Les 7 Laux
Massif de Belledonne, Isère, French Alps
In the French Alps roughly midway between Chambéry and Grenoble, the A41 autoroute providing quick transfers from budget flights into both airports.
The Ski Area
For such an accessible ski area the first big surprise is that Les 7 Laux’s piste network is both extensive and varied, plus you get to ski on either side of the mountain – the second being: “why on Earth did it take us this long to discover it?”.
Along the way there’s something for all tastes and skiing abilities. As expected, that includes a snowpark – an impressive complex designed by Oakley and covering 8 hectares.
Young families can enjoy skiing themed fun trails together, leaving advanced skiers to head for Les Vallons du Pra, an ungroomed freeride sector which, unusually, is patrolled just like the pistes. Vertical drop: almost 1000m.
For off-piste skiers, a Freerando pass brings rapid access to a wealth of ski touring terrain, via three high-speed chair-lifts. Alternatively, Nordic skiers have 8km of cross-country terrain beside Le Pleynet, 15km at Prapoutel, plus a further 50km nearby at the Espace Nordique du Barioz.
Recent years have seen heavy investment to upgrade the lift system, which now hauls skiers smoothly and rapidly all the way up to 2400m from three access points: Prapoutel (1350m), Le Pleynet (1450m) and Pipay (1550m).
Pistes Total: 120 km
1 Magic Carpets
1 Télémix Gondola/Chairlift
- There are direct fast train services from Paris to Grenoble, 35km from Les 7 Laux and served by a shuttle bus in winter.
The Ski Village
Les 7 Laux comprises not one but three purpose-built villages, linked by a common ski area – and if it’s your first time here you’ll need to know exactly where you’ll be staying before you head up the mountain.
Pipay (1550m) is essentially a low-impact point of access for day-skiers, so your choices centre on Le Pleynet (145m) or the larger Prapoutel (1350m), which has more accommodation and services, making it the livelier option.
Architecturally, the latter’s front de neige is pure 1970s, but not unattractive. Besides, its bars and restaurants are great places to hang out, and tucked away out of sight is a useful multi-level shopping centre.
If you’re looking for something more up-market then recently-constructed Les Granges des 7 Laux chalet-style 4-star self-catering apartments with ski-in/ski-out access and a spa should bring you the creature comforts you desire.
In Le Pleynet things are more compact and at first glance have a cosy, more retro vibe. While there’s less accommodation and fewer services, everyday essentials are all there, including a helpful tourst office. Look more closely, and you’ll see that it also has a sense of fun – at one end of the front de neige is a tracked luge, and at the other is a real snow-covered one. Also the Pincerie 4-seat chair will haul you up to the snowpark and a boardercross run.
See Practical Information below for accommodation suggestions.
Why go skiing in Les 7 Laux ?
Les 7 Laux has long been the preferred option for young skiers from Grenoble, who have no shortage of great resorts virtually on their doorstep. That tells you something, and having skied it, we can see why they love its youthful, fun vibe.
The high percentage of red- and black-graded terrain will appeal primarily to more confident and advanced skiers.
The appeal doesn’t stop there. The addition of premium self-catering accommodation in Prapoutel should put Les 7 Laux on any intermediate skier’s shortlist, particularly when you consider the quick transfers from budget flights (Chambéry airport being closest).
It’s also a place to get to grips with off-piste skiing, on the secured but ungroomed terrain of the Vallons du Pra.
SnowboardingThe 8ha Oakley 7 Laux snowpark at 1700m in the Pleynet sector is highly rated by freestylers and has 4 zones with different levels of difficulty including the mini boarder at Crêt Granier and a black level boardercross.
2 Snowboarder Cross
Cross-Country SkiingThere are two areas with 16km of trails departing from Prapoutel and 3.5km at Pleynet at an altitude of 1800m.
20km Cross-Country and Nordic Ski Trails
- ESF Les 7 Laux offers individual handiski lessons in French, English, Spanish or German at Prapoutel, Pleynet or Pipay.
- Vehicles can park to make a drop-off or pick-up at the accessible Chamois chairlift in Prapoutel. Special equipment often required.
- Investment in modern lifts gives skiers easy and rapid access to the pistes.
- Exceptional freeride possibilities on marked, secure and ungroomed pistes. At Pleynet the Pra valleys are the favourite of freeride skiers - one of the most popular sectors in the whole area, offering unrivalled views of Belledonne Massif and the Haut Bréda Valley.
- Good ski area to develop freeriding techniques in complete freedom and safety under the guidance of ESF instructors.
- Great intermediate territory with blue and red cruising pistes on varied terrain.
- Well-marked easy circuit, which guides timid skiers around the domain on blue and green pistes.
- Oakley Freestyle Park and boarder cross plus a fun zone.
- Themed fun runs for families and children on safe green pistes.
- High proportion of red and black runs will deter less confident skiers.
- Limited opportunities for improving beginners.
- Local day-skiers can create congestion at weekends.
- Quiet night-life.
- For best snow quality ski the Le Pleynet side in the morning, before moving round to Prapoutel/Pipay
- Ski the ungroomed Vallons du Pra during calmer weekday periods
- Les 7 Laux’s green pistes might surprise you – give them a try
- To make the most of the domain, skiers who feel intimidated by the piste map should follow the specially signed circuit around the mountain.
Residence Les Granges des 7 Laux
These self-catering apartments are superbly sited near the front de neige and just above the fast Chamois 6-seater lift which drops you in the heart of the domain. The residence is just a few minutes’ stroll from all the services via a footpath. There’s a good selection of bars and restaurants, a pharmacy and indoor shopping centre with a Sherpa minimarket.
We stayed in a well-equipped one bedroom apartment with a double bed and extra sleeping for 2 people on a sofa bed in the lounge area. The kitchen has a full-size fridge and dishwasher with a microwave combination oven. There’s plenty of storage and you can stow your skis and boots in the ski locker room, which is conveniently situated on the ground floor with a door leading out to the slopes.
Views from our apartment were toward the stunning escarpment of the Chartreuse but you could equally have views over the mountain and village. The residence consists of 7 self-contained chalets with an on-site wellness centre boasting an indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, hammam and beauty treatments (entrance and treatments payable locally). The Kactuss bar restaurant just in front of the residence has a popular sunny terrace overlooking the front de neige. If you wish you can get a buffet breakfast and evening meals here on a half-board basis (payable locally).
The chalets have doorstep skiing onto a green-graded piste and depending on conditions you should be able to ski back to near your chalet entrance. Each apartment is allocated one free space in the underground car park (extra spaces can be booked for a charge.
We were disppointed to find a lack of free wifi in the apartment (modems are available for hire). However, the resort has its own free wifi network available in several locations in the village.
We stayed with Peak Retreats at 4-star Les Granges des 7 Laux. 7 nights self-catered from £230pp* including a return Eurotunnel crossing with a free upgrade to Flexiplus on most dates.
*Above prices based on 5 people sharing a 2-bedroom apartment (sleeps up to 6) for low season 2019/20. Subject to availability. T&Cs apply. Accommodation-only packages are avilable. Ski equipment, lift passes and transfers also bookable. Holidays are fully ABTA bonded).