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Les Deux Alpes (France)
Member Name: Daisybelle
Les Deux Alpes (France)
Date: 21/03/01, updated on 21/03/01 (2009 review reads)
Advantages: Long Season, good snow record
Disadvantages: Poor lift service and accessibility
Following a very good early March week skiing in Les 2 Alpes, I thought it was time to hit the keyboard and share some of my experiences of the place.
To get to this high mountain resort we flew from Gatwick to Grenoble, a 1 hour 5 minute flight with a 1 hour 30 minute transfer on the back of it. We were booked into a First Choice Chalet as a group of 8, along with another group of 6. The Chalet Grand Tetras wasn’t particularly grand, but this was more than made up for by the truly excellent food provided by the Chalet hosts, including L’Escargot as an aperitif one evening. Their claim to fame was that Paddy Ashdown had stayed there a few weeks earlier, coincidentally we had his bedroom – that’s probably as close to fame as I’ll ever get.
I’ve a few things to say about First Choice but won’t get bogged down on them, as they aren’t the point of this opinion. Whilst the Chalet reps were great, the holiday reps were so laid back they might as well have still been in bed. This was compensated for in several ways though. First Choice provide their own ski hire and technician. Most people would blanche at this, wondering what the con is. Well there didn’t seem to be one.
Reasonable Carving skis were standard and they had a selection of newer skis, blades and boards available to play with. I got a buckshee pair of Salomon 720’s (Twin tips in the same mould as, but cheaper than, the Xscreams, 1080s etc. Offer more edge than Carvers and are good for tricks) for the last 4 days, which was a great bonus. They also provided a decent selection of trips and activities and made the effort to interest the customers without being pushy.
The village itself is un-picturesquely spread out along a valley and offered fairly poor skiing access. There is a free bus that goes around in a loop every 15 minutes, but it is annoyingly un-punctual. The reps said it was always like this, s
o be warned. A good tip is to take the bus to stop 14 at Club Med and catch “La Village” chairlift, which was never too busy.
The poor access was enhanced by the fact that most of the runs back to the village are black, and the one green was closed. This meant the majority of skiers had to take a lift back to the village at the end of the day. I found the nearest black to our end of town, Combo Valentin, fairly manageable, so was able to ski right back to the Chalet, except when the pub beckoned.
In case you don’t know, runs are graded like this –
Black – Difficult runs
Red – Intermediate runs
Blue – Easy runs
Green – Beginners runs
The skiing itself is very varied and includes 77 runs served by 57 lifts (See http://www.les2alpes.com/M-HI9899/FR/PLAN-HIV.HTM for a piste map). This is the official website piste map and the most up to date I could find. Unfortunately it’s tiny. Combo Valentin is the run on the bottom left with the piste shaded yellow. This indicates snow cannons in place – probably why it was the only run back to town open on the sunniest days. To the left of this run is Le Village, the end of town that we stayed in that was basically an accommodation village.
Above the valley lie a bunch of green and blue runs, which were horribly crowded at the start of the week as people found their feet. It was difficult at times to get higher than this quickly, because there is a real bottle neck in the middle of the mountain. One of the lifts from 2100 – 2600 metres burnt down last summer, and has yet to be rebuilt. This will really make a difference once it’s repaired.
The run from the top of the mountain to the town is about 13km, so makes for a good long ski. Near the top you can get onto La Breche, a long, interesting, but not to demanding red. This takes you down to Plan du Nord, a long and unfortunately often c
rowded blue, at the end of which you take your pick of the runs down to the bars. There are several interesting looking blacks on the hill. Super Diable has a fearsome bottom section that had me very worried at some points. Le Grand Couloir looked too horrific for me to attempt - a good challenge for the more experienced/insane.
If you really want to test your mettle the back of the mountain offers what is touted as “The 3rd most highly rated extreme ski area in the world, behind BC and Alaska”. A big claim, but La Graves’ 2200m vertical drop is not to be sneered at. It claims several lives each year and hosts the annual “La Grave Classic” every April. A freestyle race from top to bottom, the record stands at 5 minutes 25 seconds and this feat included a 40metre-cliff jump. To the chagrin of the locals a Canadian set this record in 1999. My mates tried it with a guide and said the route they took wasn’t too difficult, but enjoyable just for the sheer beauty.
Les2alpes offers plenty for boarders, having a large snow park and hosting a number of events through out the season. We saw the British Snowboard teams van running around if that's an endorsement - It should be seen as we boast a world champion.
The one trip the Chalet hosts threatened us with violence if we didn’t take was to Serre Chevalier. This was truly awesome. A huge ski area an hour away, with loads of powder, it’s a must do if conditions are right. Unfortunately this is the first year since 1998 that they’ve had decent snow, so I wouldn’t rush out to book up.
We took some group lessons with the ESF. My instructor was very good at his job, but on two of the days it was an hour before we got skiing due to his lateness and love of chin wagging. The day he spent making us ski greens on one foot without poles probably gave me the biggest step change in my skiing so far though, so I wouldn’t knock th
em too much. The classes were very small, varying from 5-7 which was another good point in their favour. I wouldn’t like to have been a beginner at this resort as the mountain just isn’t the right shape, having the difficult runs lower down.
On to the food. The mountain restaurants at Les2alpes were a bit of a disappointment. Panoramic at 2600m had ok food but very slow and surly staff. Chalet La Fee was good, but stupidly situated three quarters way down a black. A 6-man fast chair that was always empty served this black. An odd investment when you look at some of the horrible queues elsewhere. I ate most days at Le Capricorn at the foot of the Valentin Combo in the Club Med complex, quick service and not too busy.
The village offered a number of eateries and a numerous watering holes. The best food we had was at Les Sagnes (Yummy Tartiflettes) and L’Auberge, which had a Michelin star and was excellent value at 155 Francs for the set menu. Both of these were at the Venosc end of the village. The best apres-ski we found was The Dutch bar in the Club Med complex. This was full of – amazingly – Dutch people, who really liked to party. Mikes bar in the town centre was good too with live bands at 5 o’clock, although it’s very difficult to find. Upstairs from Mikes was Smokey Joes which has 4 PCs you can check your dooyoo reads on :-) At 40 Francs for half an hour you need to be a bit desperate though. Like I was.
Late nighters included La Casa, reputedly the place to score Coke. It looked more like a brothel to me, with its leopard skin seats and horrible Europop. We lasted about five minutes in there. Corrigans was the mandatory Irish bar that looks like a bunker – know the one? Thrown in was “Trad-Irish” music, which included anti-British rebel songs. Strange choice considering is was decidedly full of British skiers.
Well that’s about that. The snow conditions
were very good, we had about a metre of fresh over a 4 day period with plenty of sunshine in between. To summarise the skiing, it was very varied and plentiful but let down on occasion by the poor lift system. This should be improved by next season though so don’t let it put you off. The nightlife is a big plus if that’s you thing, if not there are quieter areas to accommodate you.
For more info try http://www.les2alpes.com/M-HI9899/GB/INDEX.HTM This is the English language link to Les2Alpes home page. I would probably go back here because with a careful choice of accommodation (Club Med is ideally located, and had a bowling alley, swimming pool etc) and the lift improvements that are due, this high altitude resort (3600m at the top) has a lot to offer.
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