Val d'Isère: piste guide

Telegraph Ski and Snowboard
The Telegraph
Thanks to seven mountain access points accessing the slopes is hassle free - ©andyparant.com
Thanks to seven mountain access points accessing the slopes is hassle free - ©andyparant.com

Though the slopes in Val d’Isère are enjoyed by all, the ski area is best suited to strong intermediates and better. A blue run here could easily be classified as a red in another resort, while black really does mean a serious challenge.

However, the redevelopment of the Solaise sector of slopes, completed for winter 2016/17, included the regrading of the whole of the top of the mountain and the addition of three covered moving carpet lifts. As a result, a resort that was previously considered too steep for novices now has some the friendliest beginner slopes in France. 

There's also a free Village lift at the foot of the slopes serving the rather steep original nursery slope, but instructors tend to ignore this in favour of a gondola ride up to Solaise where both gradient and snow cover are superior. The next step for novices is a gentle, undulating slope served by the adjoining Madeleine Express lift. There’s another beginner area at La Daille.

Val d'Isère's ski area is split into four sectors, two of which can be reached direct from resort. It is easy, depending on skill level, to move from one sector to another on pistes, and the links to neighbouring Tignes, with which it shares a ski area, are seamless.

In high season, when lifts are at capacity, Val has a huge advantage – there are no less than seven main-mountain access points, from Le Fornet to La Daille, so rush hour queues are easily avoided by a savvy choice of lift. The Train Rouge, which is neither red nor a train, is a reliable, free ski bus that loops all seven as well as Val's satellite villages every three minutes at peak times. During the day it is an integral part of the lift system.

Solaise was the first of Val d'Isère's ski areas. Opened in the late 1930s with just a drag lift and a cable car, it’s now served by the new Solaise gondola, which opened in 2016. Off the top, at 2,560m, is a network of intermediate runs of varying standard, as well as the Rhone-Alpes black, an FIS women's downhill course.

Bellevarde, reached by the Olympique jumbo gondola or two chairs, rises up to 2,827m on the other side of the resort. La Face, the steep and deeply challenging black down to town, was the venue for the men’s downhill at the 1992 Albertville Olympics and the 2009 World Championships, but is otherwise rarely raced. The backside of Bellevarde is the starting point for an enormous area of varied slopes that lead towards Tignes in one direction and back down to Val, via a circuitous route, in the other.

<span>A new beginner area on Solaise opened in 2016</span>
A new beginner area on Solaise opened in 2016

Le Fornet, the hamlet at the western and far end of the resort, is reached from the pistes of Solaise, or by regular free ski bus from Val d'Isère. The Fornet cable car, followed by a gondola and other lifts, accesses the Pissaillas glacier beneath the 3,488m summit of the Pointe du Montet – also the summer ski area. Runs back down and across towards Solaise form a giant and mainly intermediate playground. It's possible, using a lot of lifts and plenty of pistes, to travel all the way to Tignes Les Brevières from the top of the glacier here.

La Daille is a hamlet at the eastern approach of the valley reached by ski bus. From here there's a gondola and it's possible to head directly towards Tignes. Alternatively – and better – there's the Funival underground funicular to the top of Bellevarde. This is starting point for the thrilling OK men’s downhill course back down to La Daille. There's also an easy piste also to the link lifts with Tignes. In December 2018 a high-speed replacement gondola from La Daille opens, up to the Folie Douce and providing swift links to lifts in the Bellevarde sector and on to Tignes.

The Oakley Valpark terrain park in the Bellevarde/La Daille sector is at the foot of the Marmottes chair and served by its own button lift, which it shares with the adjacent Stade de Slalom, a permanent racecourse where the challenge is to run gates against the clock. The park has an wide range of rails and kickers suitable for all standards.


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