Val d’Isere is one of the greatest ski resorts in the world. It has extensive, high, snowsure slopes which it shares with Tignes. The town, although rather large, is more attractive than most ski resorts and has a wide range of restaurants, bars and clubs.
At the end of France’s Haute Tarentaise valley, close to the Italian border, Val d’Isere makes up one half of the celebrated Tignes-Val d’Isere ski area, which has about 300kms of ski slopes, 75 lifts, 150 different runs and two snowsure glaciers.
Most of the pistes are reds and blues, and there are enough of them to keep the most energetic intermediate happy for a week, even if they resist the mountain bars and restaurants, including those with live bands like La Folie Douce.
For experts, there are both testing black runs and plenty of off-piste freeride easily accessed from the lift system. For experienced ski tourers with skins, the possibilities are almost limitless.
Beginners are not neglected, because there are free nursery slopes for absolute beginners near the village and two novice-friendly zones higher up the mountain, one predominantly composed of gentle green runs (Rocher de Bellevard) and the other of only slightly steeper blue runs (Solaise). There is also a wide choice of ski schools and instructors. But nervous skiers should be careful: some of Val d’Isere’s blue pistes would be reds in other resorts, and some of its reds would be blacks, and most of the home runs back to Val d’Isere itself are challenging.
Off the mountain, buried roads direct most of the traffic away from Val d’Isere’s semi-pedestrianised centre. Genuine old Savoyard buildings are outnumbered by more modern creations, but the area has been developed sensitively and it has a pleasant ambience. Surrounded by mountains and full of restaurants, bars and clubs, it also has a definite buzz about it.
The Val d’Isere suburbs stretch out a long way, and some like Le Fornet, Le Laisinant and La Daille are now almost separate resorts with their own lifts and home runs. The free ski bus service links everything together so cars aren’t needed, and the easiest way to get to Val d’Isere from the airport is by a specialist transfer service.
In short Val d’Isere is a strong contender for the title of the world’s best ski resort. Such accolades, however, come at a price and Val d’Isere is not a cheap resort. There are some inexpensive places to stay, most notably in La Daille, but those on a tight budget should also look at Tignes.
Val d’Isere Pros & Cons
+ Huge ski area shared with Tignes
+ Fantastic lift-served off-piste
+ Attractive centre with good night life
+ Efficient free ski-bus service, day and night
– Challenging runs home for novices
– The resort is now very strung out
– Long transfers from airports.