Les Deux Alpes is as bald as Bruce Willis – there’s not a tree to be seen: not a bush, not a blade of grass, just a wide-open monochromatic landscape that rolls up and away from the town for 10km. When there’s good snow, this is a lot of fun, though when it’s actually falling, making out where you’re going can be tricky!
Les Deux Alpes has long been a favourite with Brits and it’s easy to see why. In the summer it is THE place to head; the park high up on the glacier at 3200m is beyond huge.
The town itself is a mixture of old and new buildings, all strung out ribbon-like along the floor of a valley that sits on a plateau overlooking the village of Venosc. From the old-town end, the views of the titular “two alps” are fantastic, and there’s a decent mix of places to stay, with something to suit all budgets.
The strange thing about the resort is that it feels sort of upside down. The glacier at the top is very flat and often wind-blown, the mid-section of the mountain has most of the best intermediate terrain, while stupidly steep and sometimes icy black runs are at the bottom – leading you back into the resort’s base.
There really is a piste for everyone in Les Deux Alpes, from beginner to expert. Indeed Les Deux Alpes’ only real downside is its lack of trees, meaning poor vis in bad weather.
The very base of the resort has a number of free drag lifts for those getting their first turns in. Once you’ve mastered the basics there’s also a chair or a gondola up to a large flat beginners’ area halfway up the mountain.
“There really is a piste for everyone in Les Deux Alpes, from beginner to expert”
The Vallons is one of the newer pistes, a cruisey red that takes you from the bottom of the Super Diable chair all the way back to the town. It should be the law that the Jandri piste at the foot of the glacier to the mid-station be taken at full whack, as it’s a real buzz.
As Les Deux Alpes regular and Mpora reader Andrea Azzolini puts it: “That long ride is absolutely wonderful, there’s nothing better at the end of your day especially if you stomped some new trick.
“Just riding down with your friends and enjoying the feeling. If I think about that right now it gives me goosebumps.”
By the end of the day, things do get a bit clogged up on the way down, with a couple of narrow flat paths bottle-necking everyone, but so long as you’re controlled you can bomb it past most of them.
The Valentine run to the base can be fun, but it can also be an absolute nightmare, as it’s very steep and often either mogulled, or sheet ice. Sometimes both.
Freestyle wise Les Deux Alpes has the lot: a series of park lines for different abilities, a pipe, various ‘Slide Zones’ and a boardercross. Most of the action is situated in ‘Freestyle Land’, serviced by the Toura, Lac Noire and Envers lifts.
The main park is situated by the Toura chair at 2600m and moves down from the glacier (usually in December) when there’s sufficient snow; by mid-January it is in full flow. A local’s top tip is to take your lunch to the top of the chair, hike for a while in the same direction and enjoy some spectacular views.
“Take your lunch to the top of the chair and enjoy some spectacular views”
To your right as you go up, there’s a short rope tow allowing easy access to a few of the smaller hits and jibs, as well as the competition big air kicker. From the top of the chair you can take the boardercross, or enter the park proper. There are two options – a slopestyle course with well-sculpted (and sizeable!) kickers and rails to the right, or to the left, a few smaller hits and jibs leading down to the 120m-long halfpipe with its 5m walls.
To the extreme right, there’s usually one mega-booter, with a tabletop of around 25m – strictly for French rudeboys and bold seasonnaires only! All this is finished off with the ‘cool zone’: a BBQ area where music blasts from turntables.
Under the glacier chair are two ‘Slide Zones’ which, while short, are great if you want to practise banked turns at speed without the out-of-control fools who block up the main boardercross.
Check out ‘the Dome’ for fresh pow, and routes off the six-man chair, La Fee, for steep, deep and testing riding. There’s some hardcore off-piste around the Clot de Chalance, but you’ll need to have a guide to show you the routes.
From the bottom of the Super Diable you can head left out of the area for some cool riding before picking up the Diable piste much further down. Ask in the tourist information about the free off-piste chats and mini-tours.
The completely un-pisted neighbouring resort of La Grave is something of a freerider’s paradise, populated by bearded old men with carabinas jangling from their belts. There’s only one lift – a rickety old cable car – but there’s an infinite number of routes down the hill. However, many of these end in large, icy cliffs, so again you’ll need a guide!
To access it, take the glacier T-bar to the top, then a further drag, which will deposit you next to a waiting snow-cat. Grab one of the handles on the rope behind it, and enjoy the tow across. Unfortunately, the cats only tow you one-way, so when you’re done shredding pow, make sure you’ve still got enough energy for the lung-busting hike back over – at nearly 4,000m above sea-level!
The setting of the town is a match for any in the Alps, but like many French resorts, the architecture is a bit of a mess, with its mix of 70’s apartment blocks and wood clad hotels.
However, there are loads of off-slope services, including a cinema, bowling alley, sports complex and an outdoor climbing wall.
It is a busy package tour destination so expect a lot of tourist junk shops, but there are a couple of decent snowboard shops too.
For a meal out, Mpora reader Robbie Ambrose recommends La Porte de la Côté “for one of the best raclettes in town,” while another top tip is a small restaurant called Les Bleuets, tucked away down a side street.
According to reader Vicky Brum Clayton “the steak in there is incredible.”
The nightlife goes off seven nights a week, with things starting early and finishing late. You can kick things off up the hill at Pano bar, where DJs blare out tunes from the middle of the afternoon and vin chaud flows freely.
‘Smokey Joes’, near the main gondola station, is good for a beer after the slopes, and it has a big screen for the football games.
There’s the obligatory Yeti Bar too, but the real place to go is Smithy’s, which gets messy later on. The Red Frog is a friendly Brit haunt with free wi-fi, and Pub Le Windsor is a great little bar with a massive whisky menu.
Local hangout L’Avalanche is the place to head in the wee hours – if you can still stand.
Alpe d’Huez is just 75 minutes drive from Grenoble Airport. British Airways flies to Grenoble twice a week from London Gatwick, with fares starting from just £45 pp each way, based on a return fare.