I’d always been curious about summer skiing in the Alps, not least because it might give me a chance to sneak some skiing into an innocent-looking summer holiday.
I knew I wanted to go to France, mainly as I know the area well and speak reasonable French, and from a bit of a research online, I concluded Les Deux Alpes was probably the most promising option for some off-season leg stretching. Here’s my guide for the practicalities of it
Accommodation we booked through HomeAway, and with a cheap flight to Geneva the only pain ended up being the transfer – a bus from Geneva to Grenoble, a couple of hours’ wait at the bus station followed by another couple of hours out to LDA.
But enough with the practicalities, onto the snowsports.
The day starts early to take advantage of the lighter mornings and avoiding the hotter afternoon (it closes at 12:30). The lifts on the glacier open at 8am, so with the half-hour journey time up to the glacier on the Jandri Express, you’ve got to be a morning person (for just this one day) to make maximum use of it.
At the top of the gondola, the vast face of the glacier spreads out in front of you. This base station (Jandri) is at the corner of the L-shaped ski area; you have a wide slope stretching down towards you from the hidden summit above, and a narrower slope heading downhill to your left, towards the tongue of the glacier.
To get up to the summit from here, you have a choice of a drag-lift above, or a short ski down to your right lets you ride the underground funicular for a bit of added excitement.
From the top of these, a shorter draglift takes you up the remaining 125m to the highest point of the area – a lung-tingling 3568m above sea level. The views are magnificent over the Ecrins national park.
Heading back down the short easy blues to the top of the funicular, you have 3 options. To your left is the vast summer snowpark, a world-class summer freestyle destination, with 7 lines and 2 pipes. Monstrous machines keep the pipes in check.
The other two options are to either beeline straight down the glacier back to the base station, or a longer route skirts round the pro race training areas (off limits to Jerry Public).
From the base station heading downhill, the main route follows the glacier body to its end, with a wide, fast and fun cruise along the way. A hole to the side of the piste gushing a stream onto the piste, and the thin ribbon of artificial snow forced down to meet the bottom lift station show much this glacier is retreating even since the chairlift was put in. This slow chair hauls you back up partway, followed by a short ski down to the second chairlift, which takes you back up to the Jandri base station.
A quieter ribbon of snow winds its way around these chairlift stations providing an alternative route down the bottom section.
There’s not much to keep a keen piste-basher occupied for more than a day or two, unless you like lapping the park, but it’s still infinitely better than an indoor snowdome to tide you over.
The views are stunning and the shock to the senses of descending from the cool glacier air to the midday heat of the villages leaves you dripping with sweat in your snow gear. Time for a frosty Kronenbourg and a shower before some extreme scootering or whatever in the afternoon.
Ski hire is available quite reasonably in the village if you need it. The village is a pretty good destination for up to a week in the summer anyway – it’s just big enough to have a selection of bars, restaurants and takeaways to choose from.
The lower lifts offer plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking and more. We enjoyed the downhill scootering using the Vallee Blanche chairlift, as well as swimming in the Lac de la Buissonniére – a small artificial lake with a beach at one end of the village. The Via Ferrata looked good, but we never got round to it.