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Val d'Isere Village

Val d'Isere Village - Finding Modern in a Purposeful Tradition


Val d'Isere Village

Val d'Isere

Copyright Mike Doyle
The skiing area around Val d'Isere and Tignes is collectively known as l'Espace Killy, named after the great one - Jean Claude Killy, a native of Val d'Isere. To try and put the size of l'Espace Killy into perspective consider that there are over 90 lifts serving almost 200 miles of defined and marked runs.

Now consider that these 200 miles of trails that are marked are within 25,000 acres of snow covered mountains encompassing l'Espace Killy. The village sits at about 6,000' and the top of the area is at over 11,300' giving plenty of 3,000' verticals all over mountain.

The trails delineate a path down that is rated to ability - follow the round blue, numbered trail signs you will be skiing on terrain that an intermediate skier can enjoy. See a nice field of untracked powder off the side go for it.

While the name Val d'Isere has taken on mythical properties as to terrain and snow conditions, during my visit the reality was snow at night and powder mornings. Val d'Isere village, tucked in at the base of the mountains, is built in the centuries old tradition of wood and stone and is as steeped in tradition as the skiing.

Finding Val d'Isere - Putting the Signs Behind You

If you are heading to Val d'Isere by way of Geneva International Airport and you take a shuttle bus or cab relax and enjoy the scenery. If you are driving to Val d'Isere forget relaxing and follow the directions exactly. By that I mean don't expect to see a Val d'Isere sign for a long while.

You may think, as I do, that Val d'Isere is the center of the universe, but believe me there is a lot of France between Geneva and Val d'Isere. Don't rely only on a GPS - it may not know closed or new roads, but trust the French road signs, they will get you to your destination anywhere in France if you know the secret - signs lead city-to-city. Geneva to Annecy - to Albertville - to Moutiers - to Bourge St. Maurice - Voila! a sign to Val d'Isere - 30km up the mountain and you are there.

Val d'Isere Center Village - Architecturally A Plus

If you have been researching European ski resorts, you are no doubt familiar with the expression "Purpose Built." The term refers to any village where the existing buildings were purposefully erected to house skiers. These are generally tall, concrete boxlike structures of hotel rooms and small apartments whose external charm is limited to sliding glass doors and very small balconies.

In Val d'Isere village, the only purpose is to build in the tradition of the centuries, secure in knowing that wood and stone offer function and beauty. In fact, the Val d'Isere Catholic church, the time-honored center of every French village, is starkly beautiful outside and warmly magnificent inside.

The church steeple draws the eye from just about anywhere in the village as it has for centuries. In fact there is a baroque "1664" on a cornerstone about eight feet up which leads me to believe there could have been previous church structures on the site. After all the village dates itself from the 11th century!

The church and the rectory are common field stone and wood, and as the buildings spiral away from the church square the hotels, chalets and shop buildings they all capture this traditional style. The village has managed to put literally thousands of living accommodations in structures architecturally true to the traditional, yet elegant and modern inside.

It is not just the fourstar hotels that retain this outward charm, but the local architects seem to have designed whatever is new to be "purposefully" assimilating to tradition. Whether mandated or not, I don't know, but the ambiance has been carried throughout the village.

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