The Cultural heritage and history of Val d’Isere

29th October 2015

Val d’Isere has been populated since the middle ages, when its residents barely survived with subsistence farming and mineral extraction. Very few visitors ventured up this high, the only route was via a donkey track, impassable in winter because of avalanches, the threat of rock and mud slides made the journey just as perilous in summer months.

The men folk would leave Val d’Isere before the onset of winter to find work in the valley below, leaving the women and children to look after the animals over winter.

The 17th century church was and still is today the centre of the old village, its location chosen because it was out of reach from the deadly avalanches that must have been a constant threat to the villagers back then.

In the summer of 1929 a Parisian called Jacques Mouflier visited Val d’Isere and saw the potential for a ski resort and set about convincing the locals. Not everyone was sure such a remote valley was suitable as it was so far from any cities. Eventually with finance from the Rothschild family the first drag ski lift was installed in 1936, followed shortly after the first cable car which opened in 1939. Jean Matter, the then president of the French Ski Federation (FFS) announced that “it is utter madness to build a ski station at Val d’Isère, failure is certain!” How wrong was he!

At this time there were four hotels catering for the summer months some of these are still available today on this web site.

The first and second world wars stifled further development of the ski holiday in Val d’Isere.

The hotel Christiana opened its doors in 1950, the 30 room hotel had ensuite bathrooms and a telephone in each room, which was revolutionary at the time. The hotel became popular with film Stars and wealthy families from around the globe in both summer and winter as skiing grew in popularity.
At the end of the 1960s a deal was struck between the lift company in Val d’Isere) and their neighbours at Tignes). A lift was opened at la Daille linking the two resorts and in 1972 links opened in the Le Fornet sector.

The area is known as l’Espace Killy after the Val d’Isère’s Olympic hero Jean Claud-Killy who picked up a record 3 medals at the 1968 Grenoble Winter Olympics.

Val d’Isere hosted the games again in 1992 when the famous signature run, La face was the venue for the men’s downhill.

Today Val d’Isere is one of the best known and most popular ski resorts anywhere in Europe and is a ‘must ski’ resort for any who have yet to sample it. Ski Line features over 150 different ski chalets in Val d’Isere and some 100 hotels and apartments for ski holiday in Val d’Isere. The ski area extends to around 300km of groomed pistes and is regarded as the very best lift served off piste skiing in the world.

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