Perhaps the most famous of Val d’Isère’s many and varied slopes, Bellevarde has a superb black run that looms over the town with a summit of 2,807 meters. It has featured in a number of tournaments, including most notably the 1992 Winter Olympics and the 2009 Alpine Ski World Championships. It is also notable for the fact that it is accessible by a high quality cable car, the Olympique, that reaches the top in just six minutes and, with 24-place carriages, is one of the largest and most efficient in the world.
Val d’Isère will have you spoilt for choice with its 18 different official ski schools. One of the most popular in the area is Oxygène, which provides a number of classes for many types of skiing levels, and with a good enough degree of flexibility to allows skiers to move easily between classes depending on how quickly they improve. With patient, English-speaking instructors, this ski school is one of the best for children and adults alike, whether beginners or well-seasoned carvers.
Galerie des Cimes, Val d’Isère, France +33 (0)4 79 41 99 58
For a welcome break from the bustling town centre, both during summer and winter, the idyllic little hamlet Le Fornet is a great little destination for a change of scene both for skiing and hiking, easily accessible via a regular free bus from the town or directly from the Solaise slopes. It is possible, with a series of different lifts, to reach the intermediate summer ski area of the resort, which is just beneath the impressive 3,500-meter Pointe du Montet, on the gorgeous Pissaillas glacier.
If off-piste skiing is what takes your fancy, the Alpine Experience offers a great opportunity to see another side of Val d’Isère. The school, with its twenty years’ experience, has a number of extremely professional instructors with an impressive knowledge of the mountains who can introduce skiers to a number of new, challenging techniques while always ensuring their safety on the French Alps.
110, Chemin du Vieux Pont, Val d’Isère, France +33 (0)4 79 06 28 81
As well as its fantastic skiing opportunities, Val d’Isère is well-known for providing some of the best après-skiing activities in the country. One of the main reasons for this is La Folie Douce, a hub of restaurants, bars and live entertainments that offer a great way to blow off steam after a long day on the slopes. There are few other places in the world where one can experience as good a clubbing and bar scene as this at such high altitudes, or with such astonishing views!
La Daille, Val-d’Isère, France +33 (0)4 79 06 07 17
For those inclined to try some more inventive things than just skiing downhill, the brilliant Val d’Isère Snowpark boasts a large number of facilities to try freestyle snowboarding and skiing techniques out on, including a number of rails and jumps that are varied enough to suit all levels. Located on the other side of Bellevarde, nestled in the valley of Mont Blanc, it is easily accessible via the Olympique cable car, followed by either a drag lift or another gondola.
A warm and cosy place to frequent by day and a buzzing and fun venue by night, Dick’s Tea Bar is another of the many prominent features of Val d’Isère’s brilliant night life and cafe cultures. Providing great cocktails as well as comforting mulled wine and hot chocolate – especially welcome after a long day in the snow – along with some delicious and indulgent pub-style food, it really is a great spot in which to relax and let your hair down. Oh, and at night, its professional DJs and live in-house musicians provide a fantastic show!
DTV SAS, Rue du Parc des Sports, Val-d’Isère, France +33 (0)4 79 06 14
As well as skiing and snowboarding, Val d’Isère has a number of other great activities that make good use of the icy conditions. One of the best examples of this is the opportunity to try the intense and seriously fun Ice driving. This centre provides a superb circuit on which to try your hand at commandeering a car in these difficult conditions, aided by patient and sympathetic instructors. The activities available to thrill-seekers brave enough to try them also include motor biking and go-karting – not for the faint-hearted!
To the east of the magnificent Vanoise Massif is situated one of the best spots in Val d’Isère for a hike during the summer, or cross-country skiing during the winter. The Prariond Valley offers some brilliant trails through a truly stunning landscape. At more than 2,000 meters altitude, it also hosts a refuge that welcomes a small number of hikers to stay each night. It is especially worth visiting for those interested in wildlife, with its large range of flora and fauna, as well as one of the largest colonies of the endangered Pyrenean ibex in France!
Since 1936, the lovely Grande Ourse has been welcoming patrons into its warm and welcoming chalet, situated at the foot of the slopes. For an authentic experience of real French cuisine from the region, this pretty little restaurant offers a range of sublime traditional French dishes, including delicious foie gras and a wonderful fondue. The terrace is also a great spot during the summer, offering spectacular views of the mountainous surroundings to accompany a truly tasty meal.
Rue des Lessières, Val d’Isère, France +33 (0)4 79 06 00 19
By Colette Lewis