La Vanoise National Park was formed after a disturbing fact was revealed: the gradual disappearance of the ibex in la Vanoise massif and in the Alps. The French government responded to this alarming situation by following in the footsteps of its Italian neighbours, who had created the royal reserve of the Gran Paradiso in 1856, which became a national park in 1922.
The realisation came a little later in France. A hunting reserve was created in la Vanoise between 1936 and 1943 and it wasn’t until 1943 that the natural reserve of la Vanoise was created, helped by associations like the Club Alpin Français (French Alpine Club), the Touring Club de France (Touring Club of France) and the hunting community. At that time it extended across the villages of Tignes and the Val d’Isère in Tarentaise, through Bessans and Bonneval to Arc en Maurienne, sharing a 14 km boundary with the Italian National Park of Gran Paradiso.
This project was very quickly criticised for only incorporating a very small part of la Vanoise massif, and this prompted a second phase to protect the area: the creation of the first French National Park, which then led to the national parks law in 1960. It provided a legal framework for the park concept for the Savoy region, designating two protected areas: the central zone and the peripheral zone or buffer zone. The decree to implement the national parks law appeared in 1961 and la Vanoise National Park was created by a decree dated 6th July, 1963.
In 1972 la Vanoise National Park was twinned with the Gran Paradiso National Park and together, they form the largest protected area in Western Europe, covering an area of 1,250 km2.