24hrs in mega Alpe-d’Huez and dinky Villard-Reculas

20th March 2018, by Chris Gill

The southern fringes of Alpe-d'Huez

The southern fringes of Alpe-d'Huez

In my Montgenèvre blog I posed that as the end of my southern France tour, but in fact at a late stage I decided to add a night in the Alpe-d’Huez area to catch up with Where to Ski in France contributor Nicky Holford.

Nicky was staying briefly in the satellite village of Villard-Reculas as part of a press group assembled by our good friends Heaven Publicity, and happily they were able to squeeze me in to the same lodgings for the night of Saturday 17th, as I made my way from south to north.

Given V-R’s status as The Smallest Ski Resort I Have Ever Visited, it’s slightly bizarre that I have stayed there twice in five years, but that’s how it has turned out. What’s more, on both occasions I stayed in the same dinky Chalet Regain apartment building, owned by the community – nicely revamped a few years back, and warmly comfortable.

Nothing much has changed in V-R since my last visit – apart from the tourist office director, now the helpful and energetic Yann Kerguelen, who evidently is trying to give this minute resort a higher profile. Village life still revolves around Le Comptoir, combining the roles of small-but-well-stocked shop and small-but-welcoming bar-restaurant. The one simple hotel is still dormant, awaiting revival. The main billet for British visitors remains La Source, an excellent catered chalet.

But there have been big improvements on the mountain, specifically on the Alpe-d’Huez side of Signal, the hill that separates the major resort from the minor one. Signal is now served by a powerful hybrid chair-gondola from the focal point of the resort, at its northern end (meeting the fast quad from V-R installed some years ago).

Excellent, safe off-piste on the V-R side of Signal

Elsewhere in the AdH area, a new 600m-long 8-seater gondola has replaced the old ‘pulse’ gondola at L’Enversin, below Vaujany, getting you back to the village from the end of the black run La Fare – the low point of the whole AdH area at 1100m. (Start at Pic Blanc and you get what may be the biggest on-piste vertical in the the world.)

And: at last, there is now a genuinely easy run down from Signal to AdH, La Marcel, marked on the piste map in purple – a classification poorly explained on the piste map, but in fact signifying a family fun run, Marcel’s Farm.

Another family-oriented development that’s new this season is a four-season sled-on-rails coaster. Yes, we had a go, and yes, it’s adequately exciting. To really churn your stomach, you can wear a virtual reality mask and watch a cartoon bearing no relation to your movements.

Editor Gill looks pleased to have survived the 6G centripetal forces

Coaster duty done, I resisted the temptation of an inspection drink in the hotel Au Chamois d’Or, newly elevated to five-star status (the first in AdH and in the whole of the département of Isère) in favour of checking out the blue run from the big DMC gondola. Verdict: really tough for a blue.

Then it was back to rejoin the press group in V-R for a satisfying lunch at the reliably welcoming Bergerie (just far enough above village level to count as a mountain restaurant) before jumping in the car to head north to Champagny.

Looking ahead, in about three years’ time the long-standing plan to link AdH (or more precisely another satellite village, Auris) to Les Deux-Alpes seems to be going ahead, via a monstrous gondola about 8km long. Even nuttier is a longer-term plan to link AdH with the slopes of St-Sorlin in the Sybelles area, about 9km to the north-east. I wouldn’t bet on it.

So, a return visit to the AdH area three years from now seems to be indicated. I’m not expecting many changes in Villard-Reculas.



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