Another resort app from the popular and dependable Lumiplan stable, available in English and with many interactive features. In the latest version you can keep up with the ski station events on Facebook and find where your Facebook friends are on the piste map. Using GPS you can pinpoint where you are and find all the services and piste information you might require. In practice we found the app was difficult to use without enabling GPS but is fun to use for a while.
Arrive in style on the ski train...
Enjoy extra days on the slopes and no surcharge for skis or boards with Eurostar Direct Ski Trains.
Self-drive ski holidays in France
Travel to France by ferry and some of the best self drive skiing in the world. Enjoy the freedom of taking unlimited baggage and up to 9 people per car via .
Book your journey with P&O Ferries
Find a hotel
Booking a hotel has never been easier with accorhotels.com, Europe's largest hotel group.
Why pay for your skis?
Book tickets to Grenoble and take Monarch Flights to this undiscovered destination from Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Birmingham and London Gatwick. There are plenty of cheap flights available to help you get the most out of any holiday to Grenoble, whatever season you travel in.
Experience complete comfort on SWISS flights to Geneva and enjoy the added bonus of taking your skis at no extra cost.
Pick up and ski this winter
Forget about queuing for a bus at the airport, low cost car hire - with a ski rack if necessary, will get you to where you want to go with a minimum of fuss. Click below to take advantage of special offers.
When it's time to ski some serious vertical (and cover some real distance)...
In the Massif des Grandes Rousses, south-east of Grenoble and accessible via flights into Lyon, Grenoble, Marseille and Nice (plus Cuneo and Turin). South-facing Alpe d'Huez looks across the valley towards Les Deux-Alpes, and is linked into neighboring Vaujany, Oz-en-Oisans, Villard Reculas and Auris-en-Oisans.
The Alpe d'Huez Grand Domaine boasts the world's highest vertical-drop figures - in excess of 8000m, in fact. Impressive though this is, much of it is less demanding than it sounds, although all the long steeps include at least one Black-graded section. Another attraction is the now-legendary Sarenne, at 16km the world's longest pisted ski-run. Its Black grading is, however, more a reflection of the distance involved than of any particularly technical demands.
Less ambitious skiers have a good selection of terrain to discover, including some fine Blue- and Red-graded cruises, while just above the village is enough gentle terrain to allow beginners to find their ski-legs with confidence.
The village comprises two main centres, sited at Huez 1500 and the much larger Alpe d'Huez 1860. Established in 1935, the ski village has since developed into a major tourism destination (and a classic stage-closer in the Tour de France), with a wealth of accommodation now on offer for most budgets. The emphasis, though, is on family skiers, and there are signs (not least the recent arrival of prestige developer MGM Constructeur) that Alpe d'Huez is becoming an ever-more desirable ski destination. The commune also has a dynamic, environmentally-aware vision for its future development. Not surprisingly, there's a good range of boutiques and services, with year-round activities for non-skiers, including snow-shoeing, ice-skating, mountain-biking, etc.
Intermediate skiers or snowboarders looking for some high-altitude cruising, with a few challenges along the way for those with a taste for adventure. At peak times, around the principal departure-points it's not exactly unpressured, but once you head up the mountain (or across the valley to Auris-en-Oisans) you can find your own space. Beginners have easily-accessible areas, and their progression can be gentle, if necessary. Snowboarders won't be overjoyed at the number of drag-lifts, but the main hauls employ gondolas or cable-cars, which is good news if visibility should clamp down. Being this far south, though, it tends not to, apart from times of heavy snowfalls.
W hen the TV coverage of the 2011 Tour de France included the gruelling climb to Alpe d'Huez, it wasn't only the epic battle to win the stage which fired our imagination. The location looked simply amazing, so when the winter snowfalls came we wasted no time in heading over to discover whether the skiing lived up to its sizeable reputation. We weren't disappointed, although our first tracks were actually laid here during our hugely-rewarding stays in neighboring Vaujany and Oz-en-Oisans - see our respective Resort Reviews.
Seeing it from the inside, of course, turns out to be a much more hands-on experience.
When we finally arrive by car Alpe d'Huez actually feels a lot bigger on the ground than it had looked when we skied down into it from the mountain, a result of the purpose-built village – today 'town' certainly feels a lot more appropriate – having gradually evolved and expanded over a period of more than seventy years.
Architecturally, things have changed a lot, particularly around the Jeux area, where the latest developments (and redevelopments) are really lifting things to what today's ever more-discerning visitors are looking for.
Installed, up and away
After making ourselves at home in our apartment in CGH's brand-new Résidence le Cristal de l'Alpe, we resist the temptation to relax and instead make our way over to join the nearby Télécentre cabriolet-style lift. This endearingly-quirky device from the early-80s offers step-on/step-off convenience and transports skiers to and from the ski-school meeting points. It's not the speediest of lifts, but at least allows skiers plenty of time to enjoy bird's-eye views of the eastern side of the village, plus events on assorted pistes and drag-lifts.
