One of the biggest and best resorts in the French Alps, Les Deux Alpes is also one of the most snowsure ski areas on the planet, located 3,600 metres above sea level.
A holiday in Les Deux Alpes is about more than ‘just' the wintersports of course. Although created as a post-war ski resort at a relatively high altitude (1650m), this is not really a 1960s purpose-built area but a resort with a pedigree dating back some 80 years to the late-1930s, one of the first in France. Today the ski town has grown to encompass more than 70 bars and restaurants, and over 100 shops, as well as offering plenty of alternative things to do. In short, the complete ski holiday resort.
Les Deux Alpes, France
SKIING IN LES Deux ALPES
What to expect…
Les 2 Alpes has one of the largest ski areas in France for a resort that’s not linked to any other, with 200km of piste divided into almost 100 different marked runs, half of them rated easy blues, the remainder divided fairly evenly between very easy greens, intermediate reds and challenging black slopes.
For freeriders, there's plenty of great off-piste terrain too and for freestylers a selection of parks with a plethora of freestyle attractions. There are more than 40 lifts to access all the snowy wonders, including five gondolas and a rare underground funicular railway.
Les Deux Alpes Expert
"Freestyle fun has always been a big part of at Les 2 Alpes and the resort is proud of the fact that whilst the national average number of snowboarders in France runs at 10% of slope users, here it’s more like 25%"
LOCAL SKI AREA -
LES DEUX ALPES
Freeriding is a big part of the Les 2 Alpes experience for good skiers – see separate ‘best for’ section.
Les 2 Alpes has a great mix of terrain with about 20% of its slopes rated very easy for beginners and 20% graded black for experts - but the vast majority (60%) of the ski runs perfectly suited to the vast majority of recreational skiers and snowboarders with more than a hundred kilometres of blue and red graded cruisers.
For many years Les 2 Alpes did have an unusual issue for beginner and nervous intermediate skiers – unlike many resorts much of its easier terrain is located on the upper section of the mountain and so returning to the resort involved either taking the lift back down, tackling the steep Black Valentin run or enduring the tortuous Demoiselle Green piste. However, in 2014 a €10m spend which involved shifting some five hundred thousand cubic metres of earth resulted in the creation of a new blue run down to the resort, resolving the problem once and for all.
The area’s Freestyle Land terrain park in the La Toura sector up at 2,600 metres is the hub for freestyle activity and the resort also offers a timed and filmed parallel slalom zone and a photo jump.
WIDER SKI AREA - LES DEUX ALPES
Alpe d’Huez is the closest and has a similar-sized ski area to Les 2Alpes. There's a long-term plan to link the two by ski lift.
Although Les 2 Alpes is a stand-alone ski area, those buying a standard six-day pass get two-days of access to neighbouring ski areas in the southern French Alps, Alpe d’Huez, Serre Chevalier, Puy Saint Vincent and Montgenèvre and the Milky Way ski area right over into Italy linking resorts including Sauze d’Oulx and Sestriere. The region is called the Grande Galaxie ski area and it’s possible to take a bus to each of the other areas.
For expert skiers there is also the option to ski the legendary resort of La Grave, a near neighbour of Les 2 Alpes accessed, with a guide, via a short tow across the glacier behind a piste basher from the top of the drag lift up the glacier. La Grave has an almost mythical status among hardcore skiers for its 2000 metres of steep, off-piste vertical skiing - this is not an opportunity that should be missed, but it does have a fearsome reputation and must be skied with a local guide who can bring you safely down its steep sections. The ski schools of Les 2 Alpes all offer this service but you need to get up early to make the connection as there are long, slow lifts to be caught back up from the base of La Grave.
Les Deux Alpes:
Min Ski Elevation:
Max Ski Elevation:
Gondolas / Cable Cars:
Approximate transfer times:
- GRENOBLE: 1 hr 45 mins
- CHAMBERY: 2 hrS
- LYON: 2 hr 30 mins
- GENEVA: 3 hrS
LES DEUX ALPES VILLAGE
Its success over the years has made it one of the leading resorts in the Alps with an average 10,000 visitors from across Europe (half from France, about a fifth from the UK) in the resort every day.
