Val-d Isere Snowboarding
The 4th most popular snowboarding destination in France.
Wednesday 28 November 2018 03:25 GMT
Southeast of Albertville and Bourg Ste Maurice, the Val-d'Isere ski domaine has 150km of pistes served by 46 lifts with a maximum vertical descent of 1,515m (4,970 feet). The Val-d'Isere ski domaine is known for snowboarding its massive lift-accessed freeriding lines and for big high-end intermediate pistes. It is part of the Espace Killy ski region that interconnects Val d'Isere with the quieter slopes above the villages of Tignes. It has a combined 300km of pistes served by 79 lifts (24 are drag lifts), and overall, the region is well known for great snow reliability. At over 24,000 acres, Espace Kily is 300% larger than the biggest ski area in North America.
The Val-d'Isere ski domaine is generally divided into three sectors. The Bellevarde sector and Solaise sector are directly accessible by lifts from town. The later sector provides access to the third sector, Col de L'Iseran.
If you're looking for the trees on those snowy days, try the pistes on the backside of Solaise above town. For steeps, you'll want to check out The Face or Epaule from the Rocher de Bellevarde summit (both can become quite icy and bumped out). For powder, check out the lines off Arcelle or St Jacques.
Don't get too pumped up about a big pow day. It doesn't take much snow to close the top half of the Solace and the Col de L'Iseran sectors (12cm of snow will do it).
The Val-d'Isere ski domaine is well known for its crazy, expansive off-piste freeriding routes. Before heading out, you'll want an experienced guide and avalanche gear including an air-bag pack. Keep in mind that there are numerous terrain-traps / sinkholes which would be quite dangerous in low visibility conditions. A good route for the new to freeriding is the Tour du Charvet route, which starts from the top of the Grand Pre chairlift off the back of Bellevarde. It leads to the bottom of the Manchet chairlift. Above Le Fornet, the Pays Desert route is another one of the beginner freeride routes that ends up at the Pays Desert drag lift. A challenging off-piste route is the Col Pers that starts with a traverse from the Pissaillas glacier over a pass leading to an easy bowl. This is best down in big snow seasons when you can drop into Gorges de Malpasset and ride right over the Isere River to the Fornet cablecar. The Banane route is accessed from the Face de Bellevarde piste and is a steep off-piste freeride above the Manchet valley. The Cugnai route in the Solaise sector is accessed from the top of the Cugnai lift. It is a steep route leading down into a narrow gully and retuns via the Manchet chairlift. If these are tough enough, you can always go big with the challenging Couloir des Pisteurs route that starts off with a 25 minute hike from the Tour de Charvet. This very steep couloir opens to a wider slope above Le Grand Pre.
After a morning of ripping it up, try grabbing lunch at the on-mountain restaurant L'Edelweiss, which is accessed from the Fornet cable car summit about half way back down the blue piste to Le Fornet.
Keep in mind that with so much above treeline snowboarding available, incliment weather can close plenty of upper lifts du to winds, fog or snow.
The quaint resort town of Val-d'Isere is not generally known for its apres ski scene. The best bet is to start up at La Folie Douce near the La Daille gondola summit. Back in town, head to Le Petit Danois. For some nightlife, you definitely want to head over to Dicks Tea Bar or the Graal.
For French standards, Val d'Isere is a quaint resort built around an old world village dating back to 1100AD. Matter of fact, it was quite untouched by the outside world when skiing first arrived in the 1930's. Wisely, many of the initial French-style resort hotels were replaced or remodeled to mirror the original valley's stone architecture. To assist tourists, there is a great convenient ski bus that runs frequently back and forth through the village zones. Overall, Val d'Isere is still very skier-oriented -- there are very little services geared towards snowboarders so bring your own supplies.
To reach the snowboarding at Val-d'Isere by air, you'll want to fly into Lyon or Geneva. Then, take the train to Bourg-St-Maurice. From Bourg-St-Maurice, there are regular buses (Altibus) up the dead end road to the village of Val-d'Isere. If you plan to drive, you'll want to avoid the road on Saturdays due to the crowds. Keep in mind that Val-d'Isere is quite popular with tourists coming from the UK, so you'll hear plenty of English speaking.
TIP: If you are planning to arrive by train, keep in mind that the regular bus up to the resort is primarily during daylight hours. After dark, the bus runs infrequently, if at all. Therefore, you will need to take a cab from the train station to the resort. If you plan to fly into Lyon, you may want to check the train schedule before buying your flight to make sure there is a convenient transfer. If you plan to arrive Friday through Sunday, the airport shuttle bus Altibus might be a more convenient option. Since there are not many trains or buses up into this region, you are highly encouraged to advance purchase tickets and reserve your seat.
Overall, Val-d Isere is the 4th most popular snowboard & freeride destination of all 47 snowboarding resorts in France. Several of the better snowboarding resorts are nearby Val-d Isere including Tignes and Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise.