Val d'Isere is one of the greats. A life-loving, go-for-broke kind of town with superb skiing attached...
Despite attracting some of the wealthiest skiers in the world, Val d'Isere actually contains accommodation at every price level. The cheap self-catering apartments in the suburb of La Daille are not exactly large or luxurious, but then who wants to spend all day in a ski resort sitting indoors? Unlike a lot of budget accommodation, they're right next to one of the principal lifts, too.
Val d'Isere has a well-established reputation for being a steep and intimidating place to ski. Don't believe a word of it. Yes, there's some superb terrain for more expert skiers and snowboarders, but if you've only just learnt how to link your turns you can have a ball here too, provided you follow one simple rule: ride the lift down the mountain each evening. The main pistes back into town are often icy at the end of the day, and they're usually packed too. It's no wonder intermediates are regularly freaked out by them.
Elsewhere, however, the slopes are much gentler. Val d'Isere shares its lift system with the neighbouring resort of Tignes, and between them they offer 300km of pistes. As you track over towards the latter you'll find an increasing number of them are wide and flattering. They're at high altitude too, which means the snow is usually of excellent quality.
Geneva, Grenoble, Lyon and Chambery airports all provide access - but the trip from Geneva can take more than four hours in heavy traffic...
You can also take a Eurostar train straight from London St Pancras to Bourg St Maurice, in the valley below Val d'Isere, twice a week. Normal French rail services are pretty good too, but if you're on a tight budget, you might prefer to drive.
If steep slopes and powder are your idea of a great day's skiing or snowboarding, Val d'Isere is one of the best places to head...
Intermediate skiers are also well catered for, but those right at the beginning of the learning process may struggle to see what all the fuss is about.
The incredible scenery in Val d’Isere is bound to impress, while party animals will have no complaints about the après-ski scene…
Val d'Isere offers the full range of nightlife options, from sweaty discos to chic little cocktail bars. It's also home to one of the most amazing mountain bars too - the Folie Douce, above La Daille, which in the second half of the season features live bands playing on the roof. Fine dining is provided by the Table de l'Ours, at the Barmes de l'Ours hotel, L'Atelier d'Edmond, at Le Fornet, and La Grande Ourse, in the centre of town. But if all you fancy is a burger, then head to the Billabong store on the high street, which has great little diner.
Val d'Isere is a skiing town: it doesn't cater well for those looking for other distractions. Even the shopping has a rather one-dimensional feel, with a fantastic range of outfitters selling skis, boots and mountain clothing, but only a smattering of art galleries and gastronomic delis besides. Your best bet is to head into the hills to try snow-shoeing, dog-sledding or snow-mobiling.
8/10 Cost of living
Chalets and hotels can be eye-wateringly expensive, but the great thing about Val d'Isere is that there is a plentiful supply of cheap apartments too.
Staying in a self-catering apartment also means you can make your own sandwiches for lunch - saving yourself at least a tenner a head every day!
8/10 Attractiveness of the resort
Most of Val d'Isere is low-rise and surprisingly unobtrusive. And the mountain scenery is magnificent.