The Espace Killy ski area is rightly famed for being a paradise for strong intermediates and advanced skiers and when you look at the breakdown of the pistes it is easy to see why. Val d’Isere, in conjunction with Tignes, forms one of the biggest and most varied ski areas in the world.
There are two glaciers in the Espace Killy area, one in Val d’Isere above the Col de l’Iseran called the Pissaillas, and La Grande Motte in Tignes. The vertical drop can be as much as 1,900 metres. There are two snowparks and for those who like Cross Country or Nordic skiing there are 44km of trails in the Espace Killy.
The large beginners’ area at Bellevarde has six of the 22 green pistes throughout the Espace Killy, but there are 26 black runs and some patrolled marked runs that remain ungroomed for the duration of the season. There are also 38 red runs and 74 blue runs, of which many would be described closer to red than blue.
A long standing agreement between Val d'Isere's STVI lift company and the Grande Motte lift company in Tignes enables skiers to pass freely and easily between the two French ski resorts. Today there are more than 300km of ski runs served by 88 lifts in the Espace Killy.
Val d'Isere's vast ski domain is linked not only by its ski slopes, but also its superb free shuttle bus system that services the three sectors making up the ski resort. From 8:30 am to 2:15 am, the red, green or blue 'trains' link the different areas of the resort - La Daille, Centre, Le Chatelard, Legettaz, Le Laisinant and Le Fornet. This enables skiers and snowboarders to organise their day according to weather patterns and the type of ski slope they prefer.
La Daille (1785m) is packed with wide and long ski runs ideal for a good early morning warm up. Then at 1850m, the ski trails from Bellevarde and those of Solaise converge in the village centre. At 1930m, the Le Fornet has preserved an authentic Haute Tarentaise character. It is an unspoilt area from which visitors can reach the highest spot of the ski area.
While everyone, from complete beginner to those in search of the steepest and deepest runs possible will find ski runs galore to suit them, it must be said that the stronger the skier or snowboarder, the more they will get from Val d'Isere's vast terrain.
The large area for beginners is accessible from La Daille and Val d’Isere centre but if you do not shape up beginners will be severely tested.
Val d’Isere’s modern ski lift system is one of the best in the Alps and it makes it easy for strong skiers to work their way along the entire length of the Espace Killy area and back before lunch. There are still a few draglifts, some of them extremely fast, so beginners and boarders beware!
Each winter more than a million visitors use the lift network to access the 154 ski runs in the Espace Killy ski area.
Val d'Isere's half of the Espace Killy divides into three sectors: Isere (sometimes called Le Fornet), Solaise and Bellevarde.
Looking at the piste map from left to right (which in reality is East to West):
The Isere/Le Fornet section includes the high glacier skiing on Pissailas and the Grand Vallon and Col Pers itineraries. It can be accessed in three different ways: from the Le Fornet cable car; from the Laisinant Express, a detachable six-person chairlift out of the hamlet/suburb of Le Laisinant; or from the Lessieres Express, a six-person 'up and down' chairlift which connects Le Fornet with Solaise. Once upon a time there was a run called Tunnel which also connected the two valleys but this and the lift that serviced it have now disappeared. As it was always closed anyway, it's not mourned by many.
The Solaise sector, which includes Cunai and Manchet, can be accessed by the Telecabine de Solaise which leaves the Rond Point des Pistes in the centre of Val D'Isere, or from the Laisinant Express plus the new Datcha lift, or from the Lessieres Express, the two way, 'up and down', chairlift which connects Isere with Solaise.
The Solaise and Bellevarde are only linked at valley level so you have to come back into town, or at least onto the Rond Point des Pistes next to the cente of the resort to cross between them.
Bellevarde includes Charvet and the two routes into Tignes - Toviere and Col de Fresse/Borsat. The area can be accessed from the either the centre of Val D'Isere or from La Daille. If accessing from the centre you have a choice of either going up two chair lifts or the Olympique bubble. This features 30-person cabins and whisks you up to 2827 metres at Rocher de Bellevarde. It is often queue-free but it is a favourite of ski school instructors (who get priority) so it can be crowded between 9.15am and 9.9.40am.
La Daille boasts the James Bond-esque Funival, a funicular railway that climbs over 1000 metres to Rocher de Bellevarde. Alternatively La Daille's residents an take a bubble or chair lift but these don't go so high so another lift is required unless you want to descend straight back to La Daille.
Together with other modern lifts, including the Glacier Express at Pointe de l’Ouillette, it is now perfectly feasible for strong skiers to work their way along the entire length of the ski area from Val d'Isere's furthest outpost at Le Fornet all the way to Tignes and back before lunch.
Much like most of the French Alps, Val d’Isere and Tignes employ a hand-free plastic card system, and have done since the 2006-2007 season.
Lift passes are becoming more versatile, too. Val d’Isere offers a half-day option but by mindful that this start from12.45pm. There is no morning option. Lift passes range from this half-day option, right through to a 15-day pass and a full season passes.
There are also discounts for five to 13-year-olds, for skiers aged between 65 and 74 and for families of four or more.
Beginners don't need any pass for the nursery slope then can get cheaper passes restricting them to just one valley.
For those looking to ski Val d’Isere regularly, or seasonnaires, you may wish to explore the a la carte option whereby you pay at the end of the month and for only the days you have skied.
