Wide view of river and snow-covered valley setting of Val d'Isere ski village.

Val d’Isère

Haute-Tarentaise, Savoie, French Alps

High in the Tarentaise Valley beyond Les Arcs, La Rosière, Sainte-Foy Tarentaise and Tignes.

The legendary Espace Killy ski area includes Tignes and is even bigger than it looks on paper.

Access is via road or rail into Bourg Saint-Maurice, Val d’Isère being the furthest of the Tarentaise resorts.

 

Skiers looking at piste map beside signage with big mountain view

The Ski Area

You want mileage? Look no further. Even a quick glance at the piste map will leave you awestruck while you ponder just how long it would take you to ski from thePissaillas glacier(3197m) above theCol de l’Isèranall the way over toLa Grande Motte(3456m) then down to Les Brevières(1550m) – and back to base.

There’s variety, too, and the experience won’t disappoint as long as you’re up for a challenge or two along the way. If not, then be aware that piste grading can catch out the unwary (as will poseurs blundering to and from the disco-floor terrace of the uber-cool La Folie Douce above La Daille).

For experienced skiers, however, getting around will get you far from the clubbing crowd and onto some epic terrain among some of the most magnificent scenery the Alps have to offer.

Resort Information

Altitude : 1550m - 3450m
Val d'Isère
Pistes Total:
150 km
14 Green
32 Blue
17 Red
8 Black
Ski Resort Lifts : 50
Espace Killy
Pistes Total:
300 km
22 Green
68 Blue
39 Red
24 Black
Ski Domain Lifts: 75
36 Draglifts
44 Chairlifts
2 Funitel
4 Gondolas
4 Cable Cars

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Wide view of skiers passing village apartment blocks, hotels and restaurants

The Ski Village

The first impression is La Daille's high-rise skyline, something which tells you that this is where you'll find the most affordable accommodation. Come to terms with it and it can be a susprisingly practical option for quick access to the mountain, being served by the Funival funicular, the Daille gondola and the Etroits chairlift. There are shops, bars and restaurants too, although there's a lot more further up the valley in the main 1850 village, to which it's linked by regular shuttle buses.

That's where you'll also come face to face with the Val d'Isère you've been expecting, in the form of neatly-styled hotels, restaurants and boutiques, plus a host of individual chalets on the lower flanks of the mountainsides. Much of the volume accommodation development visible from the roadside is on a large scale, although it looks less dominant when seen from the front de neige – and any case the style incorporates some generally pleasing references to local Savoyard origins. Tucked away in the heart of things you'll find the original village church and a couple of streets, which give some indication of the how the ski industry has transformed the local economy.

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

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Disco bar filled with partying skiers

Best For

Skiing here is all about combining quality with quantity, something which comes with a fittingly premium price-tag. Countless skiers are more than willing to pay it, though, and there's no denying the substance behind the hype and brag-value.

On or off-piste, there’s virtually limitless terrain here, although beginners and less confident (and less fit) skiers would probably feel a lot happier elsewhere – Tignes, springing readily to mind. If you’re up for a challenge, though, sooner or later you have to do it.

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Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery

Snowboarding

Plenty of space for beginners, bump runs for all levels.
1 Snowparks
1 Snowboarder Cross


Cross-Country Skiing

Six circuits at intermediate level.
44km Cross-Country and Nordic Ski Trails

icon-smileyYes please...

  • Vast, linked-domain experience.
  • Terrain for all levels up to the most adventurous free-riders.
  • Wealth of accommodation for even the most demanding clientèle.
  • Snow-sure glacier skiing, both here and above Tignes.
  • You’ll come back a better skier.
  • Cred-value; sooner or later you’ll feel you just have to do it.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • Not the most tranquil or affordable choice.
  • If you’re not an experienced all-mountain skier it’s best to plan your routes carefully.
  • Boutiques and restaurants here require deep pockets.
  • Long transfers, often with traffic congestion on changeover days.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • Avoid the crowds by heading to the more distant terrain, or off-piste.
  • Avoid the wallet-emptying prices by heading over from Tignes or even Les Brevières – it won’t take as long as you might imagine.

