The base of Val d'Isère sits at 1850 metres and from there, the pistes climb up to 3488 metres, at the Pointe du Montet and the Pissaillas glacier, just below at 3450 metres. Skiers have a choice of 150 kilometres of pistes for all levels, serviced by 90 lifts.
This is the home resort of legendary skier Jean-Claude Killy, which explains the name of the linked ski area, Espace Killy. Val d'Isère is one half and Tignes makes up the other. Some of the world's best skiers leave their tracks here and the resort has hosted Olympic and World Cup downhill competitions, as well as the Alpine Ski World Championships. Val d'Isère is the only resort in recent times to hold this triple honour.
This doesn't mean that the resort is reserved for advanced skiers and world champs, though. In fact, about 55 percent of its runs are either green or blue. The resort also has five beginner zones, two of which are large "ski tranquil" areas, criss-crossed with easy runs.
Of course, advanced skiers will find all the slope they need to push their skills to the limits, thanks to legendary runs like the incredibly steep La Face, used for the men's Olympic downhill. The most challenging run, La Forêt, cuts through the trees and is ideal for mogul fans.
The resort can be divided into three areas: Bellevarde, Le Fornet, and Le Solaise, with varying difficulty levels for each.
Val d'Isère offers some of France's most difficult runs. La Face, La Forêt, 3000, Piste S, and Le Tunnel are to be conquered by high-level skiers, but not all pistes are created equal.
La Forêt, as mentioned earlier, is both steep and bumpy, so avoid it if you have tired knees. La Face is indeed one of the steeper slopes, but the piste is wide and open, so there is plenty of room for winding you way down. There is no escape route though, so once you're on it, you're on it for good.
Some black runs can be closed depending on the weather. Epaule du Charvet closes when there is too much snow, because there is a real avalanche risk. 3000 and Le Tunnel are also open sporadically and can be extremely difficult when it gets tracked out.
Val d'Isère also offers some great, challenging red runs. The OK is one of the most famous, having been used for the World Cup. It's best to hit these and other pistes in the Bellevarde area in the morning, when there are smaller crowds. You can then work your way up to the Le Fornet, where snow is nearly always excellent, and to Le Solaise, which tends to be calmer after lunchtime.
For off-pisting, the Le Fornet area offers the best jumping off points. Beneath the Cascades lift, there is an open slope that usually stays fresh for a long time, thanks to the high altitude and lower traffic levels in the area.
Groomers and Family
Val d'Isère really is a family resort and they have lots to choose from in terms of easy and intermediate runs.
Beginners will enjoy not being stuck at the bottom of the resort, as is often the case. The Bellevarde and the Solaise areas both offer gentle "ski tranquil" zones, full of green runs. Solaise is the main area of Val d'Isère and can get pretty busy quickly, but if you want to start your day here, take the Datcha lift or Madeleine Express up to the green run of the same name, at 2600 metres.
At Solaise, the Datcha lift, the Madeleine Express, and the Glacier Express all run up to a good choice of blue slopes that are easy enough for low-level skiers with a little confidence. The long Piste L runs down to Val d'Isère 1850 and can be a good way to end the day.
At Bellevarde, the "ski tranquil" area includes five green runs, including the long Verte, which runs all the way down the mountain. The Olympique lift and the Funival lead up to a slightly steep section that precedes the green runs, but you can bypass this by getting successively the La Daille, Mont Blanc, and Borsat Express lifts. From the top of the Borsat Express, you can choose between three easy runs.
Boarders from around the world come to Val d'Isère for its varied terrain, but also for the open attitude to snowboard culture. Every single run is open to boarders.
The freestyle crowd likes the Oakley ValPark, in the Bellevarde area. To get here, take the Olympique lift or the La Daille cable car.
Once here, there are modules for all levels. An enlarged beginner zone offers a variety of modules so that you can learn to do tricks safely but there is also a black zone for expert freestylers. All in all, there are 25 different modules that include walls, rails, kicks, hips, and jumps as well as an all-level boarder cross and a half pipe. The ValPark aims to make freestyle skiing and boarding accessible to everyone who wants to try it, so they take special care to offer something for all levels.
Every year, the park makes improvements based on feedback from clients and the creative spark from its team of passionate shapers. It was here that some of the world's best freestyle athletes came to train for the X-Games Europe, held in neighbouring Tignes.