When the snow glitters wildly in the sun and you can feel the warmth start to seep through the layers and warm your morning-cold limbs, you know its going to be a good day on the mountain.
For a good chance at a sun-kissed ski holiday, head to Alpe d'Huez, where the slogan is "L'ile au Soleil" (Island of the Sun). They've got the goods to back up this claim as well - most of the slopes are south-facing, and they boast average figures of 300 days of sunshine a year.
High in the Oisans Alpes, Alpe d'Huez is the central resort of the Grandes Rousses Massif ski area. It links the traditional mountain villages of Auris-en-Oisans, Villard Reculas, Oz-en-Oisans, Vaujany and La Garde. Its central bowl naturally divides into zones catering for different abilities. Beginners, this is an excellent place for you to begin your soon-to-be lifelong love of skiing. Many slopes and facilities are laid out for you here. The black, expert runs accessible from the top of Pic Blanc and Les Marmottes III cable car attract thrill-seekers and the more technically advanced skiers to experience the maximum vertical drop of 2200m.
Made up for several quarters, the resort offers something a little different at each. Quartier des Vieil Alpe isa charming, quieter area with lots of original buildings, Quartier des Jeux is the pulse of the resort, with good bars, shops and restaurants, Quartier Bergers is the most modern area, with a good few places to eat, drink and make merry as well. Huez is the original village of the resort, overlooking the Sarenne gorge. A pretty mountain village with a labyrinth of tiny alleys to wander around.
Covering an area of 10,000 hectares the domain boasts 249km of linked pistes. The Sarennes ski run, the world's longest at 16km, joins the Pic Blanc to the Sarenne Gorge. If you're lucky, you can time your trip right to be a part of a monthly outing to ski the run by moonlight! Pic Blanc (3330m), the highest point of the ski area, offers breathtaking views of the Alps including Mont Blanc, Mont Cervin and the Meije. On a clear day a fifth of France can be seen from this point. Not to be missed: the amazing ice cave at 2700 m, which was created by two high altitude guides and hosts a different ice sculpture each year.
More on Alpe d'Huez:
Alpe d'Huez for Different Ski Abilities
This is a great place for beginners! There are many of green slopes (38 in total) in the shallow bowl immediately above the resort. Catch the Romans, Fontbelle, or Lac Blanc chairlifts to get there and be occupied for days.
Some fantastic terrain for intermediates, which include the Couloir and Vachettes blues and the Chamois red which has just a short steepish narrow section. The west of the central bowl is a mix of blue and red runs, and to the north (if you are looking up from the resort) the terrain steepens and above approximately 2100m, there's a good mix of blue and red here, maybe just a bit more challenging. Catch the Troncon I and II gondolas.
With 16 black and 33 red runs, there's a lot of fun to be had here for good skiers and boarders. Try the black runs from the top of Pic Blanc and Les Marmottes III cable car, and feel the burn of the maximum vertical drop of 2200m. Above the 2300m and 2700m stations the pistes on the south-facing slopes below Pic Blanc top station are mainly black. These include the infamous Tunnel, coined so because it passes though a tunnel before dropping away steeply and Sarrene which at 18.75km (1.82km vertical drop) is the longest black run in Europe.
Alpe d'Huez Ski Schools
British Masterclass has been established in Alpe d’Huez for over twenty years. It is the only genuine British Ski School in the resort. The three teachers (two Geordies and one Scot) are qualified to the highest level and specialise in teaching technique. Stuck on a plateau? Frightened of reds? Masterclass can prove that improving technique and making it simple leads to a confidence boost. Each lesson is tailor made for your needs.
Stance Snow Ski School
Stance Snow is an independent ski, telemark and snowboard school wishing to establish a very human and personalised relationship with its guests. They will adapt to your needs and requirements to suit your expectations, meeting places and drop offs. To enhance the quality of their services, Stance Snow offer private coaching only on piste and off piste or free ride backcountry guided tours, up to a maximum of five people per instructor. All instructors speak fluent English.
V.O.Coaching offers individual private lessons in a friendly and fun atmosphere. You will be followed with professionalism and kindness by their fully qualified instructors who aim to share their passion for the slopes. While enjoying yourself you will learn quickly all the secrets, how to enjoy the slopes and improve in total confidence. No matter if you spend a holiday, a weekend or a week with V.O.Coaching, if you want to ski with your family or some friends, they will find a solution tailored for your needs. Private ski and snowboard lessons in fluent English from beginners to experts, children and adults. Half days, full days or weekly bookings.
