Top Lift: 3600m
Ski area: 223km of pistes
Adult lift pass: 225€ for six days
In a Nutshell
The mountain’s a weird shape – and suits experts best. But that hasn’t stopped Les Deux Alpes acquiring a legion of fans, thanks to the low-ish prices, gorgeous scenery and full-throttle nightlife.
Essential Advice for the Perfect Trip
Les Deux Alpes lies between Grenoble and Briançon in a remote corner of the Dauphiné. Its biggest asset is its high altitude, which allows skiing to continue throughout much of the year and makes it a popular venue for out-of-season ski and snowboard camps. It has been a ski resort since 1939 when a primitive rope-tow was installed. Unfortunately this fell down 15 minutes after the opening ceremony. Hostilities with Germany then got in the way of any further development plans until 1946, when a gondola paved the way for Les Deux Alpes to become an important French resort.
The purpose-built village was conceived as a station de ski on the sunny balcony above the ancient community of Venosc, to which it is connected by six-person gondola, but not by piste so you can’t ski there. Venosc, with its cobbled lanes, craft shops and enticing restaurants, provides a welcome contrast and a tranquil alternative bed-base to the functional ski factory above it.
L2A sprawls along a narrow ledge below what were once the high summer pastures of sheep and goat farmers. The village is currently receiving a facelift, with exteriors becoming wood-clad with more spacious and modern interiors than previously.
The resort is suited to all levels of skier and rider. However, lower intermediates should note that on the main mountain the gradient is ‘reversed’. Some of the easiest skiing is higher up – both on and around the glacier. The benefit of this is that complete beginners can learn against the panoramic backdrop of the High Alps rather than on a shaded slope tucked away on the outskirts of a village.
The downside used to be that inexperienced skiers found the steep final descent to the resort beyond their capabilities, which meant they had to download by gondola. However, a new blue piste now runs from the Cretes ridge down to the resort, providing a more pleasant home run.
Advanced skiers will want to explore the glacial terrain of La Meije, reached by snowcat from the top of the ski area to the 3568m Dôme de la Lauze. From here you can ski all the way down to the ancient climbing village of La Grave.
Here and elsewhere in the L2A area, it is important always to be aware that you are in high mountains where the weather can change within minutes. It is the kind of territory where anyone who goes off-piste without a qualified local mountain guide is risking their life. Even then, it is up to the individual to take overall responsibility for his or her own safety. Mountain guides, like everyone else, are fallible.