Val d’Isère is a commune of the Tarentaise Valley, in the Savoie department (Rhône-Alpes region) in southeastern France. It lies 5 km (3 mi) from the border with Italy. It is on the border of the Vanoise National Park created in 1963. During the 1992 Winter Olympics, the Face de Bellevarde was the site of the men’s downhill race. Other alpine skiing events held during those games included men’s giant slalom and alpine combined. Val d’Isère regularly hosts World Cup alpine events, usually for the men in early December, and hosted the World Championships in 2009. It is located in the Savoie region with good transport links in and out of Lyon, Geneva and Chambery.
The western and central areas of Val d’Isère are most recognizable by their “chalet” architecture, while in the eastern part of the town high-rise architecture dominates the landscape. Along with nearby Tignes the area forms part of the “l’Espace Killy“, the self-titled “Most Beautiful Ski Area in the World”.
The Pissaillas Glacier offers summer skiing, as well as the usual winter fare. Snow cannon are placed on certain slopes to accommodate heavy skiing. The ski slopes themselves are equipped with a high-volume gondola, able to transport standing skiers, the funicular Funival from La Daille via a tunnel to the top of Bellevarde, traditional chair lifts—some with windshields and many detachable, button/disc-pulls and tow-ropes. There are both groomed slopes and backcountry (off-piste) skiing. The slopes’ difficulty levels are particularly high. However, as in Tignes there are wide, easily-navigable pistes for those of the beginner-intermediate level as well. Its extensive off-piste facilities include guides for safety reasons; reviews are generally favourable.
Tignes possesses more of the same, with a funicular shuttling skiers up through one of the mountains to the Grande Motte glacier. A free shuttle bus runs between the villages in the valley, providing free transport throughout the towns of Val d’Isère and La Daille.
Human habitation of the valley dates back to before Roman times. The town received parish rights in 1637 and the parish church, which is still a landmark in the town centre, was built in 1664.
Skiing in Val d’Isère has its roots in the 1930s when a drag lift was built on the slopes of the Solaise. This was followed by an aerial tramway (cable car).
Val d’Isère was made well known as the vacation spot of characters Edina and Patsy in the British sitcom, Absolutely Fabulous. Although the movie Les Bronzés font du ski (French Fried Vacation 2) has been a great success in France, only a few people are aware that it was shot in Val d’Isère.