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Val d'Isere, France

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This crème-de-la-crème French resort is considered by ski purists to be one of the finest in the world. “Val” and its linked neighbour Tignes – which together form the Espace Killy, named after Jean Claude, the celebrated triple-Olympic champion - have the mystique and pedigree of the finest thoroughbred. Unlike Tignes, its rather ugly high-rise modern neighbour, Val d’Isère was once a small hunting village owned by the Dukes of Savoy, and has a delightful old quarter, complete with ancient church dating back to 1553. Val became a hive of activity after hosting key races at the 1992 Winter Olympics. The high-speed Funival funicular transformed the lift system serving Bellevarde, the pivotal hub of the skiing, and the town centre was given a massive Savoyard “make-over” using stone, slate and wood. Although Val has some good beginner terrain, it’s the off-piste challenges – the vast array of couloirs, powderfields and ski-touring possibilities – which gives it its global cachet. A giant gondola, with 30-person cabins, from the village to the top of Bellevarde provides another speedy way of reaching most of the slopes. Val d’Isère has eight major points of mountain access. Val’s half of L’Espace Killy divides into three sectors: Col de l’Iseran/Glacier de Pissaillas, Solaise and Bellevarde. The first two sectors are linked by the Lessières Express, the six-person lift which has now replaced the ancient up-and-over link between Solaise and Vallon de L'Iseran. Solaise and Bellevarde join at valley level – across the nursery slopes in the village centre. Bellevarde links easily with Tignes via the Tovière ridge/Col de Fresse. Another important innovation in recent seasons has been the upgrade of the Tommeuse and Fresse chairs to high-speed detachables. These provide the important all-weather links with Tignes.

Written by  Arnie Wilson.

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