike, with so much to do on and off the slopes. It has been given the ‘Family Plus Label,’ and it’s easy to understand why. In addition to children’s ski schools, the leisure complex has a terrific kids area, a Holiday Village crèche with numerous childcare choices, and a children’s sledding slope where families can enjoy the floodlit area together.

Skiing in Val d’Isere

You’ll be skiing in the footsteps of some of the world’s best skiers at Val d’Isere. Olympic medalists Marielle and Christine Goitschel learnt to ski there, as did triple gold medalist Jean-Claude Killy, after whom the larger ski slope is named.

As evidence of its prestige, the resort has hosted competitions such as the 1992 Olympics and the World Alpine Ski Championships in 2009, as well as the World Cup in December.

Beginners may learn to ski here since some of the top skiers in history have done so. There are two nursery slopes in the resort, one in the center and one in La Daille. Beginners may practice on the Madeline and Verte ‘Slow Zone’ zones of Solaise and Bellevarde. The Col de l’Iseran runs are also broad, mellow, and somewhat peaceful, making them ideal for confidence building. Skiing is also quite affordable in Val d’Isere, due to the free lifts that service the novice routes.

Val d’Isere is without a doubt one of the top places in the world for intermediate and advanced skiers. The “OK” slope (which is used in the yearly World Cup) and the mogulled “Face” piste on Bellevarde are two must-ski lines (of Olympic and World Championship fame). Off-piste options abound, as do tough mogul runs.

Val d’Isere loves snowboarders, and the affection is reciprocal. All pistes are available to snowboarders, and there is enough of superb freeriding terrain and deep powder routes to explore. It’s ideal for beginner and experienced boarders, and because to the limited number of button lifts, getting to the slopes is never a chore!

At an elevation of 2,500 meters, Val d’Isere boasts its own snow park, the Oakley Valpark. It contains a lot of kickers, rails, jumps, and obstacles, as well as an airbag and a quarter pipe, and it’s separated into several zones for different skills (including a fun zone). The snow park features its own music system as well as a chill zone with a grill. The Acticross is a family-friendly area featuring mild bumps, jumps, curves, a fantastic tunnel, and a fun slalom.

Intermediate

With over 100 blue and red graded routes in the Espace Killy and recent investment in quick contemporary lifts, you can typically reach the farthest points afar above Tignes within half a day – not one of these gigantic ski areas where you can’t make it to major portions of it and return within a day.

Val d’Isère is divided into many sections, including Bellevarde, which is accessed through the Funival, and Solaise, whose runs meet those of Bellevarde in the town center. Fornet, located at 1930 meters, has retained its true Haute Tarentaise character and is an unspoiled hamlet that provides access to the ski region’s highest sport at the Pissaillas glacier, a summer ski area. The glacier is ideal for intermediates, with a variety of blue runs where you can frequently beat the crowds at the start of the week. However, skiers must endeavor to maintain pace through the flat areas at the bottom of the Vallon de L’Isere valley as they come off the glacier.

Good intermediates will be able to tackle the legendary OK men’s downhill racing course, perhaps not at peak speed, but just enjoying the ride.

Advanced

One of the world’s best resorts for expert skiers, with over 25 black lines and Olympic downhill routes to explore. The most renowned is La Face, which was built for the 1992 Olympics and descends about three kilometers (two miles) from its summit at 2,809 with gradients of up to 63 percent.

However, the region is most known for its off-piste (which covers 10,000 hectares, or ten times the amount of pisted lines), with wooded sections like Danaides, accessible by the Solaise Express chair, being among the most popular. The Face du Charvet is another legendary off-piste descent that should be on every serious off-piste skier’s list of “slopes to ski before I die,” but always check avalanche advisories and go with a guiding group. Col Per, off the Pissaillas glasier down to Le Manchet valley, and Le Grand Vallon, a lovely back-country bowl reached by falling from the back of the signal poma, are two more great back-country climbs in Val d’Isere. Attend Henry’s iconic avalanche lecture, a highly entertaining event that takes place frequently during the season in different bars and pubs in town, to brush up on your avalanche awareness and back country safety.

There’s plenty to do on the local slopes, but if this is your tenth season, you might consider some of the off-piste options available from ski schools and mountain guides, such as an off-piste ski safari to neighboring resorts as far as Paradiski; heliskiing in Italy, a ski touring excursion, and a trip to nearby Bonneval – another well-known off-piste destination.

