One summer day in Les 2 Alpes
Most British skiers and boarders head to Les 2 Alpes for their winter snow fix – but with a huge glacier ski area and a wide range of other summer activities, the Ski Club’s Digital Editor Chris Madoc-Jones finds just how much can you fit into one summer day in this big-hitting French resort:
7am – Breakfast
The Hotel des Neiges, situated right in the heart of town, was my home for the week and my day kicked off with a plate of pastries and fresh baguette – the perfect fuel for the day ahead which I knew would be a busy one.
8am – Time to go skiing
A 10-minute walk through town took me to the base of the main access lift to the glacier, the venerable Jandri Express. This 31-year old gondola has seen better days, but a replacement is due within the next five years and this is expected to not only speed up the 25-minute journey but also double the uphill capacity. The lift actually opens at 6.45am but by holding off until 8am I avoided the queues caused by the 50+ race teams heading up to the glacier for their pre-season training – a great bit of local advice from Helena from the Tourist Office!
8.30am – The Mantel Glacier
Stepping out of the gondola station at 3,200m to crisp and fresh mountain air I was greeted by the dome-like Mantel Glacier. The Puy Salié sector right in front of me was packed with racers, weaving through slalom and giant slalom gates. However the main piste was almost empty in comparison, so I clipped in and took one of the two access T-bars to 3,400m. The snow was still firm underfoot, but not too icy as I had feared, so I lapped the lift a couple of times as the sun progressively rose higher in the sky.
9.30am – Exploring the slopes
In ever-softening snow conditions I headed down towards the lower, Signal sector of the glacier. The run was wide and had the luxury of a high-speed chairlift to whisk you back to the top (a nice change from T-bars) but after a few loops it was time to head back up towards the summit. The funicular took me back up to 3,400m (another good place to rest your legs after a few runs) but I wanted to hit the 3,548m high point at the top of the Dôme de la Lauze – just a few hundred metres away from the slopes of La Grave.
10.30am – Rubbing shoulders with the pros
The snow was fantastic as I skied down from the top of the Lauze towards the Super-G training slope where I was greeted by the sight of the French national team, including 15-time World Cup winner Alexis Pinturault, preparing to take on the course. By following the Puy Salié 1 blue it was possible to get to within metres of the racers flying past and the return up the Dome Nord T-bar was flanked by their slalom and GS courses. Apparently this was not an uncommon occurrence, with most of the world’s very best heading to L2A at some point each summer – that day both the Italian and South Korean national teams were also training on the slopes of the glacier.
11.30am – Time to visit the park
Keen to experience the full L2A summer ski area I moved across to the vast snowpark that dominates the opposite side of the glacier. I skied through the “Easy Park”, which was packed with youngsters, and also the smaller of the two halfpipes (the 22ft Superpipe next door was full of the pros) before heading to watch the Big Air line and its 20m kickers. An eclectic mix of French, Italian, Russian and even a couple of Brits were throwing some huge tricks in the late-morning sunshine.
1pm – Heading back down the valley
The main lifts closed at 12.30pm, although the park lifts span until 1pm to give the freestylers a couple of extra laps in the slushy snow. Another bit of local advice came in handy here as I took the lift down at just before one to avoid the queue from both crowds. Once back in L2A, stepping out to 25°C was a bit of a shock, especially whilst still in ski gear, but it made the shower back at the hotel even more satisfying!
2pm – Back out into the hills, but this time on a bike
My €39 day lift pass not only covered the ski area, but also the 91km network of maintained mountain biking trails and the chairlifts to access them. As a result I found myself getting kitted out with full body protection and the latest carbon-framed downhill mountain bike. I pedalled through town to the Vallée Blanche sector – home to the easiest routes in the area. I do cycle to work each day so am used to the chaos of London traffic, but banked corners, steep drops and gravel tracks were new to me, so I felt a touch of apprehension as I hung my bike on the chairlift and headed to the top. However, after a few early wobbles I was quickly in to the swing of things and the fantastically maintained Vallée Blanche run was a blast in the hot July sunshine.
4pm – Taking on the Diable
Translated as “the devil”, the Diable sector of the Bike Park implied a stiffer challenge but after two runs down the Vallée Blanche I was ready to test my skills further. After a five minute pedal back across town I clipped my bike into the fast 6-man chair that tops out at 2,400m to give not only a fantastic panorama of the resort, but almost 750m of vertical descent. I chose to stick to the L’Ange trail, which at 7km long proved to be a bit of a thigh and upper-arm burner! There were several sections on winding wooden boards, numerous banked hairpins and lots of small rollers and drops from which to gain some air. After two laps it was time to return my bike, not because the lifts were closing, but more because it was roasting hot in all the gear and it was time for a swim…
6pm – Lac de la Buissonnière
Around a 20 minute walk from the heart of town is this beautiful small lake, surrounded by grassy banks that are perfect for sunbathing. Sadly the sun was hidden behind some thin clouds by the time I had arrived but the blue water still looked extremely inviting. Although it wasn’t warm at 21°C, it was extremely refreshing and judging by the number of people in the water, I wasn’t the only one cooling off after a long hot day!
7.30pm – Dinner
After a change of clothes it was time to eat and I went straight across the road from my hotel to Crêpes à Gogo – a Deux Alpes institution since 1962. As I tucked into a galette with local cheese and cured ham and one of their signature Belgian beers, I nursed some sore legs but reflected on just how much it was possible to do on one sunny day in Les 2 Alpes…
Look out for more updates from Les 2 Alpes on www.skiclub.co.uk over the next few weeks or if you’re lucky enough to also be heading there this summer then be sure to check out our latest snow report and weather forecast for the resort.