and adjoining Tignes have the best off-piste skiing in Europe. This
high-altitude glacial resort has a reliable snow record and modern lift
system. Recommended for complete beginners, strong intermediates, and
experts, but not for wobbly second-weekers. Busy nightlife, but light on
gourmet restaurants for a resort of this size and sophistication.
d'Isère combines with neighbouring Tignes to form one of the principal
winter playgrounds of Europe. More British skiers go here than to any
other resort in the world and amount to 36 per cent of the population
during the winter months.
the French also favour it and prevent it from become altogether
anglicised by providing an effective counter-balance.
Val is a cultural and social melting pot for dedicated skiers and riders
from all over the world who are drawn by the high, rugged mountains at
the head of the beautiful Tarentaise Valley.
The village, which stretches along the road from purpose-built La Daille
to the farming outpost of Le Fornet, has smartened its appearance in
recent years and can now be described as attractive.
pavements have been created where there were previously none. Mature
trees have been transplanted to line the main commercial area, and the
worst of the concrete edifices of the 1960s have been reclad in soothing
Focal point is Val Village, a cluster of 'old' buildings housing smart
boutiques. This was created for the 1992 Winter Olympics around the
11th-century church and the handful of genuine old farmhouses dating
back to when the settlement was a hunting lodge for the Ducs de Savoie.
Val has grown in all directions in recent years and even the central
area is now divided into different quartiers. Of the two satellites, La
Daille has purpose-built ski convenience but little character. By
contrast, burgeoning Le Fornet is becoming an increasingly attractive
place in which to base yourself, although it's a long walk home to both
from the nightlife that is entirely confined to the centre.
The Train Rouge, the resort's free bus service, runs with startling
efficiency every few minutes during the day from one end of the resort
to the other. Buses between Val and Tignes are neither as frequent or as
cheap as you might expect. Parking is difficult, but having a car is
useful for visiting Sainte-Foy or for trips to Paradiski (Les Arcs/La
Plagne) and La Rosière.
Val's biggest plus point is its altitude and geographical situation that
create a snow-sure micro-climate. You can ski here from late November
until early May and book a holiday in the certainty that you will not
find green fields on arrival.
The piste-skiing is good, but to its ardent followers it is the easily
accessible deep snow terrain that beckons. This is a high-mountain area
that carries an ever-present risk of avalanche and should always be
treated with the utmost respect. Fatal accidents – they happen each
winter – are usually caused by inexperienced or ignorant skiers and
riders ignoring warnings and venturing off-piste when it not safe to do
so on the principal that 'it can't happen to me.' It can.
The ski area often takes a full day to fully reopen after a serious
dump, and wise skiers head off to the more sheltered and secure powder
of Sainte-Foy. Radio Val d'Isère on 96.1FM gives bilingual weather and
resorts: La Plagne, La Rosiere, Les Arcs, Sainte Foy Mountain
less than eight entry points give access to the mountain, thus ensuring
that even during high-season weeks, when French families are on holiday,
queuing is never a serious problem.
The most convenient and quickest way into the system is to catch either
the Funival underground funicular from La Daille or the 30-person jumbo
gondola that also rises to the top of Bellevarde from near the
swimming-pool at the foot of the nursery slopes.
From here a network of pistes and lifts fan out towards the Rocher du
Charvet in one direction and towards Tignes in the other. The Tommeuse
chair provides a swift and efficient link to 2704m Tovière, starting
point for a choice of runs down to Tignes.
Bellevarde is also the start of the OK downhill course (named after two
of Val's Olympic champions, Henri Oreiller and Jean-Claude Killy), which
brings you over some moderately demanding but wonderfully enjoyable
terrain all the way to the Funival station at La Daille.
From the other side of the nursery area in Val, a choice of cable-car or
a detachable-chair takes you up Solaise and on towards Le Fornet. From
the top of the Manchet chair the long red Mattis run brings you down to
the hamlet of Le Laisanant. A new chair-lift this season means you can
continue on to Le Fornet without having to take a bus. The high summer
ski area at the top of Le Fornet has guaranteed snow-cover.
Dramatic improvements to the lifts at this end of Espace Killy means
that you can now ski from Le Fornet to the far corners of Tignes in a
single morning. It is important to note that the official piste grading
in Val is markedly stiffer than you will find elsewhere. For blue, read
red. Intermediates should treat runs that are marked black with
considerable caution until they know what is involved.
The nursery slopes in the middle of the village are both good and free,
but their position, just off the main descent from Solaise, means that
fast-moving traffic often needs to be negotiated when going to and from
the novice lift.
Espace Killy is popular with free riders who will find lots of natural
gullies and cliffs. La Daille terrain park has a half-pipe and a host of
obstacles, as well as two snowcross courses. Riders and twin-tippers
also congregate on the Grande Motte above Tignes.
tour de force lies in its enormous potential for off-piste. Try the Face
du Charvet, a steep powder classic accessed from the Grand Pré chair.
Danaides, reached from the Solaise Express chair, brings you steeply
down through the forest above the town.
