After the 21 hair pin bends it takes to reach this resort and upon entrance to Alpe d'Huez the view just takes your breath away.......... and you are likely to pull the face of Pat Butcher sucking a particularly sour lemon, it aint pretty! Lets be honest Alpe d'Huez is an architectural melting pot of conflicting ideas. However, as you travel through you will see very encouraging signs that the French have finally put the old vin rouge down and seen the errors of their ways. The recent construction comprises of properties that have a harmony with the glorious mountains that surround this village. The Altiport area is virtually exclusively detached chalets of this nature and VIP have constructed a beautiful enclave close to the DMC gondola. The town itself is quite spread out so little rat runs have been created to facilitate skiers to ski these trails to their accommodation at the end of the day.
The ski area has the size of ski area that can compete with the top tier resorts of the Three Valleys, Espace Killy, and many of the French Tarantaise resorts. The village height at 1860m ensures a good snow coverage although it's south facing elevation can sometimes lead to slush on the lower runs. No such problems up top though as the height reaches a huge 3330m where the glacier is located. The resort sits as the capital of the "L'Ile au Soleil" and the ski region takes in some charming villages with their own ski areas. The slopes immediately above the resort are of a strange phenomenon whereby, in general, the higher up you go the steeper the pistes become - so you are faced with the greens, then blues, then reds, then blacks.
Beginners are faced with one of the world's best and biggest beginners area - it really is amazingly large. In fact there are two areas at opposite ends of the village and each fanning back to the town. These areas are "zone protegee" and so are patrolled against speeding skiers. The area covers around 30 green and gentle blue runs.
Intermediates can travel far and wide by escaping the hustle and bustle of the resort slopes and skiing across to the neighbouring quieter areas of Oz en Oisans, Vaujany, Villard Reculas, and (on the other side of the valley) Auris en Oisans. Snowfinders' Nick recommends the Lievre Bland red and those runs off the top of the DMC gondola. The Sarenne from the top of the Pic Blanc is the world's longest black run but in truth it is only a black at the top section and then filters into a wonderful red and then blue as it enters the gorge, there is a great restaurant at the bottom which is a little sun trap at the right time of day.
Advanced skiers will love Alpe d'Huez. The blacks off the Pic Blanc are serious blacks, The Tunnel being a beast but watch out as it's right under the cable car and if you're not quite up to the task it will be to the jovial enjoyment of the skiers riding the tram up! La Foret run to Villard Reculas is great run and one can venture off-piste hear to ski this open field in virtual tranquility. The Col de Cluy off the Signal de L'Homme rom Auris en Oisans is another very interesting run with various pitches and narrow paths interspersed with moguls and again you can pick your own line and go. The Fare run is another very interesting and enjoyable run of twists and turns and different pitches but this can be handled by intermediates easily. The off piste is excessive and abundant and guides are highly recommended here, especially for the fantastic hike off the Pic Blanc to ski the famous Col de la Pyramide.
Snowboarders here have lots of options as the freeriding is so good. There are a total of three terrain parks, two in Alpe d'Huez and one in Vaujany. The greens coming into the village should be avoided unless you can get enough speed to prevent a trudge back to the village.
50km of snow-sure trails are available for cross-country skiers and the variety on offer is quite wide with trails for the novice to expert.
- Large ski area
- Sunny slopes
- Good mountain restaurants
- Good snowmaking facilities
- Lively resort
- Good snow record
- Charmless village
- Overcrowding on main runs
- Not much shelter in bad weather
Alpe d'Huez is fantastic for non-skiers - an olympic sized ice rink, indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools, ice driving, toboggan runs, snow biking, airboarding, parapenting, marked walking trails, concerts, an ice cave with sculptures and organised activities via the tourist office. There are also various shops and cafes in resort for people watching. The resort has a fantastic range of restaurants from cheap and cheerful through to gastonomic centre stages.
Apres ski is very good in Alpe d'Huez with most bars being pretty unsophisticated and even raucous. The Underground is a sweaty cauldron with live bands playing but a great atmosphere. Other bars include Smithys, The Pacific (sister bar to the Val d'Isere bar of the same name), The Igloo, The Sporting, The Caves des Alpes, Lounge21, and the O bar. Late night revellers will not get bored here but we can't guarantee that you'll be up to catch the first lift in the morning.
Large ski area with sunny slopes for all abilities to enjoy.