Coming to a ski resort for the first time as a beginner skier or snowboarder can be a bit daunting. With a little locals know-how, our tips and tricks will help you make the most of your time here and hopefully leave you desperate for more.
Val d’Isère is already well known for it’s exceptional skiing. With so much accessible off-piste and a reputation for being one of the more challenging ski areas in the French Alps, one thing that people may not realise is that there is a wonderful world of beginner areas to explore in and around the resort, and across the whole of the Espace Killy ski area.
Here are our top tips:
- You may not need a full lift pass - beginner slopes are usually low down, easily accessed and some don't require a lift pass at all
- Book into ski school, don't let your mates / partner teach you, trust us and hire a professional
- Consider your choice of equipment hire shop
- Plan your outfit before you arrive
- Utilise free public transport
- Enjoy the fun zones, they usually have a beginner area
- Explore the whole resort, seek out the blue and green slopes away from the beginner zones
- Explore the blues and greens of the other resorts included in your pass
- Enjoy après-ski - after all you'll have earned your stripes
Whilst it is possible to arrange these things once you're in resort, we wouldn't recommend it - especially lessons. Plan ahead, book what you can, and take the pressure off that first morning.
If you're a complete beginner and booking into ski school you might not need a full Val d’Isère-Tignes six-day pass. If you're not wanting to shoot up the mountain straight away, you can always take advantage of the nursery slope with the free “village” chair lift and the “savonnette” drag lift. It's also worth checking with your ski school before you buy, some schools offer packages that include a lift pass. Buying online couldn't be easier and the pass itself can be recharged / reloaded next time you visit. And rather than opt for them to be mailed to your home address, simply pick them up in resort. It's one less thing to remember to pack.
Don't let your friends or partner attempt to teach you to ski or snowboard. Trust us, for the sake of your relationships, put yourself in the hands of the professionals. Luckily there are many ski schools in Val d’Isère offering group and private lessons with friendly and knowledgeable English speaking instructors. If you're the only beginner in your group it's definitely worth joining group lessons. You'll learn in a safe and fun environment, and make new friends with rest of your crew over your shared experiences. Lessons are definitely something you should book well in advance to ensure you get your slot - especially if your ski trip is during the school holidays.
Renting your gear online is often cheaper than in resort, and most shops have beginner ski / snowboard packages on their websites. Also it's worth making sure your pick up point is close to your accommodation, so it's not too far to carry your gear. Some shops offer free locker use near the slopes for customers, delivery services, and may even come to you for fittings on arrival if pre-arranged, especially if there's a group of you. It's worth checking this with the shop before you book.
Make the most of your time
All the gear, no idea
For the beginner skier or snowboarder it might seem expensive to lay out for the right apparel before you arrive, and there aren't many places that rent clothing in resort, so borrow what you can, check out the sales and online discounts. At the bare minimum make sure in addition to your trousers and jacket, that you've got a helmet, some goggles, gloves, and technical ski socks. Plus a lightweight back pack is always handy for carrying water, sunscreen and an extra layer.
Get on the bus
Plan your route from your accommodation to the beginner slopes, and use the resort's excellent public transport system to get around until you get the knack of carrying skis and poles like the pros.
The beginner slopes
There are two nursery areas in Val d’Isère, one in the centre and one in La Daille at the bottom of the pistes. And once you're done with the free lifts on the nursery slopes, the 10 person gondola is able to fast track up to 3,600 people an hour to the top where beginners can feel at ease in the heart of mountain. The magic carpets “pimpam” and “poum” make the Solaise area a perfect setting for both adult and children beginners. And then you can always shoot up the other side on the Olympic cable car to have a cruise around the ski tranquil area. Here, you can ride round the Mont Blanc, Borsat and Grand Prie chairlifts safe in the knowledge you're always going to be on a nice, easy green run.
The fun zones
The Val Park is serviced by a drag tow that runs up the side of the slalom course, and is laid out in different sections so that the jumps are grouped together according to their difficulty. Like the pistes they are graded green, blue, red and black, so start on the greens like on the slopes.
It’s easy to stick with the tried and tested slopes you're learning your turns on in the nursery ski areas, but there are more green pistes further up the mountain tops and many blue pistes for those of you ready to progress. Explore the Solaise and Bellevarde, both offering wide and easy green pistes. Alternatively get out of the resort and take the free shuttle bus to Le Fornet and then the cable car followed by the Vallon de l'Iseran bubble to the base of the glacier. Here you have a selection of long, rolling blue runs, the pistes tend to be quieter here as they are less popular than the Solaise and Bellevarde area but are just as good. There are long, gentle descents down blue pistes back to the village, but if you have tired legs you can always take the bubble and cable car down.
After all you have earned your stripes (and probably some bruises), now it's time to share your stories from the day with your family and friends, new and old.
Val d’Isère is a great place to let off some steam after a day's exertions on the slopes. Whether that's in the local après-ski scene over a beer or two, in a local restaurant, or with a swim and sauna to relax those aching limbs. If you hold a 2-15 day Tignes-Val d'Isere lift pass you can enjoy free entry to the Lagon swimming pool and sports centre in Val d’Isère centre. This is a great place to head to for a relaxing swim to gently stretch those sore legs or for some more exercise you'll find climbing, a gym and weights room, squash courts and more. There's also a sauna, steam room and spa for total après-relaxation. Or go for an ice skate at the outdoor rink, if your legs can stand it.
These are great options for a day off the skiing, in the event of poor weather or a great way to spend a few hours after the slopes close.
Families, at the very least, may finally have a shot at exhausting the kids with this option!
So what are you waiting for? Get yourself out here and have some fun in the snow!