An Introduction & guide to Val d'Isere
Val d'Isere has to be one of the most beautiful French ski resorts, nestled in a valley at the foot of the mountains with its chocolate box chalets and hotels, spread between the central town and its outlying villages. It remains a firm favourite with both British and French holiday makers many who come here year on year, offering some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world during the winter and lots of hiking, cycling and touring opportunities in the summer months.
Val d'Isere has its own glacier, the Pissaillas, which is accessible in the winter and on occasion in the summer too when snow conditions permit. Within Val d'Isere's ski area there are over 300km of marked pisted runs and unlimited off piste skiing, making it an ideal location for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities to find something which satisfies all. In combination with its neighbouring resort Tignes, the 'Espace Killy' ski area is dedicated to all aspects of skiing. It also hosted the World Skiing Championships in 2009.
There are 96 lifts spreading ten miles across Val d’Isère and Tignes that can now carry hundreds of thousands skiers per hour. Most of Val d’Isère’s lifts are long and rapid, travelling vertically more than horizontally, so there’s a lot of skiing back down for a short trip up. With it's resort height and excellent snow conditions you can generally ski back to the heart of the village right until the end of April or sometimes the beginning of May.
Food is a great part of life in the French Alps, and with all those outdoor pursuits to try you can rest assured it is all very hearty! Local specialities are often cheese or cream based (sometimes both…), featuring local meats, potatoes and green salad. The food in the Alps is often accused of being unadventurous and ‘lardy’ but there are plenty of delicious regional dishes besides the good old fondue. The emphasis is very much on fresh local produce and so cured and seasoned meats will have come from cattle grazed on Alpine pastures, the local cheeses of Abondance and Beaufort will be prevalent and although there isn’t a coastline in sight there is still a regional fish dish! The féra is caught in nearby Lake Geneva and is a popular dish served in many restaurants, alongside other lake fish such as Omble Chevalier (char), truite (trout), brochet (pike) and perche (perch).
Where is Val d'Isere?
For Val d'Isere the most convenient airport is Chambery, situated 144 kms (2 1/2hrs) away by motorway and then mountain road. If you can’t get a flight to Chambéry, the next best options are Lyon (3hrs) and Geneva (3.5hrs) both of which are serviced by a number of the major airlines.
Each airport has it pros and cons. Chambery is closest but may close in bad weather and your flight be diverted elsewhere. Geneva has excellent bus/shuttle links to Tignes & Val, but has a longer journey time. Lyon St-Exupery has fewer links to the mountains, especially midweek, but the journey is easier and quicker than from Geneva if you hire a car. You can read more about travelling to Val d'Isere in our Getting Here Guide.
Also see: Towns & Villages in Val d'Isere
Events in Val d'Isere
Val d'Isere plays host to a number of winter and summer events, notably the Frostgun freestyle skiing competition and occasionally the Tour de France.
Things to Do in Val d'Isere
In the winter the centre of Val d'Isere is a buzzing and vibrant place to be. Boutique, designer and sports shops line the high street, restaurants and bars welcome guests from the cold outside and intricate ice sculptures can often be seen dotted around the pavements. With the regular bus services to and from the Rond Point giving access to both the Solaise and Bellevarde ski area, to La Daille and to Le Fornet you can hop on the bus and be at a ski area within minutes.
The summer welcomes beautiful sunshine, green trees and plenty to do. Mountain biking is a popular acitivity in the summer time with lift access from Val d'Isere to Tignes you can explore the various trails and routes the mountain has to offer. There are also several walking and hiking routes that you can do giving you the freedom to explore the mountains and their breathtaking secenery. Plenty of summer activities can be enjoyed that are perfect for families and groups; you can even jump in the car and in just a short drive over to Tignes indulge in a spot of summer skiing on the Glacier. The centre of Val d'Isere is much quieter in the summer but it still has a lot to offer. The sports centre is open all year round so there is access to the swimming pool and gym, as well as some of the sports shops and restaurants on the high street opening their doors.
Restaurants in Val d'Isere
With an eclectic mix of restaurants to choose from in the centre of Val d'Isere there will be something to suit everyone's taste buds. Local French restaurants can be found dotted around the high street along with sushi restaurants, Italian restaurants and the more traditional Savoyard restaurants.
Nightlife in Val d'Isere
It has to be said, Val d'Isere is a top destination with a vibrant and lively atmosphere centred on the wide main street that runs the length of the town. Fashion shops, restaurants and cafés, a cinema, and bars all line the busy high street giving plenty of choice and variety. More recently, there's a increasing emphasis being placed the look and feel of Val d'Isere.
From aprés ski until the end of the night, you will never get bored in Val d'Isere. Val d'Isere is renouned for its lively apres ski scene and with around twenty different bars, there's bound to be something to suit your tastes. There are over 60 restaurants where dishes range from the usual savoyard specialities to fine haute cuisine. If you enjoy shopping then Val d'Isère has everything from haute couture and technical clothing to art galleries and cheesy souvenir shops.
