Overview of Alpe d'Huez
Located in a powdery Oisans Valley mountain pasture in the commune of Huez in the Central French Western Alps, the resort village is at a heady altitude of 1860m at the foot of the 3,330m Pic Blanc.
Also known as L’Isle Au Soleil due to its average of 300 days of sunshine a year, it’s part of the world-renowned Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine ski area, which includes the villages of Villard Reculas, Vaujany, Oz-en-Oisans, Huez-en-Oisans, Auris-en-Oisans and Alpe d’Huez.
With 250km of diverse runs, this interlinked ski area is a paradise for skiers and snowboarders of all levels and it has one of the best lift-served verticals around, with a drop of 2,300m between the highest and lowest ski lifts and a clutch of the world’s longest pistes ̶ many of which measure a jaw-dropping 16km from top to bottom.
If you’re an adept skier in search of thrills, there are ample off-piste opportunities here in areas like Gorges de Sarenne (hire a mountain guide to be safe), while snowboarders are in seventh heaven in the huge terrain park.
The ski roots of Alpe d’Huez stretch back to the 1920s, when the first road reached the area ̶ the first ski lift followed in the subsequent decade and its size and reputation has grown ever since. The resort now has a whopping 30,000 ski beds available nightly in a range of well-appointed accommodation options.
Facilities are fabulous, with a wide range of shops, ski hire and ski lesson operators, off-piste entertainment and leisure activities to suit all ages, chic cafes and restaurants and legendary après-ski.
For a catch-all family ski holiday that blends comfort and convenience with world-class snowsports facilities, Alpe d’Huez is tough to top.
Skiing in Alpe d'Huez
When it comes down to the nitty gritty of ski suitability, this resort is probably best for high level intermediate skiers, but novices and advanced skiers are very well catered for too. Here’s some more information on skiing in Alpe d’Huez:
This resort has a huge choice of nursery slopes and two vast, wide beginner’s areas where you can find your feet and practice your turns as a first timer. You’ll find one of these areas in the Bergers section of the village and the other at the first level of slopes serviced by the DMC gondola ̶ they’re accessed by various chair lifts and drag lifts which are free for beginners, so there’s no need to shell out for a pass until your technique improves and confidence builds.
Intermediate skiers are in their element here thanks to the aforementioned huge vertical runs available from the top of Le Pic Blanc. If you’re a capable intermediate who wants to clock up some vertical metres, there are several cracking runs to test your mettle, including the 2035m descent to La Villette, the 2000m drop to Oz-en-Oisans at 1330m, and the 2205m descent to L’Enversin d’Oz at 1125m.
The Champagne Run from Le Pic Blanc is another leg burner ̶ it’s 2200m long and earned its effervescent moniker because locals decided anyone who completes it in one go deserves a large glass of bubbly!
Intermediates can also test themselves with tough reds in the Signal de l’Homme and Villard-Reculas sectors, and the Canyon Run from Plat des Marmottes represents a decent challenge.
There’s 67km of black pistes here across 16 groomed runs, so there’s plenty of provision for advanced skiers. Hop on the DMC jumbo gondola from the resort base and you’ll reach the Pic Blanc summit via a second lift. You can take on the Sarenne Run from this launchpad ̶ at 16km, it’s the longest black in the Alps, but it’s more of a marathon than a rollercoaster ride as half its length meanders along a riverside path.
While the Sarenne Run might feel more like a tough red than a true black for many skiers, the same can’t be said of The Tunnel, also accessed from Pic Blanc. This is a much more direct and dynamic black run where you’ll rocket out from a rock corridor onto a pulsating mogul field where a wipe-out might result in a 100m slide ̶ fantastic fun for experts but not for the faint-hearted!
Take a short trek from the top of the Pic Blanc lift and you’ll find some of the best off-piste fields in Alpe d’Huez, but always take a local guide with you in order to rip up the slopes as safely as possible.