Practical Information

Getting there

By Car
For Dover-Calais ferry travel, other cross-channel routes, offers and bookings visit P&O Ferries

Autoroute A43 Lyon / Albertville, then N90 to Bourg-Saint-Maurice. Follow the signs to Val d'Isere, a 30-40 minute drive. Allow a full day to travel from Calais and be prepared for long delays on Saturdays as you approach the main ski areas.

By air
The nearest airport is Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc, with transfer times of to 2-3 hours. Lyon, Geneva, and Grenoble are all possible but transfer times and occasional delays make them less convenient.

Jet2.com offers low cost flights to the French Alps from 7 UK airports.

By train
Ski trains run from late December to early April and take you direct into Bourg Saint Maurice for a short transfer to Val d’Isère by bus, taxi or hire car.

Book your TGV fast train from Paris or Eurostar’s ski train direct to the French Alps with OUI.sncf

Transfers
Visit Ski-Lifts for the best range of ski transfer destinations from airports and main rail stations.


Where to stay

Tried and testedLes Balcons de Bellevarde

La Daille
Val d'Isère

Les Balcons de Bellevardeare located in theDaillearea and facing the slopes, offeringvirtually doorstep skiing. This ski residence has facades clad with local timber and stone, and those facing south enjoy maximum sun exposure.Entirely refurbishedsince we stayed there, the 74 apartments are comfortable and welcoming. Balconies offer uninterrupted views over the slopes, or the Isère valley. TheFunival funicular is 200m awayand shops and services 100m.

There is parking under the Les Balcons de Bellevarde, although it's operated independently from the residence (parking is only booked and payable locally, and subject to availability) plus ski lockers and a left luggage room. WIFI access is available in the reception area (payable).

All apartments have a fully equipped kitchenette with 4-ring ceramic hob, fridge, microwave-grill oven, dishwasher, electric coffee-maker and kettle, telephone (payable), television (5-7 French channels and 6 international channels), vacuum cleaner, all beds have duvets and balcony or terrace.

When we stayed there, we made good use of the regular shuttle bus to the main 1850 village.

Enquiries and bookings:
Ski Collection
0844 576 0175 (UK) or +44 (0)2392 890 960
reservations@skicollection.co.uk


Where to Eat

La Folie Douce

La Daille
Val d'Isère

The original Folie Douce is situated at the top of the La Daille gondola (there is now a Folie Douce at Meribel/Courchevel, Alpe d'Huez and Val Thorens). At lunchtime, most diners head for the Nuvo Self self-service restaurant open every day from midday until 3pm. For sophisticated dining choose the adjacent La Fruitiere (reservation advised +33 (0)4 79 06 07 17), where the delicious menu is created using local Savoyard produce. With it's distinctive interior design and exceptional service from uniformed staff, we'd go there again at the drop of a hat. 
The real party goes on outside where the crowds gather to enjoy an adfternoon of loud music hosted by a live DJ, have a drink and simply party.


Tried and testedLes Tufs

La Daille
Val d'Isère

At the foot of the La Daille gondola and funicular, Les Tufs offers has a pleasant, contemporary bar / dining room and a large terrace. They serve reasonably priced snacks (we had paninis at 6.50€ each) and a good range of other meals.


Insight: Val d'Isère

Skiers beside chairlift at Val d'Isere, French Alps resort

Insight: Val d'Isère

Driving to Val d’Isère, particularly in the chill darkness, feels like a real to-the-end-of-the-road experience. When the snow-line creeps down from the Col de l’Isèran and closes the road at the end of the valley just beyond the Fornet cable-car, that’s exactly what it is. Over the years we’ve driven the route up from Bourg Saint Maurice many times, but the frisson of excitement during the climb remains as strong as ever.

