Les 2 Alpes has the highest pistes in France at over 3,500m. The resort is not pretty but it's affordable and lively, and whilst the ski area is not very large, it has testing black runs and freeriding for strong skiers, and long gentle blue pistes for novices or those who prefer easy cruising.
High up in a narrow valley above the Lac Du Chambon lies the sprawling resort that is officially called Les-Deux-Alpes, although it’s sometimes abbreviated to ‘Les 2 Alpes’. Its main drag is 2km long but seems even longer and is lined with good value hotels and apartments. And there are plenty of restaurants, fast-food outlets and bars too. (If this sounds too brash and noisy, consider staying in the pretty village of Venosc 700m below Les Deux Alpes and linked to it by lift.)
The highest slopes are 100% snowsure and can be skied in summer as well as winter. The resort itself is “only” at 1,650m above sea level, but it takes just two lifts to experience glacier skiing at an elevation of 3,400m, and a further two lifts get you to the highest pistes in France at the Dôme de la Lauze at 3,568m.
From there, confident novices and above can descend nearly 2,000m on blue and green runs. There are also convenient nursery slopes next to the resort, a separate beginner-friendly Vallee Blanche sector on the other side of town and a wide choice of ski schools, so Les Deux Alpes is a good place to learn to ski.
And experts are not forgotten about either: Les 2 Alpes has both normal black runs and ungroomed ‘dotted black’ slopes that deserve their grading.
But piste skiing is just part of what’s on offer. Freestyle skiers and boarders have an impressive high altitude snowpark at Toura. And there’s excellent off-piste, both in Les Deux Alpes itself, and in the legendary ‘freeride-only’ ski area of La Grave, to which Les Deux Alpes is semi-linked (you’re pulled waterski-style by a pistebasher over the Glacier de la Girose). Bring a guide with you if you want to return in one piece.
So what’s not to like about this inexpensive mountain metropolis? Well firstly, Les Deux Alpes itself, and its 2 Alpes 1800 suburb, lack charm; secondly, the west-facing slopes immediately above them, which account for about a quarter of the entire Les 2 Alpes ski area, are quite low for a high altitude resort and soak up a lot of sunshine: artificial snow-making keeps them open but can’t prevent them from being icy in the morning and slushy by mid-afternoon. And lastly, the Les Deux Alpes ski area is simply too small for strong keen skiers who insist on sticking to the pistes and stay here for a full week, especially if they like red runs.
But there is a solution to that: just to the north of Les Deux Alpes is the larger ski area of Alpe d’Huez. The two resorts are not connected by lift but they are by bus and helicopter, and most lift passes entitle you to at least one day’s free skiing in the other one, so use it. And for those with a car, the tree-lined slopes of Serre Chevalier are about 50 minutes away and make a good contrast to Les Deux Alpes’ high-altitude bowls.
Les Deux Alpes Pros and Cons
+ Snowsure glacier at the top of the ski area
+ High long blue runs with amazing views
+ Convenient nursery slopes
+ Excellent off-piste, in Les 2 Alpes & La Grave
+ Useful lift pass sharing with bus-linked Alpe d’Huez
+ Lively nightlife
+ Less expensive than most high altitude resorts
+ Short transfers from Grenoble Airport/TGV rail station
– Smaller ski area than other major French ski resorts
– Very few red runs
– Slopes can get crowded
– Limited tree skiing if visibility is bad
– Lower west-facing slopes can be very icy or slushy
– Spread-out, ugly main resort