Alpe d’Huez is located in a sunny location in the southern French Alps, perched on a plateau facing due South at a snow-sure altitude of 1,860 metres, and only 63km from Grenoble.
The ski lifts climb to 3,300m above where there is a glacier and year-round snow cover above, opening up one of the world’s ten biggest lift-served verticals – 2,200 metres from top to bottom.
The resort also sits at the heart of one of Europe and the world’s biggest ski areas, with 250km of runs for all ability levels, and linking up several smaller villages nearby. Alpe d’Huez resort itself is a lively, vibrant destination that always has lots going on and has plenty to do year-round off the slopes. Although it was built high and much of it constructed over the past 50 years in common with the new breed of purpose-built French ski areas of the post-war period, the resort pre-dates most of them and has a strong community feel and heritage. Indeed the world’s first drag lift was built here by Jean Pomagalski, founder of the Poma lifts empire, in 1936.
Alpe d'Huez, France
SKIING IN ALPE D'HUEZ
What to expect…
Alpe d’Huez has a huge and exciting ski area with a great mix of terrain over a massive vertical. Much of it is above the treeline and, in general terms, the higher up the mountain you move towards the glacier at the top, the more challenging the slopes become. The slopes link the more traditional villages of Huez, Auris, Oz-en-Oisans, Vaujany and Villard Reculas which are great to ski to for a lunch or coffee stop.
Alpe d'Huez Expert
"Alpe d’Huez has a huge ski area which, generally speaking, becomes more challenging the higher up the mountain you go".
LOCAL SKI AREA - ALPE D'HUEZ
The Marcel's Farm, Chez Roger and Jacques le Bûcheron runs are great for kids but anyone of any age can have fun on them skiing over bumps, raised bends, and into small canyons.
Beginners have great nursery slopes and easy terrain close to the resort itself whilst experts will find fantastic advanced-level terrain, including the world's longest black run, departing from the highest point of the ski area high above. Intermediates will find hundreds of kilometres of fantastic terrain between these two extremes, and thanks to the massive lift-served vertical these include a choice of descents in excess of 2,000 vertical metres, some of which are so long you can ski down for up to an hour without needing to get on a lift back up. In between all the groomed runs, there are seemingly endless off-piste freeriding opportunities and freestylers will find plenty to entertain too, with a world-class terrain park in which to go large.
For beginners, there are two dedicated areas at the foot of the slopes known as the ‘Rond-Point des Pistes’ and ‘Bergers’. Between them, these have around 20 nursery slopes, and three of the lifts serving the very easiest terrain operate free of charge so you can practice your new skills without paying a cent if you wish.
In addition to regular flat, gentle nursery slopes there are three fun trails to tackle once you have got a little confidence.
WIDER SKI AREA - ALPE D'HUEZ
With a combined total of 450km of ski runs, this will be one of the biggest ski areas in the world.
Alpe d'Huez lies at the heart of the ‘Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine Ski Area', sometimes known as the Grandes Rousses ski area, which extends over 10,000 hectares of mountain terrain.
The area’s ski slopes climb from 1125 metres – more than 700 vertical metres below Alpe d’Huez itself, up to Pic Blanc at 3,330m and connect the resort with five traditional villages below it: Auris-en-Oisans, Huez-en-Oisans, Oz-en-Oisans, Vaujany and Villard Reculas, by lifts and piste.
Unlike some of the big French ski areas the regular lift pass covers the entire area, the Grand Domaine pass covers all of the 80+ lifts and all 111 ski runs, as well as the vast amount of freeriding in between, so there’s no worry you’ll accidentally go beyond the boundary of your ski pass coverage as can be the case in some areas, as the coverage goes right to the boundary.
In fact, there is a long-term plan to create a lift connection between Alpe d’Huez and Les 2 Alpes which are only a few miles apart as the crow flies, but much further by road. The connection is due to be completed by a large 3S Gondola between the villages of Auris and Mont de Lans at the closest extremities of the two giant regions in time for the 2022-23 ski season, it has been announced in 2018.
