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.
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.
Pistes Total: 100 km
3 Télémix Gondola/Chairlift
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.
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.
SnowboardingSnowpark at 2300m with fun for learners and some challenges for more experienced surfers. Big air bag.
1 Snowboarder Cross
Cross-Country SkiingTrails link several villages following riverside and forest. All levels.
43km Cross-Country and Nordic Ski Trails
- ESF Orcieres has equipment for skiers with reduced mobility and can offer lessons.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Orcières has an English-speaking central reservation system so you can find the best accommodation option for you.
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.