The Hautes Alpes encompasses many of the most popular resorts in the Southern Alps such as Briancon, Les Deux Alpes, Alpe d’Huez and Serre Chevalier.
Each of these resorts boast excellent snow records and have a reputation for receiving much more sunshine than you’d expect in the mountains. Prices tend to be lower in the area as these resorts are less popular on the English market than their northern equivalents.
However, with a large amount of infrastructure works planned for Les Deux Alpes and Alpe d’Huez, the popularity of these areas is growing rapidly.
Alpe d’Huez is located in the French department of Isère. The domain is actually called “Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine Ski” and is composed of several resorts and villages. Among those there are Auris-en-Oisans, Oz-en-Oisans, Villard-Reculas, Vaujany and Alpe d’Huez. The main resort is Alpe d’Huez, situated at 1860m of altitude, it is often called “L’île au soleil” (which means “Island of sun”) because of its South facing exposure which provides great amount of sunshine all year round. It is a very lively resort particularly thanks to its sports and convention centre. Each of the other resorts/villages has its little something, and they all keep a traditional spirit. They are also all fitted to welcome families as the resort carries the “Family Plus” rating.
Ski-wise, beginners will have plenty to do on the lower part of the resort where most of the green and blue runs lie as well as the beginners’ areas. Intermediates and experts will find the real fun further up especially towards the Pic Blanc where some serious black runs start as well as some sensational off-piste. The “Tunnel” is probably one of the most challenging black run ever; it is very steep and icy and goes through an actual tunnel. Another black run worth mentioning is the “Sarenne” which is the longest black run in the Alps with 16km. However even though the beginning is quite harsh, it gets easier going down. What is really challenged here is the endurance. As for the red runs most of them are on the periphery of the main area that is Alpe d’Huez, towards the sectors of Vaujany, Villard-Reculas and Auris-en Oisans. Finally the ski area offers two snowparks, one smaller for beginners and another one for confirmed freestylers.
EVENTS AND GETTING THERE
If you are a non-skier or would like to try out other things then you won’t be disappointed! There is paragliding, ice skating, snowshoeing, and many more activities if you go to the sports centre!
During the summer, the resort will keep you busy as well with outdoors sport activities, water sports or sightseeing and discovery of the surroundings.
To get to Alpe d’Huez it will take about 8h30 by car from Calais if you take the motorway. In winter make sure you are equipped to drive in the snow. The nearest airport and train station are in Grenoble which is a little more than an hour away.
Alpe d’Huez organizes events throughout the year some of them are much anticipated such as the “Festival de l’Alpe d’Huez” which is a film festival or the “Sarenne Snow Bike”. In the summer a big part of the major events is bike related. But there are also concerts, and other events and shows organised for tourists and locals.
LES DEUX ALPES
Les 2 Alpes is a renowned ski resort in France thanks to the glacier, skiable in winter but also in summer and its high altitude ski area. The resort has a free shuttle service during the winter season to get around and offers a large choice of bars, restaurants and shops along its main avenue. Most of the accommodations gives you direct access to the lifts and slopes so you can start enjoying your ski day straight from your doorstep.
The ski area is divided in two parts on each side of the resort. On the East side is the high altitude domain and on the west side is the domain of “La Vallée Blanche”. Beginners will not only find runs adapted to their level on the lower part of the resort, there are also gentle blue and green runs that start above 2300m. The domain also has “slow zones” where everyone must adapt their speed to the level of the other. For intermediates there are slopes on both sides and as for experts the best black runs are not necessarily at the top but more at mid altitude. To have a great time the best thing to do is to hire a guide and explore the amazing off-piste that you will find in the area of La Grave.
One other thing that contributes to the reputation of Les 2 Alpes is its snow park! It is heaven for snowboarders and freestylers! There is also a half pipe and a boardercross.
EVENTS AND GETTING THERE
Apart from skiing, other activities are available in winter such as ice skating, snowmobile rides, ice bumper cars, snowshoeing. Indoor activities include bowling alleys, pool and spas or museum visits.
When the summer comes you might miss your good days on the slopes but here in Les 2 Alpes you have the amazing chance to go skiing in summer thanks to the glacier. The ski area opens 11 slopes, from green to red during this period. Other summer activities include mountain biking, hiking, golfing climbing, summer sledging and white water sports.
To keep you entertained during your stay in Les 2 Alpes, the resort organises multiple events throughout the year. To celebrate the opening of the glacier in October there is the “enjoy the Glacier” week-end. There is also a closing party in April. In between these dates, concerts, shows, international events and sports competitions are to be expected. Summer also has its share of festivities.
To get to Les 2 Alpes by car from Calais it will take about 8h40 if you take the motorway, please remember to make sure you are equipped to drive in the snow during winter. The nearest airport is Grenoble at approximately 1h30 away. Lyon airport is 2 hours away and Geneva 2h30. The nearest train station is also Grenoble which is a little more than an hour away from Les 2 Alpes.
