L’Alpe d’Huez is world-famous for cycling in the summer thanks to its legendary climb up the mountain featuring 21 dizzying switchbacks. What most people outside Europe don’t realize is that it’s also one of the planet’s largest premier ski resorts boasting 249 kilometers (155 miles) of trails and 84 ski lifts. Its iconic Sarenne 16-kilometer (9.9 miles) trail is one of the world’s longest. Thanks to its high altitude ranging from 1,850 to 3,330 meters and extensive and ever-improving snow-making equipment, you can always ski at l’Alpe d’Huez even at times when there’s been little snowfall and other resorts are shuttered for the season.
By the time December rolls around, l’Alpe d’Huez turns into a winter wonderland welcoming skiers and snowboarders to some of the world’s most epic downhill slopes. While it’s an athlete’s paradise, the resort also offers a host of activities suited to all interests and athletic abilities. No worries if you don’t ski or snowboard! You can experience the thrill of roaming snow-covered trails in this Alpine winter wonderland on cross-country skis, in snowshoes, or just plain snow boots. You can also bike on the slopes, skidoo, sled, dog sled, and even do yoga!
Don’t want to spend the whole day outdoors? You and your family can play indoor mini golf and tennis, go rope climbing or swim in the indoor sports center pool. Or, you can go for a dip in the heated outdoor pool with spectacular views of the surrounding ski slopes.
Like most of France, l’Alpe d’Huez is extremely well equipped for families. Les Intrepides, an adorable and reasonably priced daycare center, welcomes children ages six months to four years old full-time giving older siblings and their parents time to pursue their own activities. Also, starting at ages two or two-and-a-half, your kids can learn how to ski. At the Ecole de Ski Francais, you have the option of leaving your little ones for the whole day while they learn ski basics. Lunch, naps, and play times are all included in the cost.
“L’Île au Soleil”–The Island in the Sun
L’Alpe d’Huez is situated in the southern French Alps, about an hour-and-a-half southeast of Grenoble. The resort is known for being sunnier than other French ski resorts. Thanks to its high altitude, the sun often pierces through clouds below creating the illusion of an island floating on the sea.
How To Get There
If you are coming from Paris, you can take the TGV (Train Grande Vitesse) which brings you to Grenoble in about three hours. From there, you can either rent a car or take the bus up to the station. This will depend on where you are staying at the resort. If you are staying in the village, there might not be any need for a car in wintertime, as everything is within walking distance. If you are staying out of the town center, you might consider bringing a car. There are free shuttle buses that circulate within the resort on a regular schedule.
If you are traveling from London, you can fly to Grenoble airport. There is a regular bus service linking the airport and l’Alpe d’Huez.
If you are traveling from Geneva, there is a train that goes through Annecy to Grenoble. Once in Grenoble, you can either take the bus or rent a car.
A Skiing Family’s Paradise
Whether you come with a baby or your teens, there is truly something for every family member at l’Alpe d’Huez. Between the multitude of outdoor and indoor activities, they will never get bored!
Accessible to Families
The resort has worked hard to cater to families and children. You will find activities, services, entertainment, and prices throughout the resort favorable to those vacationing with kids of all ages.
For Americans, skiing in France is an extremely good deal. For 7 days of skiing, you can get a family pass, which includes two adults and two kids up to 13 years of age, for about 1000 euros (about 35 euros a day per person!).
Ski School and Childcare
Childcare is available at Les Intrépides nursery for children from 6 months of age.
The ESF Ski School runs a kids’ ski school called Club Piou Piou, complete with mini-magic carpet lifts and fun slaloms, to initiate children as young as two-and-a-half to skiing. The recently renovated and refurbished Chalet des Enfants, the children’s ski center, is a children’s paradise. The specially trained instructors are amazing with kids and speak English and French.
What’s more, the resort features large beginner areas situated on the lower slopes. Some are easily accessed and don’t require a pass.
Check out Marcel’s Farm, a relatively new slope that has a cow slalom course!
