An expert guide for ski holidays in Alpe d’Huez

alpe dhuez – Getty

Few resorts in the Alps match Alpe d’Huez for its suitability for skiers and snowboarders at either end of the ability chart, as well as in the middle. The terrain here is equally suited to experts and novices, while confident intermediates will have a ball.

Alpe d’Huez has grown spectacularly since Polish engineer Jean Pomagalski installed the first ski lift in France here in the 1930s, powered by a Perkins engine from a WWI American truck. Pomagalski went on to found the international lift company Poma, while Alpe d’Huez now has the fifth largest ski area in France with 250km of piste including the slopes of the outlying villages of Auris, Villard Reculas, Oz en Oisans and Vaujany.

Stay up-to-date with essential resort facts below, and scroll down for our insider guide to a day on the slopes, expert ratings and advice. For more Alpe d’Huez inspiration, check out our guides to the resort’s best accommodations, restaurants, and après ski.

Inside the resort

Alpe d’Huez has excellent runs by all standards, a vast ski area of ​​250km and reliable snowpack. Pistes range from 1,135m up to a heady 3,330m, while the resort’s Sarenne Glacier at the highest point of the Pic Blanc helps ensure enough snow cover for a long season that stretches from early December to late April. It’s also easy to get to, being a 90-minute drive southeast of Grenoble, the closest airport.

The village sits 1,860m on a sunny plateau above the valley village of Bourg d’Oisans, and over the decades it developed haphazardly, resulting in an architectural hodgepodge divided into eight small districts, or neighborhoods.

There has been a strong campaign for financial incentives by the town council to renovate some of the older buildings, but it cannot be denied that the village is still home to examples of the worst 1960s mountain excesses – concrete block and frame buildings. to A – and without his the usual softening blanket of snow falls just before the bad.

The best places to stay are uptown near the main lifts at Rond Point des Pistes, or in the Bergers ski district, a chalet suburb in the eastern corner of the resort close to nursery slopes and a couple of mid-mountain chairlifts. The Télécentre’s slow elevator, resembling a yoghurt pot, provides access to Rond Point from the lower districts of the village; the huge two-stage Grandes Rousses gondola, also known as the DMC, departs from Rond Point mid-mountain.

alpe duez

alpe duez

Alternatively, there’s a 10-person gondola from the lower boroughs to Bergers. The Télévillage bucket elevator connects it with the lower village of Huez. The most recent plant of the Alp’ Express runs from the Vieil Alpe district (near the tourist office) and from the Bergers with a stop in the l’Eclose district.

There is a huge range of other activities on offer in Alpe d’Huez including ice driving, rock climbing (there is an indoor climbing wall), swimming (heated indoor and outdoor pools), ice skating ( outdoor ice rink), dog sledding, aerial activities such as paragliding, helicopter and airplane flights and snowshoeing. The sports center offers more than 30 activities.

On the slopes

Alpe d’Huez sits on a sunny plateau, with varied runs reaching the farthest corners of this vast ski area in all directions to the slopes of the linked villages of Auris, Villard Reculas, Oz en Oisans and Vaujany. The holiday village is located at the foot of the dominant Pic Blanc, although the 3,330m peak is not visible from the village. As a result, the sheer size and severity of the higher slopes come as a stomach-ache surprise.

The main access to the summit of Pic Blanc is via the two-stage DMC jumbo gondola lift from the resort, also known as the Télépherique des Grandes Rousses, followed by a cable car. Pic Blanc is the starting point of the Sarenne piste, which at 16km is the longest black piste in the Alps. However, it is renowned more for its endurance than difficulty, as whilst it is a long descent, there are no pitches particularly inviting to butterflies and half its great length is a gentle descent along a riverside path through the eponymous gorge.

Much scarier is Le Tunnel, a much more direct black run, even from the top of Pic Blanc. After emerging from the rocky corridor that gives the slope its name, comes the start of one of the most forbidding black runs in the Alps: an often icy field where a fall can cause a slip of 100 meters or worse. As well as these black runs, a short climb from the top of the Pic Blanc cable car gives access to some truly superb off-piste.

At the other end of the scale, Alpe d’Huez is home to some of the most extensive nurseries in the Alps. The two main beginner areas, at the Bergers end of the village and on the slopes served by the first stage of the DMC gondola lift, are also accessible by a choice of drag lifts, chair lifts and a chondola (a hybrid gondola/chair lift). as DMC. The two areas are linked by easy runs, and a dozen green runs offer a variety of beginner terrain to progress on that few other resorts can match.

slopes of alp dhuez - sylvain cochard

slopes of alp dhuez – sylvain cochard

In between these two extremes, the ski area is also ideal for strong intermediates who like the feeling of going somewhere every day, well beyond the central and often crowded slopes just above the resort. The linked resorts of Oz and Vaujany on one side of Alpe d’Huez, and Auris on the other, have major ski areas and, when snow conditions permit, the descents to the farming village of Villard Reculas are among the funniest in the region.

Alpe d’Huez also has a giant terrain park suitable for all standards with a full range of jumps and obstacles as well as a ski cross course. The Vaujany ski area also has a smaller park more suited to beginners and intermediates.

Who should go?

Beginners will thrive here on some of the most extensive nurseries in the Alps, with plenty of opportunity to progress into more challenging terrain. The opportunity to ski to the linked resorts of Oz and Vaujany on one side of Alpe d’Huez, and Auris on the other, will suit intermediates who like to rack up the miles, and experts can find enough to challenge them. While, everyone will be pleased with the resort’s snow record and quick transfer time from Grenoble.

Know before you go

Essential information


British Embassy/Consulate:
(ukinfrance.fco.gov.uk)

ambulance (samu): dial 15

Police: dial 17

Fire (pompiers): dial 18

Mobile emergency response: dial 112

Touristic office: See alpedhuez.com, the Alpe d’Huez Tourist Board website, for weather reports, lift status, webcams, traffic details, and local event listings. Collect maps, leaflets and other information from the office in the center of the resort’s main square.

The basics

Currency: EUR

Area code: from abroad dial 00 33, then remove the zero at the beginning of the number.

Time difference: +1 hour

Local laws and etiquette

  • When greeting people, formal titles (Monsieur, Madame and Mademoiselle) are used much more in French than in English.

  • The laws of vouvoiement (which version of “you” to use) take years to master. When in doubt, except when talking to children or animals, always use the formal vous (second person plural) form rather than the more casual tu.

  • While driving it is mandatory to keep fluorescent bibs in the car and an emergency triangle in case of breakdown. From 2021 it is also mandatory to have snow chains on cars or winter tires from the beginning of November until March.

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