Purchase of the plastic card is free, and if you are buying online your will receive the postage on initial order for free.
73150 Val d’Isere
Tel: +33 4 79 06 00 35 | +33 4 79 06 32 32
Email: [email protected]
Although psychologically Val d'Isere is not the ideal beginners' resort, if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. The ski resort is anxious to dispel the myth that just because the ski area is fundamentally for strong skiers, it does not have much in the way of nursery slopes.
It does, although the overwhelming ambience veers in the direction of the hardcore Val d’Isere have put in a lot of work to put that right. In 2006 there used to be 16 green runs, but as of the 2014 season there are now 20 in the Espace Killy, which is enough for any total beginner.
The good news is that beginners can zoom straight up the Olympique cable car to Rocher De Bellevarde to access six green runs, on which beginners can benefit from high altitude snow conditions, without feeling threatened by their environment.
If you are a total beginner out advice is to start with the Grand Pre green from the Grand Pre chair off the Rocher Du Charvet. It is a large, wide, and easy run for beginners and you will be tackling it from the top of the mountain – not many beginners can boast that.
The Mont Blanc green is also very easy and flat, but that is where much of the good news ends.
The Genepy green is largely easy, but can occasionally develop moguls. It is a good spot for a picnic lunch if meeting up with other more experienced skiers in a group.
The Borsat green is good for beginners who have developed a little confidence, as there is an opportunity to schuss at the end as you come into the Borsat chair. The Borsat chair can become very cold, so it is not ideal for small children.
The best green run in the whole of the Espace Killy is undoubtedly the Verte, a huge, open piste at the top, but it gets narrow the further you go down, especially as you go past the Folie Douce. The Verte goes all the way down to La Daille, so is a great run to get under your belt as you begin to improve.
Apart from good village nursery slopes, which are free, Solaise is the only other gateway to some gentle ski slopes.
The Madeleine, Datcha and Glacier lifts offer a small selection of runs, though downloading by ski lift back to the valley floor is pretty essential to avoid tougher slopes lower down at the end of the day.
It is generally recognised that Val d'Isere's gradings err on the degree of difficulty. It is often said that a blue piste in Val d’Isere might well be a red piste in other resorts.
That said, there are a few blues that we feel are accessible to skiers who can handle the Verte green. The Col de l'Iseran runs are, by and large, wide and pretty easy, especially if conditions are good at the top of the glacier. And because they are quite a way from the resort village, these ski slopes tend to be uncrowded too.
The Aiguille Pers is wide, easy and often empty, the Pont Abatte blue under the Vallon telecabin is very flat while the Pyramides blue is fairly easy also. The Col blue is also worth a look but at one point has a very fast and steep section, which may create panic among those not quite up to speed.
Looking for private or group ski lessons in Val d'Isere? Ultimate-Ski and partner CheckYeti work with leading ski schools and ski instructors in over 500 ski destinations throughout Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Let us help you choose the right ski school or instructor for you, and book online.
Intermediates will discover there is almost no end to the skiing permutations they can enjoy in Val d'Isere, although some ski runs are under-graded.
Viewed in its entirety, Val d'Isere as part of the Espace Killy offers huge potential for big kilometre skiing for intermediates, with long ski runs, fast lifts and typically good snow conditions. There are not many other places where you can ski as much distance, if you want to. It is intermediate heaven.
For instance, in the Col de I’Iseran sector there are a several blue runs such as Aiguille Pers, Montets, Col, Pont Abbatte and Pyramides blues that are pretty easy for intermediate skiers. That said, Mangard is almost certainly a red piste, and not blue as delineated, and Signal is a red run that really should be classified as a black run. It is steep, narrow, and gets very icy.
Our favourites in the L’Iseran sector include the Rocher red, which is easy for its grading, although boarders will have to scramble at the end as it is quite flat.
The Moraine and Cascade reds are good for cruising and the Pre-Chemin blue, which is a lovely gully that was ultimately more fun that the parallel runs of Col and Pont Abbatte, is the best in the sector.
Across the piste map the Solaise, where the women racers compete in major events, has an extensive network of excellent middle-order ski runs, although the famous bumps can be quite a handful for anyone but strong intermediates or advanced skiers.
From the Solaise side of the ski area you can drop into the Iseran valley on the new Lessieres Express chairlift and ski down to Le Fornet.
The network of blues and reds at Solaise are well worth the trip up the Solaise Express in the morning.
Timid intermediate skiers will relish the Col de la Madeleine blue, which is good for getting the confidence up, as is the Leissieres blue. The Glacier blue is great for cruising and for taking in the extraordinary view.
Improving intermediates will love the long Arcelle red down into Le Manchet. If you are looking for tree runs the Germain Mattis red snakes through the forest and takes you back down to Le Laisinant. Piste L is the blue alternative.
Fourche is down as a blue piste, but used to be a red and is slightly steeper than Col de la Madeleine, while the St Jacques blue from the top of the Glacier chairlift could also be classed as a red by some.
Rocher De Bellevarde is configured such that on one side you have mainly testing pistes that take you down back down to Val d’Isere. On the other you have a choice of challenging intermediate pistes that steer towards the La Folie Douce bar and La Daille.
