The Ultimate Guide to Alpe d’Huez

Alpe d'Huez - © Laurent Salino / Alpe d'Huez Tourisme

Photo: Alpe d’Huez – © Laurent Salino / Alpe d’Huez Tourisme

Alpe d’Huez is a bustling resort all year round. The main village sits at 1869m in the centre of the Oisans region in the French Alps. This is a high altitude resort, with its highest point, at 3300m on the Pic Blanc glacier. It is the sunniest ski resort in France, with 300 days of sunshine every year, earning the nickname of “l’Isle du Soleil” or The Island of the Sun. There are many reasons why skiers and snowboarders flock to Alpe d’Huez each winter, and in this post, we will go through what to expect, what to do and where to stay.

THE RESORT AND MOUNTAINS

Alpe d’Huez is part of the Grand Domaine ski area, consisting of five other resorts and two villages. But Alpe d’Huez itself offers something for every level of skier or snowboarder. Here you will find fantastic snowparks, but ‘Famille Plus’ label designated by the French Tourism organisation highlights that Alps d’Huez is an excellent destination for families.

No matter what time of year you visit Alpe d’Huez, you will soon realise that it is the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts while remaining fairly well-priced compared to other ski resorts.

The high altitude of Alpe d’Huez ensures that its pistes maintain a good snow cover, even though its south-facing aspect keeps it in the sun for most of the day. This also means that Alpe d’Huez has one of the longest winter seasons in the French Alps.

There is a wide range of pistes; therefore, you can find plenty of gentle slopes to hone your skills, but there is a lot for more advanced skiers too. Alpe d’Huez is home to the longest black run in the world, La Sarenne (16 kms). This isn’t technically very difficult, but it is very long, and there is no way to get off it until you reach the bottom. La Serenne is an excellent place to head after a good dump of snow.

From the top of Alp d’Huez, you can see the neighbouring ski resort of Les Deux Alpes. This takes about five minutes to reach by helicopter or about 45 minutes by road. There has been talk for many years to link the two resorts via the lift system. This seems to be gathering momentum with the proposal of building a 3S lift to connect the two resorts in the future.

Alpe d’Huez is a lively ski resort with a wide range of bars, restaurants and clubs

THE LINKED SKI RESORTS

Vaujany

Vaujany is at 1250m and boasts alpine character and traditional architecture. The town sits above the Allemont reservoir and gives you stunning views of the area. It has some newer hotels that have been styled to fit with the older traditional architecture and chalets.

Oz-en-Oisans

Oz en Oisans is a small, purpose-built ski resort at 1650m. Most of it is north-facing and is built around two main lifts. There are a few purpose-built apartment blocks and chalets and is set on one of the most famous legs of the Tour de France, making it very popular with cyclists in the summer.

Auris-en-Oisans

Auris-en-Oisans sits at 1,600m and has 45km of its own marked runs. It is a mix of new and old, but the more modern buildings are clad with wood, so they blend in with the older parts of the village’s chalet style. The facilities here are a bit limited, but it provides a relaxed base with easy access to the Alpe D’Huez ski area.

Villard Reculas

Villard Reculas gives you the charm of a French ski village, thanks to its traditional chalets and peaceful wide-open spaces. Even though you can access the massive ski area with ease, Villard Reculas has its own slopes. The area has 20km of slopes with varying levels of difficulty, including a kids area. But at the other end of the scale, the Espace Freeride de La Forêt provides fantastic off-piste skiing.

Despite its sunny south-facing orientation, at a high altitude of 1,860m, Alpe d’Huez provides a reliable and beautiful blanket of snow all winter long.

LUXURY ACCOMMODATION 

Even though Alp d’Huez is known for having reasonably priced accommodation, there are a few excellent options for high-end places to stay. Here are some of our favourite luxury properties in Alp d’Huez.

Hotel Dariah-I-Nor

The Dariah-I-Nor is a luxury five-star hotel located just 50m from the Alpes Express Telecabin. The hotel has two fantastic restaurants, L’amethyste, which serves gourmet food made from local and seasonal ingredients. The other restaurant is La Table u Daria-I-Nor, which has an exceptional menu and a great wine list, here you can also start your day with breakfast.

