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TR: Alpe d'Huez & Les 2 Alpes 10-17 Jan 2015 (now with photos)

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead

Pic Blanc from the main snow front, but much of the snow cover was superficial

SnowHeads was an invaluable resource in planning this trip, so I thought I'd better write a report by way of thanks. Wednesday and Thursday relate to Les Deux Alpes; the rest to Alpe d'Huez.

Basic details (prices total for 2):
Dates: Saturday 10th - Saturday 17th January 2015
Flights: Easyjet, Edinburgh to Grenoble (£177 including baggage)
Transfers: Ben's Bus, Grenoble to Alpe d'Huez (£93 - excellent value)
Accommodation: Odalys La Christiania, Les Bergers, Alpe d'Huez (£339, booked through Powderbeds)
Ski hire: SkiSet Man Sports, Les Bergers (£101 with Powderbeds discount code)
Ski passes: 6-day whole area pass (£388; covers 2 days in Les Deux Alpes as well as a day in various other resorts)

Getting there:

Left Glasgow before dawn for an extremely windy drive across the Central Belt to Edinburgh airport. Through check-in and security within a few minutes, leaving us with 2 hours+ to waste before the gate was announced. Fears that wind might affect flights were unfounded, with boarding proceeding on time. However, the trouble started after we boarded the plane. First there was an issue with passenger numbers, and the cabin crew had to go around the plane manually checking everyone's boarding passes and ticking them off on a list. This was done several times, by which time it had started to snow heavily so we had to wait for a de-icer. Once this was done, the vehicle which started the plane engines broke down. A further lengthy delay while this was fixed before we finally took off, two hours later than planned.

Grenoble was unsettlingly warm and sunny for early January (18C degrees according to the pilot). We'd easily missed our scheduled 2.40pm Ben's Bus transfer, so we collected baggage as quickly as possible and sprinted for their information desk. The next bus at 5pm was supposedly full, but we were advised to turn up for it anyway. Sure enough the coach had (exactly) two spare seats. Meanwhile, passengers behind us in the queue had to wait for the 9pm coach, so we got off lucky there. The coach driver was like an F1 racer and despite heavy traffic we arrived in Alpe d'Huez less than 90 minutes after leaving the airport.

Ski hire:

The quick drive enabled us to collect skis upon arrival on Saturday evening. Friendly and efficient service from SkiSet Man Sports, just across the road from where Ben's Bus deposited us. We'd only paid for the cheapest (Economy) stuff. Skis were fine (bases a little scratched, and I had to go back to get my bindings adjusted on the first day, but no major issues), and the boots looked new and were very comfy with a fur inner lining.

Accommodation:

Odalys La Christiania was the second cheapest place I could find in Alpe d'Huez, and proved to be just fine. Standard self-catering apartment, but refurbished for 2013/14 (?), so everything in excellent condition. Linen (but not towels) included, dishwasher, powerful and hot shower (although annoyingly it didn't have a clip holding the showerhead to the wall, so you had to hold it in one hand while washing yourself with the other). Reasonably clean and notably spacious. On the first night we were mistakenly put in a palatial 6 person apartment, before being relocated to a 3 person studio for the second night. This was still better than the 2 person studio we'd booked. The real highlight was the location: a minute's walk from the main lift base at Les Bergers (IMHO a better and quieter location than the other lift base in the centre) and you could ski back right into the locker room door via an informal side run not on the piste map. The green Melezes piste also went past the back of the apartment, but on the opposite side to the ski lockers.

Resort:

Alpe d'Huez isn't picture-postcard, but it's not bad looking as purpose-built resorts go. At 1860m, a good chance of white stuff covering the buildings probably helps. The Les Bergers shopping mall (fair-sized supermarket, usual shops, cafes and restaurants) was 2 minutes from the apartment. Avenue des Jeux, the main street, is 10 minutes away. Free buses connect all sectors of the resort including Huez village. The rocket-shaped church has a striking hand-shaped organ and concerts on Thursdays, but at €10 seemed a bit pricey. Night skiing (Tuesdays and Thursdays), swimming (once only) and ice skating (once only) are all free with the lift pass, though you have to pay for skate hire. Free wifi is difficult to find. A detailed weather forecast is posted on a board by the Les Bergers lift pass desks each day.

