La Grave Ski Resort

A small village in the French Alps, La Grave makes all other ski resorts seem tame. Across most of its ski area there are no gates, piste markers, patrols or avalanche-protection: just steep North-facing slopes with a vertical drop of over 2,000m (about 7,000 feet) and enough ‘ski sauvage’ to challenge even the most experienced off-piste skiers and freeriders.

Many ski resorts offer something for everyone, but not La Grave. If the words "off-piste", "backcountry skiing", "freeriding", "piste hors", and "ski touring" mean nothing to you, or fill you with dread, then don't come here. There are few lifts and even fewer pistes; the nightlife is rudimentary; and the village itself sits astride a through-road and has no nightclubs or famous restaurants.

And yet each winter thousands of the most knowledgeable and experienced skiers on the planet choose to holiday here and take the small-capacity pulse-gondola lift up from the village at 1450m to over 3,000m, and then a chairlift, which ascends to nearly 3,600m.

The only marked runs in this ski area  are the blue piste beside the chair, and two ungroomed intineraries that are neither patrolled nor avalanche-protected. The real draw, however, is not marked: it's the long off-piste descents, often partly through steep and narrow couloirs, back to La Grave or other points along its valley road from where you return to the village by bus or taxi, unless your guide has pre-parked a car; or even longer runs 'off the back' to St Christophe and its valley, from where you return to Les Deux Alpes, to which la Grave is linked by a primitive snowcat tow.

And that really is it, skiing-wise. You can, of course, ski over to Les Deux Alpes which has proper pistes and lifts, but if you want to do this regularly you would be better off staying there. There is also a small  beginners-focused ski area on the other side of La Grave at Le Chazelet but this is of no use to most skiers who come to La Grave.  Of more interest, is nearby Serre-Chevalierwhich is 30 minutes' away by car and has some of the best tree skiing in Europe, so provides welcome relief when the weather is poor.

The village of La Grave, whilst unlikely to adorn a chocolate box, is welcoming and set in a scenic location, beneath the towering La Meije mountain. There are plenty of good value places to stay in, and some cosy bars and basic restaurants, usually filled with like-minded off-piste enthusiasts. There are also lots of ski guides, and you are strongly advised to use them.

La Grave Pros & Cons

+ Superb off-piste skiing with a guide

+ Welcoming traditional village

+ Link to Les Deux Alpes

+ Relatively short drive to Serre Chevalier

- For off-piste fans only

- Through road can get busy

- The main gondola is old and slow

- Infrequent buses to other resorts 

 

 

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