This hotel’s location gives its guests ski-to-door access, making your stay very convenient. The hotel spa and wellness centre is a great place to relax after exploring the area. It features an indoor pool, hot tub, hammam and a sauna.

To make your stay even more stress-free, ski equipment hire is available at the hotel, and room service is provided to a high level.

Hotel Grandes Rousses

Hotel Grandes Rousses is a fabulous four-star hotel located near the centre of the Alpe d’Huez. This means that it is set at the foot of the ski slopes, giving you easy access to the ski lifts.

Les Grandes Rousses has a wonderful restaurant serving fantastic food from both the sea and the land. The bar and a wine-bar are ideal places to enjoy a relaxed aprés drink before heading to your spacious en suite room. An all-you-can-eat buffet is available for breakfast, so you can make sure you are fuelled up for a day on the mountain.

The hotel also features an excellent spa, with an indoor pool, hot tub and sauna.

Hotel Le Pic Blanc

Le Pic Blanc is a very well equipped four-star hotel in an excellent location. It is very close to the Alpe d’Huez ski school, as well as the bars and restaurants of this fantastic ski resort.

You can start your day with a buffet breakfast each morning served in the hotel restaurant, Le Rif Briant. In the evenings, the restaurant serves local, traditional cuisine. The Le Pic Blanc’s bar is very popular with guests for aprés or for after-dinner drinks.

As with any high-end hotel, Le Pic Blanc has a fantastic spa. The Pure Altitude Spa features a hot tub, sauna and hammam.

Le Cristal de l’Alpe

For skiers that prefer self-catered properties, Le Cristal de l’Alpe is an excellent choice. These high-end apartments are Located in the heart of L’Alpe d’Huez and have everything you need for a self-catered experience.

The spacious apartments at Le Cristal de l’Alpe have fully equipped kitchens with an oven, fridge and dishwasher. They also have a dining and seating area, en-suite bathrooms and a balcony giving you spectacular alpine views.

Guests have access to the residence’s fitness centre, which features a hammam, sauna and spa.

The apartment block is just 100 m from the L’Alpe d’Huez town centre, making it very easy to get to everything the resort has to offer.

The 5***** Hotel Daria-I Nor (opened Dec 2018), is located in the heart of the resort of Alpe d’Huez with Ski-in ski-out access and right next to the Alpe Express gondola

APRÈS AND NIGHTLIFE

Alpe d’Huez is regarded as a party ski resort, this is thanks to its wide range of lively bars and nightclubs that are packed every night. Whether you want to sip a beer in the sun or dance on the tables in your ski boots, Alpe d’Huez has a venue for you to enjoy.

You can start the aprés party before you even get back into the resort. The most famous venue for mountain drinks in Alpes d’Huez is La Folie Douce. This is located at the top of the Marmottes 1 chair. This is virtually a nightclub on pistes during the day. It is south-facing, so you get to have fun in the sun from 2:30pm. Here you will be entertained by DJ’s and dancers, while champagne is sprayed everywhere.

Le Tremplin also has a south-facing terrace, which is located in Les Bergers by the Altiport. This is great for chilling out on the deckchairs as the sun goes down. As an alternative, go to Tiger Bar, also in Les Bergers for pool and sport on the TV screens.
If you want a more authentic Fench experience, head to Bar Chez Leo, a friendly French family-run bar popular with ESF instructors.

There are lots of places to party the night away in Alpe d’Huez too. Great examples are Sphere Bar, FreeRide Bar, Old School, O’Sharkeys and L’Etalon. These are ideal for a bar crawl, as they are all very close to each other.

Head to the old part of town, and you will find the legendary Smithy’s Tavern. Here you will enjoy DJ’s and live music until 2am, but if you want to carry on, the Caves Discotheque and Igloo Nightclub will keep you going until 5am

La Folie Douce Alpe d’Huez is the place to go for après, with live music and tabletop dancing from early afternoon until lifts close.

