Val d'Isere is part of the Espace Killy ski area in the French Alps, with ski terrain ranging from 1550m at its lowest point to just under 3500m at the top of the glaciers. This altitude makes it very snow sure and with 300 kilometres of pistes, there's a lot of ski area to enjoy.
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The 300km of pistes in the Espace Killy are accessed by 90 ski lifts and funicular railways to reach the glaciers (see the piste maps). There are 20 green pistes, 67 blues, 41 reds and 26 blacks, and 2 snowparks, making it popular with skiers of every level of ability.
Val d'Isère is located in a steep valley and it is these steep slopes that have attracted the hardcore skiers since the resort opened for downhill skiing in the mid-1930's. There is a vast choice of slopes in the high Alps where intermediate skiers and boarders can sample the stunning views and learn from those on the steeper pitches, on the bumps and in the snowpark. With various different beginner areas and the challenging steep & deep runs there is something for every level of skiing ability.
The ski area in Val d'Isere can be broken up into three areas, namely Le Solaise, Bellevarde and Le Fornet, all varying in style and complexity.
This is the resort's central skiing area and it is very popular meaning at times it can be the busiest. Overall, it is the best area for beginner and intermediate skiers and it can be divided into 3 smaller sections. The “Glaciers’ bowl, “L” and “Mattis” areas offer easy skiing on sunny wide slopes. The Madeleine, Arcelle and Manchet pistes are comprised of beginner and intermediate level slopes and often busy with groups under instruction. The Tete de Solaise/Plan - this is generally the run down to the village but it is recommended for intermediate to good skiers so beginners or tired skiers would be wise to take the Solaise cable car or chairlift down to the village.
The Solaise is easily accessible from the town centre by the Solaise cable car or the Solaise Express high-speed 4-man chair and most of the ski schools meet at the bottom of this area. It is possible to cross over from Le Fornet to the Solaise on the Leissières chairlift.
This area offers a wide range of skiing because it has slopes facing three different directions in a triangular shape bowl. The East facing slopes face Val d’Isere itself and include Epaule du Charvet and the ex-Olympic Face which are steep pistes reserved for good skiers only. Santons is classified as a blue run for intermediates but be careful on this slope as it runs through a narrow valley and can get extremely busy and full of moguls by the end of the day.
The South/ South West facing slopes (Grand Prè) which are at the top of the Bellevarde area are fairly shallow but increase in steepness as they get lower down. Finally, the West/North West facing slopes offer an excellent view of the Grande Motte, Grande Casse and the Mont Blanc. This area includes many long and gentle slopes which lead down to La Daille (Diebold and Verte) as well as more difficult options for intermediate skiers (Ok, Orange).
Bellevarde is accessible via the Olympique cable car or the high-speed Bellevarde Express 4-man chairlift from the town centre. From La Daille, the Funival, La Daille bubble or the Etroits chairlift will take you there. It is also linked to Tignes by the Tommeuses and Borsat chairlifts.
The Le Fornet area is a quiet part of Val d'Isere and has some easy long, open and often empty pistes and is guaranteed some good snow since it offers glacier skiing up to 3,456m. The area offers 1,500m of vertical descent along blue runs all the way from the top of the glacier to the bottom of the resort at 1,930m.
Le Fornet also offers some of the most easily accessible and best off-piste in the Espace Killy, with runs like Point Pers and Col Pers offering nearly an hours off-piste skiing for less than a twenty-minute walk. Off the side of the piste under the Cascades Chairlift, there is a gentle wide open powder pitch that due to the altitude and quiet nature of Le Fornet stays fresh longer than most other areas in Val. Connections to this area are via the Fornet cable car from the Le Fornet village, or on the Leissières chairlift from the Solaise area.
Best pistes in Val d'Isere Valley
If you want to enjoy some gentle rolling pistes to get the legs warmed up then head up the Bellevarde side of the mountain and take a few laps of the beautiful green Grand Pre piste and the blue Club des Sports pistes off the top of the Grand Pre chairlift. Normally with fantastic snow and only a few skiers (including some beginners) with nice conditions all day long it can be the perfect place to start or end the day.
For something a little steeper and more challenging on the Bellevarde side of the mountain try the OK/Orange piste which can be accessed from the top of the Olympique bubble or from the top of the Funival from La Daille. If you love moguls then the best piste in Val d'Isere to head to is the Epaule du Charvet. This steep black ungroomed piste has the biggest moguls in the Val d'Isere valley and is definitely a leg burner.