If you are a timid intermediate do not for a moment be beguiled by the Santons blue at the end of the day, which is the only blue our of a sea of black runs that feeds the return to Val d’Isere.
Whoever categorised this run as an intermediate piste needs their head examined. It is almost permanently icy, and is packed with intermediates at the end of the day trying to snake their way back down – better always to have a vin chaud at the top and get the Olympique cable car back down.
On the other side there are four pistes for intermediates that is dominated by the Coupe Du Monde <<OK>> red. It takes you past the Folie Douce, has wonderful views and provides thrills and spills all the way down to La Daille.
The Orange red provides nice tree-lined sections, and while it is fairly steep and icy in patches it is wide and provides a good test for improving intermediates.
The Diebold and “3j” blues are much the same – wide blues on which intermediates can really go fast, without much fear things can go wrong.
We cover the Espace Killy's phenomenal off-piste in another section, so this concentrates on Val D'Isere's share of the 26 black runs in the Espace Killy, which make Val d’Isere and Tignes some of the best resorts in the world for advanced skiers, even if they never venture beyond the piste marker poles.
It's the quality, not the quantity of black runs that makes Val D'Isere stand out. Many of the runs are long, so be prepared to be be locked in their embrace for hundreds of metres, unless a blue or red crosses them on their way down the mountain. Several of them are now classified as Naturides, or dotted black runs. These are patrolled and marked, but not groomed in any way. Following a huge dump of snow, they can be sublime but be warned: as more and more people ski them, and less and less powdery snow remains, moguls and ice build up.
Just above the resort, and descending into it's centre, is La Face De Bellevarde (or 'Face' for short). This is one of the most iconic black runs in the Alps, and each year is the stage for the legendary Criterium de la Premiere Neige - the first World Cup Downhill in the Alps – held in Val D'Isere in mid-December. The race opens the European alpine skiing season, and is still considered one of the main contests for the world's best skiers competing in the men's and women's World Cup circuit. And for the Espace Killy it has special significance, because it was the event in which local boy Jean-Claude Killy won fame and fortune in the 1960s, giving his name to the ski area.
In good weather, and without the moguls and ice, La Face De Bellevarde can be a breeze. It faces East and is normally groomed every night so is particularly enjoyable mid-morning when it's had a bit of sun on it and is also at its least crowded. Sure, it is steep, but without ice and moguls, strong intermediates can make their way down without much problem. But late in the afternoon, when the fresh snow has been scraped off leaving long icy patches, moguls have started to build up, and the run is crowded with skiers and boaders taking the shortest route home (some of whom will have never skied a black before), Face becomes a much more serious challenge. And as it's one of the longest runs in the Espace Killy, the pain goes on, and on, and on. Luckily about half way down you have the option of swallowing your pride and switching over to the gentler Joseray red.
If Face has given you a taste for World Cup runs, Val D'Isere has another one to offer up. Still in the Bellevarde sector, but this time descending into La Daille, is the 'OK Coupe du Monde' . It's classified as a red, but it's steep one. It is more tree-lined than Face (making it a favourite spot in poor visibility) but just like Face, it's at its best mid-morning, when very few people choose to ski it, and at it's worst in the late afternoon when it's a popular route home.
Also in the Rocher De Bellevarde area is the Epaule du Charvet, another black run that provides an even sharper, sterner challenge than La Face. The Epaule feeds into the Santos red, so you can get some respite from its giant moguls before you reach the resort. There is a lovely little restaurant at the bottom from which you can watch others similarly trying to battle through.
The next black on our list is Foret. It's in the Iseran sector above Le Fornet. In our view it is the toughest 'on-piste' challenge in the resort, although as it is a now a dotted black 'Naturide', it's a piste only in the sense that it is marked and patrolled. Large moguls build up, and it's also steep and very narrow in places, so it really is for excellent skiers only – you have been warned! Again, if you get to the bottom in one piece you can stop at the cafe below the Fornet cable car and watch others come a cropper whilst sipping your hard-earned drink.
In the Solaise sector, two black runs come off the Plan red. Piste S is a dotted black naturide. Unless you are blessed with virgin snow, or you enjoy steep icy moguls, it is more pleasurable to take the Rhone-Alpes which is another black run going in roughly the same direction, which cuts a narrow slice through the forest on its way down to Val d’Isere.
Also in Solaise is the Marmottons dotted-black Naturide off the Manchet Express chair. This can provide a host of opportunities and you can take whichever way down you like. In powder, there are few better black runs in resort. But ski it quickly after a snowfall, because it''s West-facing and gets a lot of afternoon and early evening sun, so the fresh powder often turns into crud, slush or ice within 24 hours.
The Boarder run off the Grand Pre lift on the Rocher du Charvet is reserved for boarders, but there are areas just off to the side that skiers can descend on.
Advanced skiers and boarders returning to Val D'Isere after a long gap should note that it has removed the '3000' or 'Tunnel' black piste which was near the Leissieres chair, so don't go looking for it.
All advanced skiers should also test theselves on the challenges posed by Val D'Isere's red runs. Many would be graded black in other resorts. All the red runs already mentioned have steep sections, but perhaps the toughest are Signal (Isere sector) and Cugnai (Solaise).
