Popular with the royals and Richard Branson alike, this snow-and-star-studded resort is a bucket-list destination for any winter sports enthusiast. Having spent six months living and working in Val d’Isère, here’s the snow-down on everything to know before you go.
Awash with snow-kissed chocolate box chalets, Val d’Isère offers the quintessential alpine experience.
The steep-sided valley in which the main town is placed provides a sheltered recluse from the elements after a long day on the slopes, as well as some of Europe’s finest après ski. The perfect marriage between sport and glamour, it is best suited to intermediates, experts, and freeriders. However, there is a little something for beginners too.
The incredible backcountry opportunities paired with the upmarket atmosphere attracts an unlikely combination of clientele, from die-hard powder hounds to the most elite members of the glitterati.
Despite this, there’s a convivial atmosphere around town, where everyone comes together after a day on the slopes to swap stories over a steaming vin chaud, or spray champagne at France’s answer to Ibiza on snow.
What Altitude is Val d’Isère?
At an altitude of 1850m, the main resort forms part of a sprawling ski area called Tignes – Val d’Isère (formerly known as Espace Killy). The domain’s impressive altitude means optimum conditions are all but guaranteed, with skiing continuing well into May on some of the higher reaches of the glacier.
It also offers an incredible 300km of pistes, linking the upscale alpine town with its smaller satellite villages Le Fornet and La Daille, as well as the various towns of Tignes in the next valley along.
How to Get to Val d’Isère From Geneva Airport
Straddling the border between France and Switzerland, Geneva is a sprawling lakeside city with a well-serviced international airport. During the winter season, you’ll find the best choice of flights land here. This means you just need to figure out how to get from Geneva to Val d’Isère. Here are your options:
- Private Taxi or Transfer
A great option for large groups, private transfers offer a convenient way to get to the mountains, if at a higher cost. You’ll be greeted at arrivals and taken to your car or minibus, with a direct journey to your chalet or hotel, The drive takes around 3 hours, and a one-way transfer for four people costs around £200 – £300. Try Mountain Rescue or Ski Lifts.
- Bus or Coach
Ben’s Bus offers coach transfers from Geneva to Val d’Isère, on a set timetable. They typically run up to seven times a day during the ski season, on weekends only. A single costs around £50 while a return transfer for one costs about £90. The drive time is likely to be longer and there are specific drop-off points around town. You will need to find your own way to your accommodation from there – usually by making use of the free ski buses.
- Accommodation with Transfer Included
Many accommodation providers include transfers as part of the package. High-end chalets might provide a private minibus to pick you up, while lower-cost accommodation often includes a shared coach transfer. Looking for accommodation with transfers included is often the most convenient and cost-effective choice.
Where to Stay
Known as one of the most upmarket resorts in the Alps, let alone France, there is plenty of choice for those seeking a refined winter holiday. VIP Ski offers a number of attractive catered chalets in prime position on the Santons run back into town, just minutes from the notorious Cocoricos après ski.
Here, the exclusive Hameau de Bellevarde Collection provides accommodation for a variety of group sizes, with access to sensational spa facilities and even an indoor pool. Guests are treated to a generous breakfast, homemade afternoon tea, and a three-course meal each evening cooked by the in-house chef – complete with canapés, cheese, coffee, and free-flowing wine.
Best Runs in Val d’Isère for Beginners
- Grand Pre
- Mont Blanc, Borsat and, Verte
Despite its reputation as a resort solely reserved for the more experienced, Val-d’Isère does have a few gentler areas for those learning the slopes. Right in town itself are several nursery runs, served by a chair and drag lift respectively. Once you’ve mastered the basics here, head up the Solaise cable car to practice on the blues and greens at the top.
On the Olympique side, Mont Blanc, Borsat and Verte are wonderful wide, cruisey runs that rarely get busy. I recommended taking the cable car back down afterwards. The runs into town on both sides are pretty steep and can get particularly cut up and crowded after lunch.
Best Runs in Val d’Isère for Intermediates
- Cascade, Moraine and Pisaillas
- Double M
Val d’Isère is a veritable playground for intermediates, providing just enough challenge to help sharpen your skills. Warm up your ski legs on the blues at the top of Solaise, before heading over to the Pisaillas glacier, where Cascade, Moraine and Pisaillas offer a whole afternoon of fun.
Another day could be spent travelling over to Tignes, where the reds down from the spectacular Grande Motte glacier are not to be missed. Double M is my favourite run in the entire resort, offering crisp champagne snow and the ideal gradient to build both confidence and speed.
