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Val d'Isère





























Val d'Isère

Links, France



Val d'Isère  


Val 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.


Val 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.


Fortunately 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.


Wide 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 wood.

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 piste-grooming updates.


Linked resorts: Tignes


Nearby resorts: La Plagne, La Rosiere, Les Arcs, Sainte Foy Mountain


No 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.


Off Piste


Val's 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.




Val has a dozen ski schools as well as 20 independent individual private instructors. Choosing the right one for your requirements is no easy task.

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 teaching off-piste.

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.




L'Edelweiss, 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.


Le 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.




Val 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 quartier.

****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.




Much 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.




Le 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.




t +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.  












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