Then of course, there are the black runs in Tignes. These fully deserve a separate guide to Advanced Skiing in Tignes, but it's worth quickly mentioning that some of the most challenging are the runs leading down to Tignes from Val D'Isere via the Tomeuses lift, such as Campanules, Envers de Campanules, Trolles and Paquerettes.
Finally there are plenty of opportunities for Val D'Isere's advanced skiers to sample some powder skiing in relative safety by trying some of the ungroomed snow very close to the pistes. There is always some extra risk if you go outside the confines of the piste markers, particularly if you are on a glacier, but thousands of skiers do this every year in Val D'Isere without encountering any harm. If you join them, make sure you're not alone and you only 'ski what you can see', and ski where you can also be easily seen from a lift or a piste. Good areas for this between-the-piste skiing include Cugnai and Signal (these both have much longer and more serious itineraries 'off the back' but their front faces have pwoder skiing too), the Col De la Madeline blue in Solaise, the area around the Cascade red on the Glacier du Pissaillas (but be aware of the extra danger here posed by crevasses), the area between the Pyramides and Vallon lift above Le Fornet, and between the Tommeuses and Mont Blanc lifts in Bellevarde.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Boarders rave about Val d'Isere and rightly so, as there are very few drag lifts and vast areas of on and off-piste slopes to exploit. Ever since the great Jean-Claude endorsed snowboarding himself, the ski area has became a Mecca for snowboarders. There are one or two pinch points on the mountain, where skiers and boarders come into conflict but overall the vast space available, particularly for boarders ensures that the two snowsports live in harmony.
There are two snowparks in the Espace Killy: the one in Val d'Isère is above La Daille, close to the Mont Blanc chairlift. The ESF's Snowboard Club organises 'initiation' and improvement classes, private lessons and group lessons for competition level and class 3. There are a number of specialist snowboard shops and schools in the resort village.
The variety of jumps and rails makes Val d'Isere a great place for park novices to test out the park. Jumps are marked according to ability, so beginners know which to steer clear of and which they can hop over without any nasty surprises.
Runs for intermediate boarders to skip due to flat parts that require scooting include: the Cema green and Rocher red in L’Iseran and the Lessieres blue, the Traversee du Laisinant blue, and the Santons blue all in Solaise.
With the convenience and lift speed in Val D’Isere, many prefer to go back down to village level, where there is a plethora of excellent eating options. For instance, The Bar des Sports in the Brussels square is one of the liveliest venues for good honest French food at reasonable prices. On a white day, you will have to fight for a table there. The various self-service restaurants on the mountainside are variable in quality and a few are downright disappointing – Italy, this is not. Pick and choose your mountain restaurants carefully, however, and you will get a decent lunch although whether you feel what you paid for it is value is another matter entirely.
L’Edelweiss was built for the 2003/04 season and for over a decade now has been pumping out some of the best food on the mountain. It specialises in food from the south west of France. The restaurant has sumptuous views over the forest in to Val d’Isere and is an excellent spot to enjoy lunch after skiing though the woods after a decent dump of snow. There is a lovely terrace overlooking the Mangard blue at the far end of the Col de l’Iseran sector. The menu is short but well formed food and often includes the gout-inducing monster Burger Landais, filled with duck breast and foie gras. Veal with morelle mushrooms was a particular favourite of our party, while starters remain pricey but delicious, much like the plates of pasta. For those on a budget, the set meal deals are well worth investigating.
Tel: +33 6 10 28 70 64 | Web: www.restaurant-edelweiss-valdisere.com
A modern restaurant located at the top of the Fornet gondola and at the bottom of the Pyramides chairlift and Vallon gondola. The Signal has a ground level self-service restaurant with trendy lighting and modern art, whereas upstairs the restaurant concentrates more on gastronomy. The Signal is made out of stripped wood, and there are large windows that provide soaring views down the valley. In the self-service restaurant you can get mainly pasta with a very small selection of desserts – the tarte maison is the safe bet. Upstairs is a thoroughly different proposition with foie gras, snails, and rabbit on a menu that is dominated by fresh seafood such as scallops with risotto, jugged salmon, pike, crayfish and tuna. Signal has an excellent wine list.
Tel: +33 4 79 06 03 38 | Email: [email protected] | Web: www.lesignalvaldisere.com
The Cascade is a self-service restaurant at the Col D’Iseran located at the foot of the Cascade chairlift. It is a clean, efficient and pleasing place to eat, and offers good value for money in an expensive resort. It certainly lacks charm, but the food is decent with the likes of trout in almonds for £14 highlighting you can steer away from the usual Savoyarde food within a budget. There is a good fireplace and terrace. The Cascade for a pit stop if you have done the glacier early in the morning.
Tel: +33 4 58 00 11 54
La Datcha is based at the foot of the Glacier chairlift and has easy access to the L’Ouillette draglift. You can walk in under ten minutes from the Solaise chairflift and Solaise Express so it is a good place to meet for mixed groups, although with the nearby Yacht Club de L’Ouillette much the better destination we see little reason coming here. When we visited La Datcha had added a small outdoor snack bar that had a pavilion around it for warmth called l’Igloo. La Datcha has a decent selection of salads, but sticks mainly to the Savoyarde template with Jambonneau, the knuckle of a pork leg, the most expensive dish on the menu at around €20. The Spaghetti Bolognese was solid. It has a small wine selection, but is cheap enough.
