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Val d'Isère
Val d'Isère

Les Menuires is a family ski resort which, along with neighbouring Tignes, forms the famous Espace Killy ski area.

Val d'Isère in short

In a nutshell

Val d'Isère, one of the most prestigious and legendary resorts in the world, is located in the French Alps, close to the border with Italy. Home to some of the world's greatest skiers, Val Isère stands out for its sporting character and international dimension. It is regarded as the French Baqueira because of the large number of sports celebrities and other famous faces it welcomes every year. The town's charming streets offer quality accommodation, fine cuisine and renowned boutiques.

Everything associated with snow is possible in this charming village, the scene of major international ski competitions. From late November to early May, quality snow is guaranteed throughout the season.

All kinds of facilities for all levels of skiers are attributes that Val d'Isère shares with its neighbour Tignes in the Espace Killy. This is one of the largest ski areas in the world, with 156 pistes stretching over 300 kilometres. In short, it's a must-see resort.

Val d'Isère, a charming village

Despite its pronounced international atmosphere, the village of Val d'Isère retains the features of a real 11th-century Alpine village in places. Small stone and wooden houses with imposing walls are part of this décor, which fortunately is growing thanks to more recent buildings, designed in harmony with the existing architecture. You can easily stroll through the heart of Val d'Isère and discover a host of charming establishments: artisan cheese shops, souvenir shops, ski shops (everything you can imagine in terms of equipment, accessories, etc.), clothes shops, restaurants, hotels, etc.

The centre of Val d'Isère is closed to traffic on Thursdays, so you can make the most of its calm. From an architectural point of view, the only area that stands out is La Daille, where you'll find a number of buildings housing high-rise flats in a pronounced 70s style. La Daille has direct access to a number of ski slopes and precedes the village of Val d'Isère itself. And just beyond the village centre, and also at the foot of the slopes, is Le Fornet. This last district, undoubtedly the quietest, is made up of pretty Savoyard-style houses.

Two-thirds of Val d'Isère's surface area lies in the heart of the Vanoise National Park, and it has been awarded a number of environmental distinctions (distinction in sustainable development, ISO 14001, several eco-responsible initiatives, etc.). One of the best-preserved architectural treasures is the village church, whose tower dates back to the 11th century (when the original building was constructed) and the rest is a fine example of 17th-century Savoyard Baroque.

Snow-covered streets of Val d'Isère at night @easyvoyage

Who is this destination for?

Beginner skiers, freestyle pros, families or simply those who like to defend themselves on skis are all welcome in Val d'Isère, where there are areas specially designed for every type of skier and snowboarder. The more intrepid can unleash their adrenalin on the superb virgin off-piste runs (10,000 hectares) and legendary areas such as "La Face de Bellevarde", a world-famous competition run with a vertical drop of 959 metres, where the 1992 Winter Olympics and 2009 World Championships were held. But let's not forget the 'ValPark', where Free Style novices and veterans alike can ski downhill in total freedom. To guarantee a safe learning experience, the resort offers beginners and families special areas in the heart of the resort where they can enjoy the snow in complete peace and quiet. What's more, beginners can use several lifts free of charge: the Lanches lift at La Daille, plus two chairlifts (Rogoney, Village) and two other lifts (Legettaz and Savonette) in the Solaise core. Finally, there's the Children's Village: a park reserved for children aged from one and a half to three years old, supervised by professional instructors throughout the day.

A resort for all ski levels ©easyvoyage

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Luxury and glamour in Val d'Isère?

Luxury and glamour are the order of the day in Val d'Isère, both on and off the slopes, and it's easy to see why: this is one of the most sophisticated resorts in France. This high standard has its charms, but it also has its drawbacks... Some parts of the budget for a week's skiing can reach very high prices, particularly when it comes to accommodation. The average price of a night in a three-star hotel can cost between 150 and 200 euros (in high season). These are well-kept establishments, ideally located and offering practical services. Ski pass prices, on the other hand, are similar to those of any other ski resort (including the Spanish ones); however, the number of pistes, the number of skiable kilometres (300) and the breathtaking setting in which it is set are incomparable: it's a real luxury at a reasonable price that every good skier should try at least once. A day's ski pass (especially the Espace Killy) can cost just over €40. Professional skiers and famous faces (politicians, noblemen, famous artists in general) glide down the slopes of this resort, which boasts luxury hotels next to fashion boutiques (with brands such as Prada and Marc Jacobs) and skiwear shops (Killy Sports, among others). And don't miss out on Val d'Isère's refined, top-class restaurants, where prices are not for everyone's wallet... but the food is excellent. Alpine recipes, well adapted to Nouvelle Cuisine, define most of these establishments.