Night skiing is available every Thursday during the ski season on the Signal Mountain slopes ̶ the slopes are included in your Grand Domaine ski pass but you can also pay as you go if you haven’t invested in a full pass.
Cross-country skiers have 50km of marked trails to explore here, these range in difficulty from the blue 10km Brandes loipe which starts at the Altiport to the red 20km ‘Loop of the Lakes’.
Whatever your skiing style and ability, Alpe d’Huez has plenty to entertain you ̶ your only challenge might be squeezing it all into your itinerary!
Snowboarding in Alpe d'Huez
With an array of on- and off-piste runs, plus two terrific snow parks and a fun zone, Alpe d’Huez is a snowboarders’ paradise ̶ here’s the lowdown on the resort’s attractions for riders.
There’s a huge variety of off-piste terrain to explore (with the assistance of a local guide), with everything from expansive glacier powder fields to thrilling tree-lined runs. Moreover, because this is a family-friendly resort where most of the traffic tends to be on-piste, fresh powder can lie there for days waiting for you to discover it.
The pick of the pisted runs might be the blue couloir which drops down from the top of the Troncons lift ̶ there are lots of small drops to take on at the right-hand side and it’s brilliant for a bit of jibbing.
The main snowpark above Alpe d’Huez village is easy to access from the DMC lifts and it’s surrounded by beginner slopes. It’s a great place to learn the craft but it can get quite busy, so you’ll have to ride with caution. There are green, blue, red and black lines for boarders of all abilities, and each run features 4 kickers and 3-4 boxes or rails. Furthermore, if you fancy practicing big air moves, there’s a freestyle practice setup with a 50m runway that lets you hit a kicker at the end, pull off your magnificent moves and splash down safely on a huge inflatable bag ̶ brilliant fun and it smarts less than real snow when you wipe out.
The Montfrais snowpark is accessed from the Myrtilles blue piste. It’s a slightly trickier course with bigger kickers and more challenging rails, and courses for each level are significantly shorter, with 1-2 kickers and 1-2 boxes apiece.
Marcel’s Farm is a reasonably new fun kid’s zone accessed from the super-fast Signal ‘chondola’ (a lift that mixes 8-person chairs and gondolas) but it is also great for boarders. It’s packed with brilliant boardercross features, banked corners, gates, a tunnel, a mini half-pipe, a selection of freestyle rails and even a cow slalom course!
Snow Conditions in Alpe d'Huez
Alpe d’Huez is one of the most snow-sure resorts in the Alps ̶ here’s some more information on its historical snow conditions:
Despite being one of the most southerly Alpine ski resorts, Alpe d’Huez has a high altitude of 1860m and its lift system reaches above 3300m to a year-round snowfield on the Sarenne glacier, which equates to excellent snow reliability throughout a season that spans early December to late April.
The resort has 900 snow cannons to enhance natural snow cover on occasions when it’s not as comprehensive as expected ̶ this capacity can cover 1600 vertical metres of the mountainside and 75km of pistes.
The most recent seasonal snowfall figures for Alpe d’Huez reveal a total snowfall of 533cm, a total of 34 snowfall days, a largest snowfall of 40cm, an average base depth of 124cm, maximum base depth of 225cm, average summit depth of 222cm and maximum summit depth of 360cm.
Apres-Ski in Alpe d'Huez
The Après-Ski in this lively resort is amazing ̶ here are the hotspots and chill-out zones:
La Folie Douce is now a franchise with several outlets across the Alps ̶ its Alpe d’Huez incarnation has been open since 2013 on the mountain at Plat des Marmottes and features the same fun formula of cabaret-style entertainment, live music, and decent food and a fine selection of alcoholic drinks.
Smithy’s Tavern is located bang in the middle of the old town and it’s an Alpe d’Huez institution. It regularly hosts live bands and DJs, discount jugs of beer, bombs and cocktails get the party swinging and you can enjoy a terrific Tex-Mex meal to soak up some of the alcohol. As if that’s not enough, when last orders are called at 2am you can pop downstairs to L’Igloo nightclub and bust a move ‘til 4am!
