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A trip to Alpe d'Huez will stand comparison with a trip to one of its more famous - and much more expensive - neighbours further north...
Accommodation in Alpe d'Huez can be pretty cheap too, with a growing number of more attractive and more modern chalets to be found in the resort's suburbs, as well as a couple of luxury hotels. Day trips to neighbouring Les Deux Alpes are a great add-on to a holiday here, especially if you can afford the helicopter transfer.
Resort height: 1,860m
Alpe d'Huez is set on a high plateau beneath the 3,320m Pic Blanc, and is home to an impressive 248km of pistes. Included in this tally is the longest black (i.e. difficult) piste in the Alps, as well as a big sweep of wide and gentle nursery slopes, right on the edge of town. There's even a British ski school based in the resort (Masterclass) to make the learning process easier still. In other words, there's something for everyone in Alpe d'Huez, and you get a great sense of exploring all sides of the mountain. One of the nicest runs is down into the neighbouring village of Vaujany, which still has the atmosphere of a rural backwater, and feels a very long way from the bustle of the main resort.
Are there any drawbacks to Alpe d'Huez? Well yes, a couple. One is that the nursery slopes are served by draglifts, which is fine for skiers but a nightmare for first-time snowboarders. The other is the sun. There's a lot of it, and while that may sound lovely, it does mean the snow suffers in milder weather, becoming slushy in the afternoon and icy the following morning (after it's frozen overnight). So Alpe d'Huez is best chosen as a midwinter destination, in January or February.
Alpe d'Huez is close to Grenoble, but on the wrong side of town for the airport...
Transfers to the resort usually take a couple of hours as a result. Grenoble is also well served by the French motorway and railway networks, although, from London, the train will take about eight hours.
Alpe d'Huez is a great choice for groups of mixed ability as there are pistes to please skiers and snowboarders of all levels...
In fact, those trying snowboarding for the first time are the only ones who might find the ski area less than perfect for their needs.
There's not much for non-skiers to do in Alpe d'Huez, unless of course they are happy to get on the beers a few hours early...
Alpe d'Huez attracts a young crowd, which is great if you want to dance on the tables at midnight - rather less amazing if you're after cocktails in a chic little piano bar. The restaurant scene in town reflects this: there are lots of pizzerias serving plentiful grub at affordable prices. For something fancier, aim for Au P'tit Creux, which takes pride in its seasonal menus, or Génépi if you're feeling cheesy and fancy some raclette (great slabs of melted cheese served with small boiled potatoes, air-dried ham, gherkin and onions). The partying in Alpe d'Huez tends to start late and finish in the wee small hours - Le Sporting and Smithy's both rock long into the night.
The ice rink and pool are the main focus for children - but grown-ups will hate being stuck down in the resort in daylight hours. There's no buzz, and the shopping doesn't extend far beyond Gore-Tex jackets and the local cheese. It's best to get out onto the mountain for snow-shoeing, ice-climbing or ski-dooing.
5/10 Cost of living
Alpe d'Huez is a low-cost destination compared with the A-list resorts such as Courchevel further north. There's a good selection of cheapish places to eat at night, and plenty of accommodation aimed at budget travellers (especially if you're prepared to squeeze into a small self-catering apartment). No wonder Alpe d'Huez is such a popular destination for the twentysomething crowd.
5/10 Attractiveness of the resort
Stand with your back to town on a sunny day and Alpe d'Huez looks as beautiful as any Alpine ski station. Turn round and... oh dear. This is a sprawling purpose-built resort - home to lots of charmless apartment blocks. The suburbs are better - although anyone who wants to ski Alpe d'Huez without having to look at it at night would be best advised to stay in Vaujany on the other side of the mountain.