Les Deux Alpes lies between Grenoble and Briançon in a remote corner of the Dauphiné, just over an hour’s drive south-east of Grenoble. Les Deux Alpes is one of the largest and most snow-sure ski resorts in the Southern French Alps. Its biggest asset is its high altitude, which allows skiing to continue throughout much of the yea
Best known for having the largest skiable glacier in Europe, Les Deux Alpes also boasts one of the world’s greatest on-piste vertical drops: an exhilarating descent of 2268m, rideable non-stop all the way.
Combine Les Deux Alpes main assets – guaranteed snow cover, long cruisy runs – with 200km of pistes served by 44 lifts, and you should have a near perfect resort. Les Deux Alpes is a pleasing venue for any powder hound on a mission when the snow falls. Due to the sheer size of the place, intermediates will find more than enough to keep themselves occupied, but Les Deux Alpes is not the middle of the road paradise that exemplifies so many ski areas
Les Deux Alpes’ skiing is characterised predominantly by well-groomed blue and red cruising pistes, mostly confined to a narrow backbone of glacial ridges high above the tree line. Despite this linear layout, it contains a good variety of terrain: ranging from sheltered powder-filled bowls to raw glacial summits, and from easily accessible beginners’ snowfields to seriously exposed off-piste routes.
The resort is suited to all levels of skier and rider. However, lower intermediates should note that on the main mountain the gradient is ‘reversed’. Some of the easiest skiing is higher up – both on and around the glacier. The benefit of this is that complete beginners can learn against the panoramic backdrop of the High Alps rather than on a shaded slope tucked away on the outskirts of a village.
From Les Deux Alpes village, a choice of lifts gives main mountain access. The most important of these is the Jandri Express gondola that ascends all the way up to the foot of the glacier. From the outset it’s important to realise that this is an unusually shaped mountain. Some of the most difficult runs are at the bottom, while the top is largely given over to easy blues.
There are two distinct ski areas, rising on opposite sides of the town: the compact Pied Moutet sector to the west was the original local ski hill, although it now feels remote from the now much larger main ski area over on the eastern side; there’s one chairlift linking the two areas from east to west, plus one piste linking from west to east.
Mont de Lans is the lowest part of the ski area, a short chairlift ride and a red run from the rest of the system and 5 km from the main resort by road.
On the eastern side, the wide and gentle slopes closest to the town centre house bustling beginners’ zones and children’s snow gardens, but rise very steeply to the ridges overlooking the resort, meaning that almost all of the home-run routes are graded black. These tend to get icy and moguled too, which adds to their masochistic appeal at the end of a long ski day.
The upper sectors are much more varied: here you’ll find further beginners’ zones, gentle inter-sector traverses, steep-sided coombes, plus Les Deux Alpes’ excellent snowpark and exciting in-bounds freeride features.
The iconic Glacier sector covers the uppermost reaches of the domain, yet its spacious dome-shaped summit slopes are as accessible to novices as they are to advanced ability visitors; it is also the starting point for a multitude of epic off-piste itineraries, and links into the -experts only- La Grave ski area.
The resort is home to plenty of good off-piste terrain and there’s more to be explored nearby in Saint Christophe and, of course, the freeride paradise next door that is La Grave.
Local highlights include the three short but testing Grand Couloir chutes, accessed from the Bellecombes chair, the Pic du Diable off the same chair, (plus an hour’s hike!), the Chalance bowl, the long descent from the Dome glacier, and several unpisted itineraries into the La Fee valley.
Les Deux Alpes has some great terrain for a snow heavy season. The maintenance of the area is mainly good. But compared to other major French resorts like La Plagne, Tignes, 3V there is less snow-making particularly higher up. So, in seasons with less snowfall it will suffer far more quickly. Another point worth noting is the lack of variability in aspect of slopes. Almost everything is on a north facing valley, or north facing. This means a lot less sun, which is again fine on good snowfall seasons, but will make for lots of unrelenting ice if there is a warm spell and freezing thereafter. Also, because the area is on a north valley, you will find the dominant winds run directly uphill a lot of the time, particularly in the popular Toura area where their park is.
Les 2 Alpes is in the Isère region, south-east of Grenoble and accessible via budget flights into Lyon, Grenoble, Marseille and Nice, plus Cuneo and Turin.