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Inside Track

Les Deux Alpes

Glacier. Mint. Photo: Matt Georges

Inside Track – Les Deux Alpes

Les Deux Alpes is the France’s second-oldest resort, behind Chamonix. Less than fifty miles from Grenoble, it’s within easy reach for Brit holidaymakers – and is a popular seasonaire spot too. Boasting the largest rideable glacier in Europe, it’s open for business all year round. British freeride legend Vicci Miller calls Grenoble home, and so knows the various ins and outs of Les Deux Alpes like the back of her hand. Here’s what she recommends:

PISTE BASHING – Most of the 255 km of pisted runs are above the tree line, and extend up from the resort at 1600m way up to the Glacier at 3600m, Up there, the snow is usually as perfect as the views! Beginners should start their day in the Vallée Blanche, as the morning sun softens up the gently rolling greens and blues. Most people head up the Jandri to attack the runs around the top and mid-station, which are amazing for warming up the legs and finding side-hits all the way down the pistes. It takes nearly an hour to get from the resort to the very top, but if you are looking for an epic warm up (or a massive cramp attack), the 2000-metre descent back down is really worth it.

For years the options from the Crêt back down to the resort were either an icy black run or green paths that get crazily overcrowded, especially during holiday weeks. However, earth works got underway this summer and there is now a red run open too, with a blue being finished next year. The famous ‘Red Eggs’ gondola was recently replaced by a high speed, six-seater lift providing a quicker alternative to the Jandri, as well as direct access to the Super Diable and Diable runs. They’re rarely crowded, and well worth a visit.

FREESTYLE – Les Deux Alpes has always been well known for having one of the best parks in the French Alps [check below to see the Rusty Toothbrush crew giving them a demo]. The moment you get off the lift there are jib lines heading down to the start of the line of three kickers and two hips, varying from 10-17 metres in size. The Big Air jump – providing you get your speed checks right – is good entertainment for experts, as well as all those that just want to watch. There’s also another jib line with step-ups, picnic tables, rails and wallrides, leading into the top of the halfpipe. At 120 metres long, this pre-built pipe is one of the best in the Alps and is generally well–maintained all season long. The draglift next to the BBQ and chill-out area allows for quick laps on a couple of smaller kickers and street rails, and provides alternatives to the long park chairlift on windy days. The boardercross area is located right next to the park and is great for messing around with your mates.

The Summer Park on the glacier is one of the largest in Europe and conditions are generally great, especially just after the opening in June and beginning of July. Six kickers, a hip, smaller beginner areas, a jib zone and two pipes will keep most snow addicts happy in the sunshine, before you head off mountain biking or to the pool!

FREERIDE – This resort isn’t known for its tree lines… but as long as there’s a bit of a base already and not too much cloud, freeriding can be sick! Runs down from the Glacier to Le Signal are fun when it hasn’t snowed much as you know you won’t be riding rocks, though it can get a bit wind-blown up at the top so pick your conditions. Other runs down from 3200m to La Fee have little rock drops everywhere, and gullys that accumulate snow – just make sure you keep your speed when you get near the La Fee chairlift as it gets a little flat. That said, it keeps most riders away and is generally worth it! Laps under the La Fee chairlift are worth having a gander at before they are tracked out as well.

Below the Crêt there are some sick lines down the black runs and gullys of the bike parks – hits can be found pretty much everywhere. Visiting La Grave is generally a pretty epic day out; if it has snowed loads and you get a guide (which is essential), there is a run down from the glacier to St Christophe en Oisans, 1440m behind Venosc.

WHERE TO EAT – There are over 50 restaurants in the resort serving pretty much every type of grub you can think of, from gourmet to burgers and pizzas.  The Tribeca, Elli’s and La Grange are good for most appetites, with Crêpes-a Go-Go well known for its cheese and open fire-place. If you want to try a champagne fondue, head to Le Charbon du bois or Chez les Gaulois opposite Marche U, but make sure you reserve as spaces are limited – really worth it though! Alternatively they will do you some great meats and cheese for eating at home. At the Venosc end of town there is Le Cellier and L’Etable, and if you are pushing the boat out a bit head to Chalet Mounier for some gastronomic delights. English-run Smokey Joe’s has a really good menu in the centre of town, and if you just want snack food the takeaway is always open and their pizzas are not bad.

WHERE TO DRINK – Les Deux Alpes nightlife never fails to disappoint. There are plenty of après ski bars, such as the Pano that kicks off around 3.30pm up at the Jandri mid-station. You can hear it before you see it, and it never fails to get the party started.  If you make it down in one piece there are plenty of pubs in town, such as Le Windsor, the Secret and the Red Frog.

Elsewhere there is a great little bar called the Polar Bear, a log-cabin with a fireplace to warm the bones. The Rhumerie – with its selection of over 80 rums – never fails to please, and Le Bleuets has more of the French crowd. Smokey Joe’s is a must for seasonaires and has a great atmosphere if there is a match to watch.

Below the Crêt there are some sick lines down the black runs and gullys of the bike parks – hits can be found pretty much everywhere.

Later on there is the Mini-bar that has great Live DJs, and Smithys which has great staff and is one of the largest bars in Les Deux Alpes – always the heart of a dangerous night out.  If you are still upright at 2 am you must take a trip to see Boris in the Avalanche, the infamous nightclub that will see you straight through to 6am with some crazy pole-dancing action until the sun comes up. 

EVENTS & FESTIVALS – There are so many events here all year round, such as the Kumi Yama ski and snowboard competition in the beginning of July that normally co-incides with the Crankworks bike competition.  The Downhill courses in Les Deux Alpes are world-famous, and the competitions include the Mondial de VTT and the Mountain of Hell to challenge the most crazy of bike enthusiasts.

In winter there are crazy trail competitions such as the Night Raid an the end of January, with nocturnal distances of 10, 15 and 20km with over 1200m of altitude.  In December there is the Rise festival with Ibiza Rocks and loads of live bands. The Belgians have their ‘I Love Madness’ festival in February, followed by the University Championships.  Then the Romanians attack in March, followed by the Germans and then the Belgian Championships – you get the picture… there is always something going on in Les Deux Alpes; if you are bored, you clearly have no pulse!

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