For quiet pistes and fantastic snow the Le Fornet glacier has a lovely combination of red and blue pistes that remain quiet even in peak season. The Cascade red piste (off the top of the Cascade chairlift) is a particular favourite of ours and always seems to be in top-notch condition.
Another favourite of ours is the gully Piste L. Accessible from the Solaise Express and just a short ski away from the bottom of the Glacier chairlift this lovely blue piste is a gully all the way down to the Laisinant chairlift and can be great fun with kids.
Also see: Best Pistes in Val d'Isere, France
Beginner areas in Val d'Isere Valley
There are two nursery areas in Val d’Isere – one in the centre of the resort and one in La Daille at the bottom of the pistes. Here, there are gentle, wide slopes which are designed for beginners.
After feeling more confident on these nursery slopes, the Solaise and Bellevarde areas are a great place to try next as there are several slow, wide and steady runs. Some of them even have designated beginner areas, the Madeline run on the Solaise and the Verte on the Bellevarde. Many of the instructors will progress to these areas with their beginner classes.
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Also see: Beginner Ski Areas in Val d'Isere, France
Advanced areas in Val d'Isere Valley
The Espace Killy has a fabulous range of terrain for intermediate and advanced skiers, with 25 black runs to test yourself on, you are not short of finding a challenge in this ski area.
Val d'Isere has a number of challenging steep & deep pistes that are great for the advanced skier. There is the world-renowned 1992 Winter Olympics downhill run called 'The Face' (pronounced 'fass'), which took Patric Ortlieb a mere two minutes to ski from top to bottom (we don’t recommend you try and match it!). You can challenge yourself with the Epaule du Charvet, the Face or the S.
Also see: Advanced Ski Areas in Val d'Isere, France
Off-piste areas in Val d'Isere Valley
In La Daille you can enjoy a few off-piste tracks and fresh powder. There is also extensive off-piste around this area which involves no walking or climbing, simply powder practice. In addition, just off the top of the Tommeuses lift, to the side of the Creux, is a pitch of moguls which come and go throughout the winter season. There are also the ‘naturide’ runs (Paquerettes at the top of the Tommeuses), which are left un-groomed for skiers and boarders to negotiate more difficult terrain.
Le Fornet tends to be the quieter side of the Val d'Isere mountains, so the off-piste here can often be left untouched, providing fresh powder and plenty of fun. The Shoulder of the Petit Signal, from the top of the Signal lift, go over the col and traverse immediately to the left. Go along the crestline and ski down to the foot of the rock tower at the top of Petit Signal. Traverse to the right of this block, and then ski down a few metres, across a cornice to a wide hilltop. From here, head to the top of the Fornet cable car which you can see easily.
Also see: Off-piste Ski Areas in Val d'Isere, France
Snowparks in Val d'Isere Valley
Snowboarders and freestyle skiers have access to the Val Park in the Bellevarde area via the Bellevarde or Olympique cable cars or the La Daille funicular. If you are coming over from Tignes you can take the Bolin Express from Val Claret or the Aeroski. The Val Park, as it's known, lies in the centre of the Bellvarde bowl just under the Mont Blanc chairlift and is serviced by the drag tow that runs up the side of the slalom course.
Also see: Snowparks in Val d'Isere, France
Bad Weather areas in Val d'Isere Valley
The best thing to do when the weather closes in once you are up the mountain is to head slowly down as safely as possible. Usually, the lower you are on the mountain, the more visibility there will be as the cloud starts to get thinner. Another alternative is to stop in a restaurant, but make sure you have an obvious route down as the weather could get worse, not better. If in the Le Fornet area, Le Signal is just at the top of the Le Fornet cable car so is a good stopping point to see if the weather will pass. In a similar way, Tete de Solaise sits at the top of the Solaise Express chair and the Solaise cable car for an easy descent and you can get straight down from Folie Douce on the La Daille bubble.
If you fancy heading out on the slopes (despite the bad weather) then one of the best areas in Val d'Isere during poor weather conditions is the top of the La Daille area, as the trees running down the pistes will provide much better visibility. Alternatively, head to the lower slopes of the Solaise like 'Piste M' which are also treelined but can often be busy. Another great area to head to is Le Fornet as again, there are plenty of trees lining the pistes from the top of the cable car, giving better visibility and definition.
Also see: Bad Weather Ski Areas in Val d'Isere, France
Location: Val d'Isere Valley