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Snowboarding in Les Deux Alpes

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
So, managed to bag a last-minute trip to Les Deux Alpes for me and the wife and thought I'd give a bit of a post-trip report.

Booked through the excellent igluski who were ultra-helpful in helping me find a deal from Manchester. I booked 36hrs before flying so ended up getting a £299 catered deal with flights and transfers, pretty good i thought. Had to pay £35 for equipment carriage; we crammed all our snowboarding gear into one roller bag.

Flew with Monarch. Monarch didn't have a record of us on the flight due to the late booking. Sorted it in a few minutes after the attendant did some digging.

Couldn't find much on its luggage allowances on the Monarch website other than that main hold luggage was 20kg maximum. Our hold bags came in at 14kg each so no problems, and the board bag was 22kg, which went though with no issue other than having to go to the oversize section. The wife's handbag was okayed but my camera backpack weighing 13kg wasn't allowed; the missus took my laptop but I still had over 10kg of camera kit, which the staff said wouldn't be allowed on, despite the bag being no bigger than a large rucksack that many people carry on normally. Lenses went in pockets and I managed to get the weight down to the allowance of 5kg. Once the 'fit to fly' tag was attached to the bag, we headed off and the lenses went back in the bag. Sorted.

The 9.45am flight to Grenoble was uneventful. Took about 1hr 45mins, although we left about 10 minutes late.

The baggage grab at Grenoble was the standard ski airport thing where bags are thrown, kicked and generally abused to make it round the conveyor. All bags arrived safely. Sweet.

Although booked through Igluski, the actual TO was www.ski-france.co.uk, not one I'd heard of before but the website says the company has been going 20 years so I thought that would stand for something. Found the Ski France rep who was in the middle of sorting alternative transport due to a Gatwick flight being delayed several hours, enabling us to get to the resort on time without waiting for the delayed passengers. I liked the effort and the fact two mini-buses were put on for the L2A customers cost in excess of €400, all to save us some time and inconvenience, showed commitment and good service.

The transfer was quick - about 90 minutes - thanks to a driver who thought himself a bit of a Sebastien Loeb. Got to resort just after 3pm, which was one of the best flight/transfer times I'd had.

We stayed at the Club Hotel Les Airielles, a 2-star, 40-odd person hotel that was run on a chalet basis of breakfast, tea and cakes in the afternoon and a meal on the evenings. Wednesdays was staff day off so no cooked option in the morning and no meal on the evening. Tea and coffee were on-tap all week throughout the day, which we took advantage of to save money instead of drinking on the slopes and in the town.

Accommodation was basic but clean. The hotel is very dated but has a great location in the area at the base of the Super Venosc lift up to the Valle Blanche and only 100yds from the Diable bubble lift. It's on the main road so does suffer from traffic noise in the morning as the JCBs move around clearing snow, and late at night you hear the revellers, although it was entertaining watching some of them making their way home. Rooms were fine, if needing an update from the 1970s. A token print of a Beryl Cook painting did little to spruce the room up. Our built-in cupboard had mould inside and featured the waste pipe from upstairs' toilet, so we knew their movements as-and-when they happened. As a place to sleep it was fine, but not somewhere to spend a lot of time.

Not being a resort I'd had in mind to visit before, we weren't really sure what to expect. The actual resort town is good; big, lots of bars and eateries, plus tons of really good shops to buy equipment. Everywhere we went we were welcomed, even with our rubbish French, and it seemed a good resort to spend time in.

On the staff day off we ate in Le Cellier (about 50yds from the Hotel)and the food and service was good; €29 for a set 3-course meal (salad/fondue/dessert). Also had a few take-away crepes from shops on the main drag (about €3 for a ham and cheese) but other than that we made sandwiches each day to take on the hill with us to save money and free up our time so we could eat as-and-when we wanted.

Went on a bit of a pub crawl that ended up in the disco above Smithy's Tavern. Lots of shots mean I can't remember much, although the Polar Bear Pub and the Red Frog Pub were excellent places to go for a beer. The Red Frog was manned by really, really friendly Anglo-French staff who really made an effort to chat. Footy was on (LFC Vs MCFC) and it had a great atmosphere. The French bar manager (Remy?) made me speak in French as a laugh, which was good banter and helped me get to grips with the language a bit more.

L2A is often referred to as 'upside-down' because the blacks go down into resorts with the gentler blues right up on the glacier. I didn't mind this, although the snow was getting crusty and icy on them so weren't always confidence inspiring. If we didn't fancy boarding the blacks down into town we'd take the long, cruisey Damoiselles green run that snakes across the main face, with an option to use the bottom half of one black runs (Valentin) to spice things up. Not a hard run and easy on the legs, although narrow and when full of beginners it was a bit slow.

