3 days in Les 2 Alpes
Frills-free French classic Les 2 Alpes gets the party started early with pre-season events Mondial du Snow and Mondial du Ski. Checking in for the ski weekend, Nadine Carle takes a well-lubricated carve down memory lane
Friday November 3
Back in Les 2 Alpes, back in time. As a teenager, I spent countless weekends here. I was at school just an hour’s drive away in Grenoble and Les 2 Alpes was affordable and an excellent ski area, not to mention a great place to party and meet sexy, tanned saisonnaires. Thirteen years later, I am here again for the skiing and partying – even if I can’t seem to raise the same interest in the locals. The last weekend of October sees the resort open for snowboarding event Mondial du Snow, when boarders flock to test out the new gear offered up by lots of manufacturers for test runs on the glacier – Europe’s biggest skiable glacier, no less – watch movie screenings and generally get buck wild in the resort’s bars and clubs. I check in the weekend after for the skiing equivalent – the Mondial du Ski.
Hôtel de la Muzelle, mid-resort. It’s a three-star affair – seems the days I’d carpet-surf with half a dozen other semi-comatose souls in a 30m square studio are over. Clean, practical and well-priced, it’s also a little bit The Shining, with orange wallpaper and green carpets screaming at each other. Pretensions to luxury and taste were never one of Les 2 Alpes’ raisons d’être – although a few more upmarket hotels like the Chalet Mounier and the Souleil’Or have added some class of late among the high-rise horrors, and some swanky new rental apartment blocks offer more options for the traveller who likes a chic retreat.
After a power nap and a shower, I’m ready for a night out. I arrived knackered, having Ryan-aired from London to Grenoble then bussed it to Grenoble coach station and finally Les 2 Alpes – less complicated than it sounds and at a total.
Hundreds of insanely cool skiers in baggy pants and hats covering half of their faces shout over banging tunes at the freestyle ski show at the bottom of the Piste des Lutins. This is the Rossignol Century Contest, and some of the world’s best freestylers are competing – Canada’s Charles Gagnier, the Norwegian Andreas Hatveit and French star Candide Thovex. Not that this is a man’s world – girls like Vanessa Coletta show that you can be a petite pretty thing and still get massive air. I hate her.
Time for a drink. We start at Smokey Joe’s, a real British institution, then the Pressoir, then back to the UK vibe at Smithy’s Tavern. Les 2 Alpes long main strip La Muzelle has a bar every five metres (or so it seems). Luckily we think to carb up with a ‘cheesy crèpe’ (how French) at les Sagnes before ending the night at the Avalanche, one of the resort’s two clubs.
I am 18 again. The Avalanche has been the nightclub of Les 2 Alpes for the last 15 years, and I have memories in every corner. ‘Another vodka?’ ‘Last one then. No, really.’
Saturday November 4
I drag myself out of bed to see a splendid blue sky. I can’t go back to bed, although my body begs to.
Hangovers gets worse with age, this is indisputably true. Riding the Jandry Express, the cable car that rises from the resort’s 1650m to the glacier’s 3200m, I count the minutes before I can get the hell out.
Rossignol, Salomon, Dynastar, K2, Atomic…they all have stands here, at the Village des Tests. Test-driving their new skis is free with the weekend’s special cheapie lift ticket and a test card, which you can get with some ID. The atmosphere is lively and disgustingly athletic reps give sound, friendly advice on the kit. Up on the glacier, conditions are pretty good as it snowed just a couple of days ago. Besides, it’s one of the only places in Europe open at this time of year, even down to the decent snowpark.
14.00H Back in the resort I check out the stands on the Place des 2 Alpes as well as an exhibition about the history of skiing and a screening room showing extreme skiing movies, which rocked.
While the competition moves towards its final rounds, my crew for the evening swerves it for a quiet drink at the Pub le Windsor, French locals’ favourite. Partying is off the menu tonight, instead we ponder our options for a quality feed – Michelin-starred French gourmet at the Mounier’s P’tit Polyte, high-end meat grills at l’Etable, or authentic regional specialties at Le Paellou, le Cellier or La Patate? Blue Salmon wins out for fishy feeds, and after salmon filets baked with mozzarella, it’s hay time.
Sunday November 5
Another perfect day. Nine hours kip have worked their magic, and I head up to the glacier to cram in every last minute before the airport looms this afternoon.
Getting there: Ryan Air (www.ryanair.com), ThomsonFly (www.thomsonfly.com), easy Jet (www.easyjet.com) and British Airways (www.ba.com) fly to Grenoble from a variety of destinations in the UK. Grenoble is 160km from Les 2 Alpes
High-end: The Mounier has a spa (www.chalet-mounier.com) Mid-range: recently-renovated Côte Brune (www.hotel-cotebrune.com) Budget: Le Logis de Diablotins (+33 47 679 24) New residences opening - Balcons des Pistes and the Alba
High-end: Mark Warner (www.markwarner.co.uk) Mid-range & budget: Neilson, Crystal (www.neilson.com, www.crystalholidays.com)
Vertical drop: 1,300m-3,570m Terrain: 430 hectares Pistes:Green: 20%; Blue: 40%; Red:21%; Black: 19%
Snowmaking: 214 guns Lift
Mountain munchies: a couple of good ones Guiding: Bureau des Guides (+33 476 113 626) Snowpark: Yes