Eating out / mountain restaurants:

The Le Farmer restaurant is adjacent to the apartments, and La Fondue (inside the Pierre & Vacances accommodation) is opposite. We didn't try the former, but the latter turned out to be very good - exceptional value, decent food and large portions (€10 for the most expensive pizza, €7 for unlimited desserts buffet etc...), and cheaper than resort centre prices by some distance. Also recommended was Caribou in the Viel Alpe district, with great tartiflette / steak tartare.

On the mountain, we again looked for good value fare. The restaurant to skier's right of the Poutran gondola lift base in Oz was a highlight. The self service bit of the pyramid-shaped "2108" on Signal was not. There are several convenient snack places based around the shopping mall (which backs onto the slopes) in Les Bergers. In Les Deux Alpes, the mountain restaurant at the bottom of the rope tow at Toura was a highlight for it's lapin plat du jour. The nearby restaurant on the other side of the Jandri Express top station was poor. On-mountain prices seemed higher in Les Deux Alpes than in Alpe d'Huez.

The skiing:

Overview: Highly variable. Regular small top-ups of snow saved the week, without which would have been very poor. The best snow wasn't always on the upper slopes - the best areas were Huez, Vaujany, the glacier and underneath Marmottes II. Most runs without snowmaking were closed, even at high altitude (e.g. Chamois underneath the DMC second stage). No lift queues at all in Alpe d'Huez and we were often the only ones on the entire length of a piste. Les Deux Alpes was noticeably busier, and generally had much better snow.

Sunday: dawned rainy after Saturday's high temperatures. It turned to snow at resort level around lift opening time, with the temperature dropping through the day. Poor visibility and high winds limited us to the area around the resort in the morning. Conditions were poor, with fog and a dusting of fresh snow covering up rocks and bare patches which made for an alarmingly rubbish first run in particular (Ancolies, blue). Happily most of the runs were better than this. The unexpected highlight of the morning was the sheltered run (Village, blue) down to Huez village once the snow limit had dropped sufficiently. A little powder on top of soft artificial base, no wind, and no-one else on it. Just before midday the sun came out and we headed down to Oz on the red Poutran, which was a bit rocky. The blue alternative was shut. After lunch, the Pic Blanc cable car unexpectedly opened for access to the Sarenne (black) only - the world's longest run. It was laughably windy and scraped at the very top, but the middle section was excellent. The flat track along the gorge at the end was very icy which at least meant we didn't have to push.


Couloir (blue) - the only open piste under the DMC 2nd stage


Pic Blanc cable car


Sarenne (black)


Looking back up Sarenne

Monday: sunny and warm, and a contender for the best day of the week after yesterday's snow. Also the only day of the week with lower wind speeds, so we explored all the highest areas of the mountain. The runs with the best snow were Clocher de Macle (black), Couloir (blue), and all the glacier runs (+ the ice cave). The reds from the Dome des Petites Rousses were quiet and good fun, but rock-hard on the middle section of Rousses (partially closed later in the week as a result).


Ice cave


Alpette (red)

Tuesday: the now familiar "violent winds getting stronger - stay close to your resort" electronic signs were on again, with more cloud cover but good visibility. Despite this we headed over to shady Vaujany via Oz. There was plenty of snow here but it was very hard-packed. Chalets (blue) was one of the highlights, but La Fare and Vaujaniate to the valley were both shut, as well as the Vallonet chair. After a nice quiet morning here and with the wind in mind, we headed back towards Alpe d'Huez via Alpette (red) to Oz. Directly in the sunlight, this had nice soft, artificial snow along with a series of spectacular ice waterfalls on the cliffs to the left. These were steadily melting, causing large shards of ice to crash onto the side of the piste. In the afternoon, we visited Villard Reculas. The mountainside here below the Petit Prince draglift was bare except for the strip of snow on the Chemin du Patre (blue) resort run. Surprisingly it was still good to ski, unlike the only other run open on that side - Les Vallons (blue) - which was sheet ice.


