View of skier on wide piste above the clouds at Orcierès 1850.

Orcières Merlette 1850

Hautes-Alpes, French Alps

In the Southern French Alps, within the Ecrins National Park and readily accessible from the town of Gap, this is a purpose-built ski resort above the old village of Orcières 1450.

There’s lots of sun but the altitude, plus very significant snowfalls, generally ensures a long season.

It’s a long journey for skiers driving from the UK, but transfers are surprisingly realistic from flights into Grenoble Isère or Marseille Provence.

High view of ski terrain, showing mountain scenery

The Ski Area

  • Plenty of intermediate terrain with off-piste potential.
  • Great for young families, secure children's area.

The terrain is predominantly graded intermediate level with mostly Red and Blue runs and a handful of Greens, making things look potentially demanding. In practice, though, it’s mostly far less daunting than the piste map might suggest. There’s lots of cruising potential, on pistes which are generally wide enough to provide everyone with plenty of room to go at their own pace, rather than feeling pressured to leave their comfort zone. The occasional long, smooth undulations, though, are best tackled with a bit of speed to keep up the momentum. The altitude currently tops off at a healthy 2725m at the Col des Freissinières, where snow quality can be exceptional and which has a real sense of above-it-all remoteness.

Resort Information

Altitude : 1850m - 2725m
Orcières Merlette 1850
Pistes Total:
100 km
9 Green
17 Blue
18 Red
7 Black
Ski Resort Lifts : 30
7 Chairlifts
3 Télémix Gondola/Chairlift

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Side view of ski village with snow-covered trees and mountains

The Ski Village

  • Purpose-built, compact ski village with friendly welcome.
  • Recent expansion has brought greater choice of accommodation.

The purpose-built ski village of Orcières Merlette 1850 originally consisted of blocks of privately owned apartments. Many owners are now working in partnership with the resort to completely relook their interiors to provide contemporary style and standards expected today. Orcières has also expanded beyond the original centre established in the late 1960's. You'll now discover a choice of recently constructed apartments, ideal for self-catering family holidays plus a choice of hotels, chambre d'hôtes and the private lets, all managed under a central booking system (English spoken).

All amenities, including a large leisure complex, are easily accessible on foot except perhaps for the children's ESF ski school (Le Jardin des Piou Piou) which is set slightly away from the main ski area and which offers secure learning for toddlers.

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

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Wide view of children's ski school area, with apartments and mountains

Why go skiing in Orcières Merlette 1850 ?

On reflection, we’d have to say that Orcières' strongest appeal is undoubtedly to young families – particularly where both parents are committed skiers, who want their children to learn quickly in a safe environment and to acquire the confidence and skills to share their own passion. To this end, it would be hard to find a more reassuring start than the Piou-Piou dedicated ski-school area for small children. This covers an impressive 2Ha, well removed from all distractions (apart from proud parents peering at their offspring from beyond the perimeter fencing).

Meanwhile, the parents will enjoy the entertaining groomed terrain, much of which will encourage those who are less skilled to go for it and raise their game. Best of all, it's a solid value option for everyone.

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Alpinresorts.com Ski rental

Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery

Snowboarding

Snowpark at 2300m with fun for learners and some challenges for more experienced surfers. Big air bag.
1 Snowparks
1 Snowboarder Cross


Cross-Country Skiing

Trails link several villages following riverside and forest. All levels.
43km Cross-Country and Nordic Ski Trails

Handiski...

  • ESF Orcieres has equipment for skiers with reduced mobility and can offer lessons.

icon-smileyYes please...

  • High-mountain skiing above some pretty stunning scenery.
  • Terrain for most levels, including long blue cruises and an entertaining snowpark at altitude.
  • Convenient accommodation for most budgets.
  • Dependable snow record.
  • Capable lift system.
  • Large, dedicated children’s Ski-School area.
  • Range of adventure and non-ski activities.
  • Free first-timer lesson for adult beginners.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • Some of the best terrain looks tougher than it is, which can deter less confident skiers.
  • Lower South-facing slopes get soft and heavy on sunny afternoons.
  • Long journeys for skiers driving from the UK.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • Get your bearings and find your ideal terrain by skiing early on with a guide – and start your skiing early in the day.
  • Use the central reservation system to book accommodation.

