Area guide: Val d’Isere

At a glance, Val d’Isere’s history is much the same as any other resort. A once remote farming village surrounded by a lush snow-filled bowl, becomes a magnet for people strapping waxed wooden planks to their legs thanks to an injection of money from a wealthy european family…

Yet where Megève had the wealthy Rothschilds, Val d’Isere had a well-off Parisian called Jacques Mouflier. What Mouflier lacked in finance, her certainly made up for in spirit and enthusiasm. He found Val d’Isere whilst on holiday from Paris in 1929 and set about convincing locals of its potential.

By 1932 the Hotel de Paris had opened and 4 years later so did the resort’s first drag lift, right on the now world-famous Solaise slopes. And whilst the resort has grown exponentially since then, at its heart still lies the beautiful 17th century church.

A mecca for seasonaires and western snow enthusiasts of all types, Val d’Isere is today a vibrant place. From December to April it teems with British, northern european and a few French families who all enjoy a surprisingly strong village atmosphere considering it’s size. Celebs are often spotted here too, many British but some others as well, most notably Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was last season rumoured to be buying a chalet in the Legettaz area.

Numbers-wise, the resort stacks up against the best. Part of the Espace Killy ski domain it has 300km of piste served by 87 lifts. With the appropriate ski pass you can also ski in the neighbouring domain of Tignes.

With skiing above 2500m snow is pretty much guaranteed throughout the season and after last December’s early flurry of snow some pistes were open before Christmas, with a little help from artificial cannons.

It’s going to get better too. This summer work started on a two year multi-million euro project to redevelop the top of the Solaise slopes thus reducing the gradient of the slope from 16% to 7%. There will be a new snow-tubing course, visitors centre, high-speed gondala and free wifi.