Les Vallons (blue)


View down to a very bare Villard Reculas

Wednesday: around 10cm fresh snow in resort overnight and a dusting to around 1300m. Today we headed to Les Deux Alpes on the twice weekly public bus (€12 return, taking just under an hour). Leaving at 8.45am got us to Les Deux Alpes before 10am despite snowy roads. Two days in L2A are included in the Alpe d'Huez lift pass and you can just walk straight through the lift turnstiles. In the morning it was pretty windy again with snow on and off, but no low cloud except on the glacier. Most of our time was spent on the Glacier chair and the blue and red runs below it. Fee 1 and Thuit 1 (blues) were very scenic but a bit flat and not helped by the powder! We also tried Valentine (black) into the resort, which was the only resort run open - busy and chopped up even just after lunch. In the afternoon the sun came out a little. With the exception of the resort runs (and sector Vallee Blanche, which was completely closed), the snow was excellent thanks to fresh snowfall, higher altitude, and north-facing slopes. A bit more drama in the evening: despite being at the bus stop in plenty of time we somehow missed the 5.20pm bus back to Alpe d'Huez! This necessitated taking a bus at 6pm to Bourg d'Oisans (the driver wouldn't take payment for this), followed by a €50 taxi (kindly reserved by Les Deux Alpes tourist office) to Alpe d'Huez.


Looking towards the Glaciers chair, glacier in the distance


Signal (blue)

Thursday: back to Les Deux Alpes, this time in cold sunshine. It was still windy, but (apparently for the only day that week) the lifts were open all the way to the top. The blue glacier runs were a lovely blast first thing, as well as all of the Signal runs (especially Signal 4, starting on the glacier). Between the glacier and Toura, the main runs tended to get busy but there were still plenty of deserted slopes branching off from Glacier 1 (Glaciers 2-8, blue and red). After an unmemorable lunch, we explored the Fee sector more thoroughly. The reds and blacks from the top of the Fee chairlift were quiet with super snow, though rocky at the very bottom. Fee 6 (black) was also great, but comes out on the flat blue run - although without overnight snow this was less tiring today. Too many excellent runs to list here, but all the Super Diable runs (blue / red / black) and Bellecombes 2 (blue) were great fun. Probably my favourite run in Les Deux Alpes was the long Bellecombes black, with great snow in a little valley all on its own. Before heading down for the day we finished with Thuit 2 (blue), which was rubbish - covered in ice and stones at the top and mud at the bottom, and probably should have been closed.

Resort run chaos: at the end of the day, we encountered one of the most laughably shocking situations I've ever seen in a ski resort. Les Deux Alpes has a number of direct blacks into the valley, plus a red and a long, narrow, winding green track. Poor snow conditions had meant that only Valentin (a black) was open this week, with queues for the White Eggs gondola down at close of play on Wednesday. On Thursday, the gondola closed mid-afternoon for unknown reasons. By 4.30pm, some people were downloading on the Village 1800 chair, but this doesn't go to the resort centre. Thousands of people instead descended on the black Valentin, many evidently not used to black runs. Absolute carnage. Skis (not attached to people) flying down the hill, people (not attached to skis) tumbling down separately. I had to stop several times to retrieve random skis and deliver them to the owner, often significantly further downhill. Meanwhile, over to the right you could clearly see the closed green run. On long sections this was bare (i.e. no snow at all), and you could clearly see hundreds of people just walking down, carrying their skis. Terrible!


