6. Val d’Isere

ski resorts in Europe

Val d’Isere is the oldest of the French ski resorts and a gleaming icon at the end of the valley where the residential town lies. Surrounded by what is arguably some of the most beautiful mountain landscape in the world, the chalet village is centred around a charming baroque church. It’s a lovely place for wandering, taking in the cosy atmosphere and spending quality time with your favourite people. Many of its chalets offer excellent doorstep skiing, but there is also the option of a shuttle service that will take you around the resort for free. Val d’Isere is also the place to catch some of the top ski events in the world, such as the Critérium de la Première Neige (FIS Ski World Cup) which is held here every December. It also hosted the Alpine Skiing events in the 1992 Winter Olympics.

Val d’Isere is composed of three skiing sections. These are La Daille, Val d’Isere centre and Le Fornet, all of which are linked by the free shuttle service. Alongside Tignes, the resort is part of a wider ski area known as Espace Killy, and a lift pass will get you access to its entirety. Thanks to this, those who love to go off-piste will be in their element with an abundance of guides and lifts to the top of amazing terrain runs in Tignes. Ski season in both resorts stretches as long as May. 

Thanks to its high altitude, Val d’Isere is probably your most snow sure option for skiing in the French Alps. The village rests at 1850 metres and its peak on top of the La Grande Motte glacier is 3456 metres high. Sixty per cent of the resort’s pistes are set above 2200 metres, meaning that the skiing is consistently good but on rare occasions, bad weather can cause the slopes to close. It’s also important to keep in mind that Val d’Isere isn’t the best choice if you’re just finding your feet on the snow, and beginners may well find themselves challenged. On the flipside, Val d’Isere is one of the top choices for experienced skiers and snowboarders, with plenty of challenging black runs (such as the iconic Face the Bellevarde, where the 1992 Olympic men’s downhill was run) and varied terrain to keep you interested however long you stay. 

And to go with some of the most exciting and picturesque skiing in France, down in the village you’ll find some amazing bars and restaurants. What better way to celebrate conquering that tricky black run than by indulging in some equally entertaining après-ski? On the mountain itself, you can start your evening with DJ’s and live music at La Folie Douce until the lifts close and then work your way into town. The nightlife here is quite renowned and ranges from buzzing nightclubs to cosy creperies that stay open late. 

Best for: Off-piste
Popular villages: 
Val d’Isere, La Daille & Le Fornet
Difficulty: 
Intermediate/expert
Airport: Geneva Airport 
(3hr transfer) or Chambery Airport (2hr 15min transfer)

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