Overview of Val d'Isère, France
Written by Greg and Heather Burke
Val D’Isère offers legendary skiing in the French Alps. The ski region is now marketed as L’Espace Killy – including neighboring Tignes ski resort, named after the famed French ski racer Jean Claude Killy. Linked together by multiple lifts, Val D’Isère Tigne offers skiers tons of terrain, high elevation skiing on two big glaciers, plenty of prepared (groomed) trail skiing, plus loads of high-level off-piste terrain to explore. The two ski resort of Val D’Isère and Tigne couldn’t be more different, and their skiing has distinct variety as well.
Val D’Isère was host to the Olympic Downhill in 1992, and you can ski the steep long face of Bellevard dropping precipitously to the village, or explore the more mellow undulating fun ski flanks of Solaise and Vallons areas to skiers left. Tignes offers the highest alpine skiing here on La Grand Motte, glacier skiing reached by a big super scenic tram, you can stay on the one prepared to run down just admiring the amazing Alps scenery, or ski untracked off-piste natural snow in open bowls or steeper chutes for an adventure just off the groomed slopes. You can scare yourself silly here in all this high alpine high-risk terrain, or hire a guide to be on the safe side. Val D’Isère has some amazing off-piste runs too – including the Grand Vallon. Be sure to ski all the way to Tignes far skiers left – to Aiguille Percée– the ski landscape here is desert and the rock formations surrounded by snow are other-worldly. Tigne also has plenty of terrain parks.
The ski lifts at Tignes and Val D’Isère range from big trams and modern gondolas and couch-size chairs to older funiculars that tunnel up inside the mountain. Similarly, the architecture of the two interconnected ski resorts vary greatly. Val D’Isere is charming, a 13th-century alpine village, and the authenticity shows right down to the old stone church and its steeple. Classic wood chalets, old and new, line the village streets leading to Val D’Isere’s pubs, ski shops and chic boutiques, and a few five-star hotels.
Tignes meanwhile is not so historic or harmonious, it looks like the ski village was built in a rush to accommodate the 1992 Olympics, towering condo style bunkers – which are no longer modern looking, are the theme at Tignes. So we recommend you stay in the more authentic ski village of Val D’Isere since you can easily ski back and forth from one to another.
For a lively late lunch and a taste of the après ski scene, reserve a table outdoors at La Fruitiere restaurant on the slopes at the top of the Bellevard gondola. around 2. You will witness the neighboring bar rolls out their ridiculous daily dancing and drinking show - La Folie Douce – as skiers stream in, drink to excess, dance and sing – its crazy French après ski – thankfully with the option to download the gondie for those that get carried away at après.
In the village of Val D’Isère, there are plenty of great pubs for drinks, Moris Pub if you need an English fix for example. For an authentic Savoyard dinner of Raclette or Fondue, go to Les Corniches, or more traditional plates – Les Cinq Freres.
Val D’Isere was one of my favorite mountains when we lived in Switzerland. They have something for everyone, and you can go to Tignes with the same pass, so that makes it very convenient.