No good skier or rider should miss a day-trip to Bonneval-sur-Arc, an
attractive little village in the neighbouring Haute Maurienne. The
itinerary starts with a 20-minute hike from the top of Le Fornet,
followed by a choice of sweeping powder descents over the far side of
the ridge. The return journey is best accomplished by a pre-arranged,
four-minute helicopter ride for €90 per person. The alternative is a
five-hour taxi journey.
has a dozen ski schools as well as 20 independent individual private
instructors. Choosing the right one for your requirements is no easy
The ESF, t +33 (0)479 06 02 34 has a strong presence and offers
cutting-edge tuition. But it obstinately maintains a firmly focussed
Gallic outlook despite the fact that 36 per cent of skiers here are
Anglo-Saxon. Consequently it only employs one British instructor.
We strongly recommend Top Ski, t +33 (0)479 06 14 80, a cult school run
by ex-French racer Pat Zimmer, that specialises in teaching and guiding
off-piste as well as giving regular lessons and telemark instruction.
We also recommend The Development Centre, t +33 (0)615 55 31 56, run by
British instructors. Mountain Masters, t +33 (0)479 06 05 14 and Alpine
Experience, t +33 (0)479 06 28 81 also have established reputations for
The other schools include Snow Fun, t +33 (0)479 06 22 24, Oxygene, t
+33 (0)479 41 99 58, Ski Concept, t +33 (0)479 40 19 19, Ogier, t +33
(0)450 479 06 18 93, Misty Fly, t +33 (0)479 40 08 74, Tetra Hors Piste,
t +33 (0)479 41 97 07, and Val Glisse, t +33 (0)479 06 00 72. Guiding
can be arranged through the Bureau des Guides, t +33 (0)479 06 94 03 and
through ski schools.
t + 33 (0)610 28 70 64, on the blue Mangard piste above Le Fornet, is a
fairly new mountain hut with a log fire and good meat and fish. La
Fruitière, t +33 (0)479 06 07 17, situated on the OK run, has excellent
spaghetti Bolognese and lamb dishes. The name means 'dairy' and it is
suitably decorated with milk churns. Le Trifollet, t +33 (0)479 41 96 99
and Les Tufs, t +33 (0)479 06 25 01, further down and at the foot of the
OK, are friendly pizza-and-steak alternatives.
Signal, t +33 (0)479 06 03 38, at the top of the Le Fornet cable-car,
has great steaks and a fine cassoulet. Bananas, t +33 (0)479 06 04 23,
at the foot of Bellevarde, has good burgers and Tex-Mex, but better
bacon-and-eggs. Best lunch in the region is upstairs at L'Arbina, t +33
(0)479 06 34 78 in Tignes-Le-Lac. Specialities include rognons de veau
and coquilles St Jacques.
is primarily a chalet resort but has a few decent hotels.
****deluxe Hotel Les Balmes de L'Ours, t +33 (0)479 41 37 00,
www.hotel-les-balmes.com is comfortable and stylish, but overpriced.
****deluxe Eagle's Nest and Big Yeti, t + 44 (0)20 8682 5050,
www.scottdunn.com are extraordinarily smart chalets in the Les Carats
****Hotel Le Blizzard, t +33 (0)479 06 02 07, www.hotelblizzard.com has
a fine bar area and restaurant, but the bedrooms are disappointing.
****Hotel Christiania, t +33 (0)479 06 08 25, www.hotel-christiania.com
has plenty of atmosphere.
****Aspen Lodge, t +44 (0)20 8875 1957, www.vip-chalets.com is an
extremely smart catered apartment block on the main street.
t +33 (0) 479 06 01 55,(***Hotel
La Savoyarde, www.la-savoyarde.com
is conveniently located and has a strong following.
***Hotel Le Tsanteleina, t +33 (0)479 06 12 13, www.hoteltsanteleina.com
enjoys a loyal British following.
A number of sumptuous private homes as well as more basic apartments are
also available to let by the week through Val d'Isère Agence, t +33
(0)479 06 73 50, www.valdisere-agence.com.
British-owned Mountain Rooms and Chalets, t +33 (0)479 41 17 43,
www.mrooms.co.uk also has a good choice of accommodation.
the best restaurant in Val is no more: Le Chalet du Crêt has been sold
as a private home. For a resort of this quality Val is short on gourmet
eateries. La Grande Ourse, t+ 33 (0)479 06 00 19, by the nursery slopes,
heads the list. Le Blizzard, t +33 (0)479 06 02 07, in the hotel of the
same name, also has reasonable food in a pleasant atmosphere. Le 1789, t
+33 (0)479 06 17 89, next to the Galérie des Cimes, has an open fire
and offers a warm welcome. La Taverne d'Alsace, t +33 (0)479 06 48 49
provides traditional French cuisine at reasonable prices.
Graal is the new nightclub this season, a replacement for defunct Club
21. Dick's Tea Bar remains the most celebrated disco in the Alps.
Alternative après-ski centres around Café Face, Le Petit Danois, the
Pacific Bar, Le Pub, and the Saloon Bar beneath the Hotel Brussel's.
British teens gather downstairs at Bananas.
+33 (0)479 41 99 58 and Evolution 2, t+(For
tuition, we recommend Oxygène, 33
(0)479 41 16 720. Le Village des Enfants, t +33 (0)479 40 09 81 cares
for children from three to eight years with a mix of play and ski
lessons. Le Petit Poucet, t +33 (0)479 06 13 97 collects and delivers
children from three years from wherever they are staying. The main ski
schools all runs courses for children. The Tourist Office, t+ 33 (0)479
06 06 60 has a list of recommended babysitters.