Enjoying the sun in the Alpe d’Huez

12th February 2019, by Dave Watts

The long Sarenne run from Pic Blanc at 3330m is deservedly very popular

The long Sarenne run from Pic Blanc at 3330m is deservedly very popular

Last week, I enjoyed two fabulous days in Alpe d’Huez, self-proclaimed as ‘The Island in the Sun’ because of the sunny south-facing aspect of the main runs back to the resort.

But it’s not all south-facing and many of the runs in its outlying ski sectors such as Vaujany and Signal de l’Homme/Auris are much more shady and the snow quality there is often better.

We started off by heading straight up to the high point of Pic Blanc, thankfully bypassing the huge queues for the Pic Blanc cable car because we had ESF instructor Tristan Adamson with us. Tristan is the 21-year-old son of the legendary Stuart Adamson, who was one of the first BASI qualified instructors to break the ESF monopoly and has been running his Masterclass ski school here for 26 years.

Views from the Sarenne run are fabulous, including over to Les 2 Alpes

Then we descended the attractively varied 10km Sarenne run (flagged by the resort as 16km but it’s not if you measure it down the centre, as readers of Where to Ski in France will know). This has fabulous views on the way down (including across the valley to Les 2 Alpes, to which a link is planned for a few years’ time). It starts off with quite steep sections but the long end section is a very gentle glide through a narrow canyon.

A view over the resort and to the Signal sector, seen from the Signal de l’Homme slopes

That was followed by some great runs on good powdery snow in the Signal de l’Homme / Auris sector until lunch called at the Signal 2108 at the top of the separate Signal sector. This had great views over the resort and ski area from the sunny terrace – and the ‘semi-cuit’ tuna was some of the best I’ve had.

That afternoon and the next day were spent exploring the Vaujany, Oz and Villard-Reculas sectors. We didn’t ski every run but we did cover all the sectors and confirmed our view that the Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine Ski area (as they now call it) has ideal runs for pretty much every standard.

And we did find time to spend at the Folie Douce, which is rocking every day with its unique brand of music and cabaret.

The Folie Douce was packed when we arrived at 4pm

We were staying at the newly opened 5-star Daria-I Nor hotel (named after one of the most valuable cut diamonds in the world and a sister hotel to other 5-stars named after diamonds in Arc 2000 and Val Thorens). It has a brilliant position, just a few metres from the mid-station of the new Alpe-Express gondola, which takes you to the main lifts up the mountain (I’ve never seen a hotel nearer to a lift).

The spacious and luxurious bedrooms more than lived up to its 5-star status. So did the spa with hot tub, pool, sauna, steam room and relaxing room with a salt wall. The in-house ski shop had an excellent selection of quality rental skis, including a virtually new pair of Rossignol Experience 84s that I loved; and the staff insisted on helping you on and off with your ski boots – a joy. Cost: from £158 per person per night for two people sharing a room B&B.

The food, though, was somewhat disappointing and the wi-fi was incredibly slow (something I’m told they are working on). I preferred the dinner we had up the mountain at La Cabane which serves traditional French mountain food and takes you up and down in its own snowcat, which adds to the fun. That was preceded by a fun ride on the Luge (an Alpine roller coaster on rails rather than the much scarier Olympic event).

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