If you’re a skier or snowboarder, Val d’Isère is probably a dream come true. It’s a popular French destination because of the spectacular slope views, numerous schools, and shopping and nightlife nearby. Whether you’re a beginner and want to learn to ski or snowboard for the first time, or an intermediate or advanced skier who just wants more of a challenge than you get on your usual runs, Val d’Isère is a dream to ski in.
There are some practical tips you need to know before you depart, though. Val d’Isère is full of well-groomed trails that are actually harder than they are marked, and if you aren’t expecting it, you could be in for a swift tumble!
Slopes are harder than they may appear
Remember when you’re preparing to ski or snowboard down a slope, that it’s probably harder than it is classified as being on the signs or your map, so underestimate a little when you plan your day. Many visitors are surprised by how steep the run to the valley are. Runs that are marked as blue and green runs can actually be very tricky and include bumps or sharp turns that would classify them as red or black runs at some other resorts.
Great variety of slopes
There are three main slopes at Val d’Isère and two are easy to reach from the village: Bellevarde and Solaise. Bellevarde is easy to get to from La Daille, or if you prefer, you can take the Olympique gondola from the centre of the town for great views. When you get to the top, you can ski down to Val, take a chair up to Tignes, or simply stay at this altitude and enjoy magnificent views available. If you choose to visit Solaise, the fast quad or parallel cable car take you up to harder trails and a drag or tow rope can easily take you down to chairs for gentler pistes.
Lifts are speedy and queues aren’t long
A few slow chairs and drag lifts exist, but most of them are speedy and have great capacity. There aren’t typically queues to get out of the resort or to get onto lifts. The Olympique gondola can sometimes have a short wait and the Lac chair on Solaise has sometimes reported short waits, but in both cases you won’t be there for too long. You’re more likely to experience problems with the crowds when skiing in Val d’Isère than on the chairs.
Terrain parks and snowboarding are open to beginners and experts
Valpark contains dozens of attractions: table jumps, boxes and rails, kicker lines, and even five jumps in a row. It’s located above the La Daille gondola and is served by the Mont Blanc chairlift. Tignes has a half-pipe, if that’s more your style. For snowboarders, check out the areas with great freeriding terrain, though beware – there are a lot of flat areas.
Experts will love it, intermediates will enjoy it, and beginners will be fine
This resort doesn’t aim to primarily cater to beginners. Even though there don’t seem to be many black pistes, experts will actually be kept busy and intermediate skiers will enjoy themselves here. If you’re an early intermediate or beginner, you may need to ride the gondola down instead of taking a run from Bellevarde or Solaise to Val.
Skiing in Val d’Isère is sure to be a fun experience no matter what skill level you are, but the more advanced you are, the more you will likely enjoy yourself.
Alex Norman is an avid skier and blogger, and you can find his articles on various travel and ski blog sites.