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Val D'Isère in general (France)
Member Name: vladimpala
Val D'Isère in general (France)
Date: 14/06/01, updated on 11/02/02 (635 review reads)
Advantages: Huge Ski Area, Snow Sure, Fast, Queue Free, Lift System
Disadvantages: Tedious Transfer, Expensive, Poor ski area linking
In terms of reputation Val d'Isere is right up there with the best, and having visited 2nd week of March 2001 I have to say it is throughly deserved.
The Espace Killy ski area is huge, there are countless red and blue runs to keep intermediate happy, and plenty of black and off piste for the experts. There were only a couple of places where the pistes got even remotely busy - mainly the runs into La Daille. For complete beginners there are free tows and lifts at village level, however the majority of the green runs are high up the mountain and there are none which come back down into the village - this means beginners need to take the cable car or chair down as well as up. As a word of caution, if you can find one in your hotel, it is worth taking a look at the daily maps of pisted runs so you know what your are in for. They seem to like to leave all but the beginner runs unpisted for several days at a time, this leads to some pretty serious moguls which quickly make a blue seem like a red, and a red a black.
Of course a huge ski area needs a good fast lift system, and Espace Killy has that too. I found very few queues apart from the early morning rush to get onto the mountain. Queues, where they did appear, moved quickly. As a bonus for beginners there are very few tows, and a funicular and/or cable cars are avialable to get you up the mountain. The different areas of Espace Killy (Le Fornet, Solaise, Belvarde, Tignes) are all linked and are accessible using a single lift pass. However it has to be said that the linking is not that great, Solaise to Le Fornet is via a single exposed up and over chair (but it is spectacular - try it just for the ride), Solaise to Belvarde means coming back down in to Val d'Isere itself. Getting over into Tignes is a little better with a couple of different options. I believe that for 2002 there are various lift improvements planned that should relieve a couple of the bottle necks that do exist an
d improve access over to Tignes.
At 1850m Val d'Isere is pretty high up and therefore snowsure, even so, on serveral days I found the lower slopes getting very heavy and slushy, but once you were up the mountain things were generally very good (with fresh powder on a couple of mornings whilst I was there). The downside to the altitude is that it can get quite wild higher up and some of the higher chairs may close if it gets too windy. The altitude does mean all but you can ski right back into the village (or into La Fornet or La Daille) which is a nice way to end the day. As a bonus if you find yourself in La Fornet or La Daille, or fancy starting off from somewhere different a free and very regular bus service runs up and down the valley (but it can get busy).
Back in the village I don't think they know the meaning of the word "bargin", at best, prices are reasonable, at worst... The village itself is quite pretty, it's not entirely purpose built and the new buildings blend in well. A street market on mondays also helps add a local flavour to the place. The village is reasonably flat and everything is within easy walking distance. I was in very few bars and but those I did go into were nice enough, and as I was full board (Brussels Hotel with Inghams - great food, great location, really average rooms) I cannot comment on the village eateries.
I and others in my party used the Evolution2 ski school, who were excellent, patient, knowledgeable and good english - as we were all in different classes it obviously wasn't just my instructor - top marks. We got our equipment from Precision Ski who again were really good and happy to swap your equipment if you weren't happy (top tip - if you get there mid/late Saturday afternoon try and sort out you equipment before the end of the day and miss the Sunday morning rush). Precision Ski is also where yo can find Evolution2 ski school.
The main downside to
Val d'Isere has to be the getting there - a 4 hour transfer from Geneva, which is always too crowded, busy and subject to many delays. If you can I would suggest flying out on a week day or trying Chambery which is closer if nothing else.
Overall it's not the cheapest place to go but the great skiing makes it worth it.
P.S. try http://www.valdisere.com for the latest info, maps, web cams, accommodation etc
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