Snowparks in Alpe d'Huez
Freestyle skiing and snowboarding has been growing in popularity since the likes of Glenn Plake and Scott Schmidt brought it to the world in the "Blizzard of Aahhhs". Since then we've seen the birth of snowboarding, the evolution of twin tip skis and snowboards, and the inclusion of freestyle in the winter Olympics.
Freestyle has made household names and millionaires of teenagers with bad hair cuts and tendency towards mono-syllabic conversation. If you are new to the slopes it's a good chance that you'll be wanting to try your first kicker or rail soon. If you have been skiing or snowboarding for a while then it's more likely that you have tried you first kicker or rail and realised exactly why those rubber-limbed freestyle monkeys make the money they do. It's hard and it can hurt. But freestyle is great fun and if you want to learn there is no better place to head than the parks in Alpe d'huez.
There are two snow parks in the resort, one in Montfrais and a larger one beside the beginner runs above 1800, most easily accessed from the DMC 1st station. Although this park is larger in size it is very beginner friendly with a number of small features providing a gentle introduction to park riding.
Entering the park there is a sign indicating the four approximate difficulty levels from right to left – beginner (green), easy (blue), intermediate (red) and expert (black). Each route through the park has 3-4 boxes or rails and 4 kickers (jumps).
The beginner line starts with a flat or ‘butter’ box. It sits flush with the snow so you can ski on without having to jump, and has a small drop of a couple of inches at the other end. Two more boxes follow each slightly narrower than the last. Following the boxes there are 4 kickers which are usually less than a foot high but this can vary slightly. Many people do not ‘jump’ the jumps and enjoying simply skiing over them to get an idea of the height and sensation that the ramps produce. It is actually a good idea to ride past any feature you have not attempted before to get an idea of the size and shape of it. Once you know what to expect try a little jump but remember to take off with your weight low and centred, also to lean forward to land flat on your skis.
In the middle of the snowpark, the red line starts with a long box about a foot high – a significant step up from the green line but wide enough to provide some support and stability. Another similar box follows then there are two rails – similar to the blue line each feature is longer and slightly higher off the ground than the last. Again, 4 jumps each about 1.5 feet high follow. The black or expert route has 3 rails which are a 2-3 feet high and vary in shape with kinks and bends to keep more experienced riders entertained. There are also kickers large on this line.
The fastest way to make laps of the park is by taking the DMC to the first station and riding diagonally to skiers’ left after exiting the lift (you can’t miss the giant snowpark sign). An alternative is the Juex drag lift which, although slower, often has a smaller queue so less time waiting around.
The second and smaller snowpark in resort is in Montfrais – located on the far left of the piste map. This park is slightly more difficult to find, most easily accessed from the Myrtilles blue piste. It also has features of varying difficulties but a general rule of thumb is that everything is more difficult here – the kickers are slightly larger and rails more challenging across all difficultly levels. Each run is shorter, with around 1-2 kickers and 1-2 boxes for each level. It is not so easy to lap this park as it is short in length and the nearest chairlift takes you some distance higher than the park’s entrance.
The snow parks have now been equipped with an automatic filming system. Skiers and snowboarders, simply log in with your ski pass, take your best line down and watch your video on the big screen.
By giving your mobile phone number, you will receive a link to watch your videos directly on your mobile phone and share your feats immediatelys. Videos are available on the website freestylepark.fr
Chances are if you are a beginner you will spend most of your time in the park above Alpe D’Huez village. As this park is larger, in a more central location, surrounded by beginner friendly slopes and easily accessed by the DMC it carries a lot of traffic. Ski schools often have parts of their lesson here and other beginners can be found having their first experiences of park skiing. Because of this, there are more hazards in this park and the majority of them are focussed around the blue beginner line. Do not be embarrassed or afraid to fall over when learning the basics, but make sure you don't put anyone else in danger when you are in the park.
For more on staying safe in the park visit our page on Park Safety.