Les 2 Alpes sits high in the Ecrins region of the French Alps, offering up everything from huge leg-burning vertical drop, to a progressive terrain park packed full of features, a host of delicious alpine dining options, insanely Instagramable views from the glacier top, guiding to an unpatrolled off-piste heaven in adjoining La Grave, après and live music in bars with names like Polar Bear (yes, expect table-top dancing in ski boots), plus access to some gnarly adrenaline-fuelled activities like speedriding.
We catch up with ski coach on our 10 week instructor course – and long-time local – Alex Chapman, to uncover a few local secrets on what a season is like in L2A.
Nonstop: It’s a big pow day, where can we go to beat the crowds and find a secret stash?
Alex: If I was to really answer this I’d be giving away all my secrets! Also it depends a lot on which way the wind has been blowing and what time of day we are skiing. Personally one of my favourite areas is La Fee, it has pitches on all aspects so I can always find the best snow.
Groomer time. Best run in the morning to lay down some arcs?
There’s nothing better than going all the way to 3200m and skiing back down on the Glacier slopes into the Jandri runs – I do this all the way back to the village or just to Le Cret depending on where I’m meeting people. A fantastic way to warm up the legs and get some wind blowing through your helmet.
If I don’t have time for this then Bellecombe has some wonderful options and Valentine on the front face is also a firm favourite.
Where’s your go-to for an on-mountain lunch?
Well this is a difficult one as we have loads of great options. I am normally based around Le Cret (whilst teaching) so a quick panini on the run from the Patachon would be my normal. Their restaurant is fab and the spaghetti bolognaise is second to none!
For a salad I love the Refuge in La Fee and for a posher meal Le Diable Cour is superb. If I’m in the village then Cote Brun has a fantastic terrace and a great menu!
Legs need a test. What’s the longest run top-to-bottom?
You can ski from 3600m (the top of the glacier) all the way to Mont de Lans at 1300m – a whopping 2300m of vertical skiing and a real thigh-burner. This is one of the biggest on-piste verticals in the world.
La Grave is the place to go for big off-piste. Talk us through a La Grave adventure.
La Grave is a magical place. It is all off piste and un-patrolled, so you need to know the mountain to find the way. There is everything here from long off piste descents, to couloirs that require roping into and out off. La Grave is not for the faint hearted but is the most magical place I have ever skied.
We drive around to make the most of the skiing time and you ski from 3200m all the way back to P1 (the first lift station) This is doable a good few times in a day.
The final run will include the last section back to the village but it’s a bit of a walk up out of the valley so we only usually do this once in a day!
Then a cold beer in the oldest bar in town with a view of what you have been skiing – what a treat!
It's a cold day and we need to warm up with a hot chocolate stop. Where do we go?
All the bars and restaurants serve hot chocolate but for a quick warm up the Patachon has an inside area and for a more leisurely warm up by the fire it would be the Diable Cour!
We need some adrenaline, what are we doing?
Well there is no shortage of this here! A day in La Grave or a ski down to St Christophe will usually do the trick, however if you’re looking for a bit more how about a paragliding, or even a speedriding lesson, from 2400m back to the village with skis on? Speedriding is a hyrbrid of paragliding and skiing which involves skiing down a slope before utilising a wing to soar off the slope and into the air, accelerating and then hitting the slope again, all the way down the mountain.
If you have a little more time and fancy the trip of a lifetime we can pop over to Italy for the weekend and do some heli skiing!
Legs need a rest day. Chill out in town, where can we go?
Days off are important as well – got to rest those legs from time to time! We have a cinema with an English option once a week - or you could improve your language skills and run with an easy going French film.
Bowling is always a winner with competitions, chilled evenings and pool tables in the venue as well.
I love a meal out and would choose Casa Nostra for a cosy meal with a group of friends Lazer Queste is also a fun option with a bucking bronco and pool available on site as well.
There are of course a number spas and massage options if a full on relaxing day is needed, Cote Brun and Chalet Mounier would be my favourite options.
The freestyle scene is big in L2A. What kind of features do the parks have?
Freestyle is huge here but you don’t have to start big. The park has a full progression of jumps and rails allowing you to learn as you go!
It also has boarder/skiier cross tracks and photographers present to catch that big air!
The park has a cool chilled atmosphere with music and a BBQ when the weather gets warmer.
Backcountry day. Are there any hut routes in L2A?
We would need to travel a little to stay in a hut (which one would depend on the conditions etc.) but we have some fantastic routes off the south and north faces going all the way to the small villages below. These are fully outside of the ski area and beautiful!
We fancy a road trip and some new terrain. What resorts can we get to and what are they like?
There're a few nearby resorts that make for a great road trip on the weekend.
Caffeine needed. Best place for a morning coffee?
I’m a coffee lover! I have a quick one in the bakery with my pain au chocolate normally.
It’s the end of a big day on the hill, need a pick me up. Where’s the best bakery?
Chat Gourmand is by far the best – near the Viking lift and on the way to the Polar Bear Pub – fantastic!
It’s Friday (or any day for that matter). Après and bar crawl, where are we going?
Apres starts early in Le Pano Bar at 2600m on the hill - this is real dancing on the tables in ski boots stuff!
Umbrella Bar is next on the route home – great music, fab atmosphere and a little more dancing in ski boots!
Polar Bear is in town and has a beautiful open fire hanging from the ceiling and a cosy après atmosphere – live music 3 times a week and huge parties later in the evenings!
Need to post an Insta-banger. Where’s the most Instagramable place in L2A?
Hmm – you’re not short of options here. The view from the glacier over the Vallon de la Selle is a favourite - there is a walk way that allows you to get an even better view!
From the top of La Fee looking over to Bellecombe – bonus of a huge red 2 for Les Deux Alpes to be sure everyone knows where you are and what you’re up to.
Last run down of the day from the glacier - the sunset is out of this world!
We look forward to speaking with you.