The French national weather service records an average of 300 full days of sunshine per annum in Alpe d'Huez, with an average of seven and a half hours of sunshine per day in December, stretching to eleven hours per day in April. Centred on a glacial peak and high-altitude slopes, this privileged microclimate results in snowsports' consummate combination of vibrant blue skies, good visibility and snow-sure conditions for much of the winter season.
This is the biggest ski area in France's Isere departement, comprised of a large modern resort surrounded by five smaller villages linked into the core ski domain, collectively known as the Grandes Rousses.
Overall, this is a big ski domain that is ideal for beginners and great for novices, yet challenging and interesting enough for good intermediates and those of advanced abilities. Combine this with the favourable weather record, and Alpe d'Huez shines as one of the top all-round resorts in the Alps.
The individual sectors that make up this large linked domain each have their own distinct character:
The Auris sector is quite extensive and could compete on its own with some smaller regional ski stations. An integrally complete satellite ski area that provides the full gamut of pistes for all abilities.
The uppermost Pic Blanc sector is a glacial realm of rock and ice, with the area's most exposed and challenging black runs, including the epic 16 km summit-to-valley Sarenne run which is billed as the world's longest downhill black piste.
The core Alpe d'Huez sector is characterised by enjoyable mid-altitude cruises, which flow into the motorway-wide gentle superpistes that are designated as beginners' zones, running down to the town's two big base access areas.
The Signal sector covers a distinct hill overlooking the upper residential area of Alpe d'Huez, directly accessible from town and linked to Villard-Reculas. These good cruising slopes include the resort's floodlit night-skiing and competition pistes.
The Vaujany/Oz sector provides long sheltered trails, great for competent novices and good intermediates, down to the lowest-altitude valley villages. This sector also contains the further satellite area of Montfrais at 1650 m, a compact cluster of lifts and pistes that acts as the core ski area for the village of Vaujany.
Off the slopes and apres ski
Alpe d'Huez is a sprawling town with a substantial year-round population and strong commercial links with the Ile-de-France region around Paris (just over four hours away by car), so its infrastructure is extensive and its ambiance is vibrant and cosmopolitan.
Access to the excellent municipal sports and leisure centre is included at no extra charge with the full-area lift pass, and Alpe d'Huez has plenty of attractions and distractions for non-skiing visitors, as well as a good network of pedestrian-accessible ski lifts, making this an excellent resort choice for families and mixed-ability groups.
There are no truly noteworthy slope-side apres-ski bars, but standout lively venues in town include the long-established Underground Bar and the Yeti; later on, Smithy's Tavern is a key venue, along with the Igloo nightspot right next door.
Whereas there are certainly plenty of good restaurants in Alpe d'Huez, the vast majority tend to offer very similar fare, predominately classic Savoyard and Italian cuisine; for something a bit different, try the Irish-influenced Lily Muldoons.