EATING IN ALPE D’HUEZ

Mountain restaurants

There are lots of restaurants dotted all over the Alpe d’Huez ski area to rest your legs while enjoying lunch. You can choose from quaint traditional restaurants, self-service restaurants or something a little more special.

We mentioned La Folie Douce earlier as a great place for a party during the day. But it also has two fantastic restaurants. La Fruitiere is a stylish restaurant serving gourmet food, while the Petit Cuisine is a self-service restaurant with high-quality food.

Le Perce Neige Restaurant is located at the bottom of the Combe de Poutran in Oz en Oisans. Here, you can sit outside on the large terrace or by the roaring fire while feasting on local specialities. Try to leave room for dessert, as their profiteroles and special Perce Neige cake are excellent.

The Chalet du Lac Besson Restaurant is quite a remote restaurant, but this adds to its charm. Their menu consists of several traditional Savoyard specialties to enjoy on the terrace in the sun or in the cosy interior.

You can access the restaurant from Alpe d’Huez on foot. It is a short walk around the frozen Lac Besson, but skiers can access it via the Chamois track.

In resort restaurants

Alpe d’Huez has everything from burger joints to Michelin recommended restaurants, but it is an excellent place to sample traditional mountain dishes, such as fondue, tartiflette or raclette.

There are a a few restaurants that specialise in Savoyard food, such as Le Passe Montagne for good value on Route de la Poste, La Petite Taverne in L’Eclose or Au Ble Noir on Chemin des Bergers.

But, you can also enjoy a more refined but authentic French dining experience at Au Puits des Saveurs. This is a favourite among locals and visitors to Alpe d’Huez, thanks to an extensive menu featuring some fusion cuisine and traditional French specialities.

There are no Michelin starred restaurants in Alpe d’Huez, but a few are recommended in the Michelin guide.

The Chamois d’Or is open for lunch and dinner and is a lovely place to dine in a romantic ambience. It has well crafted three-course menus and a great selection of wine.

For traditional mountain food, with a gastronomic twist go to L’Altiport at the airfield in Alpe d’Huez. You can jump on a free shuttle from the town centre or ski to it during the day.

Dog sledding is great fun and a must-do for any dog lover

NON-SKIING ACTIVITIES

Sometimes you want a day off your skis and see what else a ski resort has to offer. Alp d’Huez has lots of different activities to experience during your stay. Here are some of your favourites:

See The Alps From The Air

Flying over the French Alps gives you a unique perspective, and there are several ways of doing it from Alpe d’Huez. Take a tandem paraglider, where you are strapped to a pilot that will take you over the landscape while catching the thermals off the mountains.

Scenic helicopter and microlight flights are also available from Alpe d’Huez. This is a thrilling way of seeing the mountains from up high, but you can also catch a helicopter to take you to the neighbouring resort of Les Deux Alps for a day out.

For The Petrol Heads

If you like your activities with some horsepower, take a guided snowmobile tour. These tours take places after the slopes have closed and will allow you to see the mountains at night differently.

Ice driving is another super fun activity to do in Alpe d’Huez. The ice track is located behind the Palais des Sports et Congres and provides an opportunity to drift around icy corners with some tips from an instructor.

For The Animal Lovers

Now for a different kind of horsepower, this time from an actual horse. Ski jeoering is a sport that combines skiing with horse riding. A special harness is attached to the horse, which allows you to hold on as it pulls you along. After getting to grips with the commands and basic techniques, your instructor will let you go off around a set course.

Another fantastic experience is to be pulled on a sled by a team of huskies. Dog sledding is great fun and a must-do for any dog lover.

The Alpine Coaster

Located behind the commercial centre at Les Bergers, the Alpin Coaster consists of a sledge on a metal track that winds down the mountain. You have control over the sledge with a brake lever for the 700m run, which takes you up to 40kph.

There is an option to put on a virtual reality headset to add a whole different dynamic to the ride. You will probably want to do this more than once, going a little faster each time.

Why Book your Ski Holiday to Alpe d’Huez

With its fantastic skiing, snow-sure conditions, luxury accommodation and variety of things to do, Alpe d’Huez is an excellent destination. It is suitable for families, groups or couples to have a fantastic time when visiting France.

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