Underground Bar is a British-run pub in the town centre with a ceiling adorned by colourful snowboards, cheap drinks, live TV sport and live music ̶ a sure-fire bet for a top night.
Sphere Bar is close to Le Cristal de L’Alpe apartments, it has a large sun-kissed terrace, great drinks deals, live TV sport and live music.
Facilities in Alpe d'Huez
As you might expect, facilities in Alpe d’Huez are fantastic, with first-class accommodation, quality shops, outstanding off-slope leisure and eclectic entertainment for all ages ̶ read on for full information.
Ski Hire in Alpe d'Huez
In a large resort like Alpe d’Huez there are many ski hire operators, but to save yourself the trouble of sifting through your options, it’s less hassle to grab your gear through Erna Low. Our longstanding relationships with resort outlets mean that we can always arrange the best quality kit for your skiing style and aptitude and ensure that it’s ready for swift pick up at a location near your accommodation.
Ski Passes in Alpe d'Huez
It’s also easy to pre-order your ski passes with Erna Low and we often have free child passes and group discounts throughout the season contact us to see what’s on offer for your holiday dates.
Spa and Pool in Alpe d'Huez
Your thighs will be aching after some of the monster verticals in Alpe d’Huez, but luckily there are plenty of well-appointed spa and pool facilities where you can rest and relax in style. Nuxe Spa in the Chamois d’Or has a pool, hammam, sauna and range of massage and beauty treatments and Pure Altitude Spa at the Royal Ours Blanc Hotel has a heated pool and cathartic dry heat bath sauna which will purge your toxins. If you really want to treat yourself, the Massage Me professionals provide mobile treatments in the comfort of your own residence, while the Palais de Sport complex has a lovely pool, gym facilities and much more.
Shops in Alpe d'Huez
There are enough shops in Alpe d’Huez to allow you to while away a few hours indulging in a spot of retail therapy. For instance, you can pick up everyday essentials from supermarkets Sherpa, Spar or Carrefour, browse chic mountain fashions at Henri Sports Boutique and choose from a sumptuous selection of soft furnishings and stylish textiles at Prestige Decoration.
Facilities for Children in Alpe d'Huez
Kids are well catered for in this family-focused resort ̶ read on for more information on activities and entertainment for your little ones.
Ski Schools in Alpe d'Huez
There are several ski schools in the resort, but for quality and attention to detail, we can’t see past ESF ̶ they cater for kids aged 4 years and upwards and classes are restricted to a maximum of 10 students. Furthermore, the company’s Le Chalet des Enfants accepts children aged two and a half to 5 years old and combines ski lessons with enjoyable educational games.
Entertainment in Alpe d'Huez
There’s plenty of off-slope entertainment to keep kids busy at Alpe d’Huez ̶ for example at the Palais de Sport centre alone, there are climbing lessons for children aged 8 and over, archery lessons for the same age group and a ball pool pit and mini golf course for all ages. The fun doesn’t stop here though ̶ there’s also an open-air ice rink, fun sledging areas and a multimedia library where kids can borrow books and DVDs for free and enjoy age-appropriate shows and exhibitions.
Childcare in Alpe d'Huez
There are two municipal creches in Alpe d’Huez ̶ Les Crapouilloux accepts children over 4 years old and Les Intrepides caters for kids aged 6 months to 4 years.
Alpe d’Huez is a high-altitude resort set at 1860m high in the Central French Western Alps and skiers here benefit from access to slopes almost all the way up to the 3330m summit of Pic Blanc. The south facing slopes mean it benefits from bright sunshine which makes the entire vista even more beautiful, but the pistes still hold their snow well and there’s plenty of fresh powder for off-piste pursuits. There’s suitable skiing for all levels, but confident intermediates and advanced skiers love the huge vertical drops from the top of Pic Blanc, many of which exceed 2000m.