What to do in Val d'Isère

As well as being a favoured destination for training professional skiers, Val d'Isère is also a good place for practising all kinds of sports, especially those associated with the white gold. Both the resort and the village exude an intense sporting atmosphere. Hotels and other resorts offer a variety of facilities for physical exercise. Snow scooters, ice driving, paragliding over the mountain, dog-drawn sleighs, cross-country skiing, ice climbing, slalom at the Gérard Bonnevie stadium (a former member of the French ski team) and ice skating are just some of the activities that will allow you to make the most of the mountain's white coat.

For other sports, you can head to the Val d'Isère sports and aquatic centre, which boasts 5,000 square metres of facilities, of which around 800 square metres are swimming pools (leisure and sports), while the rest are shared between several sports: climbing (with a superb training wall), fitness, weight training, squash (two courts), as well as football, basketball and handball (in a 575-square-metre multi-sports hall).

Another of its assets is its location at the foot of the slopes. Thanks to its diaphanous layout, you can contemplate several slopes while you take an aerobics class, take a dip or even dare to turn your head while climbing the rock-climbing wall. The nearest ski lifts are just 300 metres away, which is why many skiers arrive at the centre with their skis on. The facilities have recently been inaugurated and are very modern. In fact, they opened their doors in December 2009, following the refurbishment of the press centre built for the World Ski Championships held that same year.

Sport takes center stage at Val d'Isère @easyvoyage

When the slopes close, skiers gather in the bars and pubs, which in most cases have an atmosphere of dancing and music (sometimes even live). Many choose to party in the many nightclubs, almost all of which feature techno music. One of them (Doudoune) is completely under snow as it is at the crossroads of several ski slopes.

You can also take part in a yoga, pilates or even pastry-making class in this little village, discover how Savoyard cheeses are made on a farm, or even have a painting done; but there's no shortage of shops either (especially for food, sportswear and fashions such as Prada).

Snow enthusiasts can also experience the thrill of living in an igloo, by taking part in an activity that includes a helicopter ride up the mountain, a snow scooter ride, a dinner at an altitude of 2,400 metres and a torchlit descent, among other surprises...

Of course, after an intense day's work, skiers will not be left out: they can relax and take advantage of the hotel's facilities. You can opt for Alpine-style hotels (very cosy, with traditional decor and wooden furniture), or very modern hotels (with an innovative atmosphere and cutting-edge technology in every room). But they all share some very useful little details: they're located close to the slopes (you can even reach some of them directly with your skis on), they have plenty of space (perfect for getting around in your snowsuit) and they have a spa and a beauty or beauty salon where you can be pampered: the best way to end the day!

Relaxing at the spa. @easyvoyage

- © REPRODUCTION INTERDITE SANS AUTORISATION DE L'AUTEUR COPYRIGHT:JP NOISILLIER/nuts.fr ˆ cotŽ de chaque photo publiŽe Pour toute u

What to eat in Val d'Isère

One of Val d'Isère's best-preserved treasures is its gastronomy. High-quality ingredients, typical Savoyard recipes happily adapted to our times and a well-stocked wine list are the ingredients of these distinguished restaurants which, whether surrounded by a hotel or not, are tucked away in the charming stone streets of this Alpine village. Here are three examples: Tsanteleina: in the hotel of the same name, with a daily menu at €25, which is much more like a tasting menu in terms of its copiousness, quality and originality; La Fruitière: top-quality dishes in an unforgettable setting halfway up the slope, in an elegant dairy with a recreated atmosphere, with wines costing up to €3,000 a bottle - something to be avoided in times of crisis? and L'Arolay: in the Le Fornet district, perfect for savouring authentic and excellent Savoyard cuisine. In Val d'Isère, as in many small villages in the Alps, cheese plays the leading role in most recipes. Made from the milk of cows (Tarine, Abondance and Montbéliarde) or goats (Alpine) reared in the high mountains, these cheeses are the fruit of an artisanal production process. This dairy product is used to prepare typical regional dishes such as Fondue Savoyarde, with Beaufort, Emmental and Abondance cheeses; Tartiflette, a gratin of potatoes, onions, smoked bacon and Reblochon cheese; and Raclette, the famous dish of melted cheese accompanied by cooked potatoes and charcuterie. It's also a land of wines, particularly white wines, which are often very fresh and fruity. The red wines (Pinot Noir, Mondeuse and Gamay) are decent and easy to drink.