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Practical Information

Orcières has an English-speaking central reservation system so you can find the best accommodation option for you.

Tried and testedClub de Vacances Le Roc Blanc

05170 Orcières-Merlette

Residence Le Roc Blanc, Orcieres 1850

Belambra Clubs offer a choice of formulas including meals, lift-passes, pool access etc. at preferential rates or you can simply opt for accommodation only. Well appointed apartments whose balconies – if you have a head for heights – offer stunning views. Although compact, the apartments are comfortable, have adequate storage and everything you need in well equipped kitchens. We did, however, find things a little overheated. On the lower and ground floors you’ll find a bar/café and restaurant. The ski lockers (request a padlock) have direct access onto an easy piste just metres from a télémix lift and the lift-pass office. You can also ski back, thanks to a small drag-lift on the Front de Neige.
Parking outside the residence is limited (payable) but the village provides plenty of free, undercover parking not far away. There is a supermarket, baker and delicatessen nearby, but all the shops and facilities are within walking distance. The ESF ski school provides transport to the Jardin de Neige for small children and will pick up from outside the residence.


Tried and testedComplexe de loisirs et de détente

Tel: +33 (0)4 92 55 89 96
Open: December - April

Centrally located in Orcières 1850, this leisure complex is great for all weather activities and entertainment. The swimming pool has impressive views to the snowy peaks, plus loungers, water cascades and a water slide. There is also a spa, ice rink, cinema, multimedia room, bowling alley and a bar.


Tyrolienne

Tyrolienne, Orcieres 1850

At the summit of the Drouvet lift (2650m) is the Tyrolienne. What’s that? A zip-wire cable suspended more than 100 metres high and nearly 2kms long beneath which passengers are strapped into a harness before descending at about 100km/hour. If you fancy having a go, it’s 40€ per descent. See the team on site for details.


Tried and testedMamie Nise

05170 Orcières
Tel: +33 (0)4 92 44 10 01

Pleasant Savoyard-style interior and a large terrace situated near the main lifts and opposite the La Grande Ourse sports centre. The restaurant offers a good range of regional specialities and the most enormous pizzas.


Tried and testedChalet de Rocherousse

Orcières, at the top of the Rocherousse télémix (accessible by pedestrians).
Tel: +33 (0)4 9255 89 63

Cafeteria-style mountain restaurant with large sunny terrace in a very popular area of the mountain, with pedestrian routes, dog-sledding and beginner area nearby.
The food is typical mountain fare in generous portions and with plenty of choice for around 9€ for a main dish. Vegetarians will have to be creative, mixing pasta/chips with side dishes and salads. Be prepared to queue at busy times.


Advanced Booking Savings


Alpinresorts.com Ski rental

Save precious skiing time when you book your ski equipment online with Alpinresorts.com

After a quick and easy reservation everything will be waiting for you when you get to your destination.

You get to choose the shop and there’s a BEST-PRICE GUARANTEE.

Make BIG savings by booking online today!

Getting there

By Car
For Dover-Calais ferry travel, other cross-channel routes, offers and bookings visit P&O Ferries

From Grenoble follow the RN85 (Route Napoléon) direction Gap. Take the D944 to Orcières.
From the south take the A51 to Gap Sud then the RN85 direction Grenoble and D944 to Orcières.

By air
You can fly to Grenoble Isère from a number of UK airports then transfer by bus to Orcières. Alternatively, fly to Marseille Provence, from which you can transfer by the Navette Blanche (about 2½ hours). This winter service operates from the airport and from the TGV station at Aix. See the Navettes Blanches website for details.

By train
There is an overnight train from Paris Austerlitz to Gap where you can hire a car for the short journey to Orcières or catch one of the regular buses which leave from the train station. These are operated by Cars Giraud and it’s necessary to book your place 48 hrs in advance. Travel by TGV to Aix-en-Provence then hire a car at the train station or catch the Navette Blanche from Aix. Alternatively, there is a daily bus service also by Cars-Giraud direct to Orcières from the Gare TGV at Grenoble.

