Val d'Isere, France

Best Ski Resorts in Europe

Val d'Isère is forever connected with 1968 Olympic triple medalist Jean-Claude Killy. The handsome French racer grew up there, and 24 years later, as head of the Albertville Olympics, presided over the glamorous men's downhill race on the "OK Course," named after Killy and his teammate Henri Oreiller.

In less than a decade, OK Course has established itself as one of the classic expert runs in the Alps. In fact, Val d'Isère has established itself as one of the best destinations for experts in all the Alps.

Val d'Isère (www.valdisere.com) and neighboring Tignes (www.tignes.net), incorporate everything French skiing is famous for. There's an old village core, popularly known as Val Village, that's turned into a glamorous downtown and is surrounded by enough accommodations to justify nearly a hundred lifts.

Nightlife, fine dining, and a great range of accommodations (but nothing too formal or fancy) characterize this bustling town. There's also a purpose-built resort, Tignes, designed for ski-in, ski-out convenience.

Val d'Isère and Tignes have sunny beginner slopes, challenging pistes for all ability levels, astonishing off-piste terrain, and a vertical of more than 5,000 feet. Abundant mountain restaurants serve incredible food, despite their big cafeteria ambience. Among lifts are futuristic models that include two high-speed underground trains. There's even summer skiing on the Pissaillas Glacier.

Summer skiing aside, Val d'Isère long ago established itself as one of the Alps' more snow-sure resorts by hosting an annual downhill race called the Criterium of the First Snow. There are three main ski sectors. Le Bellevarde, on which the OK Course is located, also boasts the Face de Bellevarde, considered one of the best mogul runs in the Alps. This mountain offers skiing on all sides and a connection, via the Col de Fresse, to Tignes.

La Solaise offers the sunniest, gentlest slopes in the area. The Col d'Iseran is Val d'Isère's high altitude mecca, with spectacular views, gentle groomed terrain, and abundant ungroomed, off-piste playgrounds. The top off-piste routes are best done with a guide, because they include avalanche areas, sudden cliffs, and other hazards, but with a good guide, good snow, and good companions, they can't be beat.


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