Most ski resorts in Europe are open and the snow is starting to fall. Catherine Scott pays a visit to the Isère region of France which offers 23 ski resorts, all within a drive of Grenoble.
In the past, the only convenient way of accessing the Alps was to fly to the busy Swiss hub of Geneva. But with the development of French airports such as Grenoble Alpes-Isère, that is all changing.
The French department of Isère is home to 23 ski resorts nestled in the four mountain ranges of Belledonne, Chartreuse, Vercors and Oisans. All of these ski domains are served by Grenoble Alpes-Isère airport, connecting skiers from all over the UK to the best of the French Alps. Jet2 has recently announced it is introducing more flights from the UK to Grenoble Alpes-Isère airport from February 2020.
The addition of these new flights will make skiing in France even more accessible to British holidaymakers and even more flexible with it quite possible to combine a stay in the fascinating city of Grenoble with skiing in a variety of different resorts.
Visitors are spoilt for choice on alpine activities, from snowshoeing through forests to mountain biking on snow, and with 1,200km of downhill ski trails and Nordic skiing.
Our short break saw us skiing in the two resorts of Chamrousse and Alpe d’Huez.
The top resort of Alpe d’Huez, known as the ‘‘Ile du Soleil’’ or ‘‘Island in the Sun’’ enjoys an average of 300 days of sun a year, while its glacier provides pisted slopes until late April. Skiers have 250km of terrain to explore that is suited to all abilities with the extended ski area offering copious green, blue and red runs for beginners and intermediates, while advanced skiers seeking a challenge can attempt Le Tunnel run – ranked one of the hardest runs in the world – or the Sarenne, a 16km black run beginning at Pic Blanc, Alpe d’Huez’s highest peak.
From Alpe d’Huez, skiers can also discover the resorts of Vaujany, Oz-en-Oisans, Auris-en-Oisans and Villard Reculas, all part of the Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine Ski area. Each of them offers child-friendly pistes and entertaining activities off the slopes.
We stayed at the stunning Daria-l Nor hotel which is literally on the slopes with all the amenities you’d expect from a five star hotel with a stunning spa, sumptuous rooms and choice of top quality restaurants – it even has its own ski hire shop.
There is also plenty of night life in Alpe d’Huez and no trip is complete without a nighttime trip up the slopes on a cat mobile to the buzzing La Cabane Restaurant or one of the famous Folie Douce.
For a more low-key ski holiday, Chamrousse’s ski area has excellent skiing and stunning scenery. New for winter 2018/19, the Sunset Park will be developed, with an improved layout and new rails being added to this thrilling snowpark.
We set out on a skidoo course taking us up the mountain for an adrenaline and fun-packed experience before swapping out skidoos for snow shoes and a magical moonlit trek up the mountain ending at an ice cave where we had dinner and drinks. You can even stay the night if you are brave enough. We weren’t and ending up walking back down the piste for a nightcap at our self-catering accommodation of Residence La Berangere.
After two activity-packed days on the slopes we headed back to Grenoble for a fascinating tour that took in art galleries, museums, street art, an incredible cheese shop and a cable car trip up to the bastille. We stayed at the ultra modern Okko Hotel Grenoble which offers a different take on a city centre hotel.
The hotel is designed around ‘The Club’ which is an exclusive yet open place, where you can work, relax, have a drink or eat some nibbles freely. There is a business corner with two computers and a printer, plus an open space offering snacks and refreshments throughout the day.
It is also here that we are offered breakfast and aperitivo every night, all included in the very reasonable price. Okko is also ideally situated to walk to all the highlights the Grenoble has to offer and both are well worth a visit whether you decide to ski or not.
Weekly direct return flights from Leeds Bradford from £72 return www.jet2.com
A seven-night stay at the Résidence La Bérangère in Chamrousse costs from €49.50 pp.
A seven-night stay at the Daria-I Nor in Alpe d’Huez costs from £1,335 pp (£2,670 total)
A one-night stay at the OKKO Hotel Grenoble costs from £35 pp (£70 total) based on two people sharing a Classic Room and includes breakfast.