Val d'Isère has one of the world's great off-piste ski areas
Right at the end of France's Haute Tarentaise valley close to the Italian border, Val d'Isere and the neighbouring ski village of Tignes combine to form the formidable and vast Espace Killy ski area. Val d'Isere itself is made up of three savoyard villages called La Daille, Val d'Isere centre and Le Fornet, which are all linked via a free bus service. The resort also retains much of it's 13th century charm and Val d'Isere's pretty and compact centre ensures you are only ever a stones throw away from the fantastic slopes.
With more than 1000 hectares of the most varied marked ski runs imaginable, and a remarkable 10,000 hectares of off-piste, with easy access from the lift system, it is no wonder Val d'Isere is one of the most exhilarating ski areas in the world. Indeed, it is not difficult to make out a case for Val d'Isère and its neighbour being among a handful of the world's finest ski resorts - some would even say the finest. Yet such high quality skiing comes at a price: Val is one of the more expensive places in the Alps for a winter holiday.
Offering skiing opportunities from the timid beginner to the skier looking for the ultimate inaccessible off-piste adventure, Val d'Isere is split into three main ski areas, the slopes of Bellevarde, which contains Val d'Isere's renowned downhill slalom course, Solaise, known for perfect sunny slopes for the van chaud skiers as well as those new to the snow and Col de l'Iseran, which offers picturesque skiing at its best. Snowboarders will also not be disappointed with the range of board parks, off piste and cruisy slopes at their fingertips.
Beginners will find good village nursery slopes, which are free, as well as access to Solaise, which is the gateway to some gentle ski slopes off the Madeleine, Datcha and Glacier lifts, however downloading by ski lift back to the valley floor is pretty essential to avoid tougher slopes lower down at the end of the day. Also if you use the lift system at the top of Bellevarde, intelligently, this will open up a range of lovely long green pistes such as Borsat ,Verte, Mont Blanc, Grand Pre and Genepi, on which beginners can benefit from high altitude snow conditions, without feeling intimidated by their environment. You can also easily get back to the village on the Olympic gondola to Val d'Isere centre or in the gondola that drops from la Folie Douce to La Daille.
Intermediate skiers will discover there is no end to the skiing opportunities available in Val d'Isere. You will find in Solaise, where the women racers compete in major events, 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. Also, at the top of the Funival funicular from the Solaise side of the ski area you can drop into the Iseran valley, by the new Lessieres Express and ski down to Le Fornet and if you head to the top of Bellevarde, ski to your right, away from the Bellevarde face, you can chose between the Mont Blanc, Verte, '31' and Diebold pistes for a fairly gentle warm-up run down towards La Daille. Viewed in its entirety, Val d'Isère as part of the Espace Killy offers huge potential of 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, so this intermediate heaven should be taken advantage of.
For advanced skiers there is so much on offer that it's difficult to know where to start. But it's Val d'Isère's off-piste which provides much of its claim to be one of the world's great ski resorts for advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders. Many of the red ski runs are black ski runs in disguise, and most of the classic ski descents, like the OK ski run have challenging sections for you to conquer or become even bigger challenges when skied at a much faster pace. From Solaise, Piste S, which is now officially one of the ski resort's recently conceived 'Naturide' runs, a new category for certain black ski runs that are patrolled and avalanche protected but not groomed. This run is long and challenging, and even its lesser companions, pistes A and M are no picnic! Apart from its famous bumps run, Solaise is also the departure point for some interesting tree skiing, much of it with off-piste variants, down to Le Laisinant. You will also find further across in the Col de l'Iseran, the Forêt run, which is another tough long run through the trees ending up in Le Fornet, the furthest base area from the ski resort.
All advanced skiers want to ski down the famous Face piste, which drops more than a kilometre from the top of Bellevarde to the valley floor, tracing most of the route of the Men's Olympic Downhill ski run. Depending on your personal taste for pistes like this, it is often best skied early while the snow is still groomed and fresh. Snowboarders love raving about Val d'Isère and rightly so, as there are very few drag lifts and vast areas of on and off-piste slopes to exploit and ever since the great Jean-Claude endorsed snowboarding himself, the ski area has became an absolute Mecca for boarders. There are also two snowparks in the Espace Killy ski area to test your skills in and the one in Val d'Isère is located above La Daille, close to the Mont Blanc chairlift.
|Altitude of resort:||1550 metres|
|Top elevation:||3450 metres|
|Largest vertical drop:||1900 metres|
|Total length of slopes:||300 kilometres|
|Longest run:||10 kilometres|
|Cross country trails:||44 kilometers|
|Number of lifts:||99|