Après Ski and Off the Mountain Activities
Après-ski is always happening at Alpe d'Huez. Finding a good bar here is no problem, with lots to choose from. The best place to head is the Quartier des Jeux, as most of the bars and restaurants are clustered there. Smithy's Tavern has lively après Tex-Mex fare and hamburgers. The Piano Bar is a large eastern influenced bar/restaurant is a more relaxed option; The Sports Bar's great for watching...sports unsurprisingly, and has a music lounge with a DJ spinning tunes. O'Sharkeys is a traditional Irish pub, and in the old town, The Underground is a cosy theme bar based on the London tube. If you like to carry on the party into the night, Igloo is one of the top dance clubs in the resort located under Smithy's Tavern. You can also catch live bands and DJs at The Yeti bar, or head to local favourite Tropicana. Food-wise, if you're in the Alps you have to try at least one of their traditional mountain specialities whether it is tartiflette, raclette or fondue. Try Le Passe Montagne on Route de la Poste or Le Petit Taverne in L'Eclose. L'Authentic on Avenue des Jeux. Is a delicious Italian restaurant that serves gnocchi, fresh fish skewers and a selection of fresh pastas served with homemade sauces. The popular Pizzeria L'Origan is located opposite the ice rink, as is Le Fromagerie, known for its good seafood dishes.
off the mountain
A definite must-see when not skiing, the Alpe d'Huez ice caves are a magical grotto of glistening sculptures and fairytale figures. Dug out many years ago by two local guides they have become an annual feature; each winter expert ice sculptors arrive to create a new exhibition based on a different theme every year. Another activity that is totally different (but may not appeal to everyone) is ice diving. Although plunging under the icy waters of Lake Besson (altitude 2000m) in the middle of winter may not sound much like fun this is a fascinating and magical experience. Cavities in the ice and huge air bubbles trapped under the surface create an eerie but spectacular environment. Accompanied by experienced instructors you can go beneath the frozen surface of the lake and submerge yourself in the alien world beneath. For adrenaline-junkies, there's Airboarding. This relatively new twist on snow sports is a bit like body boarding down the piste. Lying stomach-down on an inflatable sled-like cushion you slide head-first down the mountain, picking up speed and using your bodyweight to shift direction. Also available: Cross country skiing, glacier walking, helicopter tours, heliskiing, horse drawn sleigh rides, husky sledding, ice climbing, ice driving, ice rink, paragliding, piste basher excursion, quad biking, snow mobiling, snowshoeing, tobogganing, winter walking trails, fitness and sports centre, night skiing, swimming pools, spa, massage, yoga, sports, skidoo, microlight flights, French bowls, library, cinema, museum, classical music, trampolining...
Alpe d'Huez Childcare
Snow Angel Nannies
Snow Angel Nannies is the perfect childcare solution for your skiing holiday in the French Alps. The nannies all hold relevant childcare qualifications, CRB/DBS checks and first aid qualifications. They are all carefully selected for their kind, caring and fun loving nature as well as their childcare skills. You will have your nannies contact details so you can amend plans during the day and the Snow Angel Nanny ensures a fun activity packed day for the children. The nannies also do ski school peick up and drop off and can take the children to meet you for lunch if required to keep the family holiday aspect. A Snow Angel Nanny will give you peace of mind to enjoy your day on the slopes knowing your little ones are having the time of their lives.
How to get to Alpe d'Huez
The most popular route to the ski resort is by air. Several budget and charter airlines fly to the three closest airports of Grenoble, Chambery and Lyon. The transfer times are as follows (although these can vary a lot depending on traffic and more importantly the weather): Grenoble 2hrs - 2.30hrs, Chambery 2hrs - 2.30hrs, Lyon 2.30hrs - 3hrs.
You can jump on the Eurostar from London St. Pancras International to Grenoble changing at Lille, the trip taking about 8 hours. There is a 3 times weekly service from London Victoria to Grenoble operated by Eurolines. This departs 6.30pm, and arrives 10.15am.
SNCF train desk
Nearest train station: Grenoble (63 km).
TGV Paris-Grenoble: 2 hours 55.
SNCF Booking Tel: 3635
Tel (from abroad): +33 (0)892 35 35 35
Distances from the resort:
Paris 620 km (6 hours 30), Marseille 300 km (3 hours), Genève 208 km (2 hours 30), Lyon 163 km (2 hours), Grenoble 63 km (1 hours).
Follow the autoroute to Grenoble, then get on the A480 autoroute and follow signs for Gap - Sisteron. Take exit N°8 "Gap, Briançon, Vizille - Stations de l'Oisans" which joins the RN85, then the D1091 to Bourg d'Oisans, then the RD211... The Mythical ascent of the 21 bends will be the final climb to get to Alpe d'Huez.
Information on traffic conditions, road construction and mountain pass access.
Road Conditions: +33 (0)8 26 02 20 22
Road Information: +33 (0)8 92 69 19 77
DDE of the Isère region: +33 (0)4 76 70 76 70
To drive from the channel coast of France to Grenoble takes approximately 9 to 10 hours via the French motorway system. Toll charges are in the region of £40.