Tel: +33 4 79 06 21 14
What a find. The Yacht Club at the foot of the Madeleine chairlift is named as such because it sits on the frozen lake and is open for business around it during July and August. It is a unique restaurant that does everything brilliantly. Inside the restaurant and snack bar provide a very interesting selection, most of which are good value for money also. The self-service restaurant has an astonishing selection of quiches and pies, and large pieces of rustic bread dolloped with two large rounds of goats cheese, or Beaufort and ham, or any topping you might think of. They also do plain sandwiches for those on a shoe-string. In good weather their vast decking overlooking the frozen lake stages a barbecue that gives those on the decking terrace outside options from delicious and spicy Merguez sausages for €15 to beef fillet in marinade for €23. With a large selection of desserts, a decent wine list and one of the best hot chocolates on the mountain the Yacht Club is worth at least one stop throughout your week away. Add in that Madame Chevallot, the Val d’Isere institution patissiere, provides the pastries and the cool sofas and colourful tables make this a place definitely worth a visit.
Tel: +33 4 79 41 94 74
On the way down to La Daille on the Coupe Du Monde <OK> Red lies Le Triffollet, a large rustic bar, pizzeria and restaurant. It has a decent terrace and good pizzas, and provides a solid standard in the contest for the best Plat Du Jour in the Espace Killy. But halfway between the maddening fun of La Folie Douce, and the quiet and relaxed modernism of Les Tufs in La Daille it seems Le Triffollet is better than neither. Still, the pastries are home made and the win list is strong, so you cannot really argue with that.
Tel: +33 4 79 41 96 99
As far as location is concerned, La Bellevarde holds pride of place at 2,800 metres. It is nestled in between the mythical Face De Bellevarde black and the Coupe du Monde <<OK>> red. It tries desperately hard to live up to its billing, too. There is a lovely open fireplace, the experimental food is presented beautifully, and if you want to eat outside there is a lovely terrace. Worth a visit.
Tel: +33 4 79 06 05 76 | Email: [email protected] | Web: www.restaurant.bellevarde.fr
Set back at the base of the fearsome Epaule Du Charvet black and the Santons blue Le Clochetons is a delightful spot to stop for lunch. It has a simple but very effective view down the Le Manchet valley and a pretty river trickles past, even in January. It is an idyllic setting, and they are open with a pool in summer. The only drawback really is that you have to pole through town along the Santons blue after lunch – not what you want after three courses. Make sure in good weather you reserve one of the few tables on the outside upstairs terrace – it’s perfect for watching skiers and boarders struggle past and clapping those who have braved the Epaule du Chravet black. Le Clochetons does not specialise in much, but it does everything very well, from pasta, Savoyarde specialities, to a children’s menu. The strong point has to be the grilled meats, all of which are cooked on a vine grill – the Cote de Boeuf is fair value. They also have the largest bottle of Ginepi, the mountain spirit, you have ever seen! Also does good Spanish charcuterie. Le Clochetons has a large terrace facing down the Le Manchet valley for drinking and sitting lazily in deck chairs.
Tel: +33 4 79 41 13 11 | Email: [email protected]
At the top of the Solaise Express this is for those who cannot be bothered to seek out something else. Good pizzas and the self-service and restaurant lean heavily towards the Savoyarde. The restaurant adds a little bit extra and the Tournedos Rossini we had for €40 was a memorable dish, as was the duck fillet hamburger. A pop-up champagne bar outside on the terrace was also a great addition, but may not be there in subsequent seasons.
Tel: +33 6 33 12 49 03 | Web: www.lasolaise.com
Les Tufs is one of the best places to lunch in Val d’Isere. It is perfectly located at the bottom of the slopes in La Daille and has a terrace that captures the sun to die for. It is modern in appearance but does not forget the old fashioned appeal of open-faced stone and a fireplace. Les Tufs does not produce spectacular food, but does the simple things very well. Les Tufs goes through the usual gamut of salads, pastas and pizzas but does go off-piste with things like half a roast chicken with salad and chips. With a glass of excellent house wine on top, that is a satisfying lunch. There have been grumbles about poor service to many of our team but we have yet to experience it. Les Tufs is also open to eat at night, so if lunch turns into dinner and you are still there, there is a private shuttle service on request.
Tel: +33 4 79 06 25 01 | Email: [email protected] | Web: www.lestufs.com
Set in the Folie Douce compex La Fruitiere is one of Val d’Isere’s best mountain restaurants. It is not cheap, mind you, but the setting is cool and you can just flop out and dance it all off at La Folie Douce after 3pm. The menu is based on Savoyarde ingredients, but that is about it. There is a good choice of fish and meat and the British will be delighted to get their hands on a T-Bone steak. There is the usual selection of pastas and soups, although snail soup catches our eye every time we stop, and there is a huge puddings menu. As a former dairy, the cheese board is the best on the mountain. Booking is strongly recommended.