It’s hard to do justice to the enormity of the Espace Killy without getting impossibly wordy, so instead we’ll offer our first impressions below, to which we’ve added our most recent experiences of dropping into ‘Val’ from Tignes in our Tignes Resort Review.

Cugnai, an older fixed chairlift serving a single red groomed piste (along with some worthwhile off-piste terrain), fires us off abruptly onto a tight 180° hairpin turn followed by a steep plunge back to the Col de la Madeleine blue.
The arrival point of the Rocher de Bellevarde lift, Val d'Isere
Snowboarders, Val d'Isere

Spoilt for choice in Val d’Isère

Having enjoyed driving the Route des Grandes Alpes in autumn, we’re now looking forward to finding out how one of the more memorable sections looks and feels beneath our skis.This slightly surreal experience will have to wait, however, until after we’ve devoted some time to getting our bearings, particularly as we’re based at the opposite end of the valley. Fortunately La Daille is far from isolated, having three high-capacity ski-lifts of its own, including the metro-like Funival funicular, which dives deep into the mountain and emerges way up at the Rocher de Bellevard (2827m).

Ahead lies a vast panorama, and a dazzling choice of ski runs. This being Day One, we pass on legendary descents like the Face Olympique de Bellevarde and ‘OK’ Coupe du Monde and instead warm up on a gentle cruise over to the Borsat Express lift, then to theCol de Fresse chairlift. From here we could drop more or less straight down into Tignes Val Claret, but elect to stick closer to home and see a little of what the local terrain has to offer. The snow quality, although becoming a little tired, is nevertheless pretty good, so we work our way eastwards.

Passing below le Rocher de Bellevard (2827m) we reach Santons, a blue-graded piste which plunges down into Le Châtelard, close to the heart of Val d’Isère 1850.

When we drop in the restaurant sun terraces are already starting to fill up, but we’re more concerned with pressing on, taking the Solaise Express chairlift up to 2560m. We’re getting into our stride now, making relatively smooth progress through the lift system and the connecting runs. Minutes later we’ve ridden the Madeleine chairlift, swooped down the blue-graded Col de la Madeleine and joined the Glacier chair.

The security and effectiveness of these modern lifts becomes apparent when Cugnai, an older fixed chairlift serving a single red groomed piste (along with some worthwhile off-piste terrain), fires us off abruptly onto a tight 180° hairpin turn followed by a steep plunge back down onto the Col de la Madeleineblue once again. Next time we’ll be prepared for that.

Grand Motte cable car, Tignes
Val d'Isere centre of the ski village

Up and over to the glacier

Not that newer high-speed lifts don’t occasionally serve up a few surprises of their own from time to time, as we discover when the Leisières Express takes us over a high ridge, before making a steep and rapid-feeling descent into the neighbouringVallon de l’Isèran. It’s a fun ride, not least for the surprised expressions on the faces of those heading over the ridge from the other directions on this two-way lift.

By now we’ve almost reached our target, the Pissaillas Glacier (above). Even before we step off the lift we know we’ve found somewhere special — not in terms of size (in absolute terms it’s pretty modest) or terrain (the pistes are likewise undemanding). It’s quite simply a magical spot, with vast, top-of-the-world views over to the distant Grand Motte Glacier, silhouetted almost 3500m above Tignes — about the same altitude as we are now, in fact.

To prove the point, closer to hand is a privileged overview of the 2770m Col de l’Isèran (left), one of the highest road passes in Europe, and for much of the year comprehensively snowed-in. The glacier is also a point of departure for various off-piste routes but we break for lunch, ski the groomed pistes for the simple fun of just being here, then begin to make our way back to our starting-point. Not bad for a first day’s skiing.

During our stay in Val d’Isère we cover a lot more ground, yet still feel like we’ve only scratched the surface. And yes, we do get to ski down a section of the Route des Grandes Alpes, whose roadside piste-markers looked so incongruous back in the autumn. This really is quite a place, and you can read about how we approached it to discover more about it from neighbouring Tignes in our resort review. MountainPassions heart icon