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 .
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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.
Feel like a relaxing, sunny cruise..?
In the southern French Alps (officially les Hautes-Alpes), close to the Italian border. The obvious advantage is a greatly improved probability of good weather compared with ski areas further north — sunshine figures for the Hautes-Alpes average around 300 days per year. It is, however, a long journey for skiers driving from the UK, although airport transfers are much more rapid, particularly from budget flights into Genoble, Marseille, Turin and Cuneo. And yes, snowfalls here are often significant, despite all that fine weather...
The Dévoluy lift-pass covers the combined ski areas of La Joue du Loup and SuperDévoluy, which are linked by an efficient lift system. While not overly demanding, the skiing is varied and the style relaxed, with the emphasis on blue-graded cruising. Reds are not far behind, although there's nothing which need deter confident intermediates. Intermediates will discover a few more challenging pistes, including the steep drop from La Pierra (2510m) and the exhilarating skier-cross-style run into Surper-Dévoluy on Les Meules. The apparent high proportion of drag-lifts is deceptive, as these mostly serve novice and advanced terrain, while the majority of skiers will take the 4- and 6-seater high-speed chairlifts. Finally, the beauty of the surroundings will surprise those more accustomed to narrower, more confined valleys.
It would be hard to imagine two more contrasting architectural styles than those of village-like La Joue du Loup(whose predominent chalet style blends successfully into the landscape) and purpose-built SuperDévoluy (whose high-rise impact is nevertheless upstaged by the majesty of the surroundings). Each side of the mountain thus has its devotees, and there’s a high proportion of private ownership, as the area has long been a favourite of skiers from Marseille, Provence and the Mediterranean Coast. The relaxed style is unmistakably that of the sunny South.
So it's very French and moving steadily upmarket (with self-imposed limits on further development in La Joue du Loup).
We based ourselves in La Joue du Loup, whose shops and services are mainly clustered around a circular pedestrian area in the centre of the village, with a choice of restaurants, bars and ski shops just a few steps away at the foot of the pistes. We found a good range of shops including a very nice interiors shop, a 'quincaillerie' (hardware store) plus ski clothing shops and equipment hire outlets. For food shopping, there are two delicatessens selling a large range of regional products and ready prepared meals. There is also a mini-market for groceries, and a boulangerie.
A new Tourism Office situated at the entrance to the village offers a welcome service to guests on their arrival.
Families will love this place, as will early intermediates and those who prefer to enjoy their skiing in a safe, relaxing environment with great scenery and no nasty surprises. Not that it lacks the occasional challenge, once you know where to look. So mixed-ability groups should be happy.
While coming here rather than to the more familiar areas further north requires something of a leap of faith, those looking for an affordable, quality, no-nonsense ski experience combined with a surprisingly good snow record (particularly in recent seasons) will find the Hautes-Alpes a revelation.
The drive up from nearby Gap is a breeze, but our own arrival, via Grenoble and the Route Napoléon, is a more time consuming approach, offset by an unforgettable introduction to the captivating scenery of the Southern French Alps, much of it still slumbering beneath a thick blanket of snow. La Joue du Loup, our chosen base, looks and feels welcoming, and on a refreshingly human scale. So far, so good.
The following morning we board the Fontenettes télémix lift to discover the ski area. Getting our bearings which proves interesting at first, since our piste-map, a model of clarity when it comes to illustrating the lifts, fails to name the pistes. Fortunately the pistes turn out to be well-signed, and we have a great time dropping down the Blue- and Red- graded runs towards the forest above La Joue du Loup.
Heading over to the SuperDévoluy sector couldn’t be simpler, with a choice of routes for the liaison, the simplest being a long Blue cruise from the top of Fontenettes. We have every intention of doing so, but along the way pause for a welcome lunch-break at L’Op Traken (see panel details) before succumbing to the temptation to head back up to 2200m on the Festoure high-speed six-seater chairlift. From the top the views are extraordinary, and revealing the full effects of the season’s mammoth snowfalls. Not bad for late March.
This image provides a vast backdrop to our the exhilarating, more direct onward run all the way down into SuperDévoluy. A choice of variations en-route takes in Red- Blue- and even Green-graded terrain, guaranteeing its popularity with aspiring early intermediate skiers and yet being thoroughly enjoyable for those with more mileage under their skis.
SuperDévoluy’s architecture isn’t to everyone’s taste, but looks a lot better when you’re skiing down towards it than it does on the printed page. It also offered countless ordinary families in the region an unexpected opportunity to secure their very own ski apartment along with the prospect of limitless visits to the mountains. They still come, of course, and bring with them a refreshingly down-to-earth sense of fun which you can sense as soon as you arrive.
Not that everything is obvious. Experience has taught us that the outer reaches of any ski area often produces some of the most memorable and least-trafficked skiing. Sure enough, above SuperDévoluy our instincts are rewarded on Les Meules, a real roller-coaster run which snakes its way in skier-cross style through what feels at one point like the ultimate half-pipe, before firing us back out neatly beside the village with broad smiles on our faces. You could have even more fun with more practice, which is something we look forward to doing as soon as possible.
© Roger Moss