Tel: +33 4 79 06 07 17 | Web: www.lafoliedouce.com/val-disere
Val d'Isere was once a small hunting village owned by the Dukes of Savoie, and the pretty church of Saint Bernard of Menthon, built in 1664 but with some aspects dating back to the 11th century, still stands in the centre of the old quarter. Harsh winters forced villagers to build solid houses with the local wide flat stones or 'Lauzes' as well as wood, setting the style for centuries to come. Although the first hotels started appearing around the turn of the century, it was Jacques Mouflier, a Parisian, who brought Val d'Isere to a much wider audience when he discovered it under mounds of snow in 1929. And the snow, "as light and fluffy as swan's down" convinced him that this was just the spot to create a resort resembling an Austrian ski village.
But like many French resorts, post-war developments did not enhance the look of the village, and there are still a few eyesores from this period. The resort's rediscovery of its heritage began in the years leading up to the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics, and has continued ever since. The latest development plan, Le Coin, will last until 2022 and oversee construction of a new underground moving walkway but crucially the new buildings will be constructed in the old style with stone, slate and wood and the pedestrianised area will be further extended.
To get your bearings around the resort, it's best seen as a large T. The main road, the D 902 still runs through it, although traffic is diverted away from the pedestrianised centre or swept underground. Avenue Olympique is the principle name for the road inside the resort and most of the nightlife is on either side or close by it. Perpendicular to it, is the side road that descends under the Rond Point des Pistes then snakes up the valley between Val d'Isere's two home mountains, Solaise and Bellevarde, to reach its new smart, ski-in/ski-out suburbs, Le Joseray, Le Chatelard and La Legettaz.
Approaching Val d'Isere on the D902, you first encounter the hamlet of La Daille which is almost an independent mini-resort. Although it's very well located for skiing with excellent lifts, it's not a pretty sight, unless you're a fan of large apartment block architecture (some of their roofs mimic the surounding cliffs, aparently). Gradually the old eyesores dating back to the 1960s and 1980s are being replaced (a process that was hastened by a fire) and those that remain have been re-clad, and there are some smaller, cosier, chalet-style buildings scattered around, but overall La Daille is for keen skiers who value function above form, or just want to save money (it's one of Val D'Isere's cheaper areas).
About 1.5km further along the road, you reach the first suburb of Val D'Isere proper, Le Cret. It's easier on the eye than La Daille, but it doesn't have its own lifts or pistes, so you can be a long walk (or short bus ride) away from both the skiing and the bars and restaurants of the centre.
After Le Cret, is Central Val d'Isere, but be warned the central area is now a very big place, and stretches out for nearly a kilometre, so if proximity to the main lifts and pistes is important, check exactly where in the centre you're staying. On the other hand, the bus service is good, and the whole area has a pleasant ambience.
If you turn right and go up the side road (or walk across the Rond Pont des Pistes and its nursery slopes) you will reach Le Joseray, Le Chatelard and La Legettaz, Val D'Isere's latest suburbs, which are all dominated by smart modern, slope-side apartments, plus a smattering of luxury hotels.
If instead you keep going on D902, you'll emerge from the far end of Val d'Isere and one kilometre up the road is the hamlet of Le Laisinant. This has its own high speed, 6-seater, and usually blissfully uncrowded, chair lift and its own Nordic ski circuit. As an area it's upmarket, sensitively developed but very quiet at night and a long walk from the buzzy centre.
Even further away, but with much more charm, is Le Fornet. On the right side as you approach it from Val d'Isere, is the old hamlet. Quite how much of it really is genuinely old is a matter of debate, but the new buildings blend in well. And on the North side are some large smart modern chalets, plus a luxury restaurant. On the road itself is the eponymous Cable Car station. The skiing it serves on the Col de l'Iseran, Signal de l'Iseran and Glacier de Pissaillas can often seem quite remote from the central ski area despite all the connecting lifts, but it's definitely higher and arguably more beautiful.
Le Fornet is the last stop on the ski bus, and beyond it the snow makes the D902 impassable in winter, at least in a car (part of the road is converted into a piste). In good weather, however, the footpath stretching to the Pont St Charles is a lovely place to take a stroll, provided you don't mind sharing it with the occasional off-piste or nordic skier. In Spring, if you bring binoculars and point them just below the snowline on the mountains on the North side of the road, you can often see ibex. If you do, the lively nightlife of Val d'Isere's centre might seem a million miles away but the real distance is less than 5kms.
Val d'Isere's apres-ski is notorious, and often boistrous. How some night owls manage to stagger onto the ski slopes again the following morning is difficult to imagine, but they do and it is because Val d’Isere’s nightlife can be like a magnet. On a more relaxing note, there are a number of spa therapy centres in several of Val d'Isère's hotels. Where there a spa there's usually a bar, and Val has plenty to chose from - most with live music, a DJ and a 'happy hour'.
Val d'Isere's most famous bar is Dick's Tea Bar, which opened on New Year's Eve, 1979. It is now made up of three sections - the Entry bar, the Cocktail Bar and legendary Members' Bar next door. More than 1,000 customers a day filter through from 3:00pm until the small hours. But Dick's is now just one of many fun apres ski venues competing for your attention and budget from afternoon until well into the small hours.
Cocktails in Le Blizzard's bar with its sumptuous sofas are a real treat and the warmth and atmosphere of the Savoyarde's bar make it well worth stopping by before or after dinner. Le XV at the lower end of the village has a more French vibe and is popular with the locals. It is always exciting to be in a ski town during World Cup races, especially at the very start of the ski season, when La Taverne d'Alsace is THE place to meet.
