Val-d'Isère is not only a high place of ski competition and of on-piste skiing in the world, it is overall one of the very best places EVER to practice off-piste skiing and Free-touring.
Why is this ? Some advise answers follow.
First of all, Val-d'Isère is a ski resort located in France, in the district of Savoie, and that is linked with Tignes. Together, they form Espace Killy, reputed to be the nicest ski area in the world.
A little bit of history to understand the present.
The ski resort extension project, has never been finished. And it leaves to the Freeride skiers and boarders, douzains of square miles of untouched areas to ride on, accessible directly from the lifts, or from the lifts plus a little bit of hike.
Back in the time, in the early years of the resort, the potential playground of Val-d'Isère, in terms of building one of the largest ski resort in the world, was just huge !
And at this time, in contrary to "les 3 Vallées", "la Plagne" or "les Arcs", who developed with a massive public cash flow investment, it is with private money that Val-d'Isère developed the ski resort. Consequently it took longer to build lifts.
In 1963, when the "Parc National de la Vanoise" has been created, to protect the mountain wild life, and brake down the extension of the neighbor ski resorts, who were already the biggest in the world, Val-d'Isère had not fulfilled the quart of its development plan.
It has been a drama by the time for those who had bidden everything they had on the development of the lifts slopes and slopes network.
But it was without considering the amazing development of the Freeride and ski touring practice to come in the early 2000 years..
What about today ?
Under the protection of the "Parc National de la Vanoise" , Val-d'Isère still have more or less the same number of lifts and slopes than back in time. But fewer lifts means less investment to replace them, and Val-d'Isère and Tignes have the newest, the fastest and the best in the whole France.
And overall, these lifts give access to the skiers, to a huge, incredibly variate and extensive off-piste skiing area.
From the top of the lifts, infinite options of Freeride ski routes are offered to the skiers and to the snowboarders, coming back to the resort or at least to one lift. The options are endless.
It is also the paradise of free-touring, a mix of Freeride skiing or boarding, and of ski or snowboard touring. Hiking a little bit, between 15 minutes an 2 hours from the top of the lifts, give you the opportunity to go ski even further in the heart of the "Parc National de la Vanoise", and enjoy untouched snow, fantastic sceneries and the rich wild life of the area.
In this way and considering the wideness of its off-piste ski area, as well as its quality and its easy access, we can say that Val-d'Isère is one of the world's capital of off-piste skiing.
What about snow quality and quantity ?
As everywhere else, nobody can predict or guarantee the quality and the amount of snow incomes.
But Val d'Isère has unique advantages in terms of snow :
First of all, it is nested at the very top of the river "Isère" valley, and its high altitude (1850m - 3200m) preserves the quality of the snow for long periods.
It is also neighbor with 2 regions of Italy, Val-d'Aosta and Piemonte, and with a part of its ski area in Tarentaise, and another in Maurienne. It is therefore at the cross of at least 2 major weather stream influences.
Which influences result in a unique phenomena :
- When the snow incomes come from North-West, and give snowfalls to the whole Tarentaise, Val-d'isère is served as its neighbors.
- When the snow incomes come from the opposite South-East stream, Italy and Maurienne are served, but not Tarentaise. Except Val-d'Isère.
The consequence is that when it snows somewhere in this part of the Alps, it snows in Val-d'Isère. And that finding snow there from November till May is almost guaranteed !
What about skiing off-piste and safety in Val-d'Isère ?
The snow patrol from Val-d'Isère is highly trained, competent and responsive.
They display at the starting of the lifts a flag and and a degree of avalanche risk, out of five levels, every day.
Their contact is written on the ski passes, it is +33 4 79 06 01 69 . Contact them in case of accident. If you have no signal reception, you can either call 112 and ask to be transfered to the snow patrol of Val-d'Isère, which will be done in a few seconds time.
The mountain rescue by snow patrols in France is not free, but you can buy a specific insurance at a cheap rate when you buy your ski pass (highly recommended).
What about ski guiding there ?
Lots of structures offer off-piste ski and snowboard guiding in Val-d'Isère, but not all of them are specialized and really focusing on a high local knowledge and the highest safety rules.
What about Heliskiing ?
As a part of the "Parc National de la Vanoise", and as on the whole french territory, Heliskiing is forbidden there.
But the structures mentioned above can propose you 2 ways to practice it there :
- Practice reverse Heliskiing, which is authorized, and consists in skiing or boarding down to a dead-end, and then being picked-up by a helicopter to come back.
- Fly to the neighbor Italy, or drive to la Rosière (40 minutes), then ski to Italy, and practice there Heliskiing as much as you want to !
With all these elements put together, you can let yourself be convinced that Val-d'Isère is THE spot to go skiing off-piste.
See you there on skis soon !
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