Rain and wet snow spoil Les Deux-Alpes (or Les 2 Alpes)

13th March 2018, by Chris Gill

A relatively clear spell on Monday morning

A relatively clear spell on Monday morning

I flew out to the Alps again on Saturday 10 March, to carry on research for the upcoming book Where to Ski in France. First stop the southern Alps, and in particular Les Deux-Alpes, as we traditionalists style it (the resort long ago adopted Les 2 Alpes, or even Les2Alpes).

This is a resort that has improved hugely over the last decade or two by developing the network of runs on its main mountain to remove bottlenecks. A key development two years ago was the construction, at enormous expense, of an entirely new blue run on the steep home slopes directly above the resort, and checking this out was my main objective.

Sadly, we picked a bad time to visit. Despite the planting of many trees over the years (and the re-planting of an impressive-sounding 12,000 in the course of creating the new run), it remains an essentially treeless resort. And for most of our two days there we got low cloud, wet snow or rain. Only late in the afternoon on each day did things improve.

Sunday was particularly dire, with heavy rain at village level which of course our ‘technical’ breathable-fabric jackets failed to cope with. As for our lovely £100 leather gloves … you could squeeze water out of them by lunchtime. At low altitude the snow was miserably heavy, and at higher altitude the visibility was awful.

However, in the course of Sunday morning we did ski the aforementioned new blue run, and confirmed that it is an excellent piece of work – a good gradient, and a reasonable width. Well worth the millions of euro.

The trouble on Sunday and Monday (when the higher slopes were closed) was that the run was hideously busy. What it’s like towards the end of a normal day, when most of the resort’s 30,000 visitors want to use it to get home, I can’t say. If you can shed light, let me know.

We also spent some time on both days on the usually neglected Vallée Blanche side of the resort, which provided very worthwhile intermediate skiing – blue runs that are very much at the tough end of the spectrum.

On Monday the resort’s indefatigable press person Héléna led us through the white-out on a brief exploration of the Fée sector, including a satisfying lunch at the cosily traditional restaurant La Fée. But none of us was keen to do much more after that.

We also had a potentially tricky drive ahead of us to Serre-Chevalier, over the 2058m Col du Lautaret, which had been closed for a time on Sunday. So an early departure seemed sensible all round in case we had to resort to a roundabout route.

We stayed at the newly revamped hotel Chamois Lodge, in a good position at the southern (Venosc) end of the town. The new owners have kitted out a tired simple hotel with good new shower rooms and funky urban-retro furnishings and ornaments, and it works well. The restaurant has a good reputation too. Friendly staff, and a pleasant bar. Recommended.

We’re now in Serre-Chevalier (the pass turned out to be virtually snow-free) and expecting some sun on Tuesday – ironic, given the heavily forested nature of much of the skiing. More news in a day or two.

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