A 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 in the French Alps. It is the main resort in the Grandes Rousses Massif and is around one hour 30 minutes drive from the nearest airport at Grenoble. At its highest point, the resort reaches up to 3,300m on the Pic Blanc glacier which you have access to in both winter and summer. Its reputation for having the most days of sunshine on the ski slopes in a year has given rise to its nickname "l'Isle du Soleil", the Island of the Sun.
The ski area here has something for every level and ability of skier or snowboarder, including great snowparks. The resort has been awarded the 'Famille Plus' label by the French Tourism organisation as being particularly suitable for family holidays. In the summer months, the resort transforms into a haven for cyclists (it features as a regular stage on the Tour de France), 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 it remains well-priced compared to other ski resorts.
Skiing in Alpe d'Huez
Covering an area of 10,000 hectares, Alpe d'Huez boasts 249km of linked pistes spanning an altitude range from 1450m to 3330m. There are 84 ski lifts here giving access to 41 green pistes, 34 blue pistes, 40 red pistes and 16 black pistes (see the piste maps). On top of this, there are two snowparks, a boardercross park and a halfpipe. The gentle slopes on the outskirts of the resort provide the perfect terrain for beginners to build their confidence on, and intermediate skiers will find plenty to entertain themselves with on the network of blues and reds. Alpe d’Huez forms part of the fabulous 'Alpe d'Huez Grand Domaine Ski Area' combining the resorts of Alpe d’Huez, Auris-en-Oisans, Huez-en-Oisans, Oz-en-Oisans, Vaujany and Villard Reculas into one giant, heavenly playground. The weekly lift pass also includes two days in Les 2 Alpes and a day in each of the Grande Galaxie resorts of Serre Chevalier, Puy Saint Vincent, Montgenevre, the Italian Milky Way and 25% reduction on a lift pass at La Grave.
The Sarennes ski run (labelled black mainly due to the length rather than difficulty) is the longest in Europe at 16km, joining 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. The Pic Blanc (3330m) is the highest point of the ski area and offers breathtaking views of the Alps including Mont Blanc, Mont Cervin and the Meije. On a clear day, it is said that a fifth of France can be seen from this point.
Also see: Ski Areas in Alpe d'Huez
Things to Do in Alpe d'Huez
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. 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!). There is a multitude of activities on offer such as walking, climbing, rafting, horse riding and more; but it is the mountain biking & road cycling for which the region is most renowned. Alpe d’Huez is one of the legendary mountain biking sites of Europe with 140 miles of marked routes. And the 21 hairpin bends on the road that leads from Bourg d’Oisans up to Alpe d’Huez is probably the most famous climb in the whole of the cycling world. Over a distance of 14km, the cyclists will climb 3670ft on an average 7.9% incline – each day in the summer an average of 1000 cyclists climb the 21 bends.
Also see: Sports & Activities in Alpe d'Huez
Events in Alpe d'Huez
There are events in Alpe d'Huez throughout the summer and winter months. In the winter, you can expect motor racing on ice, comedy festivals, ski races and various live music events. During the summer months, the focus turns to cycling with the renowned 21 bend challenge for road cyclists, and the Megavalanche, a mass start mountain bike race that draws thousands of MTB fans from around the world.
Also see: Main Events in Alpe d'Huez
Where to Stay in Alpe d'Huez
Split into a number of sectors or ‘quartiers’, Alpe d’Huez has a large selection of purpose-built rental accommodation. Accommodation here is mainly self-catered apartments that are located in chalet-style buildings. A handful of hotels can be found throughout the resort and tend to be mid-range in terms of budget. Ski-in ski-out chalets are available but you best be quick to book them due to high demand!
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, retaining many of its original buildings. A wander around its little back streets provides a worthwhile distraction, and there are a 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.
For ski-in ski-out accommodation try the areas at the top of Alpe d'Huez, around the Bergers district and by the Rond Point up by the main DMC lift. There are nursery slopes accessible from both these places. Or if you prefer to be close to the sports centre, ice rink and outdoor swimming pool, then Jeux may be a better option. Viel Alpe is more central and has better access to restaurants and the centre of town. Alternatively, you could stay in one of the smaller outlying villages which are linked to the main ski area and have their own quieter nursery slopes.
Also see: Where to Stay in Alpe d'Huez
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.
Also see: Where to Eat in Alpe d'Huez
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, 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.
Also see: Partying in Alpe d'Huez
Travelling to Alpe d'Huez
The most convenient airport for Alpe d'Huez is Grenoble, situated 104 kms (1 1/4hrs) away. From here, you can take a scheduled transfer (bus) to resort or hire a car if you'd like to explore more of the region. If you can’t get a flight to Grenoble, the next best options are Chambery (130km) or Lyon (152km), followed by Geneva (211km). 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.
Also see: How to Get to Alpe d'Huez