Alpe d'Huez Ski Resort

A self-proclaimed "island in the sunshine", Alpe d'Huez boasts over 300 sunny days per year, as well as varied terrain, epic scenery, a high snowsure glacier, an excellent lift system, a bustling main resort and quieter lower villages, and skiing for all levels.

The Dauphin of the Oisans Valley, Alpe d'Huez is a purpose-built resort set at 1850m on a wide open flank of mainly south-facing mountainside about 60 kms to the east of Grenoble. An ugly duckling hastily constructed for the 1968 Winter Olympics, it may yet turn into a swan as more of its amorphous buildings are either demolished or reclad in sympathetic timber, and new attractive chalet suburbs are constructed on its flanks. For now, though, it's a large bustling, sprawling resort, so if you want something smaller and quieter, try the lower villages to which it’s linked.

With about 80 lifts and 250km of pistes the Alpe d'Huez Grand Domaine is not as large as the biggest French ski areas, but it’s big enough for almost all skiers for a week, particularly if they take advantage of the opportunity offered by the lift pass to have a day in Les Deux Alpes as well. Although the two resorts are not (yet) linked by lift, there are buses and even a helicopter service between them.

And just by itself Alpe D’Huez has a lot to offer: varied terrain catering for all levels of skiers, beautiful scenery, an excellent lift system, a 3300m snow-sure glacier, epic off-piste itineraries, a 13km long black run that has challenges for experts but which most confident intermediates can also manage, and a wide range of accommodation – from hotels and apartments in the centre of Alpe d’Huez to chalets in its suburbsThe lo. wer villages are worth considering too. They each have their own character: Villard Reculas has rustic charm; Oz-en-Oisans and Auris-en-Oisans offer purpose-built, family-friendly convenience; Vaujany is a good all-rounder; and Huez is good value.

But what really sets Alpe D’Huez apart is the sunshine. The ‘Isle au Soleil’ allegedly has 300 sunny days per year, and its runs predominantly face South. The resort is sufficiently high and has enough artificial snow making to make sure the pistes generally remain skiable from Christmas through to Easter but you have to expect some ice in the morning and slush in the afternoon. For many skiers, though, this is a price worth paying for the joy of skiing (and lunching) in the sunshine.

Ski & SnowBoard Hire in the Alpe d'Huez villages

There are plenty of ski rental shops in the main resort, but less choice in the smaller villages. Wherever you go, rental prices are quite high if you simply walk into the nearest shop when you arrive. Some hotels and tour operators have recommended shops, but they rarely offer the best value even when they give a small discount.

SKISET has 10 outlets in Alpe d'Huez, and more in Oz, Vaujany, Auris and the other surrounding villages, and will give discount of up to 50% if you book online in advance here.

ALPINRESORTS.com works with several shops in the main resort and in the surrounding villages and can get you discounts of up to 60% if you book online in advance here.

Alpe D’Huez Pros & Cons

+ High sunny slopes
+ Big enough area
+ Amazing views
+ Efficient modern lifts
+ Good runs for all standards
+ Choice of big main resort or smaller lower villages.

- Slush and ice are common
- Sprawling, charmless main resort
- Experts depend on the top lifts which close in bad weather

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Photo: Copyright © Alpe d'Huez Tourisme | Laurent Salino

Alpe d'Huez Ski Area

Alpe d'Huez has an almost perfect mix of pistes, with easy greens and wide blues above the village, more challenging reds higher up and steep and bumpy blacks off the top. The Grande Domain also covers skiing above Auris-en-Oisans, Villard Reculas, Oz-en-Oisans and Vaujany.

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The heart of Alpe d'Huez fits many people's idea of the perfect mix of pistes. The runs just above the main village are wide open greens and gentle blues, the next section of lifts take you up to a pleasing network of reds and more challenging blues and the only runs down from the top of the glacier are steep and often bumpy blacks. Less confident intermediates who want to get a sense of travel and explore a wider area should therefore leave the highest lifts to more accomplished skiers and move across the mountain to the ski areas above the other lift-linked villages in the Alpe d'Huez Grand Domain such as Auris-en-Oisans, Villard Reculas, Oz-en-Oisans and Vaujany-Villette. Except for Vaujany all can be approached on blue or red runs.