Book your TGV fast train from Paris or Eurostar’s ski train direct to the French Alps with OUI.sncf

Transfers
Visit Ski-Lifts for the best range of ski transfer destinations from airports and main rail stations.

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Insight: Orcières Merlette 1850

Wide view past piste signage to start of ski run, with snowboarder at Orcieres 1850

Insight: Orcières Merlette 1850

The drive from Gap to Orcières Merlette 1850 is not one we’ll forget. At the gateway to Provence, the landscapes of the Southern French Alps can be unnerving for a travelling skier, convincing you until you begin to climb that surely there’s no snow to be had nearby. Fortunately, this time we’re driving through the snow-line long before the final ascent to the village, where the scene is just pure picture-postcard. As we climb, though, we’re actually seeing less and less, and we enter the village in thick mist, peering at every sign for the name of our hotel. It appears to us just in time, at the very top of the resort.

We peel off the ridge onto a Red-graded blast which we have all to ourselves back to the base of the Drouvet 2 lift. This time we spend a few minutes taking in the scenery, which is fast acquiring a surreal quality as a white carpet of mist thickens in the valley far below.

Alighting from the high-speed Drouvet 2, one of two télémix lifts, Orcieres 1850

Alighting from the high-speed Drouvet 2, one of two télémix lifts.


Orcieres, skiers on piste above clouds.

Skiers pause to look at the extraordinary mer de nuage (sea of cloud).

Ready for anything

The next morning we awake and gaze from the balcony at the fresh accumulations of snow on the mountains which enfold Orcières. We never tire of moments like this. Better still, the exit door of the hotel ski-locker room feeds directly onto the piste for a 30-second drop down to the Drouvet 1 ‘télémix’ lift carrying both chairs and gondola-style cabins. We grab a cabin, and after transferring to the lift’s successor (Drouvet 2) we arrive at the summit of Le Drouvet (2655m) feeling in every sense uplifted and ready to explore.

We launch off along a nearby ridge on Les Bouquetins, a long Blue-graded cruise which connects to another (Les Vallons) for a steeper Red-and-Blue drop which eventually takes us all the way back to where we began. After taking the same lifts back up, we peel off the ridge onto Les Clots, a Red-graded blast which we have all to ourselves on the run back to the base of the Drouvet 2 lift. This time we spend a few minutes taking in the scenery, which is fast acquiring a surreal quality as a white carpet of mist thickens in the valley floor far below.


Col de Freissinières chairlift, Orcieres

The remote-feeling Col de Freissinières chairlift.


Diners enjoy the sun terrace of the Chalet de Rocherousse, Orcieres.

Diners enjoy the sun terrace of the Chalet de Rocherousse

Above the clouds

Up here, though, its feels like we’re in Ski Heaven as we take the Blue-graded Les Pépés and savour the above-the-clouds experience. The sense of space up here is a real revelation, with wide pistes and as yet very few tracks to disturb the previous night’s efforts by the grooming crews. A couple of gentle hauls up to Le Drouvet on the La Croze des Hommes chair is followed by a couple of Red descents on Les Crêtes and Bartavelle, before we go for a change of scenery.

Orcière 1850’s pristine snow

The Les Lacs chair takes us some way towards the Col de Freissinières (and also accesses Le Gourou, a pleasingly long and winding Red), but for now getting there means dropping down to pick up the Le Gourou chair for the final haul up to 2727m. Eventually there will be a cable-car even higher to the 2956m Roche Brune, along with new Red-graded terrain, but for now we’re not complaining; the ride is magical, as we glide in near-silence past towering walls of pristine snow. At the top La Jalabres spears off into a steep Red descent which brings us to the base of the lift for another haul, by which time we’re feeling the call of the nearest mountain restaurant.

We glide off on a succession of Blue cruisers – Freissiniêres and Sirènes – which take us down to the Roche Rousse, and the promise of a hot meal on a spectacularly-sited sun terrace. As for the afternoon, well, we take it easy – particularly on the final leg, as we encounter soft conditions and encounter the still-rising mists. But we’ve had a wonderful day’s skiing in truly epic scenery at Orcières, and the following day we return to do it all again.MountainPassions heart icon