1. It’s the quiet back door into the giant Alpe d’Huez ski area
It’s a relaxing start to the morning when you have a choice of cable-car and gondola, which both set off from the same place in Vaujany’s village centre. The ski school meeting place is here as well, which suits parents dropping off kids. Whether you stay right at the top or down at the bottom of the village, convenient escalators and funiculars whisk you here.
The long, long runs
The ski area has 250km of piste including the 16km Sarenne in neighbouring Alpe d’Huez which is world-famous, but it’s the steep Tunnel run that provides the bigger challenge. It drops straight down the front face from the Pic Blanc and, together with Les Rousses and La Fare – a testing black run that ends in the hamlet of L’Enversin d’Oz below Vaujany – it makes up the 2200m Champagne Run. For something a little easier, the Vaujaniat is an intermediate cruise down from Vaujany’s own ski area, with a gondola bringing you back up to the cable-car station. In a good snow week, advanced and expert skiers will have a ball here.
The best chalet food in the Alps
Chalet Saskia is a comfortable but by no means OTT chalet, conveniently situated for both the village and mountain access. It sleeps ten in each of two-mirror image segments – and they can be taken separately or as a whole. The chef for both, working from his glass-walled kitchen between the two, is New Zealander Marcus Cull, who has been resident here for over 20 years. His creations never fail to stun and surprise guests and they are all based around locally sourced ingredients.
Be prepared for nine or even ten little courses – starter, main, a cleansing sorbet, pre-dessert and dessert punctuated by a host of incredibly creative amuse-bouches. In our opinion, you won’t eat better in a Michelin-starred restaurant. However, if you don’t fancy a week of gourmet food, you can also self-cater or go half board in one of the chalets in the outlying hamlet of La Villette.
Interesting mountain restaurants abound
There are more than 20 mountain eateries in the Alpe d’Huez and Vaujany area, including Le Chalet du Lac Besson (+33 476 80 65 37) on the area’s cross-country track, well away from the piste. If you want something a little different, try the new La Fruitiere (table-service) and Folie Douce (self-service) – part of the chain of Val d’Isere fame, albeit slightly cheaper than the original.
Closer to Vaujany is Les Airelles – at the top of the Montfrais nursery slope, with a pleasant sun terrace and wholesome mountain dishes. La Forêt de Maronne near Auris serves imaginative local cuisine that is excellent value, and on sunny days you can eat on the terrace.
The village reinvests in its facilities each year
In the late 1980s, the little village of Vaujany unexpectedly hit the jackpot when it sold land to France’s largest hydro-electric scheme. The villagers used the money to convert their cowsheds into chalets and built a 160-person cable-car that links into the Alpe d’Huez ski area. Since then they added a vast creche and improved the beginner ski area.
The family amenities are second to none
This is the third home to the Vaujany garderie, for children aged six months to 11 years – the older ones can mix skiing with other activities down at the kindergarten. The building relocated a few years ago into a purpose-built edifice below Chalet Saskia. There’s also a swimming-pool complete with waterslides and a paddling pool, a bowling alley, a skating/ice-hockey stadium and a restaurant. The complex is accessed by a funicular from the cable-car station.
On the snow, the ski school runs English-speaking classes during the school holidays to cater for the many British families who stay in the resort. Children aged three years and over can join group lessons. The ski school is based at Montfrais at the top of the gondola; the nursery slopes are also up here, accessed by a moving carpet inside a protective glass tunnel.
The prices are lower than in mainstream French resorts
Expect to pay about 5€ for a beer in Vaujany and 3€ for a soft drink. A beer in Val d’Isere is roughly 9€ and a soft drink 5€. On the mountain above Vaujany you’ll pay between 30€ and 45€ for a meal for two people, including with wine, water and coffee.
You can book a chalet holiday here with Vaujany-specialist Ski Peak. Other tour operators to the resort include Erna Low, Powder Beds and Peak Retreats. Also see our post on Eating on the Go in the Alps (Vaujany)