Sarenne and Auris

Alpe d'Huez can also boast the longest piste in the Alps. The black Sarenne runs for 16 km down from the top of the Pic Blanc Glacier (3330m) to the valley that separates the ski area of Auris from the central area and is a beautiful run in every sense. The top half is steep and bumpy (though there is also a path allowing more intermediates skiers to get down) and the bottom is a gentle path that flanks the river and offers sublime views down the gorge. To access this neighbouring ski area from the town there is a vertigo-inspiring down and then up chairlift which takes you to the bottom of the largely north-facing reds on the Auris side which, though short in vertical, make an excellent half-days skiing from the peak of Signal de l'Homme (2176m). If you want to get a bit of land on this side of the valley you can choose blue, red, black or even the very steep track under the Maronne chair which used to be a famously precarious drag lift.

Signal and Oz

On the other side of town lurk the competition pistes of Signal (2115m), an area of which is floodlit three evenings a week. From the top of here you can also drop down the back to the old village of Villard Reculas (1480m) on either a black, red or blue. Off-piste skiers can also drop down into the next valley to the village of Oz, which has some excellent off-piste and most of the tree-lined skiing so it is always a good bet in bad weather. It is normally accessed from the first stage station of the Rousses bubble. The second stage of the same lift gets you high enough to work you way down and over to all the skiing under the Dome des Petites Rousses (2800m), stretching all the way over to the Vaujany valley, home to some very picturesque and cruisy north-west facing reds and blues. A good indication of the breadth of skiing across the area is that you can follow a piste from the top of the Pic Blanc Glacier (3330m) right the way across to La Villette or Enversin, shedding 2210 vertical metres as you do so. It goes without saying that there are plenty of off-piste routes that offer a similar vertical drop.

Photo: Copyright © Alpe d'Huez Tourisme | Laurent Salino

Alpe d'Huez Ski Lifts & Lift Passes

The lift system in Alpe d'Huez is modern and efficient, with some old bottlenecks recently removed.

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Alpe d'Huez Ski Lifts

The lift system is comparatively modern and efficient in Alpe d'Huez. The old bottleneck of the third stage of the Rousses cable car has been dramatically eased by the new third stage of Marmottes and the new Herpie chair on the glacier means that you can ski the top runs without having to come all way down Sarenne. The main problem is not so much with the lifts as with the central pistes late in the afternoon. They can get really very crowded and it is seriously worth skiing away from the heart of the resort in the afternoon.

Photo: Copyright © Alpe d'Huez Tourisme | Laurent Salino

Alpe d'Huez Beginner Skiing

Alpe d'Huez offers some of the most convenient beginner facilities anywhere and there is also a special beginners lift pass.

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Photo: Copyright © Alpe d'Huez Tourisme | Laurent Salino

Beginner Skiing in Alpe d'Huez

The best area for beginners in Alpe d'Huez is the wide open green nursery slopes above the main accommodation area. The snow conditions are usually good and beginners, in particular, appreciate skiing in the sun. The slopes are some of the most convenient beginner facilities anywhere in the mountains and there is also a special lift pass just covering the lifts in that area.

The only downside is that the pistes can get very busy at the end of the day and are a bit of a thoroughfare for skiers coming down from higher up the mountain.

Ski Schools & Ski Lessons in Alpe d'Huez

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Intermediate Skiing in Alpe d'Huez

Both early and strong intermediates are spoiled for choice in Alpe d'Huez.

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Early and strong intermediates are spoiled for choice in Alpe d'Huez, particularly in good snow conditions when there are choices of fabulously long reds and blues across the mountain range. There are some lovely runs above the main village which are worth doing before the afternoon rush, the best of which is probably the red Canyon which is like a natural half pipe with its high sides. Many of the low villages have great runs down, including the steep red of Souveraine and the gentler blue of Petit Prince down to Villard.

One of the ultimate intermediate runs leaves from the top of the second stage of the Rousses bubble (2700m) along the piste of the same name. At Alpette (2050m) carry along the blues of Chalets, Travers, écureuils and finally under the beautiful rock faces and frozen waterfalls next to Vaujaniate down to La Villette. The views down the l'Eau d'Olles valley here are unsurpassed in the ski area. An alternative to carrying on all the way down immediately is to take the Vallonnet chair from where there are several interesting routes down.

