The best ski runs in Val d’Isere
26th October 2019
Val d’Isere is a mega ski resort with a world-wide reputation for expert skiers, although it’s not just experts who love the skiing here. This is also a wonderful ski area for intermediate skiers of all levels. Even beginners can find some excellent runs on high altitude snow sure slopes. If you are an off-piste skier, this is possibly one of the best ski resorts anywhere in Europe.
Val d’Isere has two distinct areas, Bellevarde and Solaise. Both are connected not only by the lifts but also at valley level by perhaps the best bus service to be found anywhere. The ski busses have two fairly short routes, one from La Daile to the centre and the other from the centre to the other end of the valley to Le Fornet. These buses run every few minutes at peak times and both routes are about 2km long, so it’s never too long to wait for the next bus to arrive.
Val D’Isere is the main village and there are various access points along the valley floor between Le Fornet, the centre of Val d’Isere and the other end towards La Daile. Few of the catered ski chalets in Val d’Isere are truly ski in ski out, you can expect to pay a premium if you want one.
Improved piste quality in Val d’Isere with new piste bashers
Val d’Isere has always had an excellent reputation for piste grooming but new in 2020, the resort has invested in a fleet of new snow groomers to providing the corduroy stripes in Val d’Isere. These state-of-the-art machines are fitted with the latest LIDAR radars technology which helps level the snow in a more efficient and precise way, optimising the amount of snow available throughout the season.
Slopes for Children in Val d’Isere
The Val Kids originally opened in 2017, the resort is developing this fun area again this season with a new igloo, binoculars to watch the mountains and a mini-zipline. At the Aquasportif, Children from 5 years to 12, will be able to drive electric mini-snowmobiles. Open from 16:00 to 19:00.
Popular ski runs in Val d’Isere
Best Green runs for beginners to practice on after ski school
- From the Borsat Chair head the lovely long gentle green runs
- From the Madeleine chair a lovely high and gentle run
Best Blue Runs for improving Intermediate skiers
- Head for the Glacier at La Fornet for a top to bottom blue
- Head for the Glacier Chair for long varied Blue runs right to the valley Floor
Best Red Runs for Intermediate skiers
- Head for the Laisinant chair for a long shaded red, often deserted run
- Take the Funival to reach either the OK or Orange runs back to valley floor
Best Black Runs for Advanced skiers
- La Face is Val d’Isere’s signature Black run, descends back to village center
- Head up the Téléski des 3000 to the steepest Black in the area at 76 degrees
The best runs in Val d’Isere for beginners skiers
Beginners and Val d’Isere won’t be listed together in too many ski resorts guides, but if you know where to go and how to avoid the often tricky routes back to the village, you could be a Val d’Isere convert. The problem for beginners in Val d’Isere ski holiday is reaching the best runs and getting back down at the end of the day. We have long suspected that a few of the suggested easy ways down are there only to attract beginners to the resort, most of the homeward runs in Val d’Isere are blacks, reds or tricky blue. The only Green run down shown on the piste map is probably the worlds toughest green down to La Daille but there is an option to come back down to the village using lifts or the bubble.
Another route down that you might think is possible for a braver beginner is the Santons, a Blue run that should be rated as a Red! The top and bottom of Santons is certainly a blue but the middle is steep, long and very narrow, it is often icy too. Again there is an option to travel down by lift.
First-time skiers normally spend a couple of days on the village nursery slopes, the ski lift here is free, which thankfully saw a complete upgrade in 2018, previously the top of the lift had an exit that terrified total beginners. The landscape was reshaped so the exit is now easy for even first timers on their first lift.
Once you are ready to leave the nursery slopes, head for the Bellevarde area with a great network of wide gentle greens. In some sections, beginners are able to pick up a little speed to help build confidence. This area can be reached either via the Olympique cable car from the centre of the village or via the Funival funicular train from La Daile. The only steeper section is after exiting these lifts for about 50m, most beginners prefer to walk this 50m. These greens are high, so the snow is always in great condition even as late in the season as May.
Another wonderful green for beginners is the Madeleine area which is on the Solaise side and is accessed by either the Solaise Express chair or Solaise Gondola. The Green on Madelaine is a little steeper but very wide and has some of the best mountain restaurants for lunch, particularly if the sun is out.
