As a ski destination Val d’Isere is hard to beat. The resort boasts a massive ski area with an excellent snow record and varied enough terrain to keep everyone – from beginners to experts – grinning all week, authentic mountain restaurants and a rocking après-ski scene for party-lovers. Its traditional resort atmosphere and old town make it a more charming alternative to its purpose built cousin, Tignes, yet skiers benefit from the connections between the two resorts, which amount to the extensive Espace Killy ski area.
To provide you with a true insider’s guide we’ve recruited the help of Charlie Balfour, who has the lovely day job of leading Mark Warner guests out onto the slopes, picking the best runs and lunch stops through the week and recommending the best après-ski spots for continuing the fun off the slopes.
The nursery slope in the centre of town is a good place to start but beware it’s a little steep at the top. For your ﬁrst real run off the nursery slopes try the Madeleine green run on Solaise and progress to Genepy, Borsat and Mont Blanc, which are all rolling green runs with no nearby intermediate runs that might attract faster skiers. As the resort has a reputation for under classifying runs and exposure to the elements can change the terrain to what you’d expect on a blue or even red run, always ask your chalet host or instructor for tips on where to go on the day. From most sections beginners are often best to take a lift back down to the valley. For any beginners we highly recommend taking some lessons with a local ski school.
To get your ski-legs on the first day head up the Glacier Express to warm up on the blue runs of Leissieres and Plan Milet. For nice long runs that push intermediate skiers but have flat sections for recovery head to Piste L or Mangard. For an exciting red run have fun experimenting with different routes down the long tree-lined run of Germain Mattis to Le Lasisinant.
Marmottons and Arcelle offer a little of everything, some un-groomed sections, moguls, wide motorways and some steeper sections.
For thrill-seekers Piste S is open to the elements and unpisted and the Face run provides the added pressure of onlookers from the Gondola and town below.
Off-piste, Val has some hidden gems that only seasoned pros know about so it’s worth hiring a guide for a day.
Val d’Isere is not considered a hard-core resort for snowboarders but has great terrain for freeriders. Beginners will enjoy the easier slopes and lack of draglifts. As usual watch out for flat areas, including a long flat on Santons, where boarders will end up scooting.
Tip: For a spine tingling view jump on the Cascade Chairlift on Glacier de Pissaillas.
Lunch on the mountain
A great place to stop for a satisfying lunch is La Barillon at the bottom of La Daille gondola. L’Edelweiss above the hamlet of Le Fornet serves Savoyard specialties in a picturesque alpine building slightly off the beaten track. If you have non-skiers in your group try L’Arolay for great food and easy access on foot.
If you’re on a budget try the central Bellvard Mountain Restaurant for self-service with great views or stock up for a picnic at La Tartine, a friendly bakery in resort next to the ticket office and Saloon Bar.
Tip: To re-live the highlights of your day’s skiing sip your last vin chaud at the cosy Rosé Blanche.
For hearty local dishes La Corniche is a charming Savoyard restaurant in the centre of the old town, or if you’re planning to splash out it’s hard to beat La Grande Ouse for a first class gourmet menu and fantastic setting. For more modest but still delicious grub choose from a wide selection of burgers at Moris Pub or try the sociable spot, Le Lodge, for pizzas and fondue.
Tip: Carnivores make sure you order at least one Pierrade during your stay. There is something deeply satisfying about watching your meat cook after a day on the slopes.
For buzzing apres-ski, Foulie Douce is considered the place to go. The Chalet also has a great atmosphere and for a fun happy hour Café Face offers beat the clock drinks and live music.
If you’re in search of a younger crowd Doudoune plays a mixture of music and has an entertaining ‘21 club’ on the 21st of every month when it blasts out classics from the 70s, 80s and 90s.
Tip: Before you head to the bar, re-energise with a swim and sauna at the Centra Aquasportif or for a mid-week treat book a massage at Bonne Sante.
Charlie Balfour is based at Chalet Moris in Val’d Isere, where he leads groups of mixed ability skiers (from intermediates upwards) for Mark Warner. Mark Warner has led the way in activity holidays for over 30 years. Specialising in family holidays, Mark Warner packages provide superb childcare with kids clubs for all ages and free evening crèche service.