For many years these two resorts have sat across the valley from each other, battling for the crown of the best resort in the Southern Alps. If rumours are to be believed, then these two rivals may soon become allies with the possibility of a monster cable car linking the two resorts, creating the biggest linked ski area in the Southern French Alps. Before that happens, we asked two of our France experts who have lived in the resorts to tell us which one is best. Kev is team Alpe d’Huez, Helen is team Les Deux Alpes. We’ll let you be the jury.
Round 1: Apres
Alpe d’Huez –Kev: A huge town with loads of choice to have an end-of-day cool down or beginning-of-night warm up. But what it had always lacked was a big party-on-the-piste bar. Enter – the Folie Douce. For winter 2013/14 the Folie Douce has arrived in Alpe d’Huez along with its loud music, live singers and DJ’s, table dancers and of course Champagne spraying.
Les Deux Alpes –Helen: This lively ski resort has loads of great apres venues to choose from. A firm favourite party place is the Pano Bar, and at 2,600m you’ll find altitude apres at its best. The DJ’s sets are out on the south facing terrace every day, a great place to enjoy the last bits of sunshine. If you get there early enough, the Pano Bar even has a happy hour.
When you finally make it down the mountain you’ll find lots of brilliant venues with live music and general apres cheer. Our favourites are Smokey Joe’s located right at the bottom of the slopes, and the Polar Bear Pub on the main street. Both have a wicked atmosphere and great drink deals that everybody loves.
Round 2: Nightlife
Alpe d’Huez –Kev: So you’ve finished partying at the Folie Douce, merrily skied back down to resort and are ready to hit the bars of Alpe d’Huez. There’s a great variety of nightlife in the resort. If you’re looking for a cosy atmosphere the Sphere & Underground is the place to be. Or you could try one of the countless flavours of rum at Laetalon. Wherever you start your night, the chances are at some point you’ll cross paths with the legendary home of table dancing that is Smithy’s. Once you’ve had your fun at Smithy’s, you don’t have far to go to the next nightclub, Igloo, which is located just next door. Please note: attending Igloo could affect your skiing ability the following day.
Les Deux Alpes– Helen: For a relatively small resort centre, Les Deux Alpes definitely has plenty of options when it comes to nightlife. You’ll find loads of pubs and bars on the main strip, all very friendly and offering an atmosphere to suit your mood. Our top tip is to pub crawl your way through the resort making your way to Smithy’s Tavern (the original, Alpe d’huez’s sister pub). This is the biggest bar in town and often hosts a big party, a live band or a live DJ. Throughout the week you’re likely to catch all three.
If you’re still going strong at 2am, next door you’ll find the La Avalanche nightclub. I once witnessed a snake dancer here which is a good example of what this club is like. It’s open all night long so if you fancy a week of being nocturnal this is the place for you.
Round 3: Piste skiing
Alpe d’Huez– Kev: With 250km of piste on offer, the skiing here is spread across several different villages including Auris, Oz and Vaujany offering a variety of skiing for different abilities. In and around the resort you have a vast network of easy green runs that are the perfect place to learn to ski, or for an easy warm up to the week. If you’re feeling daring try Le Tunnel run. This difficult black run is very steep and very long, giving you a huge sense of achievement when you reach the bottom.
Les Deux Alpes– Helen: There’s a total of 220km of piste, with a real mix of slopes varying for all abilities. Split over 2 valleys (hence the name Deux Alpes) you get a good variety of terrain to ski. There are loads of easy greens and cruising blues high up the mountain, which is great for beginners as they get to experience the high altitude snow. Les Deux Alpes has glacier skiing with an altitude of 3,200m, so whatever week of the season you choose there’s always going to be plenty of snow to enjoy. This resort is also open throughout the summer months.
You’ll find some of the most challenging runs coming back down to the resort centre. One of the trickiest is Valentin, which is one of the home runs. For this reason, Les Deux Alpes now has fancy new lifts and bubbles bringing less confident skiers back down to the resort at the end of the day.
Round 4: Free ride
Alpe d’Huez –Kev: Most of the best off piste is found at the top of the Pic Blanc glacier with couloirs that provide some challenging powder and feed on to La Sirennea. If you are feeling more adventurous then there are routes that can take you all the way into the neighbouring valley, although this is for expert skiers only and you would without a doubt require a mountain guide and plan for transport back to Alpe d’Huez. There is also some good off piste to be found in Oz and Vaujany that is slightly more accessible.
Les Deux Alpes– Helen: If you’re a fan of free ride skiing then head to the top of the glacier in Les Deux Alpes. Once you head over the other side you’ll be in for a treat as you enter the world of La Gravea. This is perhaps one of the best locations in the world for off piste skiing. There’s one lift taking you from the bottom at 1,400m to the top at 3,500m. Choose from the endless routes down the completely unpisted mountain bowls. At the top you’ll start in fluffy glacier powder slowly working your way down through tree lined runs. These can get increasingly difficult as you approach the bottom and all the runs funnel down meaning you can end up on some pretty high moguls, which may present a challenge with jelly legs after skiing from the top. We strongly advise that when skiing in La Grave you are accompanied by a guide as well as transceivers, shovels and probes.
Round 5: Snow Parks
Alpe d’Huez– Kev: There’s a small park on some of the easier runs in the resort with some jumps and a halfpipe. It’s a good place to get grips with jumps and learn the basics of freestyle, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to successfully replicate a Gold medal winning run from the Winter Olympics slopestyle.
Les Deux Alpes– Helen: Les Deux Alpes snow park is located in the Toura area of the piste map. At 2,600m the snow conditions stay great all season long making it very popular. It’s a huge freestyle park with an easy area for people new to freestyle, a slopestyle course, a big air bag, half pipes and a boarder cross run. (Park image)
Round 6: Resort Facilities
Alpe d’Huez– Kev: This is a resort that has some great activities off the slopes. To help you get around there’s a free resort bus as well as a bucket lift that goes through the centre of town from the lower end of the resort up to the main gondola, the DMC. In the centre of town you have an outdoor swimming pool and an ice rink. There’s also a large sports centre with a range of activities on offer including; tennis, squash, badminton, indoor climbing, yoga classes and a gym.
Les Deux Alpes– Helen: There’s plenty of resort facilities in Les Deux Alpes, the two activities included within your lift pass price are the ice rink and swimming pool. There are loads of other apres activities to try. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try snow mobiling or paragliding down to Venosc, a little village with incredible scenery just below Les Deux Alpes.
So who wins?
Which one is best? We can’t decide. Let us know on Facebook which resort you think came out on top.