An Introduction & guide to Alpe d'Huez
The main town of Alpe d'Huez sits at 1869 metres above sea level at the centre of the Oisans region. It is the main resort in the Grandes Rousses Massif. At its highest point, the resort reaches up to 3,300m on the Pic Blanc glacier which you have access to, not only in winter, but in summer too. Its reputation for sunshine on the ski slopes has give rise to its nickname "l'Isle du Soleil", which translates as the Island of the Sun, and it's a justly deserved moniker as the bluebird days here are pretty frequent during the winter (although not 100% guaranteed!).
The ski area here has something for every level and ability of skier or snowboarder, including great snowparks. In the summer months, the resort transforms into a haven for cyclists, hikers and mountain bikers. It really is a great place to come whatever the season, it's a veritable playground for lovers of all things outdoors and reasonably priced compared to other ski resorts.
Split into a number of sectors or ‘quartiers’, Alpe d’Huez is a thriving year-round resort with a steady community of 1700 permanent residents. The main quartiers are: Quartier des Vieil Alpe, Quartier des Bergers and Quartier des Jeux. Quartier des Vieil Alpe is the oldest sector and is fairly quiet and residential. It is the most charming part of Alpe d’Huez, however, retaining many of its original buildings. A wander round its little back streets is worthwhile, and there are number of traditional family-run restaurants here. Quartier des Jeux is the main ‘centre ville’ and the place to head for bars, shops and restaurants. Quartier des Bergers is the most modern part of town and also contains its fair share of places to eat, drink and shop. Accommodation here is mainly self-catered apartments.
Food is a great part of life in the French Alps, and with all those outdoor pursuits to try you can rest assured it is all very hearty! Local specialities are often cheese or cream based (sometimes both…) featuring local meats, potatoes and green salad. The food in the Alps is often accused of being unadventurous and ‘lardy’ but there are plenty of delicious regional dishes besides the good old fondue. The emphasis is very much on fresh local produce and so cured and seasoned meats will have come from cattle grazed on Alpine pastures, the local cheeses of Abondance and Beaufort will be prevalent and, although there isn’t a coastline in sight, there is still a regional fish dish! The féra is caught in nearby Lake Geneva and is a popular dish served in many restaurants, alongside other lake fish such as Omble Chevalier (char), truite (trout), brochet (pike) and perche (perch).
Where is Alpe d'Huez?
The most convenient airport for Alpe d'Huez is Grenoble, situated 104 kms (1 1/4hrs) away. From here, you have a number of different methods of transport to choose from to get you up to resort. If you can’t get a flight to Grenoble, the next best options are Chambery (130km) or Lyon (152km), followed by Geneva (211km), all of which are serviced by a number of the major airlines. Remember, before succumbing to a bargain flight into one of these airports, take a few minutes to investigate your onward transfer options below; your flight may only cost you £50 but your transfer to resort could set you back €300 - €400!!
Summer visitors have a little less choice, as do those wanting midweek flights. The smaller airports wake up for the bulk ski traffic on winter weekends and go right back into snooze mode the rest of the time. However, there are year round daily direct flights to Lyon from London, and to Geneva from most of the UK airports.
Events in Alpe d'Huez
There are events in Alpe d'Huez throughout the summer and winter months. Most well known are the 21 bends which often feature in the Tour de France and the Megavalanche, a mass start mountain bike race that draws thousands of MTB fans from around the world.
Sights & Attractions in Alpe d'Huez
The 21 hairpin bends that lead from Bourg d’Oisans up to Alpe d’Huez is probably the most famous climb in the whole of the cycling world. The views from the top of the Pic Blanc (accessed from the DMC lift centre) offers truly breathtaking views, on a clear day you can see Mont Blanc, Les Deux Alpes and even the mighty Mont Ventoux (the giant of Provence!). Around 45 minutes towards Grenoble is the historic town of Vizille with its museum and Chateau. Top-flight rugby is played at the new Stade des Alpes by Top14 club Grenoble, which is around an hour away. The historic and incredibly picturesque ‘Route Napoleon’ runs from the area all the way to the Mediterranean, and follows the route taken by Napoleon upon his return from Elba in 1815, linking Grenoble with Cannes (N85).
