Guide to Skiing in Val d’Isere
Situated in the Tarentaise valley, the Val d’Isere-Tignes ski area draws skiers back year on year.
Situated in the Tarentaise valley, the Val d’Isere-Tignes ski area draws skiers back year on year. The shared ski area reaches 3,456m at Grande Motte and with snow from Mediterranean storms as well as Atlantic storms, the snow cover is excellent, making year-round skiing possible up on the glacier. A charming village teamed with 300 km of skiing, Val d’Isere is rewarding for all types of skiers but particularly intermediate and experts.
The Ski Area
Sharing its ski area with neighbouring resort Tignes, Val d’Isere’s season runs from late November to early May, with 300 km of prepared pistes as well as some excellent off-piste opportunities.
The resort’s main lift hub is situated a little way out from the centre, in the side valley of Le Manchet. From here, the lifts travel west to Bellevarde and east to Solaise. From Bellevarde, you can ski down to the satellite resort of La Daille or take the lifts above La Daille to Col de Fresse and Tovière which link to Tignes. A fantastic area for beginners, Solaise has runs to Le Manchet, Le Laisinant and links to Col de l’Iseran. From here you can reach another satellite village, Le Fornet, which is home to the two Michelin-star restaurant L'Atelier d’Edmond. On the far side of the Col are lifts up to Val’s glacier, Pissaillas.
Best for Beginners
Whilst there are other resorts that would be more suitable for beginners, Val d’Isere has the benefit of over a dozen ski schools to choose from as well as two nursery areas; one in the centre of the resort, the other at the bottom of La Daille. There are plenty of long green runs and blues to progress to. However, it is important to bear in mind that Val d’Isere’s grading system errs on the more challenging side; i.e. a blue piste may well be categorised as a red piste in other resorts.
If you do choose to learn in Val d’Isere then you will want to take the Olympique cable car straight up to Rocher de Bellevarde where there’s a choice of six green runs. Verte is designated as a special beginner zone as is Madeleine on the Solaise side. The Solaise area has a small section of runs for beginners served by three covered moving carpet lifts.
The Col de l’Iseran blue runs are fairly wide, uncrowded and due to the high altitude usually have good snow conditions, making them useful pistes to progress to. Other easy blues include the Aiguille Pers, Pont Abatte and Pyramides.
It is best to avoid the crowded home pistes which can be a little tricky to negotiate so we would advise learners or nervous skiers to take the lifts back down the mountain instead of crushing your confidence and undoing all your hard work.
Best for Intermediates
Val d’Isere is without doubt one of the world’s best ski resorts for intermediate skiers. With over 100 blue and red runs in the area, there is enough mileage to cover for adventurous types. As well as an abundance of easy blues to cruise down, there is plenty to challenge competent skiers too.
The descents to the valley offer the most reward but are best skied early in the morning when they are less crowded and mogul free. The classic runs for intermediates include the Orange and OK Coupe du Monde red runs to La Daille. With 1,000m vertical to the bottom, these exhilarating rolling cruises will tempt you back time and time again. Also recommended are the reds from the Col d l’Iseran and from Solaise to Le Laisinant.
Best for Experts
With around 25 quality black runs, Val d’Isere fully deserves its reputation as one of the best resorts for advanced skiers. The most famous of these is La Face de Bellevarde, the site of the season’s first World Cup Downhill held in mid-December. It is an absolute must and is highly recommended that you get the first lift of the day to tackle it, ensuring you have a freshly-pisted, uncrowded and exhilarating run down this famous slope. Perhaps even more challenging than La Face though is Epaule du Charvet, a particularly gruelling run which joins up with the red Santon piste.
For serious skiers only there is the Foret above Le Fornet. This ‘Naturide’ is extremely steep and somewhat narrow in places, making it one not for the faint hearted.
Despite the fantastic piste skiing, it is really the incredible off-piste opportunities that attracts the pros. The Bellevarde side of the mountain has the most off-piste skiing to offer with well-known itineraries; La Banane, Tour de Charvet and Face du Charvet are three of the most popular. On the Solaise side is the Lavancher Couloir from the top of the Solaise Express and the Super L. For untouched powder Le Fornet is your best bet; immersing yourself amongst the infamous tree lines will test even the most agile of skiers.
For Boarders & Freestylers
With few drag lifts and vast areas of off-piste slopes, boarders understandably rave about Val d’Isere. Both Tignes and Val d’Isere have their own snowparks. The Val Park lies in the centre of the Bellevarde bowl and can be accessed from the Olympique, Funival or Mont Blanc chair. Set over 500 metres, the park includes lines from beginner to expert with different sections for kickers, boxes, rails and a mini-pipe. The park has its own drag lift but it can be frustratingly slow. Over in Tignes is a bigger park and a super-pipe.
To find out more about Val d'Isere take a look at our Ultimate Guide.