Alpe d’Huez Ski Resort Guide
Sitting on a high plateau in the Oisans valley, Alpe d’Huez is one of France’s oldest ski resorts and was the first to feature a modern mechanical ski lift. With a long winding mountain approach made famous by the Tour de France – this is a large, modern resort which attracts large numbers of international skiers and snowboarders each winter.
Known as one of the sunniest resorts in Europe, the development of Alpe d’Huez has not been to everyone’s taste but recent legislation has thankfully begun to rectify this. As with so many ski resorts in France, the need to create more and more accommodation to meet demand in the 1960s and 1970s led to the construction of large, generally ugly, apartments blocks. In the last decade though a desire to return the town to its prettier origins has meant more use of natural materials in both new buildings and the re-cladding of existing structures.
The upside for holidaymakers is that there still exist large numbers of cheap apartment-style accommodation available for weekly rent during the ski season. In fact, prices across the board in Alpe d’Huez are generally lower than in other popular French resorts such as Val d’Isere or Courchevel. An inevitable gentrification has been creeping in steadily with more upmarket chalets and hotels being created but there are still plenty of bargain holidays to be found.
There is an excellent choice of restaurants located throughout the five linked villages which make up Alpe d’Huez, and the nightlife scene is much livelier than in many other French resorts. Activities for children are good and several highly-rated ski schools operate on the large beginner areas. A heated outdoor pool and ice rink are also available for families in the evenings.
A large investment will upgrade the skiable area of Alpe d’Huez in the next few years. This will include linking the resort with La Grave and Les Deux Alpes. For now though Alpes d’Huez remains an excellent ski holiday destination, and as close to offering something for every taste as it is possible to get in a resort.
Skiing in Alpe d’Huez
Alpe d’Huez and its various satellite villages including Oz-en Oisans and Vaujany provide a large skiable area with a real mixture of terrains. The 250km of pistes accessible from the resort are actually France’s 5th largest ski area. 86 lifts are dotted around to provide easy access to the slopes from almost all points in the resort in addition to the large number of ski-in / ski-out accommodation which exists here.
Alpe d’Huez’s pistes provide great skiing and snowboarding for all ability levels – however, beginners and confident intermediates are best catered for. The resort nursery slopes encompass a huge area where those learning to ski can move, and fall, without fear of bumping into others. The slopes stretching off in almost every direction from the centre of Alpe d’Huez provide a great number of long red and blue runs through trees which intermediate skiers will love. The resort also has a claim to fame in the Sarenne piste which is the longest black run in the world. Winding down from the top of the Pic Blanc at 3,330m the Sarenne is certainly not the most difficult run, but will definitely stretch most people’s endurance over its 16km.
Alpe d’Huez is known as a sunshine resort but the downside to this is that its South-facing slopes can turn slushy in the late afternoon heat. There are extensive snowmaking facilities to combat this however. A local guide will be able to show you some fantastic off-piste areas in the right conditions, with the added bonus that these backcountry areas remain untracked for longer than in other more well-known resorts.