Mountain Life - Les Deux Alpes
As the cold crisp air draws in for the winter, there is one place we want to be. The mountains, a skyline peppered with white capped peaks is too hard to resist. The mountain life presents the opportunity for adventure each day, step out of your front door and into an expansive world bigger than life. Peaks rising upward of 3000m (in France), deep valleys and beautiful mountain towns offers an abundance of opportunities for explorers of all kinds. The communities in these higher elevations are often relaxed and welcoming. But for me it’s two things, fresh snow and mountain sunsets!
Les Deux Alpes
This is the 2nd oldest resort in France after Chamonix and has the largest skiable glacier in Europe. The terrain is vast, and with a solid network of lifts everything is easily accessible. At 1300m the base of the resort is high in the mountains, so it’s cold! A hand warmer is a great companion in this chilly environment, we recently tested the G3 hand-warmers from Human Creations and they were ideal on and off the piste.
The town has good transport links, as its located just over an hour from Grenoble airport. Companies such as Ben’s Bus offer low-cost and regular transfer to and fro the resort. When you visit, your instantly struck by the size of the town, it’s more of a mountain city! But this is great, as there are an unending supply of cafes and restaurants to test and many supermarkets for supplies.
What can you do here?
Backcountry Touring (Great local routes include le Grand Buffe or le Quarlie)*
Night snowmobile tours
*I’ve found that many touring options that you can access from Les 2 Alpes are for advanced ski mountaineers. But, if you can access a car and drive 30 mins, you can access a few great tours for beginner to mid level experience backcountry enthusiasts. Grab a guidebook (in French) called ‘Ski de Randonnee Isere’ by the publishers Olizane and put your google translate skills to work!
Good, bad and the SNOW
Les Deux Alpes ranges from 1300 to 3600m, that’s a lot of terrain at a great height. Which means your almost guaranteed good snow coverage. Invaluable! The size of the resort also means that you can escape the crowds. As most people head straight the the Jandri gondola first thing in the morning, but there are lot’s of other options to get some great morning runs and escape the chaos. Due to all of these great aspects and it’s ease of access from major airports, it gets a lot of tourism. This is good, but you need to pick your accommodation carefully so you don’t end up in party-ville (unless that’s what you want). I’m all about fresh lines and climbing mountains, and burning the candle at both ends doesn’t help with this.
Guidebooks on touring this region can be purchased from the publisher Olizane. You’ll need the guidebook for Isere and also Hautes Alpes (yep 2 books) to have guides on the whole region. If you would like to up your ski touring skills to ski mountaineering or even try ice climbing, then have a chat to Guides 2 Alpes. Then, if you would like to take to the skies paragliding, Air 2 Alpes is a good option to speak with. Taking it down a notch, if you are looking to access the mountains for the first time and step into the world of sliding down mountains. Then the schools of ESF or European Ski School with English speaking instructors offer good options.
Great Photography Locations
Lac du Chambon is a beautiful alpine lake, it partially or sometimes fully freezes over in the winter and is a stunning location to photograph. Next, hop on the chairlift to the top of Vallée Blanche and get off the chair to the right. You’ll find a viewpoint that offers views down to Le Bourg-d’Oisans and all across the region. If you have a car, take a morning drive down to Le Bourg-d’Oisans, this beautiful mountain town in the valleys sits next to a huge sheer cliff. It’s cultural buildings and the picturesque mountain backdrop is a great shooting location. Lastly, head all the way to the top of the glacier and walk-out onto the look-out spot. I know you’ll have the same photo as so many people from this location, but if you want a fun spot with friends, this is where it’s at!
Social Assignments for Les Deux Alpes
Revolution Race - hiking, climbing and snowshoeing options
climbOn - climbing options available down the mountain (although it is cold, but in the summer its a climbers paradise)
Drifa - Ski and snowboarder seekers heaven
Keep those Hands Warm
In recent weeks we’ve been testing the EnergyFlux G3 hand warmer from Human Creations in the mountains. @charlottedurling loves the mountains, but is well-known for having blue hands at all times. She was the perfect test subject for us. The G3 hand warmer heats up very quickly, and has 2 heat settings. It has four indicators showing the battery reserve left and if it gets low you can re-charge using a cable supplied. The hand warmer also doubles as a backup battery pack allowing you to charge devices via a usb output. It was a great thermal option that’s small, slim and lightweight and now doesn’t leave Charlotte's pocket!
Planning a trip to the mountains, what to consider?
What are you heading to the mountains for? This is probably your starting question and plan from there. If it’s to backcountry tour, then get online and start asking questions to local guiding companies and forums on Facebook. Smaller resorts potentially offer better touring as the lift networks are not so vast and haven’t covered every skiable face. On the other end of the scale, if you are less advanced and are looking for a beginner to intermediate resort, it’s best to look at the piste maps. Pay special attention to the volume of green and blue runs that give you access back into the resort. Finally, plan your time of year, if possible avoid the school holidays and good consistent snow arrives from mid-January.