A 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
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
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.
Where to Stay in Val d'Isere
Val d'Isere resort is actually a series of small interlinked villages and hamlets. 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 its residents some spectacular scenery over the Espace Killly. Le Joseray, La Legettaz and Le Chatelard are located about 5 minutes from the centre of the main village, so are very well situated. Le Laisinant is a small hamlet situated at the top end of Val d'Isere before the village of Le Fornet, with its own lift. La Daille with some older converted wooden chalets here, in the main is a little unsightly with a number of high rise apartment blocks surrounding them. Le Fornet is 5kms out of town beyond Val d'Isere is the beautiful quiet little hamlet, often ignored by holiday makers because it lies outside of town and therefore, wrongly, "missed out on".
Also see: Where to Stay in Val d'Isere
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.
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.
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.
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.
Location: Val d'Isere Region