Les Deux Alpes has grown since the 1940s and now spreads along a wide plateau between two old farming communities (the two ‘Alpes’ of its name) at the edge of the Ecrins National Park, to the south-east of Grenoble.
The resort is very long, having grown along a relatively thin high ‘balcony’ on the mountainside. The only criticism some have of this layout is that the resort does not have a real ‘centre’ with the hundreds of shops, restaurants and accommodation options spread along its 2km length. That said there is a greater concentration of amenities at one end of the resort, at 1650m, looking at it on the map, with a newer development, the highest part of the resort base, Village 1800m, at the left side.
Overall, the upside to that design means you’re never far from the ski slopes and a ski lift, as the snowfront follows the long length of the resort with key access lifts at regular intervals, that each connects the town with the upper mountain.
In any case, the design must be working as in 2015 the village was voted Europe's Best Ski resort in the prestigious World Ski Awards and the village has committed more than €500m for further upgrades up to 2023.
If you are interested in seeing more of the wider community which Les 2 Alpes grew out of, take a gondola ride over to the ancient village of Venosc, a contrasting place of cobbled lanes, quirky shops and cafes located a kilometre away.
RESTAURANTS & BARS
With more than 70 restaurants and over 40 bars to choose from, Les Deux Alpes is something of a party resort and foodies' haven.
In Les Deux Alpes You can find restaurants ranging from the simplest family-run creperies to Michelin-starred gourmet choices. Many of the restaurants and bars line the resort's main street, which is more than a mile long. There's a wide choice of cuisine too besides the French mountain favourites you'd expect with Italian, Corsican, Breton and even British restaurants. You can also find plenty of establishments catering to dietary requirements like vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. Popular venues include Smithy's - a chalet-style building with a large, popular bar on the ground floor and a restaurant upstairs. Juke Boxx is famous for its music and cocktails and the Polar Bear Club (easy to find thanks to the big bear on the roof) is another popular venue.
For dining out La Crepe À Gogo is worth a visit not just for its Breton savoury pancakes and warm fire, but also memorabilia from the resort collected over the past 35 years. For vegetarians and those with a gluten intolerance The Edina Café, open from 8 am daily, is a good daytime option with chef Julien combining his talents as a cook with his bakery skills, re-inventing breakfast, brunch and lunch recipes. The menu features 100% home-made, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes plus waffles and bagels made with fresh ingredients. The ground coffee is supplied by an excellent roaster in Lyon. There are many other great choices but the most exclusive restaurant in town is Le P’tit Polyte, the resort’s own Michelin starred restaurant, which is located within the Hotel Chalet Mounier.
Le Chalet de la Fee is our highly recommended choice for a simple, yet hearty mid-ski lunch.
Les Deux Alpes has a choice of seven mountain restaurants on the slopes and there are also five bars if you just fancy a drink and a snack: le Pano Bar, la Rotonde, le Patachon, le Bivouac and l’Umbrella. Le Chalet de la Fee, a restaurant located off the beaten piste at 2,400 metres, is one of the best, serving simple and affordable cuisine which should fuel you up for the day. The staff also have a reputation for their friendly, efficient service.
If you do want to keep your skis on but try something a little different on them there's also speed-riding – a kind of downhill kiting with your skis on.
There is more to do in Les Deux Alpes on the snow without your skis and snowboard on than in most other ski destinations. The list of options seems endless, but includes snowshoeing, dog sledding, an early morning ride in a piste basher, snowmobiling tours and experiences, e-biking on snow, tubing over a jump into a big airbag, biathlon, hiking with dogs or ice climbing.
Up high, the Pano Bar in the Jandri mid-station at 2600m usually has a DJ from mid-afternoon and can quickly start buzzing.
Les Deux Alpes has what could be described as a mid-range apres-ski scene, normally not too raucous (although there's a good choice of lively bars if raucous is what you like) nor too quiet. There are about 40 bars and nightspots spread through the resort, many lining the long main street. Before you head there, however, stop off at one of the slopeside bars on your way back at the end of the ski-day.