Once you are ready to progress to Blue runs the choices are many with some great routes including reaching Tignes.
The Best ski runs in Val d’Isere for intermediate skiers
Intermediate skiers should consider a ski holiday to Val d’Isere you will love the blues and many of the reds are perfect too, the reality is that Val d’Isere has just as much to offer intermediate skiers as it does for experts.
These are our favourite routes, from the Solaise express or the Solaise cable car (and a short rope lift) connects to the ‘Glacier’ six-man fast chair. Here you find a network of truly wonderful Blues, with fast undulating terrain and spectacular views towards the reservoir. Most intermediates are happy to spend a few hours on these runs, they are wide, with speed sections. From here take the up and over chair (Leissieres) to the Le Fornet side where you can ski from the top of the Le Fornet Glacier at over 3300m right back to the valley floor on fantastic blues and reds. Another great run is the “L” piste which drops down to Le Laisinant, with the lower sections dropping through the tree line. It’s often closed after heavy snowfall because of avalanche dangers. The Laisinant 6 man chair connects back to the Le Fornet side, where most of the runs are reds and blues. This side of the ski area is rarely crowded and a wonderful area for all levels of intermediate skiers.
The Bellevarde side, is where most intermediate skiers head for, simply because it gives access to the runs in Tignes and offers lots of great options. Try the world cup downhill “Ok” run which drops from the top of Bellevarde at 2827m to La Daile at 1785m and is a fast rolling run, just perfect for intermediates.
With the full area ski pass which includes Tignes slopes, there is more skiing than could be done in a week’s stay for most intermediates. Including runs from the top of the Tignes Glacier (la Grande Motte) at 3456m dropping down via a network of Blues and Reds and access to the rest of Tignes skiing.
Some of the off-piste routes are ideal for intermediates skiers looking to try off-piste skiing for the first time.
The best ski runs for Experts in Val d’Isere
Val d’Isere is a Mecca for advanced skiers. The signature runs is the famous “La Face” a steep and often mogulled run dropping from the top of Bellevarde to the main departure point in the centre of the resort. Despite the limited number of Black runs shown on the piste map some runs have been converted to “natural snow runs” meaning they are never groomed but they are patrolled and cleared of any avalanche risks. We often question the Val d’Isere piste rating, many runs are under classified and what is shown as a Red in Val d’Isere would be classified as Black in many other resorts. Even some of the reds and Blue runs are steep enough to get mogulled.
Val d’Isere has to be one of the best lift-served off-piste ski areas anywhere. (But please don’t venture off-piste without a guide). All of the ski schools in Val d’Isere offer guides and the prices are reasonable for small groups.
Top Tip for advanced skiers wanting to ski off-piste, why not consider booking a Club Med skiing holiday, The Club Med hotel in Val d’Isere is ski in ski out and the cost includes instruction and guides with all the safety equipment for advanced skiers and normal lessons for all other levels.
From the top of the Grand Prix chair on Bellevarde is the Tour du Charvet its not particularly steep and drops behind Bellevarde ending up at the bottom of Le Manchet chair on the Solaise side.
One of the most popular off-piste routes is a flattish traverse from high above La Fornet in the Pays Desert, this open off piste field on the Glacier Du Pissaillas eventually drops to the Pays Desert drag lift, care should be taken not to overshoot this drag, it’s can be a long walk back.
Quite unique to Val d’Isere is the Tarentaise tour which can be booked at several of Val d ’Isere’s ski schools, we did it with Oxygène Ski School and can vouch for them. This challenging off-piste circuit, generally starts in Val d’Isere, leads to the untouched Vanoise National Park all the way to Champagny and brings you to the renowned Face Nord off-piste in La Plagne. You then cross over to Les Arcs on the Vanoise Express – the world’s largest double-decker cable car – before traversing the entire Les Arcs resort and eventually arriving in Villaroger. That’s 70km of non-stop skiing so you will need to be an experienced off-piste skier and generally fit!
Bookings can be made via Oxygène website for the Tarentaise tour Or by calling their Val d’Isere office on +33 (0)4 79 41 99 58
The cost of this off-piste tour for 4 skiers is €499, this includes all safety equipment and packed lunch. Transport back to Val d’Isere is approx. €70 for 4 people. The tour starts at 9:00am and finishes at around 5:00pm and includes both guiding and instruction.