What to Do with Kids When Not on the Slopes
Palais des Sports
The Palais des Sports is an impressive indoor sports activity center that includes a gym, an indoor pool, a climbing wall, tennis courts, mini-golf, squash courts, and more! Adults can enjoy a vast menu of fitness classes including pilates and water aerobics.
Here’s what you should check out here for kids:
- A rock-climbing wall for children from six years of age.
- An aerial obstacle course for children from four to twelve years of age.
- Archery for children from eight years of age
- Ping pong tables
- Miniature golf course
- Squash and tennis courts
- An indoor swimming pool where kids can take lessons. In France, typically children do not begin learning how to swim before the age of five.
- A fun play area for toddlers with little balls
There is an outdoor ice skating rink in the town center on the Avenue des Jeux, where you can rent skates. Children under the age of five enter free. There are discounted rates for children under the age of 13.
Mountain Coaster above Les Bergers
Your child isn’t in the mood for the slopes or ping pong? Take her on the Bergers’ Mountain Coaster. She will be in heaven!
Dog sled rides are a fun and memorable adventure for the whole family. Make sure you book at least one to two weeks in advance, especially if you are coming during French vacation times. Dog sledding at l’Alpe d’Huez is priced at €35 for adults and €25 for children.
Whiz around the mountain in snowmobiles.
Heated Outdoor Pool
Swimming in the heated outdoor pool located in the heart of the resort is a great way to unwind for skiers and non-skiers alike. What could be better than swimming while contemplating the snow-covered Alpine peaks!
When To Go
If you can, try to come off-season, which is outside of school vacations.
For an absolutely perfect ski vacation, three elements need to be in sync–fabulous weather, few people, and great snow. This can all be found at l’Alpe d’Huez. While much of it cannot be planned, some weeks the season do stand out as better than others.
This is a very popular season and the weather is very hit or miss at this time of the year.
Aim for the first of the last week of February. The middle weeks are the busiest.
Where To Eat
Going on a winter vacation in the Alps is the ideal opportunity to introduce your kids to gourmet mountain cuisine with all-time favorites including fondue savoyarde, raclette, tartiflette, and pierre chaude. These specialties are available at most of the resort’s restaurants and can be ordered for take-out.
Among the resort’s many go-to restaurants, Le Chalet du Per’Sillé, Au Puits des Saveurs, and the Altiport are wonderful options. For an extra-special family treat, you can dine on top of the mountain at high-altitude restaurants such as Le Chalet du Lac Besson which you access at night riding in a snowcat–really fun! Reservations are imperative. Nearly all restaurants offer children’s menus that are both quality and inexpensive.
As in all of France, grocery stores in France offer an incredible baby food section. Check out the food section in our Paris guide for all our thoughts on gourmet baby food in France. Alpe d’Huez also offers excellent take-out options at independent boutiques and supermarkets. If you are not in the mood to cook and don’t want to go out, take out here is a wonderful solution with scrumptious dishes available at very reasonable prices.
Where To Stay
Most hotels have recently been renovated offering top-quality accommodations with services for families.On the high end, we like the Chamois d’Or, l’Hôtel des Grandes Rousses, and the Hotel du Pic Blanc, all complete with spa and pool. There are a number of charming smaller hotels including the Alp Azur. On the rental front, there are plenty of furnished studios, apartments, and chalets for rent located not only in the resort but also in the picturesque old village of Huez situated below which can be accessed by car, shuttle bus, and gondolas.
For the full-blown chalet experience, there are a number of chalets available for rental in the Chalets de l’Altiport including Les Carines which can accommodate up to 14 guests.
For further information, contact the Alpe d’Huez tourism office.
Why We Love l’Alpe d’Huez So Much
While l’Alpe d’Huez may not be as upscale as Courchevel and Val d’Isère or as Heidiesque in its architecture, Alpe d’Huez charts the middle road-friendly, unpretentious and a decent size, with some great shopping on the Avenue des Jeux. Wood chalets and chalet-style structures have been gradually taking over the more utilitarian style prevalent in French ski resorts in the 60s and 70s.
Also, don’t forget to check l’Alpe d’Huez out in the summer with its dizzying activity options!
This article was co-written with Alix Perrachon
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