Things to Do in Alpe d'Huez
It is as a ski resort that Alpe d’Huez is best known; covering an area of 10,000 hectares, the domain boasts 249km of linked pistes spanning an altitude range of 2,230m. The Sarennes ski run, the longest in Europe at 16km, joins the Pic Blanc to the Sarenne Gorge. As well as being the starting point for many off-piste itineraries, it can also be skied by moonlight as part of a monthly organized excursion. Pic Blanc (3330m), the highest point of the ski area, offers breathtaking views of the Alps including Mont Blanc, Mont Cervin and the Meije. On a clear day, a fifth of France can be seen from this point. However, its not just skiing that's on offer during the winter months; read more about Alpe d'Huez winter activities.
With the expanses of the Ecrin National Park and the villages of the Oisans on its doorstep, Alpe d’Huez is a paradise for summer visitors as well. There is a multitude of activities on offer such as walking, climbing, rafting, horse riding and more; but it is the mountain biking for which the region is most renowned. With 140 miles of marked routes, Alpe d’Huez is one of the legendary mountain biking sites of Europe. Cross country, downhill, regular competitions and the world’s longest downhill route (20 miles) make this the ultimate destination for anyone with a passion for mountain biking.
The famous 21 bends of the road up to Alpe d’Huez provide one of the most challenging stages of the Tour de France. Over a distance of 14km, the cyclists will climb 3670ft on an average 7.9% incline. Alpe d’Huez and the Oisans area are a mecca for cyclists of all standards, many of whom will attempt the challenge – each day in the summer an average of 1000 cyclists climb the 21 bends.
Unique in Europe is the Poutran International Equestrian Training Centre. Studies show that 3 weeks training at altitude will significantly improve a racehorse’s performance and stamina. At an altitude of 6562ft, Alpe d’Huez has a one of a kind training facility; international champions from the worlds of show jumping, steeple chase and endurance riding have visited here to reap the benefits.
Restaurants in Alpe d'Huez
Be you a fast food lover or a gourmet fan, Alpe d’Huez caters for all tastes. Pinocchio Pizzeria opposite the Ice Rink takes some beating, Smithy’s Taverns Tex-Mex themed menu is hugely popular whilst Lounge 21, above the Igloo nightclub, offers a more exclusive feel. The Edelweis and La Pomme de Pin, by the Ice rink, offer traditional mountain cuisine and fondues. On the mountain, Le Spot is situated above the ‘Les Bergers’ commercial centre, whilst being small, is truly a great ‘spot’ for lunch. ‘Lil Food’ next to the Igloo provides great late night food.
Nightlife in Alpe d'Huez
Well known and loved for its nightlife, Alpe d’Huez truly offers something for all tastes. La Folie Douce (accessed from Marmottes/Les Bergers lift) kicks off at mid-afternoon and although relatively new (in its third year), it holds legendary status already with its DJ’s and live acts. Smithy’s Tavern, O Bar and O’Sharkeys all offer good food, drinks promos’ and show live sport. The ‘Free-ride Bar’ next to the Ice-rink has a ‘stock trading’ theme with TV screens showing constantly changing drink prices, pick the right time to buy your favourite tipple or alternatively try someone new at a market low price, whilst drinks trading is fun, it can get quite messy! After all of this you can move onto the Caves or Igloo Discotheques adjacent to Smithy’s Tavern just below the Ice Rink.
Hotels in Alpe d'Huez
There are a handful of hotels in the resort centre which are open both in the winter and summer months. Some can be quite traditional in style with others being more modern.
Apartments in Alpe d'Huez
You can find apartments in the centre of Alpe d'Huez ranging from small 2 person studios up to larger ones with 7 or 8 bedrooms for large groups or families to share. Most are self-catered but some do offer catering options if you prefer someone else to do all the cooking!
Chalets in Alpe d'Huez
From the super modern to the more traditional Alpine style, there are lots of chalets in Alpe d'Huez to suit every level of budget and size of group.
History & Culture in Alpe d'Huez
Nearby Huez is the original village of the resort. At an altitude of 1450m, it overlooks the Sarenne gorge. A quaint mountain village, it has a labyrinth of tiny alleys, the historic Roman church of St Anne, as well as a number of shops and bars, a bookshop and a cyber café. Access to the main resort of Alpe d’Huez takes just 5 minutes via the Télévillage cable car.
Named "L'Ile au Soleil" (Island of the Sun), Alpe d’Huez sits in a large south west facing bowl on a high plateau ensuring great weather and lots of sunshine. Averaging 300 days of sunshine per year you would have to be very unlucky to go home without a tan!
Location: Alpe d'Huez Region