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Approximate transfer times:
- GRENOBLE: 1 hr 30 mins
- CHAMBERY: 2 hr 30 mins
- LYON: 3 hr 30 mins
- GENEVA: 3 hr
ALPE D'HUEZ VILLAGE
Alpe d’Huez has local family-run shops and restaurants that have developed year-round over the decades.
Alpe d’Huez, nicknamed ‘the Island in the Sun’ is a year-round community with around 1,400 residents. This number is dwarfed though by the number of visitors each winter with more than 25,000 guest beds and lift past sales of around 1.3 million skier days each winter. Around 60% of the visitors each winter are French, 20% British. It's a far cry from when the first skis, ordered by a local teacher, arrived here in 1900 and she taught village children to ski and by the 1920s the resort was already known as a ski destination.
There's also a school for local children and a village creche open to local children and visitors alike. It's also almost as famous in summer as in winter as the most iconic hill climbs of the Tour de France, incorporating 21 hairpin bends over a 1000 vertical metre climb, ends in the village.
For skiers, the resort has grown up on a gently sloping hillside and to a roughly triangular layout, meaning most accommodation, if not already ski-in-ski-out, is just a short walk from the nearest ski run down to the nearest lift.
There’s a great range of things to do off-the-slopes (and on) and a lively apres ski and foodie dining scene. The resorts tourist office also lay on a seemingly endless stream of events both through each week of the season and throughout the winter, ranging from the annual Comic Book and comedy film festivals through to the huge Tomorrowland Music Festival staged each March. There’s always something happening in Alpe d’Huez and it’s usually worthwhile going.
RESTAURANTS & BARS
There are around 50 restaurants in Alpe d’Huez with a wide range of tastes and different types of dining offered.
The majority of restaurants are, however, family-run French-food specialists as you might expect, many offering traditional Alpine meals but with a good selection of alternatives on their menu. You'll also find plenty that can cater for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets.
There are of course plenty of establishments serving the Alpine cheesy favourites of raclette, fondue and tartiflette with Au Montagnard rated the best in the resort on food quality, quantity and value for money. Au Puits des Saveurs which has a mixed menu, including plenty of fresh fish dishes, is also very highly regarded and is often remarked on for its good service, as well as the fabulous food. La Petite Taverne is another good choice – petite being a correct description for the cosy, modern dining room, but again with fast, friendly service and excellent food.
Italian cuisine is the second most available after French and Pizzeria Pinocchio is the most popular, again quite a small establishment with a chalet-style interior so booking ahead is advised. L'1 Pres Vue also does great pizza but has a wider menu of French dishes too.
There are officially 17 mountain restaurants but that does not include the dozens of small, family-run establishments in the neighbouring villages.
Other on-mountain activities include snowshoe hikes, a mountain coaster and visits to the glacier ice cave.
In addition to its vast amount of downhill terrain, Alpe d’Huez has 50 km of Nordic ski tracks with trails suited to all ability levels. A biathlon stadium opened in 2019 giving visitors the chance to try this exciting sport which combines cross country ski racing with target shooting, and the stadium features a 10-metre shooting range for a fun learning experience, with the ski school offering family biathlon lessons for children as young as six.
Since 2019 Alpe d'Huez has been home to the famous Electro-Music Festival 'Tomorrowland Winter,' making it the ulitmate apres-ski resort.
Alpe d’Huez has a pretty lively apres-ski scene, with the focus in recent years now on the Folie Douce dance bar and restaurant which opened at the top of the Marmottes 1 chair lift a few years ago. This starts to get lively around 2.30pm as the ski day winds down and the dancing and partying picks up, reaching its crescendo at about 5pm as the lifts close.
There are plenty more establishments you can ski in to down around the edges of the resort too. Le Tremplin and La Tasburle Bars both boast big decks where you can soak up the last of the day’s sunshine before heading back to your accommodation to recharge before heading out on the town.
Later on, there are more than a dozen bars in the heart of the town, the liveliest half dozen within staggering distance of each other and crowned by the resort's legendary smithy's bar.
