Val d'Isere Off-Piste

Val d'Isere's off-piste skiing is justifiably famous and all three of its sectors offer challenges to skiers and freeriders, both above and below the treeline. The higher, open bowl backcountry skiing in neighbouring Tignes is also easily reached.

Off-Piste in Val d'Isere 660x260

To get the most out of the off-piste in Val d'Isere, and ensure you tackle something suitable for your level of ability and return safely, we strongly recommend you hire a guide. There are plenty available - the town is full of them. Further details are in our separate Val d'Isere Ski Schools & Guiding section.

Isere sector

Above Le Fornet, probably the most famous off-piste area is Les Grands Vallons (or just "Vallons") reached by going off the back from the top of the Signal drag lift. Each season thousands of skiers explore the area without coming to grief, but there are cliffs here and it's not immune to avalanches, so unless you know what you're doing, and can see what you're doing, take a guide. It's a huge area, so you can do it several times in the same day, taking a different line each time. If you cut left early you can reach the bottom of Pyramides lift and repeat the circuit quickly, but you will miss out on some of the best bits. If instead you keep on descending, make sure you keep the Pont St Charles on your right and keep an eye out for the corner of the blue piste down below you on your left. You can join it just above the mountain restaurant and ski into Le Fornet, saving yourself a long walk or push at the end. 

Lower down and in between Le Fornet and Le Laisinan is the Lievre Blanc, which is sometimes shown on piste maps. It needs good snow but not too much of it because it's avalanche-prone.

Higher up in the Isere sector are the Pays Desert and Col Pers runs, both reached from the the Montet T bar, the highest point of Val D'Isere's ski area. At the top of the lift turn right for Pays Desert and keep turning right in a gentle curve until you see the bottom of the Pays Deserts lift. It's mostly easy off-piste skiing but there are some couloirs on your right that you can include to spice it up. The main risk, however comes from crevasses on the glacier.

The Col Pers run is more challenging. At the top of Montets lift turn left, then take the long traverse out to skiers' right, which, with some side-stepping up the mountain and a few pushes, will take you over the Col. The entry point into the valley below is quite steep and often moguled. The principal danger however is lower down because the natural fall line takes you into the Gorges de Malpasset. In the right conditions, skiing through the gorges is a lovely way to end the itinerary, but in the wrong conditions it can be a death trap, easy to ski into but impossible to either walk or ski out of. Therefore hire a guide who can advise whether the gorges are skiable by someone of your standard on that particular day, and who can also show you routes that avoid them (most require a short uphill climb).

Solaise Sector

In the Solaise sector the main draw is Cugnai, reached by going off the back of the eponymous lift. This opens up a vast semi-circular bowl: the far side, reached by a long and sometimes tricky traverse, is the most North-facing and usually has the best snow. Keep going down the mountain, gently curving to skiers' right and you encounter first a refuge (only open from March onwards, but an excellent spot to stop for a drink and a snack, or when it's closed, for a picnic) and eventually the Manchet lift. There is also offpiste on Solaise between the top half of the Laisinant lift and Piste L, and a Naturide area around the Manchet lift.

Bellevarde

In the Bellevarde sector, Banane is featured as one of our top extreme off-piste descents in the Alps. Cairn and La Spatule also have excellent off-piste routes. All are best explored with a guide. The Tour du Chavret is a favourite of many guides. It's accessed from the Grand Pre lift and takes you all the way back into town unless you take the Manchet lift on the way. The main route is quite easy, but there are several steeper variants. The area between the Mont Blanc and Tomeusses lifts can resemble a giant off-piste playground. Many of the descents eventually run into the Vallee Perdue which brings you back to La Daille.

Skiing into Tignes Off-Piste

There are also several ways to ski from Val d'Isere into Tignes off-piste. Micky's Ears, reached from the top of Tommeuses, is desrvedly famous - see the Tignes Off-Piste section for details. A simpler alternative is to cross over at the Borsat Express. At the top of the lift, hike up to the top of the ridge on the well-trodden path, and then walk for 5 minutes to your left. If conditions are right, ski down on the Tignes side. Snow cover at the top can be thin, usually because of wind rather than sunshine, and there are some rocks to look out for, so be careful. Eventually you will join the Blue Genepy run that swings in from the left and takes you into Val Claret with the option of some more off-piste on the other side of the run.

Itineraries beyond Espace Killy

Apart from such a wealth of off-piste in the Espace Killy, there is also the possibility of some epic inter-resort guided tours, such as the one between Tignes and Champagny (part of the La Plagne ski area) or between Tignes and Peisey (part of the Les Arcs ski area) and which include some of the best off-piste skiing in the Paradiski area. Both these require taxis back to Tignes or Val d'Isere which your guide will arrange. (You usually catch the taxi at Villaroger or Bourg St Maurice which are less than 30 mins away from Tignes or Val D'Isere.)

Even closer to Val D'Isere and Tignes, is the small ski station of Sainte Foy Tarentaise. Most Espace Killy lift passes cover one day here, and it's a good optional extra to have, when Val D'Isere and Tignes are very crowded and all the off-piste is very tracked out. Hire a guide to take you there and they will show you why St Foy has a such a good reputation for off-piste skiing.

There are also ski tours from the top of the Val D'Isere ski area to Bonneval sur Arc. Bonneville sur Arc is an isolated, picturesque mountain village with its own small ski area (complete with a lift reaching to 3000m and plenty of freeride opportunities) and it's also linked by bus and lift pass to the larger Val Cenis area, so it's a nice place to stay in for a night or two. The return trip on skis is much harder so many skiers opt to go back by helicopter. (The road back to Val D'Isere is closed in winter.)

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