If anyone is keeping up you’ll know we only started skiing about 3 years ago when a very optimistic pair of friends based near Chamonix thought they could take us out one day at the end of a climbing trip and teach us… they did not to badly frankly – they were good teachers – I was a terrible learner! (See Getting the Blues)
Fast forward 3 years, lessons and practice indoors at Glasgow Snow Factor ( where ca also practice ice climbing ) and a couple of trips out out to Les Houche’s and we set up a nice 6 days on slopes trip to Les Deux Alpes (Les2Alps as many know it) to have a proper holiday, narrowly missing the worst of the English and French half term holiday season.
Rather than our usual landing point of Geneva (great for Chamonix) we landed at Grenoble and joined our pre-booked transfer with Ben’s Bus to head to Les2Alps. Ben’s bus really impressed with prices, size of the bus (AlpyBus is cool but my knees struggle for the journey as its so small!) and also with how well they communicated prior to joining them. As it was still the tail end of French “half term” there were expected journey time delays so their great email advised of this,suggested bringing water/snacks and if braining kids – games, books etc . Clearly they have experience. Traffic not being too bad we arrived at Les2Alps in a little more than 2 hours and checked into our hotel .
Base of Operations
Using Booking.com (I tend to flip between them and AirBnB for great deals) i foind a great little hotel, right on one of the 2 parallel “main” streets called Hotel Le Meije – pretty small (maybe 15 rooms) above a great little restaurant and directly across from one of the main lifts (Jandri) only about a 3 mins walk away. Giving great access to shops and lifts (and bars) its a very central location. These are upsides .. small downside is noise . People passing, happy, laughing, shouting.. singing.. late into the night does tend to keep me awake but .. hey its a ski town! Prices are very reasonable, rooms pretty spacious and staff were lovely it has to be said and the free breakfast was very good (Cereals, breads ,meats, cheese, croissants, pain au chocolat etc etc ). And to be fair its only to sleep and change in really.
As with a lot of Alpine/Ski hotels you need to leave your Ski’s in a room outside.. sadly this didn’t have a lock so insurance is a must however we encountered no issues.
Ski passes of course are a key part of a Ski trip , I booked ours online in advance and had them mailed to me in plenty time , along with ski hire from InterSport (very inexpensive! , however many, many options are available ) but you can pick up passes in the Place 2 Alps, in the center of town (look for the giant Polar bear!) , next to Jandri lift. Lift pass prices are pretty standard , little cheaper than Chamonix from memory. Les2Alps is often called an “Upside Down” Mountain for the reason that unlike many resorts a great number of beginner (debutante and Green ) and easy intermediate (Blue) runs are higher on the mountains (main areas at 2400m, 3200m and even at 3600m!) with some red and even blacks further down – this means for a beginner (like me) you get some of the best views and access to all the mountain has to offer! . There are around 5 small green/beginner zones also at the very foot of the mountains for walk on practice. |For the more adventurous there is even a free-style park above 3200m! There are lifst all along the valley with Jandri, White Eggs (Oeuf Blanc) and Diable being the most busy as they take you up to key zones – to access the beginner area at 2400m take White Eggs (little round white cabins) or if you have some experience son skis and re happy to ski down a green/ easy blue to the beginner areas the Diable chairlift. The piste map is available here but can be picked up in numerous places in resort
We had decided as neither of us is a “great” … or even good… skier that some lessons would be helpful to really help us gain skill and confidence . I had connected to an instructor called Alex Armand who runs TipTopSki via a face book group and we planned to meet her in the afternoon, The morning then was ours to warm up and explore!
After a quick couple or rounds of Vikings (a super easy beginner run at the base of the mountain we decided to head up the mountain. Scanning the Piste map i decided we cold take Diable lift up and use some “easy” greens (Petite Cretes and Demoiselles) to make our way back down for lunch. The plan being to head back up to the top of White Eggs to meet Alex for our lesson stating at 1.30.
The views were stunning, blue sky, clear cold air, mountains all round – amazing feeling for your first day and a reminder why we head to the mountains!
Skiing down we were ok and our basic skills allowed us to navigate Petite Cretes pretty easily and down across the “debutante” (beginner) area, a wide, easy green slope really designed for learning (great fun for us ! :)) . Where it intersects with Petite Cretes we stopped at the restaurant/fast food bar called (La Patachon) (which became a firm favourite – try the hot dogs!) for a quick rest and small beer before deciding then to make our way down to the valley via the long , zig zagging Green called demoiselles. Mistake !
Yes this is a green and designed for easy return to Les2Alps but it is quite narrow, busy and long .. so it became a real challenge for us, lacking good turning skills and feeling the stress of many others shooting by us… we made it down.. it took a lot longer than anticipated, we both were tired and stressed and worst of all going to be late for Alex so a quick text to her and we re-arranged to meet back in the valley. We made it (almost) on time!
