Alpe d'Huez is known as the Island in the Sun
Dubbed the “Island in the Sun” for its annual 300 days of sunshine, Alpe d'Huez is the fifth-largest ski resort in France, with 250km of pistes for all ages and abilities. The ski area boasts fantastic terrain and some of the most breathtaking views in the Alps. L'Alpe d’Huez’s ski season stretches from December to April and although the slopes are mostly south-facing, snow is guaranteed until late in the season at this high-altitude ski resort. L'Alpe d’Huez is certified with the French Famille Plus label but also boasts some of the hardest pistes in the Alps. The resort has just announced it will host the Tomorrowland music festival from March 13-15!
The Michelin Guide has awarded three stars to the awe-inspiring views from the Pic Blanc at 3330m. They’re not wrong – on clear days you can see a fifth of France from this vantage point, including Mont Blanc, as well as bits of Switzerland and Italy. Non-skiers can also access the vantage point using the Pic Blanc gondola, which is suitable for pedestrians as well.
Panoramic views from Le Pic Blanc
Measuring 16km, with an elevation loss of almost 2000m, La Sarenne is the longest continuous piste in the world. On some days the steep bit at the top of this black slope is riddled with moguls, a nice challenging way to start off! The impressive piste winds its way through the mountain peaks at the top of the Pic Blanc before descending into the valley below. With the exception of one lift very early on, there are no more lifts until almost the bottom. Intimidated by the prospect of doing 16km in one go? Pause to enjoy the view at one of the are picnic areas along the way, or stop for a pick-me-up at the mountain restaurant near the bottom. Thanks to 101 recently installed snow cannons, the Sarenne is open for business every day of the ski season.
La Sarenne, longest black piste in the Alps
La Folie Douce has made a name for itself as France’s most popular après-ski bar. An institution among French ski resorts, the Folie Douce at Alpe d’Huez lives up to its reputation: gorgeous views, classy décor and a bumpin’ atmosphere. Starting at 2:30pm, join the throngs of skiers still in their ski boots and let yourself get carried away by the lively DJs and enthusiastic crowds. They also serve food but we’re pretty sure that’s not what you came for.
Après-ski at La Folie Douce
Alpe d’Huez is the fifth-largest ski area in France and you can easily spend a week there exploring all the terrain. The ski area is organised with the easiest slopes on the bottom and the more difficult terrain higher up, which makes it a great resort for beginners, who won’t have to take intimidating ski lifts way up above the clouds! Experts will have plenty to sink their teeth into on the pistes off the Pic Blanc cable car or over in the lunar landscapes of Auris-en-Oisans. The linked ski resorts of Vaujany, Villard Reculas and Oz-en-Oisans provide a nice change of scenery, with slopes that take you down between the trees. There is freeride terrain all over the mountain, and freestylers can try their skills on the snow park and boardercross.
Tip: If there are queues at the Marmottes lift, you can also make it up the mountain via Les Romains, just next door, which joins up with the DMC 2 to take you to the Pic Blanc.
Alpe d'Huez has slopes for every level of skier or snowboarder
A few years ago, l’Alpe d’Huez created Marcel’s Farm, a fun piste for skiers of all abilities designed to liven up the skiing experience for the youngest guests. Kids can explore a variety of turns, pipes, tunnels and bridges on a slope populated by friendly cartoon animals. The slope was so popular that they decided to open two more – Chez Roger, in the Bergers sector, and Jacques the woodcutter on La Corniche piste over in Auris-en-Oisans. Come see what all the fuss is about!
Having fun at Marcel's Farm © Alpe d'Huez
Take the Glacier chair, ski halfway down and you’ll spot a nondescript hole in the side of the slope. This is the “tunnel” through the very heart of the mountain that leads to the eponymous slope. Ski through the tunnel and you’ll be faced with an imposing piste, with a gradient of 70% and incredible views that are just glimpsable behind the ridiculously high moguls. Straggled all down the slope are stranded skiers and snowboarders who wonder exactly what they’ve gotten themselves into. Are you brave enough to tackle this beast?
Are you brave enough to tackle Le Tunnel?
A few ski resorts in France offer alpine coasters, which are a fun way to entertain the kids or take a break from skiing. But L’Alpe d’Huez is the only ski resort in France to offer a 4-season alpine coaster... with virtual reality! Jump on board, don the virtual reality glasses and you’ll find yourself transported into a totally different world. We tried it out and our minds were TOTALLY BLOWN. Highly recommended for kids and adults alike!
Crazy ride on the alpine coaster with virtual reality! © Gorive/Alpe d'Huez
L’Alpe d’Huez boasts a lovely heated outdoor swimming pool as well as an outdoor skating rink. Both have views of the mountains and the pool especially is very inviting after a long day on the slopes! The sports centre has an indoor climbing wall, a ski museum, ping pong, a jungle gym and anything you could ever want. Aerial sports are also a big part of life at L’Alpe d’Huez. The conveniently placed Altiport offers flying courses, helicopter rides and even paragliding! These sports are so well-integrated into the ski area that we saw a helicopter fly just overhead, and spent a few minutes watching the paragliders land next to the ski lift. For nordic enthusiasts there are also cross-country ski trails, some of which criss-cross into the downhill ski area
Relaxing in the outdoor swimming pool after a day of skiing
The village centre is full of bars, restaurants and little shops selling all manner of tempting regional delicacies. L’Alpe d’Huez is in constant expansion and there is accommodation for every budget, from cheap apartments to luxury five-star hotels. Many of the rooms are right next to the slopes and the ones that aren’t are usually just a 5-10 minute walk away, or a short ride on the unique standing lift. We stayed in the Hôtel Royal Ours Blanc, just a few steps from a lift which brought us to the heart of the ski area.
Most of the accommodation in l'Alpe d'Huez has easy access to the slopes
We’ve found next year’s event of the season: Tomorrowland Winter, set to take Alpe d’Huez by storm! From March 13-15, 2019, Europe’s most legendary EDM festival will visit a ski resort for the very first time. The winter edition of this mythical festival is dubbing itself "Hymn of the Frozen Lotus". Tickets go on sale in September; choose between 4-day and 7-day all-inclusive packages with festival ticket, accommodation and ski pass. Alpe d’Huez will be exclusively reserved for festival-goers during this time. Don’t miss your chance to join 30 000 lucky spectators of the world’s first Tomorrowland, winter edition!
Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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