Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Les Deux Alpes

Les Deux Alpes is about a 2-hour bus ride south of Grenoble airport with the option of flying EasyJet from London Gatwick for just £50 return (inclusive of additional bag in hold). Organising a group of nine through self-booking is no easy feat but certainly worth the price tag!

The 1.5 hour flight to Grenoble will get you to the mountains within a few hours and here presented by an awkward and erratic uphill climb gripping to the side of the steep rock until arriving to a very brisk, dry and cold thin air. Here, we were dropped just a 30 second walk from our Hotel – Le Cret.

Le Cret  - a 3 star fully catered (or B&B) chalet – appeared as a traditional montagne maison with the exterior dressed part in wooden cladding and the roof exploiting a sharp upside down V. On entering we were hit by the warmth both of the interior and its owners. Roberto greeted us with a friendly and knowing hello – within 30 minutes we had stored our bags in our rooms and were slouched across the multiple sofas in front of the television as though we were in a home away from home. http://www.hotel-le-cret.com

The Le Cret Team
The chalet offered us a full breakfast buffet; afternoon tea (of cakes and coffee); and a phenomenally filling three/four-course dinner cooked by Sergio the Italian cook (who would sit with us in the evening and take our orders for the following day) and served by Lynne, the English waitress (who had no end of amusing stories of her times on the slopes – including a rather tipsy experience the week we stayed). There was no doubt about it; the Le Cret family have been the most hospitable hotel staff I have ever met – taking time out to answer our questions; offering advice and enjoying a laugh and giggle throughout the days. Even first thing in the morning, Olivia – the Australian breakfast host – enthusiastically took our miserable breakfast ways to kick us into a more positive start – despite the aches and pains most of us were feeling.

On the Tuesday evening – Sergio took his day of rest – so we headed to a local French restaurant – Crepe a GoGo – for a hearty Raclette. Advised by Lynne we were not disappointed; this small wooden hut was like a snug blanket filled to the rafters with traditional ski and mountain artefacts. Here we spent about 60euros for Raclette for two plus a bottle of red wine: www.lescrepesagogo.com

As we dined in the comfort of Crepe a GoGo, the rest of the family filled their stomach’s at Smithey’s that hosted many of the Après-Ski drink parties and turned into a bit of a discotheque later in the evening (though a bit smelley from rotten feet and heinous anal aromas). Another favourite spot for the entourage was Smoking Joes just at the foot of the mountain opposite the Jandri Express I ski lift – apparently their pizzas are ‘amazing’!

Crepe a GoGo
Polar Bear Bar, just opposite Le Cret – was again a traditional log wood cabin style pub with open fires. Walking in from the dry cold of the mountain air gave to a close heat us was a bit of the shock quickly demanding we withdraw the multiple layers of clothes that had been keeping us warm. The atmosphere was very relaxed and ideal for a pre-dinner or après-dinner drink or two (or three/four). 

Polar Bear
Le Deux Alpes has plenty of bars and pubs and during our stay the village was relatively quiet, as most of the French had finished their holidays – so we had our pick. Kre was also a popular cocktail bar where some of the ski schools showed footage from the days skiing experience – students being embarrassed by uncoordinated techniques or getting the chance to demonstrate their confident abilities.

We discovered that Les Deux Alpes was a great mix of people from a multinational group of entrepreneurs to the diversity in the visiting skiers. The younger and more determined packed Avalanche club nightly – though admittedly I must be old at 28 years as by 10pm my eyes were begging for the pillow!

Spending an entire week in a small village like this mixing with many of the businesses and service staff there is a lot you can learn of the mechanisms of this micro-community. Multiple businesses were owned by a small group of people (L2A Mafia J); hotels, ski schools restaurants – this created a close-knit community all supporting one another and very clearly enhancing the vacation experience of so many tourists.

Speaking to Roberto of Le Cret I learned that the area was owned by a family who had sold land units to individuals and businesses to develop the resort and economy of the region. Formerly farmland with multiple streams running through it, the landscape had considerably changed in 60 years; not all buildings had kept to the rules of sloping roofs and the weather was harsh to both roads (creating large pot holes) and the wooden exteriors (needing constant replacing). Furthermore ecological changes were prominent here; the heat wave of 2003 had hit the glacier hard; pylons supported by the deep ice could not hold its own as ice defrosted to water – with notably less snow at the peak!

Les Deux Alpes is an all-year-round ski resort but also one of extreme sports including cycling, rock climbing and bungee jumping. The summers can be incredibly hot below bare skies; with cloud kept at bay by the neighbouring mountain peaks.

Entrance to the cave
Daily – we would climb to a height of 3,404 metres – just 1,400 from Mont Blanc (height of 4,800m)! At the top of the resort you can see the array of mountain tops for The Alps and here too is a glacial cave sporting ice sculptures of different styles and sizes. Having fallen too many times during the course of the week I surrendered to the agonising pains shooting through my right shoulder and took to being a walking sightseer; this gave me the chance to truly take in the beauty of our surroundings.

Party time @ Pano
Though the highlight of the ski escape has to be the Pano Bar where daily it hosts a happy hour (3 – 4pm) accompanied by a vibrant dance party and many colourfully dressed revellers. Any energies remaining from a day on the slopes is certainly exacerbated here. As 3:00 strikes the snow community congregated at the top of the resort to see out the end of the skiing day.

Les Deux Alpes in 7 days will leaving you begging for more – despite the pains!