Photo: Copyright © Alpe d'Huez Tourisme | Laurent Salino

Alpe d'Huez Advanced & Off-Piste Skiing

The main area for advanced and expert skiers in Alpe d'Huez is the top of the Pic Blanc Glacier, both on and off-piste. There are several alternatives following the ridge down towards the Sarenne gorge and a few short blacks serviced by the highest Glacier chair, but most runs head back down to the main ski area.

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Opportunities on-piste at the top of the Pic Blanc Glacier include a number of routes off the ridge rthat runs down towards the Sarenne gorge and a few short blacks serviced by the highest Glacier chair, but most runs head back down to the main ski area. The Tunnel, named after the passage through the rock that gives access to the pistes, is the toughest way down. The adjacent Les Chocards is a slightly less daunting alternative that forks off after the tunnel.

There are also some excellent runs from Clocher de Macle (2800m), the base of the very welcome new third stage Marmottes lift up to the glacier. The Combe Charbonniere, though often closed and never pisted, is the best of the lot. From here you can also drop of the sides down towards the centre of the ski area.

The glacier also has some excellent off-piste. Traverse skier's left from Chateau Noir and come down any of the numerous couloirs that later rejoin the Sarenne path. You can also drop off the other side of the ridge through the rock face down towards Clocher de Macle or stay on the ridge line and drop down through the couloirs of Mine de l'Herpie. A half an hour hike from the top and as you to access to the couloirs from Pic Bayle across the Rousses glacier from where you can pick a line all the way down to Enversin. Skier's right of the Dome des Petites Rousses offers some big cliffs and tight couloirs and there is also some interesting off-piste of the back of Signal de l'Homme.

There are also many different off-piste to three that drop down over 2000 vertical metres from the top of Pic Blanc to different villages around the Grande Rousses Massif, some of which finish within the ski lift area and others require a taxi or helicopter to return to Alpe d'Huez. All of these should not be attempted without a qualified guide.

Lastly advanced skiers should take advantage of the buses or helicopters that for now provide a rudimentary link between Alpe D'Huez and Les Deux Alpes, because a day or two at the latter is included in most Alpe D'Huez lift passes. 'L2A' has a smaller ski area but within it are some interesting challenges for advanced skiers, on and off-the piste. And it's also a gateway to the off-piste mecca of La Grave.

Photo: Copyright © Alpe d'Huez Tourisme | Laurent Salino

Alpe d'Huez Snowboarding & Freestyle

For boarders, Alpe d'Huez has three snow parks and some excellent off-piste.

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Alpe d'Huez offers some excellent off-piste accessible to boarders and there are also three snow parks. The main park, under the Lac Blanc lift, is more intermediate focused; the smaller Piste de Bob has bigger jumps. There is also another small park in Auris.

Photo: Copyright © Alpe d'Huez Tourisme | Laurent Salino

Alpe d'Huez Mountain Restaurants

Alpe d'Huez has a good collection of charming mountain restaurants.

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In contrast to any other purpose-built French resorts, Alpe d'Huez has a good collection of charming mountain restaurants. Under the first stage of Marmottes La Cabane de Poutat is a charming traditional restaurant with a nice sun terrace but the most charismatic in the central area is the Chalet du Lac Besson, in the area of the frozen lakes on the edge of the Boulevard des Lacs piste. This is more of a cross-country track so is not easy to get to but well worth the effort. Check out the Perce Neige in the Oz valley and the views and food at the Bergerie in Villard.

Photo: Copyright © Alpe d'Huez Tourisme | Laurent Salino

Alpe d'Huez Villages

Alpe d'Huez is spread out and purpose-built; the smaller lower villages of Auris-en-Oisans, Villard Reculas, Oz-en-Oisans, and Vaujany (and its hamlet Villette) are much smaller and quieter. Oz and Vaujany also have quick access to the higher slopes at Dome des Rousses.

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Photo: Copyright © Alpe d'Huez Tourisme | Laurent Salino

The main village of Alpe d'Huez is quite spread out but loosely set in a triangle with the church and sports centre in one corner, Bergers in another and the Rond point des pistes at the apex. Some of the Alpe d'Huez accommodation spills outside of this and there has been a recent surge in chalet building above Bergers. It's not an ugly resort by the standards of French purpose-built resorts, but it is a bit bland, sprawling and amorphous. It's only architectural highlight is its church. Built in the round, the organ is in the shape of a giant hand and is one of the more surreal that you will see anywhere in the world. Whist it's not a beautiful place to stay in, Alpe d'Huez can be a very enjoyable one. It's not an outright party town, but there is enough choice of bars, restaurants and nightclubs to make sure everyone has a good time. 