The afternoon was with Alex , starting on Vikings (very easy Green) so she could assess us initially then heading back up the mountain via the Diable chair and across the an easy blue “traverse route” called Belecombe, up higher towards La Toura and into the glacier area at 3200m .
A final T-Bar took us up to the top of a great , wide and relatively “slow” Blue running from 3400m back down to 3200m. This gave us a great opportunity to practice turns with more of a run , a bit faster and more importantly with super views including across to the Ecrins .
Taking Signal (another Blue) then back up on then lift before heading down Glacier routes we arrived back at the top of Jandri. Sam (like me) was pretty done in from the morning and last hour of Blues so elected to take the Jandri lift back to the Valley leaving me with Alex to ski back down the remaining 2400m (!!) . This gave me a great chance to practice tighter and faster turning, great coaching from Alex had me working on my balance and focusing on getting my weight forward (I’m bad for that! ). As we descended the runs got busier as everyone headed for Apres and I was finding it pretty challenging . On one of the final corners tired legs and poor control led me to wipe out very unceremoniously but Alex soon had me back on my feet, focused and we skied down and out for the pub!.. trashed but VERY happy and feeling pretty proud my Hoegaarden at the Polar Bear Pub (Superb hangout ) went down very well! … as did the one after it 😉
Alex has a great coaching style, never over bearing, very personalised but knows when to let you go and when to challenge you – we will be back !
With the legs still recovering from Day 1 we had a chilled morning ahead of meeting with Ski coach no2 , this time from the European Ski School – Monica. Italian and Skiing since the age of 2 Monica is used to absolute beginners so we were in good hands as we were keen to really get back to basics, nail that technique and build confidence to build on the rest of the week. We met her at the top of Eggs at the debutante area where we went through a series of basic drills, identified the weaknesses in our basics and worked on them.
As with Alex the experience was super fun, very personalised in terms of coaching and we saw further progression in juts a couple of hours.
The afternoon of skiing done, another day of super Blue skies heading to evening we headed down and taking advice from a good mate who had initially recommended Les2Alpes, we headed to the Umbrella Bar at the base of the Jandri lift as he promised “banging tunes” . Right enough.. a couple of beers in and superb techno getting us pumped we headed to change and to food and back to Polar Bear where things got messy 😀 We met up with a few folks staying locally , made some new firm friends from Germany, Turkey and Wales among others (as you do) and the last I remember is Sam buying shots and Champagne for a girl (who’s birthday it was ), her and all her pals dressed like 1920’s flappers… yep I can highly recommend the Aprés in Les2Alps !!.. and it is a holiday after all..
Hangover? yep…. late rise.. chilled brunch at a local hotel restaurant, a bit of window shopping (plenty of gear and clothes to buy!) and then back to the easy valley runs around Vikings to keep the legs moving through the afternoon, more blue skies, warming slushy snow more cool folks and basically a day of recovery …
Day 4 & 5
We spent the next 2 days getting as much mileage under out belts as possible, retracing routes Alex and Monica had shown us, working on technique but most of all just enjoying the amazing weather, snow, speed and views – as well as the relaxation you only get in the mountains, so far from the day job.
Lunches were high on the mountain – and always included a Vin Chaud , cafe avec rum or a beer (small) … its the alpine way! Dinners were in the valley… cheese always a factor, crepes frequent , great wine to finish. Lazy evenings with some shopping before bed and Netflix ready to do it all again tomorrow.
Last day.. always sad but we has such an amazing week that we didn’t feel cheated and with a full day to go we were not down at all.. a beautiful sunrise greeted us as a last gift.
Initially we headed high as usual early in the day but it was clear the weather was deteriorating. The wind picking up dark snowy clouds rolling in and by lunch it was falling, mist descending to 2400m so after lunch on the mountain we headed down see lout then rest of the day on the easy valley runs. By the end of the day the snow was pretty constant so as the afternoon closed out we headed back to hand in our rental kit , always a feeling of loss for me but we felt the week had come to a great natural close.
We had 5 days of super blue skies and sun, and a final day on the slopes with much needed snow now inbound to replenish the pistes. Walking along the main street we stopped at a lovely little wine and charcuterie store with outside tables (heaters to boot) so enjoyed an hour of watching the snow fall while sampling some great Pinot Noir and nibbling lovely small cuts of meats and cheeses.
A final walk around the gear shops then we headed to The Spot (highly recommend their “build a burger ” approach – but book as it get busy!) before heading to Polar Bear for a final beer.
.. our beer drunk, goodbyes made… it was back to the hotel, pack for an early pickup to take us back to Grenoble, the flight and finally….home to sunny Glasgow. (Yes….It was raining)
Les 2 Alps for beginners and intermediates alike is superb – so many runs, so many options and such a great town – we are already planning to be back!
For more information on Les2Alps (including Piste maps) see their website (or download their very informative App from your usual app store.