Ski resorts by train

Val d'Isere - slopes

Anyone can enjoy a ski holiday here. Facilities for beginners are good (with free lifts and good snow quality assured on the nursery slopes). The range of pistes and challenges for advanced skiers and snowboarders is beyond dispute. But frankly, it’s a difficult place for the in-betweenies. A blue run here could easily be classified as a red in another resort, while black really does mean truly difficult.

On the Val side, the mountain is split into four sectors, two of which can be reached direct from resort. It is easy, provided that you are a competent snow-user, to move from one sector to another on pistes, and the links to Tignes are seamless.

In high season, when lifts are working at capacity, Val has a huge advantage over other major resorts in the Alps: there are no less than seven main mountain access points, from Le Fornet to La Daille. Rush hour queues are momentary. But hop on the train rouge and you can easily avoid them.  Queues up the mountain are rare, except at the links to Tignes in the final hour of a high season weekend.

The original ski area of Solaise has now been entirely revamped for 2016/17 and is reached by the new Solaise Gondola. While the runs accessed immediately from the top lift station and the Day Lodge are easy, there are interesting intermediate runs above it. The Day Lodge is also the starting point for the much more demanding runs back down to the village.  These include the magnificent Matisse as well as Rhone-Alpes, an FIS women's downhill course that requires considerable attention when icy, as it usually is in mid-winter.

On the other side of the front de neige the Olympique gondola brings you up to the 2827m summit of Bellevarde.  La Face, the challenging black run down to the resort was first raced as the men’s downhill in the 1992 Olympics.

The backside is the starting point for the Oreiller-Killy (OK) downhill course which ends In the outlying hamlet of La Daille, served by the Funival underground funicular which brings you back up to the top. Also from here you can make your way across the mountains to two lifts that bring you over the ridge and down to Tignes.

Le Fornet, the hamlet at the foot of the col de L’Iseran, the highest paved road in Western Europe, can either be reached from Solaise or by ski bus from the village. A gondola and other lifts take you up the summer ski area on the Pissaillas glacier beneath the 3,488m summit of the Pointe du Montet. The runs here are fast cruising territory for intermediates and advanced skiers and snowboarders.

Val’s world-class snowpark has some 30 kickers and obstacles, with lines for all levels from beginner to expert. It’s located on Bellevarde beside the permanent slalom course and is easily reached from the top of the Olympique gondola or via the Funival funicular from La Daille. Normally, it is open 9.30am to 4pm each day (except in stormy weather conditions) from mid-December until the end of April.

Bellevarde is home to two ski/snowboard courses and there’s another serpentine track on Solaise. Also, you can test your skills against the clock on the new BMW slalom course beside the Rogoney piste, and then watch yourself in action at and on the Skiline app.

Access is with your lift pass. The entry gate records your details, and your time is automatically recorded as the camera rolls. You can then take part in the BMW xDrive Cup and share your results by email or on social media.

Ski highlights for all levels

Beginners: The Solaise redevelopment will encourage novice skiers to venture away from the nursery slopes on the front de neige, go up the mountain, and experience the full glory of the ski area.

The new, secure, beginner slopes created at the top of the gondola have been regraded to provide the perfect pitch for learning first steps on skis and snowboard. They’re served by three covered magic carpets lifts. Beginners can swiftly progress from these slopes to the easy, rolling terrain reached from the adjacent Madeleine chair-lift. There’s also a nursery slope in La Daille.

Intermediates: Val d’Isère-Tignes is one giant playground that stretches from Le Fornet and the glacier above it all the way across to Tignes and down to the lowest village of Tignes-Les-Brevières on blue and red runs.  But as we have said, the piste grading is severe and for inexperienced skiers who have graduated here from the rolling pasture land of the Austrian Tirol or other lower Alpine ski areas it’s wise to stick the blues until you get to grips with the gradient.

Experts: Few resorts offer such a range of challenging slopes. The mountains on both sides of the ski area are dotted with vertiginous couloirs like the Couloir des Pisteurs that require considerable concentration – any fall will result in a long slide or worse – and should only be skied in the company of a guide.   The lift-accessed off-piste is dramatic and is one of the main reasons why skiers and snowboarders from all over the world must make the pilgrimage to Val d’Isère at least once in lifetime.


Val d'Isere is deservedly famous for having fantastic off-piste terrain. The Bellevarde side of the mountain has the greatest proportion of off-piste, while the Solaise side still has plenty.  Over in La Daille, the terrain is particularly accessible, making it a great part of the resort for practicing powder. As ever, when considering off-piste you are best to hire a guide.  For avalanche awareness courses and information, Henry's Avalanche Talk is excellent.

