Ports of Call
Val DIsere Travel Guide
Paris, France © Benh Lieu Song
Val d'Isere is one of the best European ski holiday destinations; 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 holiday resorts were developed, rather badly, in the 1970s and large square hotels dominate the town, although recent developments have succeeded in creating a more attractive feel.
However, a Val d'Isere holiday remains popular, with the British in particular, due to the great skiing and busy nightlife. There are also plenty of good French restaurants to choose from. The Val d'Isere village is becoming increasingly busy in the summer, when tourists flock there on holiday for walking or 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 your 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 more than 50 restaurants in Val d'Isere, most serving up a first-rate but pricey menu. Good restaurants can be found on most streets. As is often the case, the smaller more intimate restaurants generally offer the best fare and it's best to ask a local for up-to-date advice. The same goes for the mountain restaurants - those at the lift stations are not great by French standards, but some real gems are tucked away and often only found by chance.
Après-ski on a Val d'Isere holiday is dominated by English-speakers and bars such as Dick's Tea Bar and the Moris Pub fill up with Brits and Aussie skiers straight off the slopes. Many stay until the early hours before staggering back to their quarters still in their ski boots.
A Val d'Isere holiday offers a variety of options for non-skiers including an indoor swimming pool and an outdoor ice-skating rink. Tandem paragliding and paragliding lessons can be arranged via the tourist office.
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. Val d'Isere 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 which the town grew up around.