You can also stay in the smaller, quieter lower villages of the Alpe d'Huez Grand Domaine. Villard Reculas has the most rustic charm and good skiers will relish the final black run home with its off-piste alternatives (there is also a blue back for less accomplished skiers). Vaujany is a good value option with quick access to the highest and most North facing slopes, and marvellous views but you often have to do take a lift back to the resort as it is impossible or nasty to ski all the way down. It's hamlet of La Villette is even smaller, quieter and more isolated but it has good access to the uncrowded, beginners-friendly area at Montfrais. Auris is on the other side of the Grand Domaine. It's small, purpose-built but in a nice wood-clad chalet style, and family friendly.

Oz en Oisans is really called Oz en Oisans 1350 (it used to be called Plan Oz) to distinguish it from the old village (now sometimes called Oz en Oisans Village) which you pass through on the road up to it. The new Oz en Oisans was purpose built in the same attractive style as Auris, but for most people it's better positioned within the ski area. It also has an ice rink and a supermarket, and most of the accommodation is sk- in, ski-out. Lastly you can stay in the old village of Huez, from where there is a cable car up to the main resort and a blue run down. It's cheaper and more authentic than the huge child it gave birth to nearly sixty years ago, but less convenient

Ski hire and equipment rental in Alpe D'Huez and the surrounding villages

There are plenty of ski rental shops in the main resort, but there is less choice in the smaller villages. Wherever you go, rental prices are quite high if you simply walk into the nearest shop when you arrive. Some hotels and tour operators have recommended shops, but they rarely offer the best value even when they give a small discount (usually 5% or 10% at most) to the hotel or tour operator's guests. Generally, if you want to save money, you're much better off booking in advance with a reliable service provider like the one below.

Pre-book with Skiset in Alpe d'Huez, Vaujany, Auris en Oisans and Oz - and save up to 50%

Skiset has an excellent reputation for hiring out good modern equipment for skiers and boarders of all standards, It has 10 outlets in Alpe d'Huez, and more in Oz, Vaujany, Auris etc so one should be very close to your accommodation. If you book online in advance, you can save up to 50% on what you would pay if you walk into the shop. You will also save time when you arrive in the resort, because your ski rental equipment is reserved, fully prepared and ready and waiting for you.  Check Skiset shop locations and advance booking discounts currently available >>>

 

 

Alpe d'Huez Apres Ski, Bars & Restaurants

Alpe d'Huez is somewhat of a party town with a good selection of English, Scandinavian and French bars. Restaurants range from traditional French to spicy Indian to late-night sandwich, the Alpe d'Huez restaurant scene caters to every taste.

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Alpe d'Huez is somewhat of a party town with a good selection of English, Scandinavian and French bars. Locals tend to hang out in the Freeride Cafe and the Last Bar, both of which are near the sports Centre and neither of which is the last bar on the block. The underground has good live music in the afternoon and continues into the early hours. One criticism of the nightlife is that it is quite dispersed but there is a nucleus of Smithys (which also does good Tex-Mex food), the Zoo Bar, Tropicana and the nightclub, Igloo which are all in staggering distance of each other. For a more swish, expensive French ambience check out to the cabaret style Sporting Bar, which is the haunt of visiting French celebrities.

Good traditional restaurants in Alpe d'Huez include the Pomme de Pin (with its old barn setting) and the rustic Au P'tit Creux. The Genepi does a mean rib of beef. For something a bit different try the Chilli Powder, surprisingly enough specialising in Indian and Thai. For a late snack on the hoof, Captain Sandwich stays open until 2am.

Photo: Copyright © Alpe d'Huez Tourisme | Laurent Salino

Alpe d'Huez Activities

Alpe d'Huez is famous for ice-driving; lift passes give free access to many sports facilities.

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Alpe d'Huez is famous for ice-driving and there is a big circuit where you can drive both cars and carts with studded ice tires. It also has one of the most comprehensive sports centres of any mountain resort, complete with climbing, squash and tennis courts, table-tennis tables and large halls for five aside football and basketball. There is free entrance on your lift pass though you have to pay extra for some activities. You also get free entrance to the large heated outdoor pool, Olympic ice rink and indoor swimming pool.

Photo: Copyright © Alpe d'Huez Tourisme | Laurent Salino

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