We’ve been trying to ski all week – a projected day trip to shake off the cobwebs; up to the mountains for, supposedly, a few hours of crisp snow, few crowds (?), perfect conditions etc etc etc. But there’s been a white-out up there all week so really no point. And today, of course, being Sunday and the last day of the local French ski holidays, it’s gorgeous – but likely to be heaving with day-trippers… I think we will go during the week instead!
So naturally I’m casting around for something equally attractive and it’s the La Grave – La Meije area that caught my attention, which, when teamed up with the redoubtable les 2 Alpes, makes a perfect vacation….
“When it comes to skiing, there’s a difference between what you think it’s going to be like, what it’s really like, and what you tell your friends it was like.”
… but there’s no way that you can build La Grave into anything more majestic that it already is… it is the mecca of extreme skiing, free-riding and adventure skiing. There is only one lift, but this lift transports you to some of the best terrain that, as an expert skier, you can hope to find in Europe. All you need each day are your skis, harness, tranceiver and helmet – all items are mandatory – and ahead of you are runs of 1,830m or 6,000 vertical feet which will challenge you and keep you on your edges all day.
This region has attracted some to the best worldwide off-piste skiers…
The La Meije Glaciers Aerial Téléphérique provides the only access to this high altitude glacial terrain, and carries passengers to the Ruillans Pass at 3,200 meters in 30 minutes. The Trifides and Dome de la Lauze drag lifts then take you up to the top – 3,550 meters. From there there are only two marked trails, but from there you can also access the Deux Alpes ski resort.
Connected to Les 2 Alpes means that there is something for everyone. Les 2 Alpes has 500 hectares of marked pistes with 102 runs, 1,400 ha of off-piste and 51 ski lifts in all. It has the largest skiable glacier in Europe and is France’s second oldest ski resort after Chamonix. It is an unusual resort in that the lower slopes down to the resort are steeper and more challenging than the higher ski areas which include the wide and forgiving glacier runs. Less advanced skiers either take a gondola down to the resort or follow a lengthy, gentle but narrow, track down to the village. However, for beginners, there is a large nursery slope area at the bottom.
And the snowparks have been tweaked and re-tweaked to such an extent that they have a worldwide reputation. There’s the Axe Pipe which allows beginners to initiated riders to take on “technical” ramps like hips, gaps, or quarters over more than 800 m before entering the pipe! Then there’s Slopestyle which is one of the most popular disciplines for experienced to expert riders to challenge themselves. It is made of a step-up gap, a 20 meters long Big Air, 2 tables with 3 kickers from 8 to 15 meters long, several handrails like “kink”, “straight” or “C” Rails and a huge hip.
The half-pipe is 120 m long with a 4,5 m radius and is definitely for seasoned and free-style experts only.
Finally, L’Envers is the most beautiful playground in the Alps, with handrails, rainbow, curb, kicks, 2 big air tamps and cool zone with BBQ, music, open DJ turntable, and some deckchairs to take a breather.
They’ve thought about pretty well everything… and one of the other things that they are extremely proud of is their almost constant sunshine. they really have thought of everything!
If you don’t ski, but don’t want to be a wet blanket to the rest of the party, there are trips to the glacier, ice caves, heated outdoor pool & more. With plenty of bars, restaurants & other attractions there is loads to do in Les 2 Alpes both on & off the slopes!
French school holidays are nearly over. The crowds are melting away. Perhaps it’s time to think of visiting this mecca of skiing.