Stuart Forster heads to France’s Alpe d’Huez grand domaine Ski and reports on the pistes, après-ski and dining options.
(Alpine slopes rising)
(Alpe d’Huez Right Signs giving directions to winter sports lovers)
For many sports fans the magical aura of Alpe d’Huez, the French resort town, is due primarily to its long associations with cycling. The road zigzagging up to the town, 1,860 metres above sea level, featured again on the penultimate stage of the 2015 Tour de France. Come winter the town is at the heart of one of Europe’s premier ski areas.
The Alpe d’Huez grand domaine Ski (alpedhuez.com) embraces 250 kilometres of pistes across 800 skiable hectares. The resort’s 80 lifts link Huez with Auris-en-Oisans, Le Freney, La Garde Oz-en-Oisans, Vaujany and Villard Reculas. Each village has its own character, so whether you’re looking for a quiet time with family or for parties after pounding the pistes, you’ll be able to find suitable accommodation. The area has more than 32,000 beds!
Remarkably, from the highest point in the resort, Pic Blanc at 3,330 metres, you can view around a fifth of mainland France on clear days. The sun shines here on more than 300. The runs within the ski domain have a vertical drop of 2,210 metres from Pic Blanc. That height differential is utilised by the 16-kilometre Sarenne run, the world’s longest piste.
The Sarenne is one of 17 black graded pistes in a resort that has slopes to suit all ability levels. Many of the 42 green and 37 blue pistes are easily accessible, close to accommodation, and used to host lessons for beginners and intermediate skiers by qualified instructors from the Ecole du Ski Français. The majority of the more challenging red and black pistes are at higher elevations.
The area hosts two snow parks – with jumps, ridges and half-pipes – and there’s 50 kilometres of tracks for cross-country skiers. Anyone thinking of heading off-piste should employ the services of a qualified local guide with expert knowledge of the terrain. If you’d rather hike or pull on snow shoes you can trek along 35 kilometres of marked trails
(The cosy atmosphere of Au P’tit Creux restaurant)
(The Champagne Bar at La Folie Douce)
(A salad served with lardons and cheese at Villard Reculas)
(Deep fried cheese served with bacon and chickory the Fruitiere restaurant)
(A cheese burger served at the Fruitiere restaurant)
(An Alpine chalet by the nursery slopes of Alpe d’Huez)
(One of the cable cars that transport people in the ski resort)
(The exterior of the Fruitiere restaurant)
The area hosts two snow parks – with jumps, ridges and half-pipes – and there’s 50 kilometres of tracks for cross country skiers. Anyone thinking of heading off-piste should employ the services of a qualified local guide with expert knowledge of the terrain. If you’d rather hike or pull on snow shoes you can trek along 35 kilometres of marked trails.
You can get into après-ski mode at an altitude of 2,300 metres. Live music and cabaret is part of the appeal of La Folie Douce (lafoliedouce.com), where a DJ helps build the party on decking with views over the valley. The Champagne bar adds appeal to chic venue whose gourmet cuisine can be enjoyed at outdoor tables or within La Fruitière, a restaurant whose décor draws inspiration from a dairy.
Back in town Au P’tit Creux provides a cosy chalet setting to dine on regional dishes. For fondues, raclettes or grilled meats in a laid-back environment reserve a table at Lounge 21 ( lounge-21.com), which is a good spot for drinks too.
You can ski to the door of the boutique Chamois d’Or ( chamoisdor-alpedhuez.com), a 4-star hotel with warm, wooded interiors, a roomy terrace and a fine-dining restaurant. Massages are available within the spa area, whose pool and sauna help heavy legs recuperate for the following day’s skiing. On winter nights there’s no better place for a nightcap than on the leather sofas ranged by glowing, open fires.
Alpe d’Huez grand domaine Ski’s 2015-16 winter season is set to run from 5 December until 23 April.