• Val d'Isere off-piste
3 December 2023
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3 May 2024

Snow in Val d’Isère

Snow is probably the most important ingredient of your ski holiday, and is what Val d’Isère is most famous for.

Last season, when resorts all over the Alps were closing, some of them for ever, for lack of snow, Val d’Isère accumulated 6.50m in the village and nearly twice that up high. There was not a single day when snow was lacking, from 2 December 2023 to 5 May 2024.

On average it snows 5m50 in the village every winter, which is a lot, even for a ski resort which starts at 6,000ft. This is partly because of the famous retours d’est, the heavy snowfalls along the Italian border, which frequently dump a metre or so of powder on our Pisaillas Glacier, 30cm in Val d’Isère village, and nothing at all anywhere else except the handful of other resorts along the border.

But the exceptional snowfall is just half the story. How well it lasts is even more important. A ring of high ridges and glaciers protects Val d’Isère from warm southerly winds, while the steep climb from Bourg St Maurice and narrow gorges just outside the village keep out the warm air of spring. Most of the slopes are tilted north, which preserves their snow. You only have to look at the south-facing side of the valley – where there are no ski slopes – to see how clever Val d’Isère has been with its geography.

Added to these natural advantages is one of the world’s biggest snow-making systems, guaranteeing snow on 47 of Val d’Isère’s 150km of marked runs. Val d’Isère alone now boasts 557 snow cannons, and it has several healthy streams to supply them. Ski resorts are not allowed to empty their streams, and there are strict quotas, so Val d’Isère is fortunate that it has plentiful running water. Indeed, one of France’s biggest rivers, the Isère, rises on its slopes. In a typical winter the resort produces about 1.8 million cubic metres of artificial snow – enough to cover the M4 from London to Bristol a foot deep! This might not sound very important, compared with the 500 million cubic metres that fall naturally, but the artificial snow forms a hard base on the lowest and busiest runs early in the season which the natural snow will lie on. It is a major reason why even at the very end of the season nearly all of Val d’Isère’s runs are fully skiable right to the bottom.

Finally, Val d’Isère has an impressive fleet of ratraks grooming the snow overnight. Some have winches enabling them to push snow back up even the steepest slopes. Obviously, every ski resort works hard to keep its pistes in the best possible condition. Val d’Isère, realising that its snow is a God-given advantage, just seems to work particularly hard and well.

Val d’Isère snow report

To read an up-to-date weather report direct from Val d’Isère, see our Today’s Photo, updated every weekday during the winter. For a day-to-day view of the past 12 seasons, visit our Flickr photo albums.

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