Hitting Les Deux Alpes - hard!
It was with a certain degree of trepidation (and excitement) that I agreed to join some old uni friends on a ski trip to the French resort of Les Deux Alpes last winter. I remember (very vaguely) our old uni holidays- they were pretty debauched to say the least. We'd regularly end up falling into (someone else's) bed at gone 4am each night, yet somehow manage to get up for (just about) first lifts and ski for the best part of the day. We'd then stumble into the closest apres-ski bar we could find, drink through the hangover and start all the chaos again! I guess in some ways it was like doing a season, but without the work to worry about!
As we were slightly older (and wiser?), we decided not to rent a horrible, pokey apartment with foldaway beds and a tiny living area, but opted instead for a beautiful catered chalet, namely the Chamois Volant. It was certainly the most luxurious ski holiday I'd ever been on, and we were really lucky with the location - it was just a couple of minutes from the closest gondola, and the lively bars were close by, too.
Les Deux Alpes is a bit of an unusual resort. It's a long, drawn out town and stretches along the valley for about 2 kilometres. There are a number of lifts along the length of the town, although most of the bars are clustered towards the Venosc end (thankfully, where we were staying!)
While last season wasn’t the best for snow, we were lucky enough to have travelled over New Year, which saw arguably the best conditions of the season. We’re all pretty experienced skiers (but by no means experts), so chose to have a couple of off-piste sessions with one of the local instructors, Xavier. It was well worth it – he took us over to La Grave, which is the famous off-piste area just over from Les Deux Alpes. Those two days were some of the best I’ve ever had on skis. Fresh snow, blue skies and skiing with someone who knew the area like the back of his hands.
The off-piste in Deux Alpes is awesome, and there were plenty of kilometres of pistes for the slightly less adventurous.
The bars, on the other hand, are where Les Deux Alpes really comes into its own. In my opinion, the après-ski here is among the best in France. The people seem less pretentious than in resorts such as Val d’Isere or Meribel, and there’s more live music than you’ll find in the likes of Tignes or Les Arcs. Maybe France finally has a rival to the large Austrian resorts such as St Anton and Sölden? I guess I'll have to head there next time to check them out for myself!
We’d often fall back into Smokey Joe’s, right next to the lift in the centre of town. We’d often end up arriving at dinner just in time, much to the relief (and possible annoyance) of our chalet hosts; but there wasn’t a chance we were going to miss those meals. After a few glasses of wine over dinner, we’d head out to the bars at the Venosc end of town, so we didn’t have too far to stagger home and collapse into (our own!) beds.
All in all, the holiday was awesome. With surprisingly good snow conditions, great sunny skies and excellent company, it’ll definitely be something that I do regularly from now on. We did well not to slip back into the depraved days of our youth - deep down I think we're all getting a little too old!
Bring on next winter. I've already got a hotel in St Anton in my sights!