One of the Peak Retreats team has skied in and around Alpe d'Huez for the last few years - she's put together a list of some of the best slopes in the Alpe d'Huez Grande Domaine ski area, in her opinion...
I’ve been skiing in the Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine ski area many times over the last 11 years, which means I’ve skied a fair few of the 111 slopes in the ski area! The range of piste and terrain within the 250km of slopes covers all abilities of skiing, with amazing beginner slopes, all the way up to world famous black run’s that dominate the high-altitude sections. The resort of Alpe d’Huez is piste and lift-linked to other smaller resorts in the ski area, like Vaujany and Oz 3300. These smaller resorts offer tree-lined pistes and quieter slopes, great for when you’re finding your ski legs!
Here are some of my favourite pistes in and around the Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine ski area:
1. La Sarenne - Grading: Black
From the highest point in the ski area, and just off the Pic Blanc cable car at 3330m, you’ll find the beginning of the longest black run in Europe. At 16km long, La Sarenne is a true thigh burner. Once you've tackled the top portion of the slope (arguably the most difficult section), the piste takes you through the gorge of the same name (Gorges de Sarenne). Be careful not to turn off to the right, you’ll end up at Le Tunnel, the hardest piste in the whole ski area – it's not for the faint of heart with its often waist-high moguls!
I skied La Sarenne for the first-time a few years ago, after many attempts of going up the cable car and chickening out before I got my skis on! Once past the difficult section at the top, it’s a relatively easy slope down through the gorge, alongside the trickling stream. A lovely cruise down, but a definite thigh-burning with its straight, flat section towards the end of the 16km!
Fancy a brand-new adventure? Alpe d’Huez are now running the ‘first tracks’ experience. Every Wednesday during the holidays, you can be the first to ski the Sarenne alongside the ski patrol. Take the Pic Blanc cable car just after 8am and catch the first peek of the sun over the mountains before having first tracks on this incredible piste. This is definitely an experience I want to try out when I head back to Alpe d’Huez!
2. Edelweiss - Grading: Blue
This piste is one of a collection of blue's that call Vaujany home. Edelweiss is a brilliant piste for skiers making their way from blue to red grade. Whilst still a blue true and true, it has sections that are slightly more difficult. Accessed by the Vallonnets chairlift, just below the Montfrais gondola, this run is great for starting or finishing your ski day – with a long schuss at the bottom, it makes for an exciting run!
3. Carrelet - Grading: Green
In the Alpette area of Vaujany’s ski area, you’ll find the beginning of quite a few runs. One being the easy green, Carrelet. Situated on the Oz 3300 side of the Alpette area, this green piste is amazing for beginners and small children who are finding their ski legs. Served by a dedicated button lift, Carrelet is the ideal snow-sure green piste for the skiers just starting out – or those who are after a quick blast down when it’s quiet!
The Carrelet piste is the entrance to the Alpette red slope that meanders down into Oz 3300. The main skiable route down into Oz from Vaujany, the Alpette red is a slightly skinny ‘road’, that meets up to the Olmet piste down into Oz centre. From here you can take the Poutran gondola all the way up into the Alpe d’Huez ski area.
4. Bergers - Grading: Blue
Accessed from the top of the Marmottes 1 lift, this is the perfect run for first thing in the morning to get your legs back into it. An easy blue, it's also a great run for beginners who have gained the confidence from the nursery and green slopes. Relatively long as well, it's brilliant for those wanting slightly longer between their lifts. It can get cut up around the top section that surrounds the lift, especially in the afternoons - my advice for beginners would be, take your time and really think about where you feel you can confidently take your turns.
5. Signal - Grading: Red
Take the Signal Telemix lift to the Signal 2100m and ski the red Signal run the whole way back down to the bottom of the lift. Whilst steep the whole way down, and can look especially daunting from the chairlift, it's a great run for intermediates that want to practice their carving. Often quiet as well, it's ideal for a quick run towards the end of the day!
4. Marcel's Farm - Grading: Fun Trail
Again, from the top of the Le Signal Telemix lift, you'll find the beginning of La Marcel fun trail, a 1.2 mile run of banked corners, boardercross style bumps, tunnels, interactive sections and even a cow slalom?! It's a great fun piste for children big and small (and for the big kids amongst us all!). My dad and I would race (at a sensible speed!) to see who could get to the bottom first and ring the bell - you have to hit it with your ski pole!
7. La Fare - Grading: Black
Named after the Cascade de la Fare (waterfall) that this piste runs adjacent to, La Fare is the only black run in Vaujany. Accessed from the Chalets blue run (mentioned below), this piste finishes at 1100m, below the main village of Vaujany. This tree-lined black piste is one of my favourites, with it’s switch-backs and amazing views back down to Vaujany. Slightly less daunting than the famous ‘Tunnel’ black, this piste can be sketchy in places when it’s icy, but when the conditions are right, especially early when the slope still has its freshly bashed corduroy lines, it’s a beautiful piste!
You can see the bottom of this piste from nearly anywhere in the village – try and spot the snow groomers making their way up once the sun goes down, you can see their headlights roaming up the mountainside!
8. Chalets - Grading: Blue
This beautiful blue piste is a great all-rounder for any skier. It’s long, it’s wide at the top, and it involves a schuss at the end. Whilst you might find it often occupied by ski school, as it’s the perfect place for them to practice their turns in the top section, if you catch this run whilst it’s quiet it makes for a great cruise!
From the wide top, to the narrow schuss; flat middle, and then final schuss, this piste is great for all. You have a choice of restaurants at the top, near the Alpette lift, a fun area off to the side, picnic spots towards the bottom – it’s an ideal run for around lunchtime/after lunch. Accessed by the Clos Giraud telemix lift, and the Alpette cable car, it allows even the earliest of beginners to enjoy this beautiful blue!
9. Rousses - Grading: Red
From the top of the DMC lift, at 2700m, there's a collection of red slopes, including the Chamois and the Rousses. The piste heads down into Alpette, an area of the Grande Domaine ski area that leads you onto the main pistes of Vaujany and Oz 3300. The slightly narrower slope is one of the main reasons it's graded red - it's a lovely run, especially in the morning, and has a great bit of parallel towards the bottom so that you can make it across the flat section. It can get choppy and mogul-filled towards the end of the day, so it's an ideal run to complete first thing in the morning. From Alpette, you can ski down either red or blue runs into Oz 3300 and make your way back up into Alpe d'Huez via the gondola, or continue down the Chalets blue run into Vaujany.
10. Nursery Slopes
Last but definitely not least are the two nursery slope areas within Alpe d'Huez resort. Les Bergers and DMC are two areas that are brilliant for true beginners. Relatively flat and a great place to try your hand at skiing for the first time, they are designed for ease of learning. With different slopes in each area that offer different gradient, you can work up your confidence slowly but surely and hone your skills. Chez Roger is another fun trail within Les Bergers beginner area, with lots of tunnels and interactive sections, much like La Marcel. Be careful with the tunnels, they're smaller than they look!
Overall, Alpe d'Huez is a resort that really caters for all types of skiers. As shown by how many times I've been back, it's very easy to find new areas that haven't been explored yet. A great resort for families, Alpe d'Huez truly grows with you as you progress from the beginners slopes to the more challenging.
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