Writing titles for blog posts can be tricky. How do you sum up a week’s events on holiday in just a few words? The short answer is you can’t.
But, having just returned from a week’s snowboarding in Alpe d’Huez, here’s a brief insight into the resort through the eyes of three boarders and a skier – it was all very memorable but for very different reasons.
We arrived in Alpe d’Huez (at the tiny airport at Grenoble) and took the ‘scenic route’ to the resort taking a little more than 2 hours via the Crystal coach. We navigated the twenty one bends, a section of road that winds its way up the mountains and is something you might expect Mr Clarkson and friends to feature on Top Gear, arriving at resort just a few hours after having left London Gatwick.
Arriving at resort, the mountain looms in front of you rising to an impressive ski height of 3,300m (Pic Blanc) along with its very own tunnel – but more of that later. We stayed at the Residence Hotel Hermitage, just across from the main hotel building, which is very central and just minutes from one of the three main gondola lifts up the mountain.
The rooms, whilst basic, afforded two bedrooms and plenty of space for a group of 4-5 people and were more than adequate for the amount of time we spent in them (which wasn’t much).
The Troncon lifts took us up to 2,700m and this proved as good a starting point as any with good access to the rest of the ski area. One of our favourite runs throughout the week was Le Couloir, a challenging blue run which later in the day developed a shallow trench on the right hand side of the slope (requiring quick turns and, if you wanted to go quickly, a clear run).
The comically named Plat des Marmottes (or is that just us?) offered some challenging and steep reds but by far our favourite area of the mountain was in and around the red and blue runs of L’Alpette. From here you could take the cable car up to 2,800m (offering a great view) and take one of the two red runs, joining les Rousses followed by the red run of Alpette or the blue of Chalets.
The variation of this run, which was several kms in length, meant we skied and boarded our way down this area of the mountain most days.
For a real challenge we headed up the Marmottes III lift to Pic Blanc and attempted the black runs. With 50km winds on our chosen day, it perhaps wasn’t the best day to decide we were feeling brave. However, we took a second to pick our route (this didn’t make any difference whatsoever) and took on the seemingly unending moguls.
Putting it politely would be to say that this proved a challenge, especially on snowboards. However, once at the bottom our minds turned to getting back to the resort side of the mountain via the tunnel. I wish I had a photo to describe what a challenge this represented.
A dark, narrow 300m long tunnel and another unending slope of moguls was the challenge that lay ahead. We all looked at each other, took a deep breath and decided that there was only one thing for it – we turned around! (Deciding to head down the slightly easier Glacier run.)
This seemed to be what everyone else was doing too – so perhaps it wasn’t quite as cowardly as we thought.
The resort has plenty to offer in terms of apres with the Yeti, Pacific and Sharkeys all offering happy hours and/or live music, with many having all the Sky Sports channels – for those that can’t be without the Premiership for more than a few days.
Our lift passes also gave us free entry to the resort’s swimming pool (though not the Sauna as we found out once inside!) and ice skating rink – providing good alternative options to time spent on the piste.
As for dining – Lounge 21, a smart first floor restaurant and lounge bar set in the heart of the old town, was recommended to us. We booked a table (you’ll need to as it books up quickly) and relaxed in the bar before enjoying a fantastic Hot Rocks meal with a variety of duck, pork and beef. Trip Advisor will tell you this restaurant delivers a great atmosphere, amazing food but a rather large bill. I agree with all three, however, it’s easily worth the slightly inflated prices (and the house wine is well priced).
The incident (I’ve built this up now, I realise that.)
Despite various ‘accidents’ from fellow members of my group (usually involving diving exits from chair lifts), I did have a very personal reminder that things don’t always go to plan – however careful you are.
So, we were waiting for one of the chair lifts and were surrounded by lots of others doing the same. All of a sudden, a skier (of unnamed nationality) took it upon herself to navigate every possible obstacle for 30 or so metres and collided into me at speed without as much as an Excusez–moi.
The only warning I had was a high pitched shriek (Faites attention! – or something similar), before I was on my back with a set of skis as a rather uncomfortable back support.
Luckily I got up and got straight on the chairlift (which was probably a good thing for both the skier and the others near by who had looks of disbelief etched on their faces).
We had a great week and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Alpe d’Huez to friends of mine. Its pet name L’Ile au Soleil or the Island in the Sun is well deserved and it offers some great challenges for beginners, intermediates and advanced skiers and boarders alike. The little time spent in the snowpark confirmed the fact that this is a great resort for snowboarders as does the good number of gondola style lifts that make it easy for boarders to get around the mountain.
I would happily go back.
Happy late season adventures!
By Jon Paget, Social Media Manager at Crystal Ski
Photos courtesy of Steven Powell