Serre Chevalier is actually composed of several villages (Chantemerle, Villeneuve, Le Monêtier les Bains), a town; Briançon and various hamlets. There are buses to travel between the different villages in the valley. Briançon is an old fortified town which gives it an undeniable charm and each of the villages are all very traditional with typical architecture and small streets lined by shops, bars and traditional restaurants. Serre Chevalier carries the “Family Plus” rating which means that it pays particular attention to the needs of families.
Every village mentioned above as well as the town of Briançon has lifts to join the ski area and its 250km of runs.
The tree line is found quite high here which means that most of the terrain is below the tree line and perfect in case of bad weather.
Some of the black runs are left ungroomed for experts to enjoy the fresh powder after a snowfall others are groomed but quite steep. The area also has great off-piste opportunities! Intermediates will probably be the ones to enjoy the most the ski area with a large amount of red runs.
Beginners will have their special area in each sector as well as blue and green slopes that allow you to visit the other sectors and higher parts of the resort.
Above the sector of Villeneuve, at 2000m is the snowpark of Serre Chevalier. Perfectly adapted for all abilities, it has four zones matching different levels going from easy/beginner to expert/professionals. It also has its own chairlift and a “coolzone” where you can relax and watch the freestylers in action.
EVENTS AND GETTING THERE
For non-skier other activities are available such as ice skating, snowshoeing, sledging and ice climbing. Indoor activities include casinos, cinemas and also pool and spa facilities like the one in Monêtier named “Les Grands Bains”. There are guided tours as well as some cultural sites to visit.
In summer, some lifts are open to go enjoy the great outdoors and the activities that are available in altitude like hiking and mountain biking. Apart from that there are swimming lakes where you can go cool down, tennis courts, pools or you can even go fishing. For thrill seekers and sports fans there is climbing, adventure parks, white water sports, paragliding and bungee jumping.
To keep you entertained, Serre Chevalier organises events throughout the year, from concerts, shows, sports competitions, festivals and local festivities, the area is always animated.
To get to Serre Chevalier by car you should expect a 10 hours’ drive from Calais if you take the motorway. If you plan to get there by train, Grenoble’s’ station is located between 2h30 and 3h from the resort. You can also go to the station of Modane and then take a bus that will take you to Serre Chevalier in about 1h15 via Italy. Or you can directly go to an Italian train station the nearest one being Oulx, only 45 minutes away. Finally if you fly there, the nearest airport is Turin in Italy which is 1h40 away. Other nearby airports are Grenoble, Geneva and Lyon both about 2.5 hours away.
RISOUL 1850 & VARS
The domain of “La Forêt Blanche” was created in 1990 when the ski area of Risoul 1850 and Vars were linked. Vars is devided into four villages. These are Vars-St-Marcellin, Vars-ste-Catherine, Vars-Ste-Marie and the main one which is Vars Les Caux. Located in the middle of larch forests, these resorts have all the amenities needed to spend some quality time with family or with friends. The villages are composed of chalets and apartment blocks with wooden frontage which fit in nicely with the natural surroundings.
You can easily access the pistes from Risoul 1850 Vars les Caux and there are also lifts from Vars-Ste-Marie. For beginners both areas have free lifts and some dedicated areas. Once a bit more confident on their skis, they will be able to go further up and explore the whole domain as there are blue runs to make the link between the two ski areas. For intermediates there are some good red runs both above and under the tree line. Despite the little number of challenging black runs experts will enjoy themselves thanks to the many off-piste opportunities.
For freestylers there are two snowparks on the Risoul side, one being a night park open until 10pm. Vars ski area has several freestyle areas the main one being Park de l’Eyssina where you can be filmed during your ride. There are units for all levels and an air-bag to practice tricks safely.
Vars is also host to the speed skiing stadium where the speed skiing world record was beaten by Ivan Origone who became the world fastest skier in March 2016 (254.958km/h!).
EVENTS AND GETTING THERE
For those who don’t ski or wish to do something else during their stay there are plenty of other activities such as ice skating, sledging, snowshoeing and for the more adventurous paragliding, ice climbing and snowmobile. You can also go relax at the cinema or the pool and spa facilities.
During summer you will also have plenty to do such as climbing, hiking, mountain biking. The nearby lake of Serre Ponçon will also provide a nice range of activities and water sports. Not forgetting the adventure parks, Via Ferrata, Tyrolienne, white water sports and others…
If you fly, the nearest French airports are Marseille, Grenoble and Lyon located between 2h45 and 3h45 from the resorts. You can also land in Italy at Turin Airport or Cuneo Levaldigi Airport which are between 2h30 and 3h away.
If you decide to get there by car you should expect a 10h30 or so drive from Calais if you take the motorway.
The nearest train station is Mont-Dauphin at 30 minutes from Vars and Risoul 1850. There is also the station of Briançon which is an hour away.