Prior to our visit, I strangely hadn’t realised the main reason for being in Les Deux Alpes from the end of November to the end of April, is to ski! Sounds silly I know …
During our visit, and since, I’ve lost count of the number of friends and family who queried why we weren’t skiing. I guess it’s totally understandable, especially for people who have skied. It certainly looked like amazing fun from the sidelines. However the high percentage of travellers at Grenoble airport on our return journey, with obvious skiing related injuries, reiterated to me one of our main reasons for NOT partaking! It also looked incredibly fast and scary to me. And I’d rather care for our ageing bones more carefully. We really can’t afford fractured limbs – or worse.
The resort of Les Deux Alpes boasts a remarkable 225km of marked pistes (11 black, 19 red, 43 blue and 19 green) accessible from an amazing total of 53 lifts. Additionally there’s 765 hectares of ‘off piste’ areas, and 25km of cross country ski trails (https://www.2alpesnet.com/lifts/ski-system). It’s far bigger than I’d imagined! Definitely geared up for skiers in winter!
Nonetheless we still found plenty to experience which more than made the trip worthwhile. Experiences that I reckon the skiers wouldn’t even contemplate. Just appreciating ‘being’ there (we’re human beings after all, not ‘doings!), soaking up the outstanding peaceful beauty, and spending time with Odile and Bruno, was plenty to fulfil our simple pleasure-seeking souls.
A Gorgeous Glacier and Fascinating Underground Funicular
Odile recommended we take the ‘Jandri Express‘ to the 3,200 meter glacier on our first full day. Oh. My. Goodness. It was spectacular. Breathtaking in the extreme.
On the way up, we met a very amiable gentleman called Tim, from South Wales. There were many skiers taking the ascent. On the descent we were the only people in the cab – everyone else chose a different way down!
There’s a bar/restaurant at the top of the lift. It’s VERY expensive though, 11 Euros for a chicken Panini. Goodness knows how I got sucked into buying two! But still well-worth visiting to chill in the deckchairs and photograph the view.
Another unmissable attraction is the incredible underground funicular railway to the actual glacier. Though you do need to be mindful of altitude sickness, which sadly Tim experienced. We learnt later it’s recommended not to climb to such an altitude on the first day!
Tim’s now a blog follower, and gave consent to publish photos, especially one below of the three of us on the ‘Belvédère des Ecrins‘. A ‘suspended arial footbridge’ with 360 degree views – hanging precariously over a ravine. I got ‘photobombed’ by a chatty Polish man living in Middlesborough of all places!
Barry and I were completely mesmerised by the scenery, we felt ‘on top of the world’. Literally and metaphorically.
Unsurprisingly it was pretty chilly up there. Thankfully Odile had lent me her all-in-one snow suit. I’d borrowed a pair of salopettes from my sister before we left UK, but they unfortunately wouldn’t fit in my cabin bag! Odile lent me a long padded coat too. Having lived there since 1972 she’s well equipped.
We’re frequently immensely thankful we took a risk and chose to live the life we do. The flexibility provides amazing chances to grasp opportunities and experience such outstanding beauty. And to have so many fabulous friends around the world. Carpe Diem we say. Who knows what’s waiting for any of us around the next corner …
Another ‘must-do’ whilst there is the ‘Ice Cave‘. Taking five months to build, using only ice picks, it consists of a network of ‘rooms’ built 20 metres below the glacier at the top of the Jandri Express – accessible only by a very precarious walk down the ski-track. Which is easy if you’re on skis. On foot it was scary to say the least! My imagination of the potential disaster if I ‘slipped’ were quite hilarious, but real I guess! But we’d paid our 5.50Euros each so we went regardless …
Wow! Definitely worth risky life and limb for …
A Vibrant Visit to Vénosc
When we asked at the Tourist Information station near Odile’s home what they recommended we do in Les Deux Alpes if not skiing, they suggested a visit to Vénosc.
The “two Alps” referred to in the name Les Deux Alpes, interestingly doesn’t indicate the two facing mountain-sides that comprise the resort, but rather to two adjacent areas of the original mountain pasture on the north-south plateau on which the resort was built. These pasture areas (or ‘alps’) are part of the two villages of Mont-de-Lans and Vénosc, that lie in the deep valleys, respectively, to the north and south. (source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Deux_Alpes). There’ll be little more about the history of the area in the next post.
There’s no road connecting the Les Deux Alpes to the village of Vénosc which lies down the steep slope to the south. A gondola connects the two, with a steep footpath route also available for the very fit!
We took the Cable Car down – not even slightly tempted to walk the 2.4km down or back up! Odile informed us that when Bruno worked in Vénosc for some years, he’d walk down and up again each day. Incredible! A Cable Car was only opened in 1972, with the current version opening in 1995.
“Nomadic tribes, hunting, fishing and gathering, roamed the valley from ancient times. They also created the path that still leads up to the plateau of Les 2 Alpes. Sedentary village communities emerged between the 13th and 15th centuries and then in the 17th century, visitors – engineers, topographers, botanists and geologists – arrived in the valley to study the mountains.
In the 19th century, Venosc became the capital of flower peddling. Most men left for the winter to earn a few pennies selling flowers and other articles. With their intimate knowledge of the valley, the farmers, chamois hunters and shepherds gradually became guides.”History and Heritage (of Vénosc) https://uk.oisans.com/discover/resorts-villages/venosc/
We guessed that the vast majority of visitors to Les Deux Alpes wouldn’t visit Vénosc. If you’ve paid for a six-day ski-pass (it looked like the choice was a one-day or a six-day), you’d be unlikely to ‘sight-see’ other than the vistas as you speed down slopes!
We adored this village. Despite the fact that the Gondola takes you right to the bottom of the valley, and Vénosc is a bit of a steep walk back up to get to it! It’s built on the mountain, and apparently there are quite a few Brits who’ve made it their home. It’s very ‘arty’, but sadly rather quiet in January with few businesses open. More of a summer resort than winter.
We found a café open for a coffee and a red wine. No guesses as to who had what! And just wandered around looking at the views and quaint buildings. Barry loved it. A photographers dream.
One of the challenges of living in this valley is the lack of sunshine in the winter. We had sun during our visit, but we went in the morning. By the time we returned up the cable car, it was quite dark and cold. We tried to imagine how very different it would look and feel during the summer months with all the artisan shops open, festivals happening, and lots of families staying.
Finally for this post (I did say it was likely there’d be more than two!), Barry captured Sandra doing the only form of skiing she intended during the week …