Down at the base of the ski area, The Umbrella Bar at the foot of the Coolidge slope at the Côte Brune Hotel is about the most popular most afternoons, usually with standing room only, and quite often dancing room only. There are dozens of bustling bars to enjoy, most open to 1 or 2 am and if you still have the stamina, two long-established nightspots, Avalanche and the Café Brasilien, open to 5 or 6 am.
Outdoor activities available and not already mentioned in the mountain activities section include paragliding and winter hiking on marked trails.
Les Deux Alpes is a good choice for groups with non-skiers, or for skiers who like to spend time doing non-ski activities during their holiday. It's a large resort with plenty of shopping and lots of cafes and bars to drop in to. There's also an ever-growing list of alternative activities offered, indoors and out.
The resort’s effective lift network with almost half-a-dozen gondola lifts make it easy for non-skiers to get up the slopes too, to meet up with skiing family or friends for lunch, to try one of the on-snow non-ski activities offered or perhaps brave the resort’s viewing platform high up at 3400m or tour the ice caves beneath the glacier.
The village has two indoor swimming complexes. La Croisette is open daily except for Saturdays from 3 to 8 pm. Besides the pool, there's an 8-seat Jacuzzi and a sauna/Turkish baths with free admission to most lift pass holders. There is also the Espace 1800 fitness and well-being area open daily from 10 am to 7 pm except for Sunday. This has indoor and outdoor heated pools, cardio training and weights, as well as a sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi.
WHO IS LES dEUX ALPES SUITABLE FOR?
Here are the highlights...
HIGH ALTITUDE & SNOW SURE
With the highest lift-served ski runs in France and a glacier where you can ski at some point of almost every month of the year, there are few ski resorts that can claim to be more snowsure than Les 2 Alpes.
It’s not just that the slopes stretch up so high either, they even start higher than most – 70% of the terrain is above 2,000 metres – that’s higher than the top of the lifts in many famous resorts like Kitzbuhel. Although the slopes go down to 1,300m above sea level, Les 2 Alpes itself sits at 1600-1650m and some 250 snowmaking cannons cover the slopes between 1,300 metres and 2,100 metres up with snow fences deployed higher up between 2,800 and 3,600m to help maintain deep snow cover at elevated altitudes.
Despite its reputation for challenging terrain, Les Deux Alpes is also one of our best resorts for families.
About two-thirds of the groomed terrain is very family-friendly green and blue rated easy runs, lots of the accommodation options are close to the lifts and even the ski schools are easy to get to. Children can start young on skis or, more unusually, snowboards with small-child-sized boards and lessons available from the age of three.
Knowing the ropes young will be handy for the kid's park, especially for the under 10s, in the resort's Crêtes sector up at 2,100 metres, complete with its own ski lift, moguls and banked turns to learn how to perform jumps. There are lots of things to do off the slopes as well with a great choice of affordable dining options if you are self-catering.
Activities include recently introduced ‘dog hiking' – walking through the snow with huskies as well as ice skating, an indoor swimming pool, a leisure centre, climbing wall, bowling and a cinema. Better still, access to the swimming pool and ice rink are included when you buy a lift pass valid for just two-days or longer.
With more than 800 hectares of exciting off-piste terrain to dive in to and some of the world’s biggest lift-served verticals too, as well as a dozen groomed black runs, Les 2 Alpes has a lot to offer the more experienced skier.
There are so many great runs it’s difficult to pick a favourite but Les Vallons de la Selle, a seven-kilometre long piste with 2,100-metres of vertical drop down over Les Aiguilles de la Selle has to be up there as a serious contender. One of the world's great off-piste descents, you set off from the Dôme de la Lauze at the top of the mountain (3,568 metres) and ultimately arrive at the village of St Christophe. As a reward, it's traditional to eat a celebratory meal in the La Cordée bar before taking the ski bus to Venosc and from there a gondola ride back up to Les 2 Alpes.
LES DEUX ALPES WEATHER
Keep an eye on the forecast before you go…
- High / Low
- Feels Like
- Freezing LevelM
- Snow CM
MAP OF LES DEUX ALPES
Find your way…
Here's our map of Les Deux Alpes showing you the key hotels and apartments as well as some of the main points of interest.