Best Runs in Val d’Isère for Experts
- Le Face de Bellevarde
- Hidden Valley
Many return to Val D – as it is affectionally known – year-on-year, with even the most advanced skiers never growing tired of its varied terrain. Le Face de Bellevarde, the legendary Olympic black run back into town, is renowned for its hair-raising gradient and technical challenge. There’s also a lengthy black down into Les Brevières on the Tignes side – although this one can get particularly icy after long periods without snow.
In terms of off-piste, the options are endless. The elusive Vallee Perdue (Hidden Valley) is found tucked in a canyon between a red and green run in La Daille. Here, you’ll find plenty of sudden drops and obstacles to keep things interesting. Le Fornet is also known for spectacular powder skiing, with Le Tour De Charvet the perfect place to gain confidence in deep snow.
Best Runs in Val d’Isère on Bad Weather Days
Of course, Val d’Isère’s abundance of champagne powder has to come from somewhere. On low visibility days when the weather closes in, it’s time to head for the trees, with the blue Magnard run into Le Fornet providing essential cover. If your group is mixed ability, the forests next to the run offer a few intriguing off-piste detours.
There are also a few decent reds down into La Daille from the famous Folie Douche, but these can get mogully towards the end of a heavy snow day.
Best APRÈS SKI in Val d’Isère
La Folie Douce
This is the après ski party to end them all, with music that can be heard pumping several runs before you reach it. Perched above La Daille at the top of a cable car, this iconic institution will see you spraying champagne and dancing on tables with the best of them, usually to the sound of world-class international DJs.
Once the masses have made their wobbly descent down from the Folie, there’s only one place for it.
Offering live music followed by endless cheesy classics, Cocos is my favourite après in the resort, with the kind of atmosphere you just can’t help but get involved in. The party here rages on until 8pm when partygoers spill out onto the piste to stumble back to their chalets for dinner.
Best BARS After Dark
LA CAVE SUR LE COMPTOIR
If clubbing isn’t your thing, La Cave is a sophisticated wine bar serving up French bottles to satisfy even the most selective of connoisseurs, with a chilled-out ambience perfect for an after-dinner drink.
Dick’s Tea Bar
Another party emporium with a renowned reputation, Dick’s is the place to dance the night away if you so desire. Open until the early hours, you’ll find a good mix of guests and seasonnaires getting their groove on, with bottle service available in case you need a little sit-down.
Best Restaurants in Val d’Isère
On the Piste
Lunch on the mountain is one of the little pleasures of a ski holiday – indulging in a croque monsieur while enjoying some of the most jaw-dropping views in the Alps. Restaurant l’Edelweiss is a gorgeous spot on the run down into Le Fornet, favoured by locals but often bypassed completely by tourists. It’s the perfect place to refuel with seasonal, local produce and a chilled glass of rosé or two on the sun-drenched terrace.
For the most succulent steaks and burgers on the map, don’t miss La Peau de Vache, halfway down the notorious Face – it can be accessed via chairlift for those who don’t want to attempt the run. If you plan to start partying at lunch, La Folie Douche has an attached eatery called La Fruitière, offering exceptional cuisine in an atmospheric vaulted cellar.
Finally, if you find yourself over in Tignes come lunchtime, Le Panoramic is situated at the top of the glacier and offers sensational 360-degree views as the name suggests.
One night a week, the chalet staff take their day off, allowing you to sample some of the culinary delights in town. For fine dining fare, L’Atelier d’Edmond in the hamlet of Le Fornet is the place to go, boasting two Michelin stars with another on the horizon.
Right in the centre of town, the Fondue Factory offers a modern take on the alpine classic, with a cool, industrial-style interior, and wicked cauldrons of bubbling molten cheese.
Les Tufs in La Daille is known for its sensational Savoyarde menu, complete with sumptuous steaks and creamy tartiflette. For a more casual affair, try Le Lodge, which serves typically French cuisine and pizzas.
Finally, if you missed breakfast at the chalet, Arctic Café is a lovely spot for brunch.
If you’re travelling with little ones or non-skiers, you’ll be glad to know there’s plenty to do off the piste too. Ice-skating, tubing, tobogganing, paragliding, snowshoeing, and even husky dog sledging are available, enabling you to enjoy this winter wonderland without ever clipping up a pair of ski boots.
There’s also a comprehensive leisure centre called Aquasportif, home to several swimming pools, a gym, and indoor football pitches – one admission is included within the price of a week’s ski pass. Meanwhile, adrenaline junkies shouldn’t miss the epic BMW ice driving course, with a slippery circuit to skid around in style, as well as skills training from the professionals.
Have a question about skiing in Val d’Isère, or want to share your own experience? Drop a comment below! Alternatively, check out the travel archives for more inspo and guides.