So why choose Val d’Isere as your ski holiday destination? Really the question should be why not!! I know it has a reputation for being over priced and a tricky place to ski but, with a little insider knowledge, there really is something for everyone and every budget both on & off the slopes. So here is my round up of what makes Val d’Isere a great winter get away…
First off are the pretty unbeatable ski area statistics: PISTE MAP
- 300km of listed runs.
- 25,000 acres of off-piste area, a top elevation of 3456m (which is important for early & late season skiing).
- a looooong season (end of November to beginning of May). This winter 2019/20 the lifts will be opening on 30th November. Have a look at this WeLove2Ski article about early season skiing which features Val d’Isere. “Val has – by Alpine standards – a reliable climate.” “Thanks to the large numbers of British ski instructors based in Val d’Isere, this is also a great resort in which to get early-season tuition.” “You’ll be impressed by the early season atmosphere.”
- an average snowfall of around 5-6m per winter not to mention the hundreds of snow canons that can help out if necessary – check out this link for more on cultured snow.
The lift system is second to none. Each year a lift is replaced with a newer, speedier version. There are around 88 lifts between Val d’Isere and Tignes. Queues, when they do occur (as is inevitable at bottlenecks during peak weeks) disappear quickly.
Some say the lift pass is expensive but when you look at how much skiing you get for your buck it is pretty reasonable, particularly when you compare to other resorts. Plus, there are options for beginners and early intermediates who wouldn’t necessarily make full use of a full area pass.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE ON THE SLOPES
Although it has a reputation for not being the easiest resort for beginners (which is a valid point) there really is something for everyone, with 4 nursery slopes to 25,000 acres of off-piste.
For beginners there are
- two FREE nursery slopes lifts, a button lift and a chairlift in the centre of town.
- two magic carpets at the top of the Solaise Telecabine to move on to – access to these is via a reduced price lift pass (Solaise only pass which gives access to these magic carpets and a number of blue runs and a lovely green).
For intermediate skiers there are
- 22 green runs, 64 blue runs, 40 red runs.
- you can ski between all the different areas of the resort, including Tignes, without having to head off a blue run (although be aware that blues may be trickier than in some other resorts).
Some of the runs down into town can be a little trickier, especially at the end of the day on tired legs. Don’t despair you can take the lift down – it is NOT cheating and ensures you are still smiling when you get to that apres drink!
For advanced skiers there are
- 26 black runs to keep you entertained! Including a number of ungroomed ones, which can make for some lovely powder or bumps depending on conditions.
- almost limitless off-piste – some is very accessible from the lifts, other bits may require a walk depending how the mood takes you. Always remember to have the right safety equipment and hire a qualified instructor/guide.
I will do a more in depth post at a later date to cover favourite runs, runs that aren’t exactly what you might expect from the piste map and some insider knowledge.
Although there is not a huge amount of true ski in/ski out accommodation (most of it is along trickier runs such as the Face and Santons so watch out when booking) in the resort there are free buses that link the whole resort, which run from 7.30am to 2am every day.
NON-SKIERS ARE ALSO CATERED FOR
Lots of different activities to choose from. An amazing leisure centre & spas dotted around town, skidoos & husky dog sledding, ice-skating & snow shoeing, parapenting & microlight flights there is lots to choose from. I will be writing a proper post about this soon so watch this space – in the meantime check out Evolution 2 who offer a range of extras.
ANIMATIONS – weekly events and one-off celebrations
The events team work hard to put on an extraordinary set of events for holiday makers to enjoy. From weekly entertainments such as Snake Gliss, Pedestrian Nights, Village Tours and the Monday Market. To one-off celebrations such as Father Christmas on the slopes, Classicaval, Mountain Film Festival and Torchlit Descents.
Again there is something for everyone, if you know where to look, from picnic areas to michelin stars…
- Picnic Areas
At the top of the Telecabine de Solaise you will find Le Lounge. You can bring your picnic here and eat indoors with tables, chairs and glorious views. There are also microwaves if you are bringing something to warm you up on a colder day. In addition you can buy hot drinks and pastries at the counter as well as cold drinks and snacks from the vending machines. There are also picnic benches set up at the bottom of the Olympique Cable Car, perfect if the weather is good. There is also a picnic area in Tignes at the bottom of the Toviere Bubble Lift in le Lac, this has microwaves, taps to fill up bottles and vending machines.
- Restaurants in town
If you don’t want to bother with a picnic but don’t want to fork out then head into town for lunch. In the centre of town you will find Le Salon des Fous, La Source and La Casserole. You’ll find an Arctic Juice & Cafe in snow square (down from the Yule hotel) and another opposite the bus station – perfect if you re craving a health boost. Bananas on the edge of the slopes (but other places on the “Front de Neige” are priced accordingly!) In La Daille you will find Brasserie Louis at the foot of the slopes.
In Tignes head to La Cantine in Lavachet for amazing toasties or Tignes Cuisine in le Lac for fantastic noodles or The Corner in Val Claret for delicious pies.
- Snacky lunches
If you just want a quick snack head to one of the two (award winning) Chevallot bakeries – one next to the bus station and one tucked in the pedestrian area opposite the tourist office. Or head to the wonderful Tartine – a little hole in the wall tucked in the corner next to the post office.
- Mountain restaurants
The most economical are Marmottes (at the bottom of the Snow Park) and Cascades (on the Val d’Isere glacier) – self-service, lots of choice. We also love Ouillette at the bottom of the Madeleine/Pim & Pam carpets.
If lunch is more of an event for you then don’t miss out on La Peau de Vache (at the top of the Bellevarde Express Chairlift), Le Refuge de Solaise (at the top of the Solaise Bubble), L’Etincelle (just above Cocoricos) and Le Signal (top of the Fornet Cable Car).
And there is also Atelier d’Edmond in Le Fornet, which is michelin starred!
HOT CHOCOLATE STOPS
Plenty to choose from – see here for my top picks (extensive research went into this post!!).
All types of accommodation are on offer from the UCPA youth hostel (supreme all-inclusive value based on dormitory accommodation) & self-catered apartments (look at AirBnB, Peak Services & Mountain Rooms) through catered chalets (look at YSE Ski, Hip Hideouts, Val d’Isere Location, Project Ski) to hotels of every star rating.
Check out on my post on accommodation if you can’t decide what would suit your needs the best here.
Val d’Isere is world famous for its party scene and apres ski. Home to the original Dicks Tea Bar & Folie Douce, which are so popular that other resorts have copied our formula! There is also Cocoricos, Saloon Bar & Petit Danois. Or if you prefer a quieter, cosier apres drink then head to Blue Note or Fall Line.
More than 40% of Val d’Isere visitors (in the winter season) are British, more than the number of French who come. While this might be a deal breaker for some who prefer to experience the true nature of a country they are visiting, it can be a real draw for others. Knowing that you will always find someone who speaks English can be extremely helpful.
All in all Val d’Isere has a lot to offer both on & off the slopes. Whether you are coming for a break à deux, en famille or with friends.
What are your top recommendations?