Val d’Isère has the cachet of being the serious skier’s resort. With its ski area named until recently Espace Killy after the 1968 triple Olympic gold-medallist who grew up here, it’s France's answer to Verbier, St Anton and Jackson Hole.
"Val" has more in common with traditional Austrian resorts rather than many purpose-built French ski stations. Combined with neighbouring Tignes, the 300 km of challenging and famously well-groomed pistes are naturally linked rather than connected by long trails or lifts.
Val d’Isère’s reputation rests on its snow: excellent runs and reliable snow cover.
The long ski season has made it particularly popular with British skiers and investors. Few other Alpine resorts can guarantee sufficient snow for both the Christmas- and Easter-holiday periods, from the end of November to the first week in May. In 2018 the resort introduced "summer skiing" – opening some of its winter pistes in June.
Location is the key: Val d’Isère gets its snow not only from the north-west but from the east and south-east as well. Sixty percent of the resort’s pistes are above 2,500m, and on the shady north-facing slopes of the valley.
Natural climate is supported by investment: the resort guarantees snow cover with 650 snow machines, and the largest snow-making factory in Europe.
The geography of the Tarentaise valley which makes the skiing so appealing also determines land availability and property pricing.
The “village” stretches for three miles along a narrow plateau flanked by steep mountains on both sides, from La Daille at the entrance to the resort, through Le Crêt and Val d’Isère to the hamlets of Le Laisinant and Le Fornet at the foot of the Col de l’Iseran.
The hamlets of Le Joseray, Le Chatelard and La Leggattaz offer locations for more chalet and hotel accommodation in a branching valley accessed via the tunnel from the centre of Val d’Isère village.
Free land is so rare in the valleys that the few new-build properties completed each year are always in extremely high demand. Older chalets and apartments are widely available, but renovation costs are high.
As a result, property prices for prime apartments and chalets in the area are second only to Saint Moritz, but the length of the season puts Val d’Isere at the top of the yield rankings: second in Savills’ alpine property returns for 2016, and in Knight Frank’s top five.
Aesthetic and infrastructure improvements to the resort began with preparations for the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics, when Val d'Isère hosted the Men's Downhill, Super G and Giant Slalom. Mature trees now line the main street, with cars relocated to underground car parks.
In autumn 2017, the town embarked on an ambitious five-year €200m building project to redevelop the main entrance and heart of the resort.
The 25,000sq m scheme Le Coin de Val is described as the largest investment in French ski tourism since Les Arcs, and includes a relocated bus station, welcome facilities, nursery, apartments, two new hotels, a new piste with an underground moving walkway, a pedestrianised shopping street, and a medieval-style seven-storey tower with restaurant, café and shops.
Chalets in Val d'Isère can reach prices upwards of €17 million, but limited supply is encouraging investors to look further down the valley: past Tignes, to Tignes Les Brévières.
The village has a historic Savoyard appeal that’s more attractive than purpose-built Tignes, and from 2017 has been connected to the ski areas by the new 10-person Solaise gondola ski lift – with heated seats and wi-fi.
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