Review of Alpe d'Huez

25th January 2009 by Kris Weber 

My wife and I have just returned from a week in sunny Alpe d’Huez, staying in the same accommodation as the previous reviewer (a week after he did), and would entirely endorse the comments that he makes about it.

On the subject of eating out, we would also recommend “Le Farmer” opposite P+V Les Bergers, both for a quick lunchtime pizza or a more relaxing evening meal: both the food and the ambience were excellent, and the vodka sorbet would take some beating too! As for mountain huts, “Airelles” in Montfrais was our favourite, an absolute gem of a place with food to die for.

And so on to the skiing. Unfortunately for a ski resort, this is where Alpe d’Huez seems to come unstuck. The black run Sarenne was still closed despite a lot of fresh snowfall, and many of the green and blue runs were very icy, particularly in the morning, with the quality of snow being poor anywhere else with a south-facing slope. In my view the biggest problem, however, was that the piste grading was extremely unreliable, with the difficulty of many runs seriously understated. For example the Signal run back into Alpe d’Huez, Vaujaniate (below Montfrais) and Hirondelles (in the main bowl) would be red in any other resort, whilst the red Villard (above the village of the same name) is tougher than most blacks I have skied elsewhere. Signal (a blue) has a gradient in excess of 50% for at least one-third of its length, whilst Hirondelles (also ostensibly a blue, and a green until a couple of years ago!) is a narrow, icy mogul field with a nasty precipice on one side.

I would also agree with the previous reviewer that it’s intermediates for whom Alpe d’Huez is therefore least ideal. There are lots of easy greens for beginners and acres of tough stuff for the experts. However, the genuine blues are too easy for competent intermediates yet there aren’t enough reds (that aren’t really blacks) to keep them happy. It was a genuine relief to take the day trip to Serre Chevalier and ski on a wide variety of different slopes the difficulty of each of which actually reflected the grading they had been given! The geography of Alpe d’Huez doesn’t help either, with runs generally getting steeper / harder the higher you go; by contrast, of course, in most resorts any particular location offers a choice of more than one colour by which to get back down. Without the confidence that the only way down really is the colour the piste map says it is, the tendency in Alpe d’Huez is not to try it in the first place. And that, in turn, means that quite a lot of its 250km of piste is essentially unavailable to all but very accomplished skiers.

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