Ski resorts by train

Alpe d'Huez - slopes

The skiing is divided into four sectors, all inter-connected by lift, with the biggest, Pic Blanc, directly above Alpe d’Huez. The impressive two-stage Grandes Rousses telecabine, also known as the DMC lift, rises from the village, with a cable-car above that ascending to 3,330-metre Pic Blanc, which is above the Sarenne glacier.

It is from here that what is alleged to be the longest groomed run in the Alps begins, the 16-kilometre Sarenne – a number may now claim that distinction, but this one is certainly the longest black run (although it does flatten out at the bottom).

The glacier can also be reached via the Marmottes chairlift and two-stage Marmottes telecabine. At Pic Blanc, as an alternative to the Sarenne, you can go through a 300-metre tunnel to access a testingly steep mogul field. On the opposite side of a gorge to Alpe d’Huez is the lovely Signal de l’Homme area, accessed by chairlift from the village’s Les Bergers district. The lift takes you down into the gorge before rising up to the slopes. Here, a network of blue and red runs take you down to Auris or Chatelard, or back down on north-facing slopes towards the gorge.

The small and mainly gentle sector of Signal, as opposed to Signal de l’Homme, is just above and easily accessible from the village and popular with second-week beginners and improving intermediates. There are also some easy runs, as well as one black, on the far side from Alpe d’Huez leading down to the old village of Villard-Reculas. The Signal sector has a run that is floodlit on two evenings a week.

The fourth sector is that of Vaujany-Oz, with its hub at L’Alpette, on the opposite side of the ridge above Alpe d’Huez. A large two-stage cable car rises from Vaujany to Dome des Petite Rousses at 2,800-metres, from where there are a couple of satisfyingly long reds. Intermediates enjoy the network of blues and reds at Montfrais, reached by a telecabine from Vaujany.

Ski highlights for all levels

Beginners: Directly above the village there is an expansive network of beginners’ slopes. Such a big area of nursery runs means that newcomers to the sport can start to stretch themselves without having to worry about going higher up the mountain before they are ready.

There is also a good selection of green runs at the other end of the village, at Les Bergers, served by a chairlift. These two areas are also dedicated as slow zones, although some through skiers tend to ignore this. Overall, there are few resorts where novices are catered for better than here.

Intermediates: The vast majority of holiday skiers probably fall into the intermediate bracket – so it follows that the vast majority will love it here! Alpe d’Huez really is simply fabulous for that category – especially for those with a little adventure in their soul. There are runs all over the mountain that will test them without being scary. It’s the red run capital of the French Alps – with a lot of super blues too.

Another big plus is that many of the runs are long, long – lots of turns are exactly what an intermediate needs to progress and this is the place to find them. The Signal l’Homme area has some long reds with the added bonus that the runs here are often quiet, so there is plenty of elbow room to work on technique.

The runs down to Villard-Reculas will stretch intermediates too – thighs will know that they’ve been put through their paces. Even the long black Sarenne run from Pic Blanc can be tackled by a fit upper intermediate, as long as care is taken on the steep, mogulled upper section. Completion of this run will give a lot of satisfaction.

For the slightly more timid there are lots of blues for learning progression, particularly in the Signal sector and at Montfrais. And there are some off-piste runs, to be taken with a guide, that are perfect for intermediates making their first forays away from the groom.

Experts: Experts won’t be bored here! A first glance at the piste map seems to show a predominance of reds – but in fact there are some challenging blacks from most top stations here, and some testing reds that would be categorised black in many other resorts. And there is a huge array of off-piste, for which you should take a guide, for adventurous advanced and expert skiers and boarders.

On piste, the epic 16km Sarenne run the longest in the Alps, with a steep, mogulled initial pitch, although with a flat final section. The Tunnel run from Pic Blanc is interesting. First a steep mogul field, then the tunnel from which you emerge blinking into the sun to find an even steeper mogul field – which can be hard and icy in the mornings. A nice wake-up test!

The Marmottes ll telecabine gives access to a couple of decent blacks – either Balcons, quite steep but usually with good snow and rarely too crowded, or the less testing Clocher de Macle.

Signal de l’Homme is particularly handy if you have experts in a group with less accomplished skiers, because there is a good choice of runs from the top which allow you to conveniently meet up again lower down.

Off-piste (always with a guide), the popular routes include the Combe du Loupe – at the top often described as a steeper version of the Swiss Wall at Avoriaz – in a sunny bowl which ends up with a gentle run out. The Grand Sablat is wild, beautiful and tough in places, initially over the glacier and including some steep couloirs. After a total vertical of about 2,000-metres, you’ll end in the village of Clavans, from where you take a taxi back to Alpe d’Huez. Another 2,000-metre vertical descent is available from Col de la Pyramide (which involves a 50-minute hike from the top of Pic Blanc). This off-piste route takes you down to the runs above Vaujany. There are many other options – some that can be tackled by decent intermediates as well as advanced and expert – and a visit to one of the ski schools to discuss conditions and hire a guide is essential to get the most from your holiday.

Ski schools and guides

There are four ski schools – ESF,  EasySki, Stance and Masterclass.  All, including ESF, promise that teachers fluent in English are available and all have good reputations. ESF in fact claim they have instructors who can also accommodate Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, Danish, German, Portuguese, Russian, Polish and Hebrew – as well as French of course. Impressive! Stance are very flexible, with group or one-to-one lessons available from two hours to six days or more. Masterclass is a British school run by BASI trainer Stuart Adamson, who has been in the resort for nearly 20 years and holds the French Equivalence and specialises in providing intensive teaching for British clients by British-trained instructors.

Choose from over 17,000 instructors in 250 resorts across the French Alps


Terrain park 

There’s an impressive, extensive park for advanced and expert freestylers near the draglift at Lac Blanc, with a half-pipe, jumps, rails and a boardercross course. There’s also a gentler park for aspiring freestylers to have a go at the foot of the slopes.

Snow reliability and snowmaking

Many of the slopes are high, with skiing taking place from 3,330-metres (10,920-ft) down to 1,100–metres (3,610-ft). So the good snow that results from the altitude tends to offset the fact that the longs days of sun can adversely affect conditions on the predominance of south and south-west facing slopes. The configuration of the local topography also helps to conserve good snow, with high ridges and peaks keeping many of the runs, particularly above Vaujany, in the shade for much of the day.

The slopes from Signal de l’Homme also seem to keep snow in good condition. Suffice to say that the resort hasn’t built up its fine reputation by letting people down, and we have always enjoyed excellent skiing on decent snow on our visits. And it’s such a big area that it pays each morning to keep a careful check of conditions from sector to sector so you can steal a march and set off early to hit the slopes with the best snow. There is extensive snowmaking on all the principle runs above Alpe-d’Huez, Oz and Vaujany.

Weather and webcams

For the weather forecast for in Alpe d'Huez, you can visit this page.
And to view the SATA Ski webcam, have a look here.



Alpe d'Huez Grand Domaine piste map

Ski area
Village Altitude
Ski Altitude
Green Runs
Blue Runs
Red Runs
Black Runs
Total Runs 135
Terrain Park
Cabin Lifts
Chair Lifts
Drag Lifts
Total Lifts 75
Daniel Elkan