Loveskiing’s Alpe d’Huez Review
Situated east of Grenoble, Alpe d’Huez is widely known for one thing – the Sarenne. The Sarenne is the world’s longest run at 16km and drops an incredible 2,000 vertical metres. However, the Sarenne isn’t the only attraction at Alpe d’Huez, with the resort’s ski area containing a very decent 240km of pistes. The ski area is also extremely accommodating for beginners, with a vast amount of nursery slopes to get your ski legs on. However, we found that Alpe d’Huez has a lot of south-facing slopes which means towards the end of the season (or just when the weather is warm), snow can turn to slush very quickly! Take this into consideration when booking to go there over Easter!
|24 chair lifts|
|41 drag lifts|
|16 cable cars/gondolas|
|Piste classification/marking||Unreliable – case of blues which should be reds and vice versa|
|Size of the ski area||240km|
|Nearest airport||Grenoble – 1h30; Lyon – 2h|
|Nearest train||Grenoble – 1h30 (54km)|
|Lift Pass Price 12/13||Adult – 6 days – 225 euros|
1) Proximity to Grenoble – short transfer
2) Rather cheap compared to other resorts in the area
3) Good apres-ski for a French town – several bars and nightclubs provide for great entertainment
4) Efficient access lifts from villages
5) Ability to make A LOT of artificial snow
6) High altitude ensures that you should be guaranteed snow
7) The Sarenne run – a full 16km of pure adrenaline with a 2000 metre vertical decent. See our special section on the run below.
1) Lots of south-facing runs that can be icy early on in the day and slushy later
2) The main intermediate runs become very crowded in peak season
3) If the weather closes in then there are very few tree runs to provide shelter; the runs can feel very exposed
4) Cuisine disappointed us on the whole; a lot of the food is cheap and similar to what you might expect from your local fast-food restuarant
Now to talk a little about the aformentioned Sarenne run. Why? Because quite simply it’s the longest in the Alps and is guaranteed to make your legs burn like many won’t have felt them burn before. If you haven’t skied before, this must sound mindbogglingly painful and undesired, however, those of you who know what we’re talking about will be packing their bags to ski this famous run right this minute. Yes, that painful burn is what we want. The run offers ski fanatics a huge 16km of non-stop, flowing piste and a 2000 metre vertical decent. Unlike some of the Alps’ other longest runs, like the Parsenn Run in Kloster which is a 15km run and rated blue, the Sarenne is a black. And we LOVE this. For those of you who are a dab-hand at maths you will soon realise that a length of 16km and a 2000 metre drop equates to an average steepness of 11%… that isn’t steep whatsoever! However, Sarenne is a run of two halves: the first half is very steep (thus the black rating), while the second half is somewhat flatter (BOARDERS – BEWARE)! All in all if you are an advancing intermediate then make sure you try gliding down the Sarenne, the views alone are well worth it!!!
To keep this clear and concise we’re going to answer a couple of simple questions:
Was it as we expected?
We were pleasantly surprised actually: we didn’t go to Alpe d’Huez expecting a beautiful, traditional mountain Village, and of course it isn’t that. However, we were excited by the array of runs on offer for all levels, whether you’re a beginner benefiting from the truly excellent ski school or an intermediate pushing for challenging runs and further progression. We knew the resort had a fantastic vertical drop before arriving, but the addition of vast heli-skiing options that is thrown into the equation really impressed us. “Top notch” as our French guide described to us…he’d obviously been watching too much “Downton Abbey” to practice his English, but we like his enthusiasm nonetheless. And honestly, he’s fairly spot on…the resort offers a lot for all levels.
Who does it suit?
1) Beginners – As already mentioned the ski school is very impressive as well as multilingual. Not only this but the ski area directly above the resort is one of the largest and best areas in the world for beginners.
2) Experts – Superb long steep runs with plenty of scope for off piste decent. If you want to try heliskiing or are already a huge fan of it then there is plenty of opportunity to get your adrenalin kick.
Not ideal for:
1) Those who hate slush and ice – generally a lot of south facing slopes, thus resulting in icy conditions in the morning and slush in the afternoon, particularly during peak and late season.
2)If you’re looking for a picturesque, traditional alpine resort atmosphere and experience, don’t come here.
1) Families – With a wide selection of runs available there is something on offer for everyone and a friendly, welcoming atmosphere on the whole…worth a shot.
How does it compare to the rest of the Alps?
Still doesn’t compare to the Three Valleys, however we reckon it provides the ‘Portes du Soleil‘ with very stiff competition: although the area isn’t as vast, it is a lot higher and therefore provides a safer option in case those sinister (for lower resorts) westerly winds bring in some warmer weather. In terms of the likes of Tignes or La Plagne, it may not be as good in certain regards, but it’s definitely well worth visiting.
Were there queues?
On the whole, we’ve noticed that Alpe d’Huez can become very crowded and you may find you are weaving and dodging people instead of enjoying whizzing down the slopes as much as you like. This particularly applies in peak season, such as English half term in February. HOWEVER, the lift system is actually renowned for being one of the best in the Alps, with long lift queues rarely posing a problem. Something we at Loveskiing love to be able to tell you about a resort!
Please click on the image below to open a high resolution piste map.