Skiing at Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps
Skiing in the Alps is truly a bucket list item. The Alps have amazing skiing, incredible ski resorts, and the views are absolutely stunning!
I had the opportunity to go in December with the UCL Snow Sports club through NUCO travel. Luckily, that meant everything was discounted and arranged for me. However, I still learned a thing or two about skiing at Alpe d’Huez and I am here to pass on my knowledge.
Where to go
The Alps are the highest and most intense mountain range that lies entirely in Europe. They expand across eight countries: France, Italy, Monaco, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia. Arguably the most famous sections of the Alps are the Swiss Alps, Austrian Alps (thanks, Sound of Music), and French Alps. We went skiing in the French Alps at Alpe d’Huez.
Tip: If you are looking for cheaper options in the Alps, I’ve heard Slovenia is great!
When to go
The ski season starts in December, but the best skiing is usually in February and March once the snow has accumulated a bit more. However, if you are lucky like we were, there will be plenty of snow in December.
Tip: The snow might not be as good, but the slopes (called ‘pistes’ here in Europe) tend to be less crowded in mid-December.
How to get there
Getting to the Alps, and specifically, the ski resorts, can be a mission and quite expensive. We opted for the cheapest route and took a 16-hour bus from London to Alpe d’Huez. We also had to take the ferry across the English Channel (which is not for the easily nauseous folks). Our transport was included in our package, so it was about £65.
Alex, on the other hand, flew from London to Grenoble, France (on Easy Jet for £46.98, including a checked bag), and then took Ben’s Bus from Grenoble Airport to Alpe d’Huez (£31.80 and about 1.5 hours).
Tip: Book airline tickets well in advance. Flying in Europe is cheap but the price goes up a ton in the holiday months.
Where to stay
UCL Snow Sports club and NUCO arranged our accommodation and we stayed in Sundio Bergers at Alpe d’Huez. It was a bit budget – four people shared an en-suite room with a kitchenette – but we had a balcony overlooking the mountains with an incredible view and we were ski-in ski-out (meaning, we could put our skis on at our hotel and ski right to the ski lifts). What more could we ask for?
Tip: Restaurants are expensive on the top of a mountain. Try stopping at a grocery store on your way to the resort, or shop at one of the resort grocery stores (although they are a bit more expensive) to cook your own meals and save some cash.
Get your gear
Proper ski gear is an absolute must if you go skiing. I have some gear in the states but shipping it to London seemed like more effort than it’s worth. Luckily, ski resorts have rental places that offer helmets, skis, poles, and boots (we rented ours for £124 and it was arranged through the ski club and NUCO).
Alex and I also rented a ski jacket, pants, and gloves from Crevasse Clothing (they also threw in a free pair of ski socks for £75 total).
Now, that sounds like a lot of layers, but you are also going to want to wear something under your jacket and pants, like long johns, or yoga pants and a sweatshirt. I also recommend bringing about one pair of ski socks per day of skiing. Scarfs can be a bit annoying while skiing, so a buff or face mask is much better. Lastly, you can bring clothes for going out to bars, but let’s be honest, you’re just gonna wear a pair of jeans and your ski jacket.
Tip: Make sure to bring a pair of boots that are snow proof, and I don’t mean for skiing, but for all the times you will be walking in the snow after your ski day has ended. It’s a must.
What to do
I think this is pretty self-explanatory, but just in case you are confused.. ski!
If you are new to skiing, like Alex, you can take ski lessons. Most resorts have multiple providers, so do a little research to find out who is the most reasonably priced and has good reviews. If you aren’t a beginner but haven’t skied in a while, most ski schools also offer refresher courses or lessons to help you advance to the next level. Alex used ESF ski school.
If you aren’t a skier (honestly, why would you pay for an expensive trip to the Alps if you don’t plan on skiing) or maybe you just don’t want to ski six days in a row, most ski resorts also have pools, saunas, bars, and cafes for cozying up next to the fire with a good book. Alpe d’Huez also has a sports center, ice skating rink, music festivals, and more (I swear I saw a small roller coaster and axe throwing). And of course, there is aprés.
Aprés is drinks after skiing. They usually start around 3/4 p.m. and they are located at bars up the mountain, so you either take the ski lift up and down or ski in and out (tipsy skiing was new to me this trip).
Tip: Don’t forget your ski pass – it’s necessary to get on the lifts. And carry a slope/piste map with you at all times so you don’t get lost in the mountain.
Alright, you are officially ready to ski in the French Alps!
I made a video comparing skiing in the French Alps with skiing in Illinois. Watch the full video here:
Have you been skiing in the Alps? Which resorts do you recommend? Tell me about your experience in the comments!