Arty farty spindrift shot, not sure where

Friday: back in ADH and not a great way to end the week, with high winds again closing everything that started above resort level (except the DMC second stage). Low cloud and wet snow - rain below 2000m. In the morning the rain was light, so we headed over to the as yet unexplored Auris area. It was almost completely deserted here - we only saw (glimpsed, from a chairlift) one other skier in the first two hours. There were only a handful of runs open. Marmottes (green) and especially Gentianes (blue) were OK, but the rest had some really poor conditions (large bare patches, grass, mud, littered with stones) and shouldn't really have been open. The view towards Signal de l'Homme from Auris was just grass, and you had to download on the Auris Express into Auris. Somehow, one run was open from the top of the Fontfroide chairlift - a patched-together mixture of Fontfroide (red), Pre-rond (blue), Maronne (red) and then Le Gua (green). This was depressing to ski - the constant scratching of stones on the bases on the steeper parts followed by several minutes of poling on the green section due to saturated, wet snow... in the rain, of course! After lunch back in Les Bergers we swapped our skis for mini skis (for a laugh), and messed about on both sides of Signal, the Couloir blue and the runs off Marmottes 1 (because it had a bubble covering the chairs) before a slightly early finish.


Le Col (blue) from Marmottes (green) at Auris

Departure day:

Heavy overnight snow means that anyone in ADH this week will have a great time. About 20cm had fallen in resort overnight and it was still snowing heavily as we left - all the way down to Bourg d'Oisans, and with snow on the low hills surrounding Grenoble airport. The 10am transfer, flights and drive home went smoothly and we were back home by early evening.


Departure day snowfall

Summary:

Snow conditions weren't ideal, the wind was an issue and it was a shame that about 50% of the runs in Alpe d'Huez were closed. Despite this, there was plenty of good skiing available in both ADH and L2A to keep us occupied for the week and I'd recommend ADH (and especially Les Bergers) to anyone thinking of visiting. Les 2 Alpes, despite better snow, had markedly less piste skiing and has a few issues with the home runs - although there is a blue run under construction). Thumbs up to the transfers and accommodation.


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Thu 6-01-22 21:33; edited 8 times in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Nice writeup - sounds like you made the most of what was available. Pity you didn't see the resorts with better conditions
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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?
@denfinella, thanks for the report, we are headed to ADH on Saturday, so any and all info is good.. Shame you didn't have better snow conditions, but great you enjoyed yourselves despite that.
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Thank you! love a good trip report.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@skidoodle, looks like conditions will be excellent when you get there
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@Arno, yes, looks like we are going to be lucky. All a lottery, booked so far in advance to fit in with people's schedules. No point stressing about it, there will be what there will be snow wise, but I have had a look at the resort webcams and it does look rather good Very Happy Very Happy
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@denfinella, thanks for the report, we are headed to ADH on Saturday, so any and all info is good.. Shame you didn't have better snow conditions, but great you enjoyed yourselves despite that.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Thanks for very full report - Still thinking about ADH so was good to get more info - Sounds like you had a good time despite snow conditions.
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
I have no idea why my post from 18.01 popped up again at 18.23 - and I have no idea how to delete the duplicate Puzzled
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Sounds very like a carbon copy of the trip we're doing. Flying out 31st with easy jet from Edinburgh. Then bens bus to resort and staying in les bergers. Hope conditions hold up (or improve even). Did you notice pierre et vacances les bergers accommodation? Just wondering how far it is from lifts (and more importantly) the pubs!! Happy
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Hi
Just got back from half term week in AD.Very impressed with the ski resort despite architectural demerits but very good skiing and what weather for half term which unfortunately went pear shaped for those travelling home later on the Sat 21 Feb.Good value resort with few rip off prices you will see in other resorts.All runs open with outstanding ski conditions and with only one very windy morning no on could ever complain.Le Sporting and Le Caribou offered awesome lunches too.
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