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Discovering new spots in France is rare, says Dan Wildey. But Les Sept Laux left him on cloud nine.

Photo: Daniel Wildey

If you’re old enough to have been skiing as long as I have, it’s not often that you come across a ski resort you’ve never heard of—especially one in the French Alps. France is far and away the most popular destination for British skiers, regularly attracting more than half of us to its pistes each year, according to the most recent Ski Club of Great Britain survey. Over the decades, I’ve criss-crossed these mountains many times, in planes, trains, automobiles, and of course, on skis. And yet somehow, I’d never set foot in Les Sept Laux. Its name, when I first heard it, rekindled something of the excitement I felt when I came skiing as a kid: the unknown and the unpronounceable. The promise of adventure.

How I’d overlooked it, I’m not entirely sure. The resort sits at the far western edge of the Alps in Isère, so close to the city of Grenoble that I must have driven past it countless times. It’s proximity to a major hub with its airport and train connections makes it very convenient for quick transfers. But while it’s got the city on one side, there is nothing to the east of Les Sept Laux. Civilised on one aspect, wild out the back. It’s the mountain equivalent of a mullet.

Photo: Daniel Wildey

We arrived on a cold Tuesday evening in February, and the village of Prapoutel—the biggest of three which make up the resort—seemed quiet and almost deserted. That might sound dull to some holidaymakers, but our group of seasoned skiers knew it was a good sign. The slopes would presumably be just as empty. The following morning, clouds sat low over the resort. Looking out of the window, we could see a step up in activity, with little groups gathering around their ski instructors like iron filings to a magnet. But these skiers didn’t look like they’d be after the same sort of terrain we were seeking out. So we lingered over our coffee and croissants.

About halfway up the first lift, we burst through into golden sunshine. The feeling of being on the edge of the Alps—and of everything—was sharpened by looking out over a blanket covering the whole of the rest of France. Other than the scattered peaks in the nearby Chartreuse and Vercors massifs, nothing broke the veil beneath us as far as the horizon. With a vast wilderness to the east and only a smattering of other skiers below, we felt almost entirely alone. These clouds obscured the valley for the whole time we were in Sept Laux—adding to the impression that this was some hidden kingdom, protected from prying eyes.

Photo: Daniel Wildey

Expect the unexpected

Like all the best secret spots, Les Sept Laux is not massive, with just 120km of pistes in the resort (compared to 600km or so in massive areas like  the Trois Vallées). Having worked our way around most of the map on day one, day two was set to be our day of adventure. Sept Laux was a hiking destination long before it was a ski resort, and the lack of development to the east has resulted in an impressive network of refuges which can be used by walkers in summer and ski tourers in winter. Our guide, Hervé, intended to take us to one of these, the Refuge Habert d’Aigue Belle, for dinner. We just had to make “a little climb” first.

Next thing I knew, Hervé was issuing us with harnesses, and tying us all onto a rope—a flimsy-looking one at that. “This is the rope I use to walk my dog,” he said, not exactly reassuringly. But we’d fitted crampons to our ski boots, and the short, sharp ridge looming above us had a clear line of bootprints kicked into the hardening snow. The rope was surely just a precaution, I thought. This looked like just a sedate bit of winter walking, before a gentle cruise down towards dinner.

“Nonchalance from a French mountain guide always masks something exciting”

Photo: Daniel Wildey

I should have known that nonchalance from a French mountain guide always masks something ‘exciting’. On reaching the first false summit, we came to an unexpected—and not insignificant—cliff. Rock and ice combined to create a few spicy climbing moves. Once completed, these led us onto a highly-exposed ridge, with sheer drops on either side. This pattern—false summit, climb, sketchy ridge—seemed to repeat itself for about an hour. At no point did I shake the feeling that I should really be using an ice axe. But Hervé, who clearly thinks of this kind of thing as we might a stroll by a canal, seemed entirely unperturbed, either by the climb, or the occasional curses aimed his way by members of our group.

I’m happy to report that I managed to rein in my tongue, and spent most of the time feeling thrilled, rather than terrified. For our first 24 hours in Sept Laux we’d had the ski resort pegged as a pretty sedate destination: a ski resort for families and the like. Full-on mountaineering wasn’t on my radar, and yet this terrain was epic, topped off by the promise of an imminent off-piste descent, and a tasty refuge dinner.

Photo: Daniel Wildey

Once safely ensconced by the fire, in the dimly-lit, signal-free dining room, the debrief provided a further source of entertainment. As the darkness outside deepened, a fondue-induced cheese-fugue came down on the group. It was only then that we started wondering how we were going to get home. Were we hiking back over the hill, people asked? Surely not—it was (‘scuse my French) bloody freezing. Mutters of discontent were heard, but just when it looked like all hope of a safe return had gone Hervé once again pulled a rabbit out of his hat.

An ancient cat-tracked vehicle rumbled up outside, a tow rope was thrown out, and we were told to hold on. It wasn’t the most comfortable way to travel, squinting through cat-blown snow, but it felt like the only proper way to end such an epic day. After all, when you come to an unknown resort, you’ve got to expect the unexpected. And Sept Laux had delivered that in spades. 

Photo: Daniel Wildey


Our trip

Dan’s visit to Les Sept Laux was organised and supported by Isère Tourisme.

Getting there

Les Sept Laux is great for those who want to travel by train. You can get there easily from London, with just a single change in Paris. From St. Pancras to Prapoutel will take you about seven hours door-to-door—arguably quicker than a flight, once airport waiting time is factored in. You can buy tickets on, or

You can also drive to Les Sept Laux easily. Calais to Grenoble takes around eight hours. Go to or for more info.

Alternatively, WizzAir and Ryanair fly from Luton to Grenoble direct.

Where to stay

Dan stayed in the comfortable Les Granges des 7 Laux Apartments. In March 2023, an apartment which sleeps four cost £859 for a week. Their website has the latest offers and prices.

Where to eat & drink

Le Rocher Blanc restaurant has a great wine selection and superb confit veal shoulder that melts in the mouth. Le Kaktuss bar in Les Granges is the perfect après ski spot, complete with craft beer on tap, and a sun-trap terrace.

Ski hire and guides

You should never venture off piste without a guide. Dan’s guide Hervé was booked through the 7 Laux Bureau des Guides. His equipment rental was organised through Intersport, which stocks touring gear as well as regular skis, allowing you to change every day, should you wish.

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