The legendary French ski resort is well known to skiers. And serious ones at that.
Maybe it’s the village’s location at the farther end of the valley. Or the pristine rural settings crowned by majestic and humbling Alpine mountains. But there’s clearly something authentic in the air here. In high-altitude Val d’Isère, there is no haughty attitude. Sturdy stone and wood cottages built around a baroque church blend seamlessly into the settings for a quintessentially beautiful Savoyard village.
Created in 1934 to bring the village out of its winter isolation, the resort quickly established itself as a ski destination. French Olympic champion Jean-Claude Killy, who grew up on its mountains, won his first competition there, at the Critérium de la première neige. Combined with Tignes, the ski area is called Espace Killy in his honour. It comprises two glaciers and 300 kilometres of slopes. With some 60% of them traced above 2,200 metres, snow cover is guaranteed.
All skiers agree that Bellevarde, where the men’s speed events were held during the Albertville Olympic Games, is mythical. Nonetheless, all levels of skiers are welcome, including vacationers like in the cult French film Les Bronzés, which was shot in Val d’Isère! Powder enthusiasts love the Fornet bowls. Families prefer the gentle slopes of Solaise. And in order to be part of the local famous après madness, all meet at La Folie Douce, a bar perched high above La Daille, at the junction of the Val d’Isère and Tignes ski areas.
While the resort draws serious skiers like Johanne and Jean-François, two residents of the North Shore of Montréal who enjoy the diversity of its runs (you can see their itineraries below), it is just as satisfying to those who seek the good life. Wine bars, bistros, boutiques, and pastry shops (including the tastiest of them all, that of the 1993 best French artisan in pastry, Patrick Chevallot) are all within walking distance.
At Le Fornet, famished skiers devour hearty local dishes at the Edelweiss chalet, accessible only by the slopes. For dinner, foodies sit down at L’Atelier d’Edmond (two Michelin stars) to experience a delicate market cuisine. At the foot of Bellevarde, they can also feast at La Table de l’Ours (one Michelin star), located in Les Barmes de l’Ours hotel. (In Savoyard patois, a barme is a cave.) The hotel, which is a member of Relais & Châteaux, is a top option for ski-in ski-out accommodations. However, diehard skiers looking to sleep right on the slope might prefer the deluxe Refuge de Solaise, nestled at an altitude of 2,550 metres. Never closer to the pinnacle of happiness!