Welcome to my report on the goings on in Alpe d’Huez once the lifts are shut, the ski lockers padlocked and the town at the foot of those wonderful pistes comes to life. Apres-ski, for any non French speakers out there simply means “after ski” and is a term used to describe everything that happens in a ski resort that doesn’t (or sometimes does) involve wearing ski boots.
Alpe d’Huez is certainly no stranger to apres-ski and caters well for people who enjoy the night life side of skiing holidays as much as the snow sports. There are loads of facilities available in Alpe d’Huez. The more active options take place at the Palais des Sports and the swimming pool on the high street. Formerly, all of these activities were included on your Visalp lift pass, but now when you arrive in resort you have a choice of lift-passes which can include all the sports for a small extra fee. There is always something to do for the young and old alike, so when you get to resort keep an eye out for the many activities and events going on throughout the season.
My specialist area of the apres-ski in Alpe d’Huez, however, lies in the huge number of bars and restaurants around the resort. Any dedicated readers of my reports might know I formerly managed the bar at Smithy’s Tavern on the Route du Coulet and have, in the past, worked at various different bars and restaurants around town. As I was only here for a week this time around, I felt it was my duty to pay a visit to as many drinking and eating establishments as possible to make this report as accurate as possible - it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!
On Friday evening, we arrived in resort and got off the coach next to Sphere bar at the top of the Avenue de Jeux. Sphere has a new look this season, but is still a great place for an afternoon drink where you can sit and enjoy the sun terrace and take advantage of their fantastic deals. On Tuesday, Scottish John took to the stage with a guitar and microphone to entertain the crowds. Amazing, as always, and he even let me have a go! Thursday afternoon saw classic Sphere apres from 3pm, with tee-shirted mountain goers soaking up the sun, hip-hop and Jupiler.
Further up the town is Rendez-Vous, famous for their Thursday seasonnaire breakfasts but also they run a fantastic menu in the evenings. The beetroot risotto is a personal favourite, but the owners Simon & Chris do a great job of realising the French classics as well. Sliding back down the high street we nipped into Captain Sandwich to get the low down on resort gossip, and to try to wrangle the definitive recipe for a 'Charlie’s Bad Boy' from Rachel & Steve. Unsuccessful yet again; next year we will be taking pliers…
The Underground bar remains as lively as ever, and I made the most of being An Actual Grown Up With A Career, and stapled my business card to the ceiling along with the many others from seasonnaires and holidaymakers alike. Undies is another one of the British run bars in ADH and is well know for it’s Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and end of season closing party, as well as the many barbecues and other events that happen throughout the season.
Up on the high street are two bars that are very popular with the French. We got a thoroughly warm welcome from both of them - 'Freeride' and the newly named 'Old School' (formerly Snowbar). Shots were on the menu as usual and we made sure to try as many as possible before dragging ourselves to bed.
On Sunday night, I decided to head down the hill into what is know as 'The Old Town' to O-Bar for a pre dinner demi (half a lager) and a catch up with Vito, a friendly Italian who runs the establishment. O-Bar is world famous for being ideally located for the arrival of the leaders of the Tour De France as they pass by Vito’s Terrace, but the during the winter you can also find a great bar with excellent food. Our reservation for the evening, however, was at nearby restaurant Le Genepi. The service was typically a little slow but when the food did arrive, it was delicious!
Next, I headed round the corner to one of my favourite bars in resort, Pacific Pub. It is the closest you will find to an English style bar in the Alps, and instead of bitter on tap, Alex and the guys serve up a weekly schedule of live music, excellent DJs and the best surroundings to watch a football match! Pacific also host the resorts best open mic night every Sunday, and I wasted no time in grabbing a guitar and torturing a few eardrums!
Smithy’s and Zoo bar are further up the hill and were both visited regularly throughout the week. Both are places to visit once the late night buzz has kicked in and you fancy a dance, lots of drinking and good times in general. Zoo attracts more of a French crowd but welcomes all. Smithy’s is famous in the world of apres for its relaxed attitude to dancing on tables and huge menu of shots and drink promotions. Smithy’s is also a fantastic Tex-Mex restaurant so make sure you pay a visit during your holiday!
It is here you will also find the resorts two nightclubs. That is if you can handle partying past 2am (all bars are open until 2am). Igloo and Les Caves both keep the celebrations going until around 4.30am but be warned - they are expensive!
The grand finale of the week was the indescribable luxury of a spicy fondue in Lounge 21. Having starved ourselves all day in anticipation of this particular wonder we achieved that holy grail of alpine experiences - cheese sweats and Genepi cravings. Bravo! They have an excellent menu of fondues, steaks, raclettes and pierrades and is an absolute must if you get a chance.
Next week sees the annual comedy film festival and the Palais will be packed with the latest offerings from Hollywood and elsewhere. Keep your eyes peeled for famous faces.
Alpe d’Huez continues to provide unparalleled entertainment for all ages, so my advice is to try not to plan too much for your evenings and let yourself get swept along with all the fun and frolics from the Southern Alps.