Host to the big name DJs, this is an essential location at night for students and partygoers. It is well known in Val d'Isere and is worth a visit in either the day or the night. It also offers free wireless during the day and the nights can go on right until 4am; a must if it looks like snowstorm the next day! Vodka and spirits are a must here in the evening, but you will feel at home with a nice cup of tea during the day.
This is an incredibly stylish and expensive bar which is designed to be sophisticated and comfortable, a great place to get away from the rowdy party goers next door in Dick’s Tea Bar.
This is one of Val d’Isere’s newest nightclubs and the club is open until 5am. Set at the Rond Point des Pistes, it hosts international DJs and goes off. Enough said. The Cocorico is the apres-ski aspect of the club and is trying to wrestle with Dick’s Tea Bar and Folie Douce as the best place to go as the ski lifts shut.
Located next to the main road, the Cafe Face is also situated at the foot of the Face de Bellevarde, the famous face of the Winter Olympics in 1992. This bar is merry and cultural, the decor not having been changed since 1993, with live music most nights from 5pm. Happy hour starts at 4pm and the prices rise 10 cents an hour throughout the night. This is a perfect end to a day and is full of locals and French skiers into the night.
This bar has a great position for apres ski or lunchtime stop as it is situated right at the bottom of the slopes in the town system. Their cocktails are renowned in Val d'Isere for being both well mixed and original; they are also served by the pint! Many tourists enjoy this bar and holidaymakers use it as a warm-up before a big night out. This bar has a log fire, which adds a homely feel during the early evening and is also the haven of chalet staff later into the night.
The Moris pub is large and frequented by seasonaires and holidaymakers alike. This pub has an extensive menu and is fair for a lunchtime burger. In the evening live bands and reasonably priced drinks help make this place one of the liveliest places for an evening out. This was one of the first pubs in Val d'Isere and the name 'Moris' is one of the founder families who put Val on the map as a ski resort. It looks it, though and although it is fun, it’s pretty dingy.
Both a restaurant and a bar make this also a suitable place to go with children. Later on at night it becomes busier and in the morning full English breakfast is served to help those late nights fade away before a big day on the slopes. A central location means there is only a short walk home at the end of the night.
Situated at the bottom of the beginners slopes and only one minute walk from the high street this bar is the best place to go both the end of a long day skiing and a fantastic location for a night out. There is free wireless internet available here too. The student friendly bouncers and staff make this place busy and loud right into the night.
Full of character this bar is renowned for being a French bar, with a slightly more family feel, used as a place to go once the kids have gone to bed later in the night! However, for students, on the right night this cosy bar has fantastic DJs and live bongo and reggae music.
This is one of the newest nightclubs in town and only a few minutes walk from the city centre offering free bus services home at night, until 4 in the morning. Beer is only two euros and a flashing dance floor makes this a good option.
Run by Scandinavians the food here is exceptional and it is often really busy after the lifts close in the early evening. People use it as a meeting point later on because of its central location right above the Spar supermarket in the centre of town. Some of the best cocktails are found here and into the night it becomes a good place for a drink.
Renowned for their 'Hot Toffee Vodka' this bar has one of the liveliest spirits in Val. It is loved by locals and holidaymakers alike, and it has a happy hour on Stella beer rising 50cents an hour from 4pm until 7pm. Located right at the bottom of the slopes, if you still have energy straight after skiing, this is where to get your night started.
The Gourmandine is a roof terrace filled as much with non-skiers and injured holidaymakers trying to salvage a tan, as it is with après ski mountain lovers. It is on the Rond Point des Pistes and serves all day from sunrise into the evening. They have a varied menu with the choice of a sweet dessert or crepe to snack on, or a full meal with all the sides.
One of the classiest bars in Val D'isere this is the only place in the whole town where you can drink Heineken, Crystal or Petrus, whilst enjoying the sounds of live music every night. The most exclusive wine list and many different hot sushi dishes are to be found here.
Next to the Post office this is run by an eccentric Kiwi called Phil who is known and loved by the seasonaires. The bar is fantastic for larger groups of people and well known for its high quality loud sound system.
This bar is fantastic for seasonaires and holidaymakers alike. Probably the most friendly atmosphere in Val d'Isere, it has seven plasma screens all playing a variety of sports and ski movies so that you do not miss any of the Premier League matches or any other sport in the rest of the world. Right next to the main parade of shops and the famous Precision rental shop this place is perfect for apres ski, or a full night out.. Also watch out for the amazing ski and snowboard raffles on every week on a Wednesday. There is free wireless internet at Pacific Bar until 7pm.
An atmospheric bar, with very few students, this bar is a great place to get away from the party crowd whilst enjoying a well mixed drink. It is easy to miss but is actually right at the bottom of the ESF meeting point and next to their offices. Free bar snacks from 3pm and cheap drinks for apres ski make this bar unique so close to the slopes.
This is a new bar right in the centre of town on the main high street. It has an urban feel with modern art on the walls and around the tables and hosts some of the best cocktail makers in the region.
A cosy little pub located in a parade of shops on the high street next to the internet cafe this is a quite place but extremely friendly and serving great food and drink throughout the evening.
