Val d’Isere is a long established traditional resort located in the Alps in south-east France in the Savoie region close to the Italian border. It has been a ski resort since the 1930′s but really began to develop after the war. It enjoys plenty of character and has many beautiful old stone buildings – however it continues to evolve and it has been continually updated, whilst successfully keeping its charm intact.
Val d’Isere is accessible from a choice of airports, Chambery, Geneva, Grenoble and Lyon. Chambery is nearest with a transfer time of around 2 hours, while the other airports are approximately 3 hours. During busy periods these journeys can take longer as the crowds head up the valley.
The resort can be reached via Bourg St Maurice railway station which has trains that connect with the Eurostar, from here the resort is a 40 minute journey down the valley.
Charm is not Val d’Isere’s only attractive feature, it also has world class skiing and has hosted many major competitions, including the Olympics in 1992 and the World Ski Championships in 2009. The resort boasts a handful of resorts that consistently offer competition level facilities.
With its more modern purpose built neighbour, Tignes, it provides access to some 1,000 hectares of skiing on the Espace Killy region. This ski area offers plenty of choice for beginners, right through to advanced skiers who will appreciate some of Europe’s best off piste runs.
There are free lifts to the nursery slopes for those just starting out, as well as some great intermediate runs that are ideal for building confidence. Advanced skiers can also enjoy some of Europe’s best facilities, so there is something to challenge everyone. There are numerous choices for ski schools for those looking for extra tuition if you want to develop your ski skills.
On the main runs the season generally starts in early December and runs through until early May. Despite this, summer skiing is still available – this is because the resort provides access to the Fornet glacier.
The lift network is excellent, comprising cable cars, gondolas, funiculars as well as chair lifts offering access to the slopes from the centre of the resort and lift passes are available for Val d’Isere itself.
Some may wish to travel further afield and for these adventurous souls there is the extended pass which allows travel within the whole Espace Killy area, opening up some 300km of runs. A chairlift runs between these two resorts.
The ski area is well connected with lifts and offers a wide choice of mountain bars and restaurants for those seeking refreshment on the slopes. These range from the simple self-service cafeteria to more sophisticated dining options.
Aside from haring down the mountain, there are other snow based activities including some 21km of cross country skiing trails. Other pursuits include dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice climbing, snowshoeing and ice skating.
There is an ice driving circuit for people who like to live on the edge, perhaps they could tackle this once they have finished paragliding over the resort? You will never be short of something to do! Indoor activities abound, including a sports centre with all the usual facilities as well as a swimming pool. For the less active there is always the cinema.
This resort is able to offer alternative leisure time too, there are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants on offer – giving the area a more lively atmosphere than many purpose built skiing destinations.
The shops offer the usual sports gear and souvenirs but you will also find everything from designer gear and fur coats to chocolate shops, jewellers and top quality pastries. The nightlife is a real plus point, with a great choice of bars and live music offering everything from cocktails to designer beers, with dancing until the small hours. Since it is mainly pedestrianised, visitors are free to wander without constraint. Mainly British and Scandinavian skiers travel here to soak up the friendly atmosphere.
From accommodation in the centre, you can easily walk to the lifts as well as gain access to everything the resort has to offer. There are free shuttle buses which connect with some of the outlying villages and a bus service to nearby Tignes. This is a resort for those looking for great skiing with the added bonus of a great resort lifestyle. It is definitely one for those with plenty of energy, although no-one is excluded. The appeal lies in the fact that it has something for everyone, skiers and non-skiers alike and it is for this reason that the resort has endured with many visitors coming back year after year.
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