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Val d'Isere is one of France's longest established ski resorts and one of the world's most prestigious winter-sports destinations.
A Mecca for expert skiers & snowboarders, yet also a popular mainstream resort with high-quality accommodation and well-established services, Val d'Isere is undeniably world-class; it is best suited to those of intermediate to advanced ability, but the wide range of terrain in its extensive ski area means it can successfully cater for all ability levels.
It constitutes one half of one of the world's largest linked ski domains, the Espace Killy (named in honour of local World Cup and triple Olympic ski champion Jean-Claude Killy), which covers the combined ski areas of Val d'Isere and Tignes.
The village sits at a snow-sure altitude of 1,850m, at the head of the Tarentaise Valley in France's Savoie departement; the local microclimate here has consistently delivered an accumulated snowfall total in excess of six metres most winter seasons, making Val d'Isere a sound choice for anyone planning early and late-season ski trips.
The resort's lively upmarket apres-ski venues, chic boutiques, top-class hotels and deluxe chalets can make a holiday here very expensive, but visitors on more limited budgets can still find value for their money.
The quantity and quality of lift-accessible off-piste terrain is one of Val d'Isere's prime attractions, offering high-altitude glacial zones, super-steep couloirs, and powder-filled bowls. The three distinct sectors that form Val d'Isere's pisted ski area also have their own distinct characteristics.
The Pissaillas Glacier/Le Fornet sector, at the highest and easternmost perimeters of the domain, has the quietest and most reliably snow-sure slopes and contains some good cruising runs through the upper Iseran Valley.
The central Solaise sector is Val d'Isere's original local ski hill, offering motorway-wide blue and red pistes that sweep through a high snowbowl and run down to the edge of the village via quite challenging sections through the wooded slopes above the central base area.
The Bellevarde sector is draped over an expansive snowbowl above Val d'Isere and La Daille, and houses the resort's two famous downhill courses: the Face black run, which challenged the world's elite ski athletes during the Albertville 1992 Winter Olympics and the 2009 World Alpine Ski Chamionships; and the OK red piste, used for the Criterium de la Premiere Neige races. This sector also houses Val d'Isere's spacious snowpark and is interlinked with two sectors of the Tignes ski area to form the Espace Killy domain.
Off the slopes and apres ski
Val d'Isere is quite a sizeable village, with lots of hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs, shops and amenities, serving a year-round community.
A diverse international clientele populates the resort during the winter season, driving a very cosmopolitan and vibrant apres-ski scene; the action traditionally kicks off around three o'clock onwards at the renowned Folie Douce slope-side terrace bar at the upper terminal of the gondola above La Daille, and continues at a host of lively venues clustered around or nearby the central base area at Val d'Isere; the Saloon Bar and the Moris Pub are longstanding favourites.
Live music sessions are a frequent and popular feature of many of the resort's bars, most of which remain very lively until late into the night; four nightclubs (Doudoune, Dick's Tea Bar, MBC and Le Graal) then pick up the baton until the wee hours, for those who have the stamina.
Despite the fact that a high percentage of guests are accommodated in catered chalets and half-board hotels, Val d'Isere supports more than 60 busy restaurants, ranging from simple snack-food bars to swish Michelin-starred establishments, with lots of good quality venues somewhere in between; recommended restaurants in that latter category include Bar Jacques and 1789 in central Val d'Isere and Le Barillon down in the satellite base station of La Daille.
The range of off-slope activities is also good: the municipal sports centre houses two swimming pools, saunas and steam room, a fitness suite and climbing walls; there's a small outdoor ice rink on the base-area slopes, plus there's a dizzying array of adventure activities on offer, including ice circuit driving, ice climbing, sightseeing flights in helicopters, tandem microlite aircraft or paragliding; as well as more sedate attractions such as scenic walks, a number of plush spas, and a cinema.