Since 2019 Alpe d’Huez has been home to the ultimate apres-ski session as the huge Electro-Music Festival ‘Tomorrowland Winter’ has begun being staged here each March. Around 25,000 festival-goers from more than 110 countries descend on the resort for massive shows across 8 stages including one 65 metres wide and 22 metres high that’s believed to be the largest of its kind ever created at this altitude.
There are eight spa centres within the village, most within large accommodation buildings but open to the public.
Being quite a large resort with a year-round population of more than a thousand people (and many more visitors here for the majority of the year), there’s plenty to see and do when you’re not on the slopes and most non-skiers won’t have any problem keeping themselves entertained for a week or so either.
To begin with, shoppers will find more than 120 stores to visit around the resort and plenty of cafes to relax in between retail sessions.
Indoor sports facilities in the resort include the Sports and Convention Centre which includes an indoor pool, climbing wall and bouldering area, weight training room and gym, as well as tennis and squash courts and a shooting range.
One of the newest is The Spa des Alpes which opened in 2019. This boasts six treatment areas in its 350 m² area and promises “a unique journey through the themed sensory pools.” There’s also a hammam, sauna and ice fountain.
Finally, there are a few unique attractions in Alpe d’Huez – an ice cave to visit up in the glacier and a downhill mountain coaster (A kind of downhill roller coaster accessed by a ski lift). These have got more common in recent years but the Alpe d’Huez version has the added novelty that you can ride it wearing a virtual reality face mask for an added dimension to the experience.
WHO IS ALPE D'HUEZ SUITABLE FOR?
Here are the highlights...
HIGH ALTITUDE/SNOW SURE
With its ski slopes crowned by a glacier which has offered summer skiing in the past, Alpe d’Huez is one of the most snowsure resorts in the Alps.
The resort's height of 1850 metres puts it in the top 5% of ski resorts in the Alps for altitude and there are almost 1500 vertical metres of skiing above the resort up to the top of the slopes. On top of its good snowfall record, Alpe d’Huez currently has 1,053 artificial snow cannons covering 88 km of its slopes including those which get the heaviest usage or form key links in the circuit. That’s one of the world’s biggest snowmaking arsenals covering more than 50 miles of runs. The slopes covered include the 16km long Sarenne run, the world’s longest black, which has guaranteed snow cover all season long now thanks to the snowmaking installation there providing snow cover back up if needed.
Alpe d’Huez does have 16 black runs to try, including some other world-famous descents, much more deserving of their black grading, and there are numerous off-piste routes too with more than 70 marked itineraries alone.
The Tunnel is probably the most infamous of the blacks at Alpe d’Huez, reached by the Pic Blanc cable car and starting close to the beginning of Sarenne, you instead begin your run by skiing through a 200-metre long tunnel through the mountain (hence the name), building anticipation before the run proper starts. The 35° pitch is pure adrenaline but the level of challenge will depend on whether its usual massive moguls have developed and how icy the run is at the time. La Fare in the Vaujany sector is another great run, some 4.5km long but descending a massive 2,000 vertical metres as it snakes down the mountainside, providing great views of the Eau d’Olle valley on the way.
Although almost all ski areas can be considered good for intermediate skiers, a select few are on another level, and none more so than Alpe d’Huez.
The combination of the vast ski area and the huge skiable vertical means there are numerous glorious long, long runs and there are in fact five runs that together provide around 10,000 metres of vertical and towards 50km of downhill: Huez (1,880 metres), Enversin d’Oz (2,205 metres), La Villette (2,035 metres) and Oz-en Oisans (2,000 metres) and of course ‘the world's longest black run’, Sarenne with 1,830 metres of vertical and is very much intermediate standard, a superb cruiser. It's worth noting that the scenery as you ski is something special too. From the Pic Blanc at the top of it all, there are 360° of views to take in which on a clear day provides views of a fifth of France and is so highly regarded that it has been given a top three-star review in the Michelin Green Guide – just for the view.
ALPE D'HUEZ WEATHER
Keep an eye on the forecast before you go…
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ALPE D'HUEZ WEBCAMS
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MAP OF ALPE D'HUEZ
Find your way…
Here's our map of Alpe d'Huez showing you the key hotels and apartments as well as some of the main points of interest.