Despite its rocky, mountainous location it was possible to construct a ski resort in Val d’Isere.
Not everyone was convinced that a ski village could succeed in such a harsh environment but it did, and now the area known as Espace Killy has a global reputation.
Henri Oreiller, the first Olympic champion to hail from Val d’Isere, was famous for his daring style, tearing recklessly over bumps and balancing himself mid-air. His speed-driven successor, Jean-Claude Killy, won three gold medals at the 1992 Winter Olympics and is still inextricably linked to the village.
In the days before widespread road transport, Val d’Isere was accessible only by a mountain track which was dangerous in winter with snow avalanches and dangerous in summer with rock falls. At the time it was a tiny village of around 100 people, huddled round its 17th Century octagonal church spire.
French industrialist Jacques Mouflier saw the potential for Val d’Isere as a ski resort. Mayor Nicolas Bazile thought it was utter madness but Mouflier persevered and public infrastructures like running water and electricity were created. The first hotels opened in 1888 and improvements to the mountain access road facilitated growth.
Since then the resort has grown to become one of the most famous and lively in France. It’s home to Olympic champions including triple gold medallist Jean-Claude Killy and hosts the Alpine Skiing World Cup each year.
The village is also more animated than many other high-altitude French resorts with plenty of enticing shops, restaurants and bars.
Val d’Isere offers a fantastic range of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. There are a number of luxury 5-star hotels clustered next to the ski lifts & village laneways in the center of the resort, along with a good selection of 3-star hotels and a wide choice of private chalets & apartments.
For those looking for the ultimate in ski-in/ski-out, there are a number of luxurious apartments and chalets located in the hamlets of Le Legettaz, La Joseray and Le Chatelard which offer direct access to the slopes. The center of the resort also has a great selection of hotels offering ski-in/ski-out options.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants at Val d’Isere to keep you fuelled for your day on the snow. The famous Folie Douce at the top of the La Daille gondola is one of the most renowned apres-ski venues in the Alps, with live bands and DJs to get you dancing long into the night.
If Val d’Isere has one thing going for it, it is its food. There has been a huge boom in high-quality restaurants dotted across the resort, offering everything from melted cheese dishes (fondue, raclette and tartiflette) to first class French and Italian cuisine.
If you are looking to treat yourself, then be sure to reserve a table at the two Michelin starred Maison Benoit Vidal. The restaurant’s authentic chalet interior provides the perfect contrast to chef Benoit Vidal’s inventive cuisine.
Avancher is a great place for a traditional Savoyard menu, including fondue, raclette and grilled meats. For something a little different, try the truffle pizza and pistachio linguini or the Alpine pot au feu casserole.
There are also a number of piste-side restaurants that offer a warm, welcoming atmosphere and mouthwatering menus. Halfway down La Face in the Bellevarde sector is a favourite, Peau de Vache. Alternatively, try the brand new restaurant at Folie Douce this season, The Kitchen, which boasts amazing views and simple yet indulgent dishes.
In winter, skiing takes centre stage in Val d’Isere, but there are plenty of non-ski activities too. For a fun day out with the family, visit the Adroit Farm to learn about local cheese production and meet the pigs, goats, horses, hens and cows that make it all possible.
Or, try a guided snowshoe hike. Discover the frozen landscapes of the Alps with the help of an expert guide, and enjoy a break in the snow with a cup of hot chocolate. You can also try out electric scooters in the village lanes for a simple, efficient and environmentally-friendly way to get around between your activities.
Throughout the year, Val d’Isere celebrates its culture with fun events and festivals. Visit the village’s historic streets to admire 17th-century buildings, or stroll to the hamlet of Le Fornet to enjoy high altitude flora and fauna from the Col de l’Iseran. Afterwards, sit down for a delicious meal at a local mountain restaurant and sample the area’s many Savoyard specialities.