Bon appétit, a nice table by the fire @easyvoyage

Val d'Isère, stage for major competitions

The birthplace of professional skiers, the adopted home of powder fans and a favourite training resort for skiing's greats. This is Val d'Isère: the pinnacle of ski slopes (and off-piste skiing). So it should come as no surprise that it has been chosen as the backdrop for some of the most important competitions in the white sport. One of these major events took place in 1992, when the already legendary Bellevarde piste was the setting for four of the five men's Alpine skiing events at the Albertville Winter Olympics. On several occasions, it has been the venue for the Alpine Skiing World Cup, as in 2009. More than 70 countries from the International Ski Federation took part in this competition.

For over half a century, Val d'Isère has also been celebrating the Critérium de la Première Neige, a competition created to extend the alpine ski training season by inaugurating it in December (instead of January, as was customary). Val d'Isère has been the birthplace of some of the greatest names in skiing: Henri Oreiller, who won two gold medals at the Olympic Games in St. Moritz (Switzerland); the sisters Marielle and Christine Goitshel, who won Olympic gold at the Olympic Games in Innsbruck (Austria), and Ingrid Jacquemod (pictured), who won the Alpine Skiing World Cup and took five podium finishes.

The famous Jean-Claude Killy, who gave his name to the ski area, won three gold medals at the Grenoble Olympics. He has been linked to Val d'Isère since his childhood.

Ski slalom competition in Val d'Isère @easyvoyage

- © AGENCE ZOOM

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The must-sees

How to get there?

The easiest way to get there is via Lyon or Geneva, which are around 250km from Val d'Isère. From there, you can get there by car, train or bus. From Paris, you can also take a direct flight with Air France to Lyon-Saint Exupéry airport. Tickets currently cost around €130. Allow around 1 hour 15 minutes for the flight. If you take a flight from Marseille, allow an hour's journey to Lyon airport, and the ticket will cost you around €200.

Once you've arrived in Lyon, you can continue your journey to Val d'Isère by hire car or taxi, which is still the cheapest but most practical option given that it's a two-and-a-half-hour journey, three-quarters of which is on free motorway.

As for parking, the resort has seven car parks, four of which are covered. You can also reach Val d'Isère by train (30km away) to Bourg-Saint-Maurice, and then take the bus the rest of the way. As for public transport, Val d'Isère offers a free shuttle service that provides easy access to the main corners of the village and resort (from La Daille to Le Fornet, including Val d'Isère itself, in other words the whole area).

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Where to stay?

Val d'Isère is still a family resort, so you'll find accommodation at all price levels, from luxury hotels with magnificent spas to small, privately-run studios.

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Practical information

When to go to Val d'Isère

In general, the ski season in Val d'Isère runs from November to May, but the best time to ski depends on your preferences and expectations. If you're looking for top-quality snow, then January and February are the most recommended months, as they tend to be the coldest and snowiest. However, if you're looking to avoid the crowds and enjoy milder weather, then March and April could be the best months for you. In May, snow is scarcer and not all the slopes will be open.

Summer is also a great time to go hiking in the Parc de la Vanoise or to do the Grand Paradis Vanoise Nature Trek.

lightbulb_outline Editor's tip

Val d'Isère is a very popular ski resort, especially in winter, so we recommend that you plan your trip in advance to make sure you have a maximum choice of accommodation.

During the day, to make the most of the slopes, we advise you to leave early in the morning or enjoy the skiing at the end of the day. If you want to have lunch in a high-altitude restaurant, make sure you arrive a little before midday as they are quickly snapped up.

Useful links
Val d’Isère Tourist Office

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