This was my second day skiing during my Summer 2011 vacation in France: first ski day can be found here : Cham, Genève et Tignes turns August, FR – 11-13 août 2011
As the time was running out on our family vacations, we finally managed to make it back to the Hautes-Alpes, a place where my wife lived as a child. She hadn’t been back since she moved to Canada almost 20 years ago.
That morning we left Gap at 7:30am. We couldn’t leave too early as we were staying at some of my wife’s classmate’s apartment in downtown Gap. We were welcomed with open arms by their entire family living in the village up the hill where my wife had lived as a youngster.
After a few days in Nice, we were cutting across les Alpes du Sud on our way back at my in-laws in the Lyon region. The family was leaving for Paris in two days to fly out the following day. So today we’re hitting the road early so we could make a stopover at Les Deux Alpes which was about 2 hours away.
The previous day, we surrounded the Massif des Écrins from the East. Drove towards Briançon then around through the Col du Lautaret down La Grave and up the gondolas at La Meije. My youngest daughter wanted to see the mountain that bares the same name as her. Morgane wanted to see Paris and Le Louvre. Today, I was going to ski to the ski resort and glacier next to it, however this time we surrounded the Massif from the West. The girls slept most of the drive which was good on this type of road. One of them had been sick on the road from Nice to Gap.
Drive to Les Deux Alpes
Part of the road was quiet and secluded, we saw the odd car, a way quieter ride for the rare cyclist we came up against compared to the previous day on the highway through the pass at the Lauteret. As we were driving down from the Col d’Ornon, we were signalled by what looked like a cop on a motorbike riding the opposite lane. Within a few minutes we were confronted by a ‘peloton’ of hundreds of cyclists. I couldn’t believe how many cyclists were in the race. Needless to say, this slowed us down. Once we reached the main highway in the valley, it was smooth driving,left it again to started climbing the road up to Les Deux Alpes Resort town. I stepped out and asked at the first ski shop if they rented skis: “Yes, but it’s complicated, go see another store”. Only in France. It was already passed 10am when I got in the next shop. Rented a pair of Volkl Tiger SL. This time they gave a discount for the late rental, however I’m sure I could have bargained a better deal than the 18 Euros they asked me. My wife dropped me as I got quickly suited up.
The lady at the ticketbooth was surprised that they would still be someone interested in buying a lift ticket this late. She informed me that the skiing ended at noon and it was already 10:30am. No matter, I’ll still going. The ride up the two-stage gondola took about 40 minutes to reach the glacier at 3200m. During the ride up, I could see countless number of lifts and bike trails. As in Tignes, they were a few ski racing camps, darker ice and running water at the bottom of the lift served.
Temperature in the valley had been in the mid 30s celsius for the last few days. Not many riders skied to the bottom of the lower lift as they stayed on upper lifts. I didn’t even bother to put my vest as I skied in a short sleeve t-shirt.
As it was already late, I decided to start up at the highest point, the summit T-Bar which has a different orientation and where you could La Grave from the top. There is a 2-way T-Bar to help you get across the flat seperating it from the rest of the lifts on the glacier.
Conditions weren’t great, it was more like rough ice. Like I didn’t have much time, after one run at the top and headed to explore the lower part of the glacier near a set of gates.
The snow was softer and skiing was better snow and slope wise. Afterwards I moved across the other extremity of the glacier were an impressive snowpark was setup. Les Deux Alpes is wide with a consistent, but not terribly steep slope. The main attraction would definitely be the jumps and different features as the demographic showed on this day. Grenoble is fairly close and Lyon is less than 3 hours away.
The summer terrain can extend more, but this being the end of summer, it had been reduced to lifts above the gondola station. The T-Bar onn the looker’s left definitely had the best lines and slopes to my liking, unfortunately the lift was closing. All lifts closed at 12:30, except the park T-Bar which lasted until 13:00. I did a few more runs there before calling it a day and taking the long slowtrip download back to the resort town. The last 100 meters was real ugly: dark ice, water…happy I had rentals.
It was 35C back in the concrete resort. My wife’s family had skied here in August 1980, but they had to head back to Gap to get the jacket as it was really cold and windy on top of the glacier, it was definitely not the case today.
Les Deux Alpes doesn’t have the charm of Val d’Isère; concrete and busy. The resort has a number of mountain biking trails on the mountain and cars on the main street. Some people might like it, it’s too much of an urban scene for our family. Many shops and restaurant were closed for most of afternoon even if there were a number of tourists walking around. I couldn’t even return my skis as the rental place was closed from 12-3pm. WTF??? My wife blames it on the Lyon/France mentality. Les Deux Alpes is slightly more than 2 hours from Lyon and it shows. South America TISA factor; some part of France has the WTF factor.
1900m and counted as 14 runs on the watch which wouldn’t include tiny descent towards transfer lift.
Jour 24 / 21 août : Gap-Les Deux Alpes