There is a wide choice of places for eating out: ranging from Michelin-starred restaurants and takeaway pizzas. At the top end, but still affordable, dinner at La Savoyarde is superb. Others include Hotel Aigle de Neige (formerly Les Latitudes), which has been completely transformed and is rapidly become one of the places to eat out.
The Perdrix Blanche, right in the main street, always provides a wide selection of food, from Chinese to Savoyarde. La Table des Neiges has an excellent chef, or try for La Taverne d'Alsace for something other than Savoie fare. During the Criterium de Premier Niege in mid December, this is one of the best places to eat in town – it’s not bad for the rest of the season, either.
Les Clocheton, in the Manchet Valley, is a good spot for lunch for skiers returning from the Santons piste area. L'Arolay, at Le Fornet, serves local specialities in a friendly atmosphere. La Becca, a hotel restaurant at Le Laisinant, serves excellent food.
Le Casa Scara is a stylish and cosy little Italian restaurant opposite the church: the risotto with truffles is 'to die for'! Le Pré d'Aval, which serves local specialities in the town centre, is unpretentious and good value for money.
For good value and good food Tufs at La Daille is also open in the evenings: likewise the Brasserie du Grand Cocor (Bar des Sports). Sur la Montagne (33 4 79 40 06 12) on Val's high street is another relatively reasonable restaurant worth a visit. The Billabong Cafe appeals to the young and the hamburger-hungry.
Val d’Isere, like virtually every other ski resort in the Alps, is investing a lot in extra-curricular activities away from the slopes in order to attract those not chained to skiing on the mountain. Pride of place is taken by the Aqua Leisure Complex, which boasts 5,000sqm of top sports facilities and equipment as well as a wide range of classes and wellness. It is a magnificent addition to the resort and gives both visitors and seasonnaires a welcome alternative to the slopes.
Perhaps Val d'Isere's favourite pastime off the snow is shopping. It has one of the biggest and best high streets in the Alps - and don't miss the side streets, either. Designer clothes, shows, handbags and furniture can all be bought on the high street, while ski and boarding clothing ranges from the highly technical to designer (Prada), are also freely available. And if you're in town at the end of the ski season, you can be sure to pick up some real bargains.
If you are not planning to ski in Val d’Isere, pedestrians and snowshoe walkers can use the Solaise, Olympique and Fornet cable cars, La Daille and Le Vallon bubble cars, the Funival funicular and the Solaise, Bellevarde and Manchet Expresses. There is also a disabled sports association in Val d’Isere, which offers various activities and cultural trips as well as skiing.
Under the 'Winter Touring' category, you'll find guided snowshoe outings on which you might encounter chamois or ibex. You can go for half a day or a whole day, and even trek at night. Equipment and transport provided.
Les Plus de Killy Sport | Pascal Bertres | Tel: +33 4 79 06 05 14
Top Ski | Isabelle Lombard | Tel: +33 4 79 06 14 80
Ski Adventure | Elisabeth Chabert | Tel: +33 6 08 63 27 48
Gavet Michel | Tel: + 33 6 62 45 89 94
There is and Ice Fountain at La Daille, where high-mountain guides will teach you how to make use of crampons, ice axes and harnesses. The icefall is floodlit between 6pm and 10pm. You will enjoy it more if you're in good physical condition.
Bureau des Guides | Tel: +33 6 87 52 85 03
Yves Astier | Tel: +33 4 79 06 51 28
Be a ‘musher’ and get on the back of a husky-drawn sleigh. Between six and 12 huskies draw the sleigh, and can cover from 30 to 60 km a day at 10km an hour. There are half-day trips and day trips. Some even include dinner in a typical alpine restaurant.
Tarentaise Traineau Mushing | Tel: +33 6 16 48 60 47
Snowmobiling and ice driving are possible in Val d’Isere under the guidance of qualified instructor Didier Laroche. The ice circuit has been completely redesigned in recent years and you can now even drive around in a brand new BMW.
Didier Laroche | Tel: +33 6 15 20 71 08 | Web: www.automaitrise.com
You could take to the skies with a parasail, and 'fly with the eagles' from the summit of Solaise for a maiden flight. Looking down (if you dare) you can admire anything from a sea of stone or slate roofs, the odd chamois, the immensity of 'lost' valleys, the Pissaillas or Ruitor glaciers, or the slopes of Miravidi across the border in Italy. 'The human bird' says the tourist office,' doesn't really know where to look first!' They also do tandem flights and speed riding.
Ski Parente | Tel: +33 6 81 05 99 57 | Web: www.ski-parente.com
Air Professionels | Tel: +33 6 09 46 64 78
Philippe de Villenoisy | Tel: +33 6 07 22 43 97
This is not the sort of thing that you do lightly, but if you are fit enough the Biathlon might be something for you.
Tel: +33 6 98 03 81 44
In the middle of Val D’Isere there is a good natural ice rink on which you can skate. The ice rink is open every day between 2pm and 7pm, which changes to 3pm and 8pm after mid February. There is a small chalet by the rink so children do not get too cold and there are hot drinks for sale and a host of entertainment.
Tel: +33 4 79 22 82 05
Resort centre (in front of Val Village)
Winter season opening hours
Every day - From 8.30am to 7.30pm
Saturday - From 8.30am to 8pm
Address: BP 228 - 73 155 Val d'Isère, France
Tel: +33 4 79 06 06 60
E-mail: [email protected]