When we step off it's to join the DMC (Double Mono-Cable) gondola lift and join the other skiers and snowboarders heading smoothly up to 2100m. From this point it's possible to ski over into Oz-en-Oisans without taking another lift, but we transfer instead to the gondola's second stage (or Tronçon), this time up to around 2700m. At the top, in addition to longer descents into Oz, you can continue all the way over to the Vaujany-Villette gondola – in fact, competent Black-run skiers can even descend to below the village itself without taking a single lift. As we've discovered, the lift system has been well-planned.
Our target today is the 3330m Pic Blanc, which is accessible from the village either via the three-stage Marmottes gondola/funitel lifts, or by our route today, the final stage of which uses the Pic Blanc cable-car.
As expected, the ride is sensational, as the scenery slowly falls away all around us. At the top we surge out wobbly-legged to find the purpose-built orientation platform, from which it is said that in clear conditions around one-fifth of France is visible. Either way, there's no doubting that it's one of the classic panoramas of the French Alps.
Sarenne: the Big One
But it's not merely the views, however arresting, which have brought us here. Right now both visibility and snow conditions are excellent, but not destined to remain that way for long, since an approaching depression looks set to bring with it 'substantial and potentially prolonged' snowfalls. Since our time in Alpe d'Huez is limited to just a couple of days, if we're finally going to ski the legendary Sarenne (at 16km, the world's longest pisted run), it's clearly a case of now or who-knows-when.
The run is classified Black, mainly on account of the distance involved, but apart from two or three steep sections, it's not overly demanding technically. Once a steep and narrower-than-we'd-wish launch-point is out of the way, the piste turns and then widens at the head of a steep but not-too-deep section, after which things ease to something more akin to a Blue cruise. Somewhere beneath the snow is the Glacier de Sarenne.
On our right we soon pass the turn-off which feeds onto the famous Tunnel piste, said to be the toughest on the mountain. A few minutes later we've passed the base of the Cristallière chairlift, and all is peaceful, apart from the occasional passage of a skier or snowboarder. From now on the mood is one of away-from-it-all ski-touring, our progress being marked by a succession of steep walls followed by long, relatively gentle cruises. We can imagine that it must all feel very different in less perfect visibility, particularly after fresh powder lies deep, but even on a fine day like today it's a great place to be.
The perfect picnic spot (in fine weather)
We're not the only ones who feel that way; around the half-way point we pass a relaxed group of skiers and 'boarders seated around a perfectly-sited picnic table. Visible in the far distance beyond is what must be Les Deux-Alpes. Like everything else, right now it seems a very long way away.
Further down things begin to narrow as we drop into the Gorges de la Sarenne, through which we snake our way serenely, enjoying the unspoilt landscape of dormant larch trees and the snow-covered stream after which the piste is named.
As we drop ever-deeper the shadows close in around us and temperatures drop correspondingly. We're therefore grateful to see ahead of us the first signs of life for a very long time, in the shape of a cosy chalet-style mountain restaurant, and beside it a welcoming snack-bar, complete with a partly-sunlit area of tables for hungry and by now mile-weary skiers like us. We therefore grab a table, place our order and recharge our batteries, while reflecting on what we've just managed to cram into the morning.
Job done - and yet...
Normally we'd settle for that and work our way back up to the main village for a shower, a change of clothing and a look around. But having come this far (and aware that the fast-approaching bad weather must soon be upon us) we climb aboard the nearby Alpauris chairlift at its mid-station and ride up to the opposite side of the valley. At the top we transfer to the Louvets high-speed chairlift and ski off onto Col, a Blue-graded scenic run around the side of the mountain which then serves up an overview of the compact ski village of Auris-en-Oisans. The scenery is very different over here, and the pistes mostly north-facing, which helps maintain snow quality.
In its own way (it's not the most attractive or traditional-looking development) Auris is a charmer, and packs a surprising variety of terrain into its relatively modest area. It's also quick and easy to cross the Gorges de Sarenne to reach Alpe d'Huez, as we discover when we take the Auris Express chairlift and ski back down to rejoin the bi-directional Alpauris chairlift (in either direction, the spectacular ride is almost worthy of a theme-park).
Did someone say ‘snow’..?
It's just as well that we've packed such a lot of skiing into our first day, for no sooner have we returned to our apartment than the anticipated depression sweeps in with a vengeance, producing some of the heaviest snowfalls of the season. When we awake the following morning the village is subsumed in great billows of drifted snow, allowing the clearance crews to demonstrate their impressive skills in keeping things moving for visitors. Alpe d'Huez really is quite a place.
© Roger Moss 2012