9 May 2019 from Danielle in Ski areas

Located in the French ski resort of L'Alpe d'Huez, La Sarenne is the longest black piste in the Alps. Skiers and snowboarders descend 16km down from the Pic Blanc (3330m above sea level), following a winding path back through the valley to the centre of L'Alpe d'Huez. The piste represents an altitude drop of 1800m, and along the way you'll go from admiring views of the surrounding mountain peaks, to skiing through trees and shrub in the valley. However, good news for intermediate skiers: once you brave the first part, the rest of the Sarenne really isn't all that difficult. This makes it definitely an attainable bucket-list goal! Have you skied La Sarenne yet?

The Pic Blanc: Michelin-starred view

You can start the Sarenne from a few different places in Alpe d'Huez, but the Pic Blanc is the traditional starting point. From the Rond-Point des Pistes, take the DMC gondola and then the Pic Blanc gondola up to the Pic Blanc, highest point in the ski area. Don't forget to stop and admire the view - it's so spectacular that the Michelin guide has awarded it three stars! On a clear day you can see part of the Les Deux Alpes ski area, as well as the glacier at La Grave - La Meije. La Sarenne boasts reliable snow cover, especially at the top where it takes you over the Sarenne glacier. But that doesn't necessarily translate into easy skiing - the top part of the Sarenne is the most difficult. Not always groomed, if you arrive on the wrong day you'll find yourself face-to-face with a tricky mogul field which you'll have to successfully navigate before earning the right to continue along the rest of the piste. Just don't veer too far right or you'll find yourself at Le Tunnel, the most challenging slope in the ski resort with waist-high moguls!

Skiing La Sarenne
View from the top of La Sarenne, longest black piste in Europe

The Sarenne: A true black piste?

Once you've conquered the moguls at the top, the rest of La Sarenne is pretty much clear sailing. The only challenging thing about the piste is that there's no turning back: no ski lifts or pistes will let you escape early. So we recommend getting in good shape before tackling this notorious black slope! While most intermediate skiers should have no problem completing La Sarenne (allowing for break times along the way), another option is to start slightly lower by taking the Marmottes chairlift instead of the Pic Blanc gondola. This allows you to skip the difficult top part. Up to you whether or not you still want to exercise your bragging rights!

Cruising through the Gorges de Sarenne

Lower down, La Sarenne takes you through a gorgeous valley called the Gorges de Sarenne, where you can slow down and admire the peaceful atmosphere and scenic surroundings. The piste flattens out, the perfect excuse to rest your tired legs. Look across the valley and you'll see skiers making their way back from the Auris En Oisans ski area (also highly recommended). Snowboarders might have a bit of trouble with the flat part at the bottom of the Sarenne, but the views are totally worth it. Keep your eyes peeled for chamois, a kind of goat-antelope native to the Alps. And just when you're about ready to come back into the main ski area, you'll come across a mountain restaurant with an outdoor terrace! What could be more tempting?

Gorges de Sarenne skiers
Skiing through the Gorges de Sarenne

A must for every skier and snowboarder

La Sarenne offers the perfect opportunity to say you've skied the longest black piste in Europe, without actually torturing yourself like on some other black pistes. But the real reason we love the Sarenne is for the changing views. It's not often you get to go from the top of the world to the bottom of the valley in one go! Definitely take a short break to reward yourself at the mountain hut near the bottom, and pat yourself on the shoulder for having completed one of the must-do's in the Alps!

Facts & Figures: La Sarenne

Top station: Pic Blanc Highest point: 3330m
Gradient: Variable Length: 16km
Altitude loss: 1800m Difficulty: Intermediate-advanced

More info: L’Alpe d’Huez

L'Alpe d'Huez offers 250km of ski slopes spread out over the Grand Domaine. Expert skiers can tackle the moguls on Le Tunnel, freestylers can shred it up at the snow parks and children can learn to love skiing on the funslopes. The bustling village scene offers plenty of après-ski options, and you can't ski at L'Alpe d'Huez without paying a visit to La Folie Douce, legendary French après-ski hotspot! To learn more, check out 10 reasons to ski at L'Alpe D'Huez >

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!