Les Deux Alpes, France - 2/06

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Les Deux Alpes, France - 2/06

Postby ChrisC » Sun Oct 01, 2006 10:02 pm

On our last day at La Grave, it was still snowing but clearing. Yet like the previous day, the lift was closed. There had been significant snow on/off for 3 days and high winds making the mountain highly unstable.

Since most of the lifts at Les Deux Alpes were closed during the storm, we decided to go there. Also, the storm had looped around to dump on us the previous night. The result was 30-40cm of new snow.

French Highways and Avalanches
I normally feel no need to comment on road conditions. However, my experience warrants a few words. While traveling to Les 2 Alpes, the road had been brought to a single lane due to a massive avalanche. Its debris covered the highway to a depth of about 20 ft. Luckily no cars were hit - because I do not know if they would have survived. Frankly, I have not seen anything like it in the US. Was the road closed? No. Perhaps just an unpredictable consequence of having steep. narrow valleys. Nonetheless, a little scary.

Mountain
While the vertical is an impressive 6000 ft., Les Deux feels long, narrow and a bit fragmented. Its slopes are uncommonly steeper towards the base than the summit. The set-up reminded me of an over-grown Aspen Highlands with its elongated ridge skiing. A glacier crowns the entire complex. However, the gradient leaves something to be desired and is best utilized for summer skiing. Combined with continued high winds, I never made it to the top.

Despite not gifted with the best natural layout, Les 2 Alpes still has quite a bit of advanced skiing. Unfortunately, one of the best lifts - La Fee (red X) - was closed for avalanche worries. This did not hinder a good day of steep powder shots.

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Resort
While the setting is quite beautiful, Les Deux Alpes resort was not. There is a lot of purpose built 1960s/70s apartments. Since we were skiing on 'transfer' day, there busloads of Brits coming and going. It looked like a rowdy, fun crowd.

Skiing
The day started cold, windy and snowy....with clearing throughout the day.

This is the lower mountain looking up from the resort late in the day. Note the odd tree formations. Les Deux Alpes is trying to reforest its lower slopes to lessen avalanche risk. They also act to hide the powder from the hordes too.

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Some lower mountain powder.


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Our tracks on one of the couloirs near the Grand Couloir chair. The Ski Patrol was not pleased we attempted this run in full view of the chairlift because it would encourage others -- and avalanche danger was quite high (4/5). They said some French words to our guide that are not worth repeating.


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Some more untouched under Jandri Express Funitel and would remain so all day.


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Some of our lines under the Voute chairlift from a cross the valley.


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The summit glacier was visible after the clouds lifted.


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Les Duex Alpes Resort - Ecrins National Park starts immediately beyond the village. Hence the views are quite magnificent.


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Re: Les Deux Alpes, France - 2/06

Postby Staley » Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:04 pm

This is even older than the La Grave thread that was just dug up, but I'm trying to procrastinate by planning over a year in advance (very important, obviously). For my spring semester in 2012, I expect to do a Swarthmore program in Grenoble \:D/ The university ski club visits the local resort Les 7 Laux three afternoons per week, and this little area actually looks fantastic to me. It's uncrowded, has a good snow record, and has plenty of steep off-piste skiing. On the weekends, however, the ski club always goes to Les Deux Alpes. It's hard to pass up the ski club trips due to price (24 euros for a lift ticket and transportation), so I was hoping to learn more about the resort.

As ChrisC noted, the layout is terrible and much of the skiing is flat. Does anyone know if you end up wasting a lot of time just getting to the better parts of the mountain in the morning? Also, ChrisC mentioned that there is mostly ridge skiing. Does this result in short vertical drops for individual runs? Finally, Les Deux Alpes seems a pretty good bet on powder days due to the poor layout and general lack of good skiers. However, how well do you think the mountain would ski on a non-powder day? Do the steep sections have good exposures to retain decent snow a week after a storm?
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Re: Les Deux Alpes, France - 2/06

Postby Patrick » Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:40 pm

I know I looked into it when I stayed two months in France. My wife had skied there and a few others locals around Grenoble.

Results: Chamrousse: 1 time (it was the closest interesting place), Alpe D'Huez: 2 times and Les Deux Alpes: 0.

Not that it looked so bad, but Alpe D'Huez looked (and heard) at the time much more interesting, however the real good skiing in the French Alps is in the Tarantaise region (from les 3 vallées, La Plagne, Les Arcs, Ste-Foy and Espace Killy).
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Re: Les Deux Alpes, France - 2/06

Postby Staley » Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:14 pm

Alpe d'Huez does look more interesting than Les Deux Alpes (as does Serre Chevalier, for that matter), but I won't be able to get to either of those resorts. Chamrousse is farther than Les 7 Laux, and much flatter. I won't be making this decision for a while, but I'm almost thinking that Les 7 Laux is superior to Les Deux Alpes, despite being much smaller.

