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.
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 at the beginning of May.
Originally a small alpine farming village, Val d'Isere has developed into a modern alpine resort whilst maintaining its village feel and sense of tradition. The old town of Val d'Isere consists of charming stone and wooden clad chalets, shops and hotels, centred around a buzzing high street. 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 has a number of small hamlets on it's outskirts, namely Le Cret, Le Joseray, Le Chatelard, La Legettaz, and Le Laisinant. More recently the area of Les Carats by the Bellevarde Express has developed it's own exclusivity with several luxury chalet companies operating here. The hamlets of La Daille and Le Fornet are the furthest away from Val d'Isere and are essentially 'villages' in their own right.
Skiing in Val d'Isere
Within Val d'Isere's ski area there are over 140km of marked, pisted runs, with around 16 green pistes, 29 blues, 23 reds and 8 blacks, with one snow park and 42 lifts, and unlimited off piste skiing. In combination with its neighbouring resort Tignes, the 'Espace Killy' ski area has 300km of pistes, 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.
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. 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.
Also see: Ski Areas in Val d'Isere
Things to Do in Val d'Isere
Other winter activities you can do in Val d'Isere include winter walking trails, cross country skiing, husky dog sledding, ice driving and ice skating. In the town, there are plenty of boutiques and sports shops to browse in, plus a cinema, a sports centre with a swimming pool, climbing wall, squash courts, a gym and a kids play area. There are also a number of spas in the luxury hotels that you can book for some relaxation time.
The summer welcomes beautiful sunshine, green trees and plenty to do. Mountain biking is a popular activity in the summertime 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 scenery. 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.
Also see: Sports & Activities 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.
Also see: Main Events in Val d'Isere
Where to Stay 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. There is a great choice of hotels and apartments here, and it's easy to access the slopes either on foot or with the help of the regular bus services to both the Solaise and Bellevarde ski area.
On the outskirts of Val d'Isere there are a series of small interlinked villages and hamlets that provide alternative accommodations. They are all linked by free shuttle buses.
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 delightfully renovated chalets and spectacular scenery over the Espace Killly. Le Joseray, La Legettaz and Le Chatelard are located on the mountainside about five minutes from the centre of the main village. The accommodation here is mainly chic secluded chalets and apartments with wonderful views, many of them being ski-in ski-out. 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 is located right at the entrance to the Val d'Isere resort. It is a hub for high rise apartment blocks with a few traditional chalets dotted around, and although it is not the most attractive part of the Val d'Isere resort it does provide a number of good value self-catering accommodation options and has great access to the lifts and Espace Killy ski area. Le Fornet lies 5kms out of town beyond Val d'Isere and is a beautiful, quiet little hamlet, often ignored by holiday makers because it lies outside the main resort. With its own fantastic ski area that connects to the whole of the Espace Killy, you can enjoy fabulous skiing as well as some of the best off piste skiing that Val d'Isere has to offer. The peace and calm of Le Fornet make it a good chalet holiday option for friends and family, and the regular bus service into the centre of Val d'isere only takes10 minutes and runs until 2am.
Also see: Where to Stay in Val d'Isere
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.
Also see: Where to Eat in Val d'Isere
Nightlife in Val d'Isere
It has to be said, Val d'Isere is a top destination for aprés-ski, with a vibrant and lively atmosphere centred on the wide main street that runs the length of the town. Restaurants, cafés and bars line the busy high street giving plenty of choice and variety. From aprés-ski on the slopes at the famous Folie Douce Bar until the end of the night at Dicks Tea Bar, Val d'Isere is almost as famous for its parties as it is for its skiing.
Also see: Partying in Val d'Isere
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.
Also see: How to Get to Val d'Isere
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Location: Val d'Isere Region