Ski schools and guides

Val d’Isere has 17 accredited ski schools as well as host independent instructors.

ESF is the largest school, and the branch here works extremely hard to appeal to English-speakers and not just the French visitors who provide its core market. Indeed, it has a group of instructors who have been hand picked not just for their technical but for their language skills as well

Oxygène a good all-rounder and is particularly suitable for children, with fluent English-speaking and sympathetic instructors.

Progression Ski is British-owned with British instructors.

New Generation is a British school with young instructors and a formidable reputation for sound, sympathetic teaching at all levels.
Evolution2 is a long-established independent French school with a strong reputation.

TDC is a British school with off-piste lessons tailored to the skill of the pupil. Suited to anyone from beginners to powderhounds. It does not teach snowboarding.

i-ski Val d’Isère is a group of experienced French instructors and mountain guides who specialise in off-piste instruction.

Alpine Experience is a specialist off-piste school established 20 years ago.

Mountain Masters is a similar business with a good reputation.

Henry Off Piste is run by American-born Henry Schniewind, one of Europe’s leading experts and lecturers on avalanche safety ( He runs three-day courses for intermediate skiers and above.

Newcomers ( and Snowboardvaldisere do exactly what it says on the tin. Other new schools include 333 Ski & Snowboard (

Pat Zimmer (email is a charismatic former French racer who founded Top Ski, the first independent ski school in France. He now works as an independent. He’s been has been teaching and guiding off-piste here for 30 years and his knowledge of the local mountains and snow pattern is better than anyone.

Choose from over 17,000 instructors in 250 resorts across the French Alps


Lift system

Lifts have been steadily updated over the years. Main access from the village is by gondola –to Bellevarde by the high-capacity Olympique  and – to Solaise by the brand new Solaise gondola that replaces the old Solaise Express chair and the ancient cable car.

The new lift is a 10-person gondola with 91 cabins, complete with heated seats and WiFi.  You can park your skis in exterior baskets, or bring them inside - the choice speeds up loading time.

The lift company has taken every step to minimise the environmental impact of the project. The redevelopment reduces the number of lift stations from a total of eight with 34 pylons to just two with 16 pylons.

The new gondola will increase capacity by 40% and can carry up to 3,600 passengers per hour, bringing an end to any previous peak-hour bottlenecks at the base on high-season dates. The journey time will be just seven minutes, making it one of the fastest lifts in the world.   

The gondola machinery is buried underground at the base area. This significantly reduces the noise impact both for two- and four-legged inhabitants that live here at the foot of the mountain.

Snow reliability and snowmaking

Val d’Isère has some of the most reliable snow cover in Europe and is the venue each December for some of the first Alpine Skiing World Cup events of the winter. The world’s top racers have gathered here before Christmas since 1955 to compete against each other as part of the annual Critérium de la Première Neige. Val also has the largest snowmaking operation in Europe. Le Snow Factory at the foot of the Face de Bellevarde can pump out enough white stuff to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in half and hour or cover Wembley stadium in a metre in under 60 minutes.

Lift passes

There’s a choice of available passes depending on the age of skier and the time of year.  For example:

Early season (November 26 to December 16) for a skier aged between 13 and 65 years a pass costs 50€ for one day, 250.50€ for six days.

Skiing the whole area during the season costs 55.50€ per day, 278€ for six days.
If you book more than six days, the extra days are at a reduced price. Under-fives and seniors over 75 ski for free.

Buy a full area pass for two to15 days and you get one free entry to the Centre Aquasportif. Check out all the various options and prices on    

To celebrate the redevelopment of Solaise, Val d’Isère is offering a special lift pass his winter. It covers the new beginner area as well as a substantial amount of terrain suited to more accomplished skiers. The pass includes the two village lifts of Legettaz and Rogoney, the Solaise Gondola, and the three magic carpets as well as the Madeleine, Datcha, and Glacier chairs.
Cost is just 35€ for one day.

The lift company is also offering a one-day Discovery pass, which covers all the Val d’Isère (but not Tignes) lifts for 49€. If you book a week of beginner lessons with a recognised ski school you can get a six-day Val d’Isère –Tignes pass for just 139€ – an incredible saving of 139€. Booking this through your chosen ski school.


Espace Killy piste map

Ski area
Village Altitude
Ski Altitude
1550 - 3450
Green Runs
Blue Runs
Red Runs
Black Runs
Total Runs 153
Terrain Park
Cabin Lifts
Chair Lifts
Drag Lifts
Total Lifts 78