Snowboard / Freestyle Skiing

Val d’Isère boasts a well respected snowpark spanning over 35 hectares with three lines of various difficulty kickers, a mild blue line for beginners, a red line for intermediates, and the intimidating black line for experts! It has a variety of intriguing features depending on the season, such as two boardercross courses, multiple quarter pipes, rainbow rails, flat boxes, and wall rides for the jibbers among us. The park has its own drag lift, however it is sluggish and somewhat unexpected. Of course, there are additional terrain parks to explore around the Espace Killy in Tignes, and for freeriders, this fantastic territory provides just as many pleasures and difficulties for boarders as it does for skiers. The network of high-speed chair and gondola lifts also makes it simple to ascend the slopes.

Cross-Country Skiing

Val d’Isère contains several outstanding cross-country ski trails, which, when coupled with trails in Tignes and L’Espace Killy, total roughly 44km.

Loops are up to 6.5km long and span a variety of terrain, from open hillside to wooded valleys, and are offered at three difficulty levels: very easy (green), easy (blue), and moderate (red). They may be found in the Manchet valley, where the longest paths are, as well as at La Daille, Fornet, and Ouillette Lake.

Val d’Isere Apres Ski

Val is famous for its après ski, so you’re unlikely to spend a boring evening there. The resort features four nightclubs, one of which being the famed Dicks T Bar (open from 4pm – 5am). The’sweet lunacy’ of Le Folie Douce, which boasts some of Europe’s greatest après ski, lives true to its moniker. Another favorite is “Bananas,” which is well-known for its superb drinks and accessible slope-side position.

There are food to satisfy all tastes in Val d’Isere’s 92 restaurants, from classic Savoyarde richness to Margarita pizzas in one of the numerous family friendly restaurants or takeaways. This features the Michelin-starred Atelier d’Edmond, which offers a blend of gourmet food and regional specialties. Around the rear of the Billabong/Quicksilver store is a fantastic American diner-style café where friends and families can relax and enjoy the wonderful meals.

The off-slope amenities are excellent and diverse, making this a terrific destination for non-skiers. Outside, there is a natural ice rink where you can skate in stunning settings, as well as some wonderful walking trails and snowshoeing, ice-climbing, ice-driving, husky rides, and even paragliding. Every Thursday evening, stroll into town to enjoy beautiful illuminations, live music, and street entertainment before retiring to one of the numerous après ski pubs.

Whatever you want to do in your leisure time, the vast Centre Aquasportif offers something for everyone. Swap the sloped side for the complex’s “Beach-Side” portion, which includes a swimming pool and a separate leisure pool. While you relax with the currents and massage jets, your children may enjoy the paddling area. Enjoy some peace, quiet, and pampering in the Wellness Zone’s sauna and stream room, which also offers a hydro-massage and spa services. There is a cutting-edge gym and a variety of sports rooms where you may play squash, volleyball, football, basketball, badminton, or table tennis.

Families in Val d’Isere

Val d’Isere has been designated as one of France’s greatest family resorts by the Famille+ badge. The ski area is best suited to individuals who have previously skied a few times, but if you’re bringing beginners, there are two nursery slopes and dedicated children’s zones, as well as many ski schools that provide group and private training (you can even book lessons as a family to learn and improve together). Check to see whether the ‘family ski pass,’ which allows you to save money by buying everyone’s tickets together, is still available at the ticket office. If you’re with concerned skiers, get the lifts back down at the end of the day since the routes back to town might be problematic. For kids who aren’t quite old enough for ski school, the resort offers a variety of daycare choices at the Children’s Holiday Village (at the foot of the slopes) and the Petit Poucet nursery.

Little ones will enjoy having their own outdoor zone in the heart of the resort, where they can race sledges, construct snowmen, and make snow angels to their hearts’ content. In recent years, the area at the bottom of the slopes has been transformed into a family fun zone on certain evenings of the week, complete with a snake gliss, airboarding, and other activities. If everyone wants to warm up after a day on the mountain, go to the Aqua leisure complex, which features a ‘beach world’ and a ‘wellness world’ to keep both kids and adults entertained.

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