Until 1920, Val d’Isère was no more than a small village nestling in its own wide valley. Life followed the rhythm of the seasons, with summers spent working in the fields, producing cheeses and lace and earning the livelihood that would see the local inhabitants through the harsh mountain winters.
With the rise of winter sports as a fashionable holiday pastime, Val d’Isère blossomed, with its high altitude and authentic village charm lending it a certain sparkle that few ski resorts could match.
Val d’Isère boasts some world-famous pistes – Bellevarde, Solaise and OK, to name but a few – that have won the resort a reputation as the setting for great sporting achievements, from the Olympic Games to the Criterium de la Première Neige or World Alpine Ski Championships. From February 2nd to 15th 2009, Val d’Isère hosted the World Alpine Ski Championships – the first time the event had been held in France since 1962. A truly spectacular event, the Championships featured men’s and women’s racecourses set up ‘Face to Face’, with La Face looking across at the gentler Solaise.
With over 150km of pistes and acres of legendary off-piste terrain, Val d’Isère has a well-earned reputation as one of the greatest ski destinations in the world. The skiing and boarding in Val d’Isère are second to none. Combined with the resort’s natural charm, its restaurants, top-class shopping and buzzing après-ski scene, they make Val d’Isère a compelling choice for winter sports lovers of all ages.
Together with the neighbouring resort of Tignes, Val d’Isère is part of the Espace Killy, one of the largest and most exciting skiable areas in the world. The ski area of Val d’Isère itself is made up of three regions: le Solaise in the centre, le Fornet with its wealth of off-piste opportunities and Bellevarde, with its links across to Tignes.
Whatever your level of skiing or boarding; whatever your interests off the piste, from adrenaline sports to après antics or fine dining, relaxation and pampering, Val d’Isère’s 150km of pistes, free-ride itineraries, snowpark, high altitude and outstanding geographical situation combine to provide something for everyone.
The resort’s greatest local hero, Jean-Claude Killy, was born in Paris but raised in Val d’Isère, where his family had relocated following the war. The resort was the scene of his first international Giant Slalom victory in December 1961, at the age of just 18 – an achievement made all the more remarkable by the fact that he started 39th place, a position that should have been a severe disadvantage. He became the first World Cup Champion in 1967, winning 12 of 17 races to easily take the overall title. Killy won all five downhill races, four out of five giant slalom races, and the season titles in each of the three disciplines.
The following year, he took the Triple Crown of Alpine Skiing with a sweep of all three gold medals (downhill, giant slalom and slalom) at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France, going on to take the World Championship medal in the combined downhill and slalom event.
With the Olympic events included (for the only time) in the World Cup standings, Killy succeeded in 1968 as the overall champion, placing first in the giant slalom and second in the downhill and slalom season standings. He retired following the 1968 season and moved to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1969. The Espace Killy, linking Tignes and Val d’Isère, was named in his honour.
If you follow this link you can have a look at live Val d’Isère resort webcams…