Resort Profile: Les Deux Alpes
|By adamrowden, 30 Nov '12 at 08:27
Now officially known as 'Les 2 Alpes', the resort formerly spelt 'Les Deux Alpes' began life shortly after World War 2, when in 1946 the local ski school was formed and three ski instructors employed, with an impressive 45 pupils on the first day. It was in fact based on the old French ski area of La Berarde which sprang up in 1925 after the first road to the area was completed. That was France's second ski area after Chamonix so its had plenty of time to establish its excellent snowfall and sunshine records.
Today with around 60 lifts, including an underground funicular, serving 220km (143 miles) of terrain including year round glacier skiing, over one of the world's biggest lift-served vertical drops, and accommodation enough for over 35,000 guests per night, Les 2 Alpes may safely be regarded as one of the guest success stories of the global ski industry.
Although now more than 50 years old, it was ten years after it began life that the resort really started to take off. Success followed the opening of the Diable gondola in 1956 and a year later the creation of one of the world's first known ski pass - covering all the lifts in the young resort. By 1970 there were 40 hotels and 46 lifts, including two gondolas and six chairs and by 1980 150km of trails were groomed and lift-served.
In 1984 the lifts extended to the current peak of 3568m giving year round access to the glacier ski area with the fast Jandri Express gondola up to the glacier opening the following year and one of the world's few underground funiculars, the Dome Express, following in 1989.
So what does Les 2 Alpes have to offer? Well, it is a long and narrow village that sits on a high col and is very remote. Snowboarders can really express themselves in this resort as it has plenty of wide open spaces and a decent park with a half pipe. There is also a mile long couloir that can be accessed and the local tourist office claims that the Mont-de-Lans glacier in the resort is Europe’s largest skiable glacier.
On the Slopes
There are plenty of lifts spread out across the village and once you get up to the higher slopes, which are pretty high, you can almost always be guaranteed good conditions. Once you hit 2200m and above, most of the runs face north and once you get to the top glacier things go from great to bloomin’ great. Though the snow is often ace, bad weather can cause lifts to end up closing, and though the glacier is brilliant, it can also get cold, very very cold. So wrap up warm.
The resort is great for beginners, intermediates and experts, as it really does have plenty to offer. And, it has some pretty good nightlife too, which is always worth checking out.
If you are a speed demon then you are in luck. Nothing beats hurtling from the top of the glacier to the bottom of the signal on perfect corduroy at 3200m to get your legs burning and heart pumping. Alternatively you can race from the top of the glacier to the bottom of the Valentine. Fastest so far is just over four minutes.
With the all year glacier skiing and popularity of Les Deux Alpes with boarders, the park is excellent. Long pipe, great boardercross, big air and spines, plus there's regular music, BBQs, displays and comps.
La Grave speaks for itself - accessible from the top of the glacier at 3600m. Take a guide the first time as the top section is riddled with crevasses and the region is reputed to have the highest death rate in Europe - hence the name!
In Les Deux Alpes itself, the most popular places to head for after a dump are:
- The Ice wall, which runs from the top of the glacier towards the bottom of the signal.
- La Fee - go exploring from the top of the chair, but watch out for cliffs.
- Le Bons - on the Pieds Moutets side of the valley. If the snow is good low down, this can be superb, but go with someone who knows the way or you'll have a long walk out.
- St Christophe - an amazing descent to a tiny village in the valley below the 'End of the World'.
Again, don't try it without someone local who really knows the area.
Living in Resort
If you are after some après ski fun then you are in luck. Les 2 Alpes is renowned for its cracking après scene, with plenty of great bars, many of which stay open into the early hours. In the village there are some good bars including the Pub le Windso, which is small and very popular with locals. You can also head to Smokey Joe’s for some sports and a brewski and the Secret also has some banging live music as well as a decent beer selection.
If you are looking for somewhere to eat then you're spoilt for choice. Mid price, Smokey's is always a good bet, and if the sun's shining, then Les Sagnes is great. Les Bluets, Le Rouge et Le Noir, and La Spaghetteria are my favourites. Also worth a try are Casa Mia and L'Etable.
At the high end of the market, the Chalet Mounier and Bel Auberge are both lovely - reps can sometimes eat free in the Bel Auberge.
Les Deux Alpes is a relatively big ski town and there are over 500 UK tour operator staff, bar staff and ski bums knocking around. Ideal location are the blocks at the bottom of the pistes, near Smokeys, but you're more likely to find yourself at the Village end of town (near Club Med and very Scandinavian) or right at the other end - near the bottom of the red eggs - where most of the older cheaper accommodation is. There are lots of club hotels too, where staff live-in. But the resort's flat, you can walk from one end to the other in less than 20 minutes, and the free bus is pretty efficient.
- High altitude
- Great conditions
- Charming village
- Excellent après ski
- Great for snowboarders
- Good for all levels of experience
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