History of Val d’Isere
Legend has it that the area between Val d’Isere and Le Fornet has been occupied since the middle ages by Sarrisins who were mineral prospectors in the surrounding mountains. However it wasn’t until the potential of the tiny alpine village of Val d’Isere was recognised by Parisian Jacques Moufflier in the early 1930s that the Isere valley became the ski hub we know and love today. Moufflier was charmed by its natural, beautiful, endless snowfall and well exposed snow fields and after persuading the locals, the Hotel Parisien was opened and in 1936 the first drag lift was built on the slopes of the Solaise mountain. However, the resort was put on the map in 1937 after it made the national news when two government ministers, Pierre Cot and Leo Legrange, were trapped in the resort by four meters of snow on an official visit.
After 37 years of construction, the Iseran road was created in the late 1930s linking Val d’Isere to the town of Bonneval in the Maurienne valley. This was then the highest paved mountain-pass in Europe at an incredible altitude of 2764m, and still holds this title today! The road, not accessible during the winter months, snakes its way up from Val d’Isere past Le Fornet and intersects the runs seen in the winter to peak in the middle of the Fornet ski section called the Vallon de l’Iseran. The Col itself is named after the river that runs through the whole of the Isere valley, the glacial source of which is just above the village of Le Fornet. The pass has been used seven times on the Tour de France since 1938.
Olympic triple gold medallist Jean-Claude Killy grew up in Val d’Isère, and the men’s Downhill, Super-G and Giant Slalom of the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympic Games were held on the Face de Bellevarde (known affectionately as ‘La Face’).
Today Val d’Isère is well known for its lively nightlife, with the most well-known night club, the iconic Dick’s Tea Bar, founded by Dick Yates-Smith in 1979. Val d’Isere is also home to the original Folie Douce, located at altitude at the top of the La Daille gondola.
1940 saw the construction of the resort’s first cable car, the Téléphérique de Solaise. Further construction work on the resort after the Second World War saw the village converting itself into a fully operational ski resort with all its original traditions and rural site intact. Farmers changed trades and became the local hotel keepers and shop owners.
Le Fornet is situated close to the Italian border, where it is possible to ski tour from the top of the lift system. What is more, it is nestled directly on the boundary of the Vanoise national park, which was created in 1963 – the first ever national park in France. On the Italian side of the border, the park is continued by the Gran Paradiso National Park. Together, these two parks cover over 1250 km making them the largest combined alpine national park in France. Historically there were plans to link the Espace Killy resorts of Val d’Isere with the Paradiski resorts of La Plagne and Les Arcs and the Three Valleys resorts of Courcheval, Meribel and Val Thorens. However the creation of the National Park made this impossible as it protected so many species of plants and animals native only to this exquisite area. The park is well known for its populations of Alpine Chamois and Ibex that spend most of the year above the tree line. They descend the snow line in early spring and late autumn to enjoy the grass uncovered by the ice and snow. There are also more than 100 bird species in the protected area. Birds of prey include the Bearded Vulture, Golden Eagle and Eurasian Eagle-Owl.
Chardons Amelie is located in the beautiful village of Le Fornet at an altitude of 1930m. Le Fornet itself is an idyllic, quiet mountain village with endless runs and gorgeous powder snow, with the world famous town of Val d’Isere just a 5 minute free shuttle ride away (or a quick ride up the lifts), with its awesome après-ski and world-class restaurants and shops to keep you entertained for hours. Unlike other more recently built villages, Le Fornet has kept its traditional Savoyade charm. Its narrow streets (cobbled when they’re not under a foot of snow!) and picturesque church means you can look out of your window onto ski runs, trees and the Isere river, rather than high rise apartment blocks. This doesn’t mean you are far away from the action – you could spend weeks alone on the runs in the valley directly above Le Fornet, with over 25 pisted slopes including skiing on the Glacier de Pissailas, which ensures great snow conditions all winter. There are also awesome off-piste possibilities in the area, with excellent tree runs and hidden valleys to explore, with the famous off-piste areas of Grand Vallon, Col Pers and the Gorges du Malpasset all easily accessible via ski lifts running directly from the village.