Snow conditions (21-28 Jan 2012) were good, with snow at the start of the week when we arrived, although the strong sun took its toll later on, with some steeper runs near the resort showing grass and mud. Higher up from the second Jandri Express hub the snow remained excellent and very fluffy, making every run easy to board, and temperatures stayed cold despite the clear skies. The glacier was baltic and demanded being fully wrapped up.

Lots of the reds like the Thuit 4 and Vallons suffered extensive moguls, which weren't to our liking, but the blues were flat and easy to carve thanks to a good covering of soft stuff.

From our point of view - I'm a competent downhill charger, the wife is happy to cruise around on blues and reds - we did most runs, although we did have our preferred routes down the hill, most being blues that were wide and easy to board. The main criticism of the area were the blues being a real mish-mash. Some were verging on red status but many had too many flat sections - the Fee area being a prime example of this. Al the runs off the glacier, past the snow park and down to the the Jandri Express mid-station were excellent. It was below this that too many flats appeared, as you approached the 'White Eggs' lift

Also, the wife didn't like some of the exits on the chairlifts, commenting that many seemed too steep. Chairs like the Bellecombes were great, with their slow exit speed, but the Super Diable had 'broken leg' written all over it. It's a personal thing I know, and probably relates more to boarders than skiers.

The two bubble lifts were handy and had plenty of chairs off them to take you higher and across. We used the Diable bubble lift the most and then bordered down to the Bellecombes chair and up to join the Access Toure 2000 blue run that goes down to the Jandri Express mid-station and the base of the snow park.

The Jandri Express is fast up to the bottom of the glacier (in two stages) but was really crowded until 10.30am and they pack you in like sardines in a tin to maximise numbers.

We avoided drag lifts like the plague, although there are quite a few at the base of the resort that are free to use and are aimed at beginners.

The funicular was handy, being just below the eatery at the top of the Jandri Express. It only take a few minutes to reach the top of the glacier and is a much easier option than using drags to get to the top. At the top of the funicular there are lifts that take you up to a viewing platform that give great views of the surrounding mountains (and Mt Blanc). At the top of the funicular there is also access to further up the glacier so you can head over to La Grave, the off-piste area that is highly regarded. We were recommended to go over there with a guide but bottled it after hearing of several rescues the previous week. Maybe another time.

The Vallee Blanche area of the resort is quite a nice distraction because it has some nice, wide runs that were only crowded when the three main gondolas up the main ski area were closed on two days. This annoyed us massively, but were were warned by locals that L2A shut lifts on a whim, although with 90km winds up the top it was understandable.

This week was a getaway from being parents for us and although it wasn't exactly romance central, we had a great week together. The resort still isn't somewhere I'd choose to go as my first-choice destination - Val d'isere or PDS are much better - and ADH is a much better ski area in the local vicinity. We didn't take the option of heading over to ADH or Serre Chevalier, which can be skied for free on the L2A lift pass. Some of the other guests headed over to ADH on the €70 helicopter transfer and others went over to Serre Chevalier on a €29 day trip. These add great value to a lift pass that worked out about £170 for the week, one of the cheapest I've bought over the years. I can see the attraction of the town as somewhere to head for a good time, especially with a gang of mates, despite the Euro making things pricey. As somewhere to bash up mile after mile of piste there are much better places.

Still, we needed a holiday and the holiday we had really satisfied our cravings for snow, at least for the next few months Smile
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Excellent write up Specialman.

I've only been to LDA for a day and it didn't float my boat I have to say. But it sounds like you got a good deal and let's face it a resort of that size is always going to have some good skiing. And for anybody going or thinking of going this write up would be a big help. It certainly concurs with a lot of what I remember on the one day I was there.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Specialman, great report - so glad you got such an excellent last minute deal - sounds like fantastic value, and that you made the best of it.

and was it nice to get back to your little man?
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Pan W - it was excellent to get back. Everything went like clockwork on the way home but we couldn't get home quick enough, was great to see him. Lots of Savoie meat and cheese, Genepi, and Chartreusse appeased my folks and they even phoned up once we got him and said they were now bored and wished he was still there Smile
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Here's the first of a few images I took while over there...

Les Deux Alpes 1
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Great report- I was there last year and loved it, so handy to Grenoble. Great skiing (In january) and the night life was great. Would fully reccomend L'Avalanche and Smithy's for late night partying! Smokey joes great for food (and apres) although not typically french cuisine!
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