Val d’Isere is one of Scout’s favorite ski resorts, thanks to its winning combination of an extensive and excellent ski area, decent ski-lift systems, with a true European-style, charming village, a wide variety of accommodation and easy access. From party-goers and extreme skiers to families or romantic couples – Val d’Isere is perfect for everyone.
- A charming, historic town center, complete with a church dating back to 1553.
- Endless in-bounds skiing and great backcountry opportunities.
- A happening après scene.
- A wide range of restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets.
- Excellent public transport ensuring that no matter where you’re staying everything is within easy access.
- Val d’Isere has one main village area and several satellite villages connected by public transport and also with lifts.
- La Daille (the first village) isn’t exactly in keeping with the charm of Val d’Isere.
- There are some properties with ski-in ski-out (or close to) access, though most aren’t too far from the lifts.
- Be sure to visit the working farm (where you can see the animals in the barn) and attached fromagerie (cheese shop) and restaurant.
This Scout review comes with a warning - we love Val d’Isere so much that it’s going to sound a little biased. We have no connections or ulterior motives; we really do just think it’s awesome.
Val d’Isere is nestled high in the Tarentaise Valley in the Savoie region of the French Alps. With its neighboring resort of Tignes it forms the gigantic Espace Killy. While it’s not the biggest ski area in France, the terrain is endless and you can make your day into quite a journey by connecting lifts that cross countless ridges and valleys. On a clear day the views are nothing short of spectacular, particularly from the top of the tram at La Grande Motte (3456m/11338ft) or from the Pissaillas glacier.
The central village of Val d’Isere is compact, pedestrian friendly and has all the charm and style of a classic European mountain village. It feels like a real community with locals happily mixing and mingling with tourists. Those seeking retail therapy will love the tons of great shops, as well as the regular night markets touting all sorts of trinkets, clothing and local delicacies. The village has a wide array of restaurants, bars and clubs that will keep revelers entertained for as long as they can stay - or stand - up. The center of the village is not far from the main ski base area and there are plenty of hotels within easy walking distance of the lifts. From 2 to 5 star luxury, self contained apartments and fully catered chalets - there is a wide range of accommodation in Val d'Isere.
Further away are the small villages of La Daille (at the start of the valley) and Le Fornet (at the end). Le Fornet is a small, cute hamlet with access to lifts, but is easily connected with the main village via an efficient shuttle bus that runs until 2.45am. La Daille doesn’t fare well in the charm stakes, but is convenient since it’s well connected with the slopes and lifts, particularly thanks to the underground funicular that whisks skiers straight up to the top of the Rocher de Bellevarde – the most central point of the combined ski areas.
Val d'Isere Skiing
Val d’Isere, with the ski area of Tignes (all on the one ticket), has an excellent variety of terrain suited to all abilities throughout the resort.
The first-timer area is conveniently located at the main base area, and is close to a lot of the village accommodation. From there beginners can progress to different parts of the mountain including several areas called “Piste Tranquille” for quiet skiing.
As with many French resorts, the blue, red and black classifications can become a bit vague with many runs being more difficult than their classification would suggest. Some beginners and lower intermediates may find it easier to download back to the village, since there’s often no easy way down.
Intermediates will love the endless runs, and this resort is also well suited to advanced skiers. For starters there’s the super steep Bellevarde run (that was the 1992 men’s Winter Olympics downhill course), and tons of wide open red runs for some high-speed cruising. But the main attraction is the fantastic off-piste, much of which is accessed via lifts. Most of it is only recommend when with a guide and using safety equipment since a lot of this terrain is unmarked, and a guide’s experience and local knowledge will add to your enjoyment.
Due to its high elevation, the snow at Val d’Isere generally stays in good condition, and it doesn’t always get chopped up quickly. We were able to find some untracked powder off-piste (with a guide) despite it having not snowed for six days.
And lastly this review can’t go without mentioning the unique chairlift called Leissiers. It takes you up and over a ridge meaning that, unlike most chairs that only go up, the second half of the ride is downhill. Plus, it works both ways so skiers are on the chairs heading towards you … all quite disconcerting at first!
Val d'Isere For Families
Val d’Isere makes a great choice for families. The resort is recognized as a “Famille Plus” destination, meaning that it matches family-friendly criteria. The village is easy for families to get around, whether walking in the pedestrian-friendly areas or using the shuttle buses. The main childcare center (Village des Enfants) is conveniently located near the ski-area base and is for children up to 13 years (though not under 18 months). There are also plenty of ski schools and the beginner area is easy to get to, being right at the center of the village. The gigantic aqua leisure complex has a great pool for kids, with waterfalls and plenty of play area.
There are a variety of hotels that are suitable for families, along with a very good selection of self-catered apartments. The other great benefit of Val d'Isere is that most of the hotels are a very short walk to the main ski school and beginner base area so logisitics don't become a major hassle.
Val d'Isere AccommodationSearch Hotels
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Val d’Isere boasts some beautiful, luxurious hotels, from traditional mountain style through to modern chic. Prices can be quite high, particularly over Christmas and New Year but there are also some good value options to be found. Val d’Isere also has its fair share of catered chalets and self-catered apartments. For most visitors to Val d'Isere (particularly if it is your first visit) we reccomend staying in or close to the main center rather than one of the satellite villages as you will want to spend a lot of time in the village afer skiing.
You can find a map of Val d'Isere village here.Search Hotels and Deals
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Those looking for something to do, other than skiing of course, will not be bored in Val d’Isere. There’s a kids ice rink in the center of the village, dog sledding, ice climbing, snowshoeing, spas, a cinema and the big, new Aqua Complex that features a huge play pool, a 25m lap pool, saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs, gym (with classes) and massage. For those looking for more cultural experiences, there are French cooking classes, galleries, shopping and the fantastic working farm, La Ferme de l’Adroit up the end of the village. There you can see the animals in the barn, buy fresh cheese and the most delicious yoghurt Scout’s tasted (from their own cows of course) and dine in the restaurant. If speed is what you’re chasing you can always have a go on the BMW ice-driving circuit. Sadly, you’re not allowed to drive but we can attest that being driven by a professional driver several times around an icy, very windy 1km course is much more thrilling (and terrifying) than if you were driving yourself.
Getting There and Around
The nearest airports to Val d’Isere are at Chambéry (2hrs), Grenoble, Lyon and Geneva (3-3.5hrs). There are plenty of bus transfers from each airport. Arriving by train is easy with the nearby Bourg-St-Maurice (30km) being the closest stop. There are plenty of bus transfers up to the village.
Getting around the village is easy since most things are within walking distance around the center village, or you can use the convenient shuttle service. There are also plenty of taxis.
When To Go
Val d’Isere usually opens in the last week of November and operates until early May. Christmas and New Year is the peak time, as is February for the French and UK school holidays. January is a great time to visit - the slopes are quiet and the snow is reliable, though it can be quite cold. March and April are great for spring skiing and enjoying lunch on restaurant decks. As there are plenty of high-altitude slopes the snow usually stays fairly high quality.
Facts & Figures
|Espace Killy Information||Lifts||Terrain|
|Base Elevation||5090ft / 1550m||Lifts||88||Green||15%|
|Summit Elevation||11,338ft / 3456m||Snow Parks||2||Blue||42%|
|Vertical Drop||6248ft / 1906m||Cross Country||44km||Red||26%|
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