Val dIsere Travel Guide
Val d'Isere is one of the most popular ski resorts in the Alps, and for good reason. It offers some of the best and highest on- and off-piste skiing in the world. The Val d'Isere resort is linked with Tignes, and between them they have about 193 miles (310km) of marked runs for every level of skier. Both ski resorts were developed in the 1970s and although large square hotels still dominate the town, recent developments have succeeded in creating a much more attractive feel. Val d'Isere holidays remain hugely popular, with the British in particular, due to the great skiing and busy nightlife. There are also plenty of excellent restaurants to choose from. The Val d'Isere village is becoming increasingly busy in the summer, when tourists flock there on holiday for walking, climbing and paragliding.
The combined area of Val d'Isere and Tignes offers a massive amount of skiing for all standards. The nursery slopes just above the village are free and a number of companies offer first-rate instruction. As standards improve, skiers can make their way up the slope to the wide choice of green and blue runs. The Solaise slopes can be reached by cable car from the village centre and offer a variety of exciting piste skiing for intermediates and beginners; experts can drop off the sides for some powder. The Bellevarde slopes offer some good high-altitude skiing including a 3,000-foot (1,000m) run down to La Daille. Skiers from all over the world flock to Val d'Isere for its vast expanse of off-piste skiing; whatever the visitor's standard, it's best to take a guide for safety and to help find the best powder.
Val d'Isere has plenty to offer shopaholics on holiday, particularly those with large wallets wanting to look their best on the slopes. Prices are much more affordable towards the end of the season as shops clear the shelves for next year's look. There are mini-supermarkets and some wonderful delicatessens for those who are self-catering.
There are dozens of restaurants in Val d'Isere, most serving up a first-rate food and many with a pricey menu. La Luge has cosy atmosphere and is good spot for dinner after drinks in bar of the adjacent Blizzard Hotel. It serves delicious home-cooked Savoyard specialties. Le Lodge is a more affordable option for a family meal; they do excellent steaks, pizzas, pasta and fondue at an excellent price. The Fondue Factory is a contemporary fondue restaurant that is an homage to Jean Claude Killy, the Olympic skier. La Baraque has good cocktails and a lively setting, often with live bands playing. It serves delicious Asian food, a refreshing change from the heavy food served in many Alpine restaurants. As is often the case, the smaller more intimate restaurants sometimes offer the best fare and it's best to ask a local for up-to-date advice. The same goes for the mountain restaurants. Le Peau de Vache is one of the best mountain restaurant, and is situated half way up La Face. Other good mountain restaurants include La Fruitiere and La Cucucina (both part of the Folie Douce), Eidelweiss and Etincelle.
Val d'Isere has perhaps the most lively nightlife and apres ski scene anywhere in the Alps. For many people the Folie Douce is the first stop after skiing and their terrace is packed on sunny afternoons. It's been dubbed the highest club in Europe and has a resident DJ and band. Cocorico is situated on the nursery slopes, it also has great music and a lively atmosphere, and gets going around 5pm. Le Bananas and the Fall Line are more Val D'Isere institutions and popular pre-club venues, while Dicks Tea Bar has evolved from a pub into one of the most famous nightclubs in the French Alps, open between 11pm - 4am.
A Val d'Isere holiday offers a variety of options for non-skiers, including an outdoor ice-skating rink and an indoor swimming pool, where there is also a climbing wall. Tandem paragliding and paragliding lessons can be arranged via the tourist office. It's possible to organise huskie sledding and to rent snow bikes to do a tour up the valley. Visitors can pamper themselves with spa treatments for relaxation as well.
Few Val d'Isere chalets are within walking distance of the lifts, so skiers have to make use of the efficient bus service. Val d'Isere is very popular and slopes get crowded during school holidays. The town developed quickly in the 1960s and 70s when there were few planning controls, and this is reflected in much of the town's architecture. However, since the 90s all new buildings have had to conform with traditional styles, in keeping with the ancient village that the town grew up around.