Following in the tracks of Jean-Claude Killy

27th February 2019, by Dave Watts

Editor Watts enjoyed fabulous conditions on the treelined slopes of Chamrousse

Editor Watts enjoyed fabulous conditions on the treelined slopes of Chamrousse

In February, I flew to Grenoble airport, just outside the city that hosted the 1968 Winter Olympics. This small airport has flights from 12 UK airports during the winter and is used mainly by skiers visiting the two main nearby resorts of Alpe d’Huez and Les 2 Alpes (both less than two hours away by bus).

Most flights are at the weekend. When I arrived on a Sunday, the place was delightfully deserted, with only our Easyjet flight from and to Stansted shown on the arrival and departure boards. Saturday is much busier though and the departure area was really crowded when I flew back six days later.

Saturday crowds at Grenoble airport – Sundays are much quieter

If you have the choice, choose Sunday flights (the roads will be much quieter for your transfer too; my Bensbus Saturday transfer back from Les 2 Alpes took almost three hours).

See the earlier report on my visit to Alpe d’Huez. A report on Les 2 Alpes and its exciting plans for the future will follow.

But before going to those two resorts I stayed in Grenoble and then in the nearest sizeable ski resort to the city, Chamrousse (90 minutes away). All these are in France’s Isère region.

Grenoble has a charming old centre of mainly car-free narrow streets and squares, with lots of bars and restaurants. Sadly, because it was Sunday, nearly all the shops and many of the hostelleries were shut.

But I did get the chance to ride the gondola from the city up to the ancient Bastille, built in the 19th century on a hill high above the city. The 180º views from here over the city and to the mountains beyond are stunning.

The views over Grenoble from the Chamrousse ski area are tremendous

The next day I travelled to Chamrousse, a small purpose-built resort with three separate accommodation bases at the foot of the lifts. An evening was spent trying the new Canada Experience – an hour snowmobiling followed by a 40-minute snowshoe hike to an igloo for a fondue supper. Sadly, I was not at all impressed with the snowmobiling, especially the safety aspects, which was nowhere near up to real Canadian standards.

By contrast the skiing the next day was fabulous. It had snowed all day Sunday and the snow was delightfully light and powdery. The pistes were mainly blues and easy reds between the snow laden trees. They claim 90km of pistes but we skied pretty much all the area before lunch.

This is the mountain where French ski hero Jean-Claude Killy won gold medals in all three men’s Alpine events in the 1968 Winter Olympics. The Olympic Downhill piste is clearly marked all the way down and is a very enjoyable blast.

The Men’s Downhill Olympic race piste is clearly marked

It is a black run but isn’t steep for most of the way. However, it is narrow and our guide told us that it couldn’t be used for downhill races these days because it was considered too dangerous and putting in the requisite safety fences etc would be prohibitively expensive. How times change…

The Men’s Olympic Downhill piste on the left, the Women’s on the right

The views from the ski area down to the city of Grenoble (2000m vertical below the top of the mountain) and to the mountains beyond are stunning.

As well as downhill there’s a big cross-country area with 40km of pistes.

Accommodation is nearly all in fairly basic apartments and there is currently only one hotel (a 1-star). But the resort would be worth considering for a budget family holiday or short break; and it is certainly worth a visit for a day if you are in the area.

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