Here's the piste map for Les 7 Laux: Image

It looks to be somewhat similar to Ste. Foy. Probably a bit larger, but inevitably more crowded due to the proximity of Grenoble. There's consistent bus service from Grenoble to Les 7 Laux also, so I might consider just getting a student pass there (300 euros) instead of spending splitting my days between Les 7 Laux and Les Deux Alpes. It's hard to compare the scale of a small resort like Les 7 Laux to Les Deux Alpes. Do you think I'd be missing out on the huge vertical drop that the mega-resorts can provide, or is the layout at Les Deux Alpes so elongated that you're never really getting more than 1000m of vert at a time?
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Re: Les Deux Alpes, France - 2/06

Postby Patrick » Wed Sep 22, 2010 7:43 am

Staley wrote:Alpe d'Huez does look more interesting than Les Deux Alpes (as does Serre Chevalier, for that matter), but I won't be able to get to either of those resorts. Chamrousse is farther than Les 7 Laux, and much flatter. I won't be making this decision for a while, but I'm almost thinking that Les 7 Laux is superior to Les Deux Alpes, despite being much smaller.


Chamrousse is the site of the 1968 Grenoble Olympics, so it can't really be that flat if you're running a downhill. I know it was pretty much one of the closest to Grenoble, I don't know about Les 7 Laux. My wife might know it, she's the one that suggested Chamrousse and Alpe d'Huez. As to getting to some of the resorts, some of my wife's family were part of a Ski Club and moved around every weekend. We went once with the Club, they were going a day trip from a small town 30km East of Lyon, so I wouldn't be surprise if you would find something similar in Grenoble. I know a skier friend that spent one year as an exchange student in Grenoble a few years back, I could ask her, I wouldn't worry to much about getting to different places.

Serre Chevalier is a way past Alpe d'Huez/Les Deux Alpes in distance.


Staley wrote:It looks to be somewhat similar to Ste. Foy. Probably a bit larger, but inevitably more crowded due to the proximity of Grenoble.


Not that I'm an expert in the matter, but I would say the snow is much better at Ste-Foy (regardless of crowds or terrain).
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Re: Les Deux Alpes, France - 2/06

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Sep 22, 2010 12:12 pm

Patrick wrote:Serre Chevalier is a way past Alpe d'Huez/Les Deux Alpes in distance.

And La Grave is between Alpe d'Huez/Les Deux Alpes and Serre Chevalier.
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Re: Les Deux Alpes, France - 2/06

Postby Staley » Wed Sep 22, 2010 5:25 pm

And La Grave is too expensive due to the necessity of hiring a guide.
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Re: Les Deux Alpes, France - 2/06

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Sep 24, 2010 2:48 pm

Staley wrote:And La Grave is too expensive due to the necessity of hiring a guide.

You're in Grenoble for an entire semester. That allows time to get in with a group of compatible skiers, make local contacts, etc. La Grave is an icon for expert level skiers and you should have your radar up for an opportunity to ski there if you get a chance. And you probably get to be flexible and choose a day with much better conditions that I saw.
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Re: Les Deux Alpes, France - 2/06

Postby ChrisC » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:22 am

Staley wrote:As ChrisC noted, the layout is terrible and much of the skiing is flat. Does anyone know if you end up wasting a lot of time just getting to the better parts of the mountain in the morning? Also, ChrisC mentioned that there is mostly ridge skiing. Does this result in short vertical drops for individual runs? Finally, Les Deux Alpes seems a pretty good bet on powder days due to the poor layout and general lack of good skiers. However, how well do you think the mountain would ski on a non-powder day? Do the steep sections have good exposures to retain decent snow a week after a storm?



Again, I think the comparison of Les Deux Alped to Aspen Highlands is an apt one. There is a spine - all serviced by high-speed lifts, gondolas, trams, etc. The steep terrain falls off that spine. Due to size, there is quite a bit of it. And most of the vacationers will never go near it. So it remained untouched the days. However, the vertical is generally 700-1000 m / 2000-3000 ft. No one skis the full 2000m / 6k. But the spine is East-West -- so most of the expert terrain faces north.

Would I recommend Les Deux Alpes? No. Do I like Aspen Higlands? No. Not bad areas, however on a relative scale they are both bottom 25% areas.

I would take Serre Che, La Grave or Alpe d'Huez before it. (I would especially like to try ADH - however the fact it faces due south must mean some slick mornings.)

Even your smaller area looks promising. Why? The biggest benefit of Euro skiing: Cultural. Most skiers will not leave the groomed pistses. So unlike the US or Canada, powder truly exists for days after a storm. (They also like to slam the safety bar shut too). Therfore, I would imagine the one expert lift to the top would service terrain that would remain untracked - due to low crowds and culture.
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Re: Les Deux Alpes, France - 2/06

Postby Staley » Fri Oct 15, 2010 11:00 am

Unfortunately, Les 7 Laux is well known for it's off-piste skiing and it apparently gets tracked pretty fast. Then again, I'm sure the powder lasts longer than at Mammoth.
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Re: Les Deux Alpes, France - 2/06

Postby ChrisC » Fri Oct 15, 2010 11:34 am

Staley wrote:Unfortunately, Les 7 Laux is well known for it's off-piste skiing and it apparently gets tracked pretty fast. Then again, I'm sure the powder lasts longer than at Mammoth.


I showed up a week after the last storm to Val d'Isere/Tignes - probably one the best known and popular off-piste areas in the world - where everyone walks around with a beacon/shovel - and it was easy to find fresh turns. Frankly 2 PM after snowfall at Telluride = 48/72 hrs in Val d'Isere. It's the long tail concept. Yes, the middle of the obvious runs get tracked. But traverse 25/50 ft - untouched for days.

Les 7 Laux - I severely doubt you would have anything to worry about scoring fresh on a regular basis.
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