Where to Stay in Val d'Isere
Le Cret is one of the earliest and most charismatic areas of Val d'Isere. Nestled into the hillside, this area is situated in between La Daille and the village centre and offers it's residents some spectacular scenery over the Espace Killly. A number of the properties located in Le Cret are converted farmhouses built in old stone and wood cladding, many having been beautifully restored with luxurious internal furnishings. This area used to home of the famous Chalet du Cret restaurant which sadly shut it's doors in 2005 and was refurbished as chalet accommodation.
Le Joseray, La Legettaz and Le Chatelard are located about 5 minutes from the centre of the village, through the tunnel that leads from the main roundabout. These areas are all located within close proximity of each other and offer further residential accommodation in the form of apartments and chalets (some of them luxurious). All are ideally located at the bottom of the Manchet valley providing excellent skiing convenience as the Santons piste offers many who stay here the possibility of skiing back to their front door.
Le Laisinant is a small hamlet situated at the top end of Val d'Isere before the village of Le Fornet. The new Laisiant Express chairlift was opened during the winter 2005/06 season taking skiers to the top of the Solaise and Le Fornet skiing areas. When skiing conditions permit you can ski right back to your door in this area using the Piste 'L' route.
After passing through all the mountain tunnels and just before reaching Val d'Isere village you pass through the resort of La Daille. Although there are some older converted wooden chalets here, in the main it does look a little unsightly with a number of high rise apartment blocks surrounding them. On the flip side, La Daille provides some good 'value for money' self-catering and chalet accommodation. Being located at the base of the piste there's never more than a 2-3 minute walk from your apartment to the slopes that link you to the entire Espace Killy lift system. If you're lucky enough to have an apartment over looking the piste, then in December you'll have a bird's eye view of the championship skiers competing in the Criterium de le Premier Neige. It's also only a 5 minute bus journey into the centre of town and with the free bus provding an excellent service until the 'wee small hours', you are not too far away from the centre of town. Over the next few years, in preparation for the World Cup in 2009 this area is to undergo a significant revamp and recladding project.
5kms out of town beyond Val d'Isere is the beautiful quiet little hamlet of 'Le Fornet'. Often ignored by holiday makers because it lies outside of town Le Fornet has a picture postcard appearence where chalets tend to be more chic and expensive, built to traditional savoyard stone and wood designs. In the summer the area marks the start of the Col d'Iseran which winds it way up the mountain hillside. When winter arrives the Col is completely covered by snow and the area of Le Fornet opens up some of the Espace Killy's best off-piste skiing. The accessibility, numerous gullies and bowls available here make it a firm favourite with many off-piste skiers and boarders alike. 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. A twenty minute hike from the top of the Signal drag lift of the will offer great runs like Point Pers and Col Pers. However, it's also a highly dangerous area with sections that are prone to large avalanches so is not recommended without the skills of a qualified mountain guide.
Le Fornet also offers the only glacier skiing in Val d'Isere at 3400m. Le Fornet offers over in the region of 1500m of vertical descent. From the top of the glacier you can ski down to the bottom of the valley at 1930m. The hamlet of Le Fornet is one of Val d'Isere's best kept secret.
Also see: Where to Stay in Val d'Isere
Hotels in Val d'Isere
Val d'isere centre has a number of excellent luxury hotels right in the heart of this buzzing resort. Ranging from hotels that have a traditional and warm feel to the more modern hotels with an opulent design and luxurious interior. There are plenty of hotels in the Val d'Isere centre that also have a spa where you can relax and indulge after a hard day on the mountains.
Apartments in Val d'Isere
There are hundreds of apartments and chalet-style apartments to choose from in Val d'Isere, catering for every size of group and demands for facilities, catering and entertainment.
Chalets in Val d'Isere
Val d'Isere has a wide variety of chalets to choose from, available in winter and summer, and catering for every need and want.
History & Culture in Val d'Isere
Originally a small alpine farming village, Val d'Isere has continued to develop into a modern alpine resort whilst maintain its village feel and sense of tradition.
Due to its location against the peaks of the Italian border, Val d'Isere's record of snowfall is exceptional. Whilst benefiting from the same Atlantic depressions as other French resorts, it often receives heavy falls of snow from the Mediterranean low pressures which dump their snow on the Italian Alps. The snow coverage tends to be one of the best in Europe and conditions normally facilitate good skiing right to the end of the season (which tends to be around the 08 May, give or take a day or two).
The centre and old town of Val d'Isere consists of stone and wooden clad chalets which adds to the cosy feel of the resort. Sadly there are some "interesting" apartment creations and designs left over from the 1970's dotted around the village, but recent legislation on building regulations and greater emphasis on traditional chalet-style renovations to existing buildings means that the traditional savoyard architecture has made a comeback.
Val d'Isere is made up of a number of small charming little 'hamlets' namely :Le Cret, Le Joseray, Le Chatelard, La Legettaz, Le Laisinant, Le Daille and Le Fornet. More recently the area of Les Carats (millionaire's row as it's locally known!) has developed it's own character and charm with luxury chalet companies chosing to select properties there. The hamlets of La Daille and Le Fornet are the largest of these areas, and essentially 'villages' in their own right.
Also see: History of Val d'Isere
Location: Val d'Isere Region