© Alpe d'Huez
It's December, the ski lifts open and the Christmas holidays are on the horizon.
The early bird really does get the worm in December and with virtually deserted slopes and non-existent lift queues, it's a great time to get in a sneaky pre-Christmas trip with the bulk of tour operators not beginning their operations until the weekend before Christmas itself.
We can expect sports competitions, opening parties, and there will obviously be lots of festive celebrations including a visit from a certain Papa Noël.
As you're no doubt aware, most things in December revolve around the last two weeks of the month, schools break up and travellers from near and far arrive in resort. There are a plethora of events coming up, from parades to special Christmas menus and New Year's blowouts.
Read on for a look at what we like to do in resort throughout December.
What are the weather and snow conditions like?
Meteorologically, December is historically a cold and snowy month. Averaging around 12 days of snow fall, the temperatures rarely get above freezing, with a high of 1°C and lows of around -6°C to keep the snowfall fresh. Make sure thermals are on your Christmas list.
What's on in Alpe d'Huez in December?
Mogul Ski World Cup
There will be mogul mayhem on the signal piste, mid-December sees the knee busting action of the Moguls World Cup. The world's top freestylers will be there, so it will be a spectacular show with men's and women's races going on all weekend.
Christmas in Alpe d'Huez
With so many families visiting the resort for the festive season, there is a real child-like excitement as the big day draws ever closer, and usually there's an opportunity to spot the main man himself meeting and greeting people around the town.
To prepare you for your French Christmas, here are a few festive facts that make the French Santa Claus a little different:
- Rather than a red hat, Père Noël wears a red cloak with a hood trimmed in white fur - a small difference easily unnoticed.
- Children do not wake up to presents under the tree on Christmas morning, because traditionally le Père Noël brings toys to good little boys and girls after evening Mass on Christmas Eve.
- Children do not leave milk and cookies for Papa Noël, but at the very least they'll leave him a glass of Calvados or wine.
- Children do not hang stockings, but rather leave their shoes and slippers out and if they have been good Père Noël will fill them with treats.
- Children in France behave around the holidays out of fear of Le Père Fouettard, who follows Père Noël to discipline naughty children.
Whilst many bars open their doors for the season in mid to late November, it’s December when you see a whole host of season-opening parties across Alpe d'Huez, which are always great fun. So, until around mid-December, bars like Smithy's Tavern, O’Sharkeys, FreeRide Pub and Le Old Bar will be getting the season well and truly going here. Of course, La Folie Douce will be the place to be for après-ski on the slopes, with live performers, dancing on tables and champagne showers.
School holiday skiing
Christmas and New Year is a popular time for families so the slopes are noticeably busier as soon as the holidays begin. Here are our insider's top tips for the school holidays:
- It will be almost impossible to book private lessons over this period, group lessons are the best option. Make sure to get your ski and snowboard lessons booked well in advance to avoid disappointment.
- If you're not in ski school, be an early bird. Arrive at the lifts before they open so that you get up and away before the ski school classes set out around 09:15.
- Ski over lunchtime. The slopes are calmer between 12:00 and 14:00 while the French take a leisurely lunch break.
- Pre-book your lunch and avoid the queues. Some restaurants offer a Click & Collect service. It's the best way to avoid the queues and make the most of your time in the mountains.
- Seek out the peripheral areas. Try to avoid the busy main ski areas. A great tip to get away from the madding crowd is to hop onto the AlpAuris lift (aka the 'scare chair') at the Les Bergers area of resort and head across to the Auris sector of the ski area. It’s always much quieter over there and there is something for everybody with plenty of variety.
- Get off-piste. Competent off-piste skiers can book a local mountain guide and explore the vast off-piste areas in the valley or even go touring to find complete solitude in the backcountry.
Things to do in Alpe d'Huez
Christmas is synonymous with school holidays. As hundreds of children and their families descend on the pistes, the resort puts on a show for them. There will be lots of events and activities to keep the little ones entertained on and off the mountain, so be sure to check out our things to do for some family fun.
Bars and clubs
If, like a lot of people, you like to follow several hours of exercise with several hours of drinking, especially during the festive season, you can hit up any of a number of local après-ski sessions.
New Year's Eve
Always a big night in Alpe d'Huez, the town is full of revellers, the restaurants will be busy, so it would be best to make a reservation to ensure you can get a table, and many of the bars and clubs are ticket-only, so if there's somewhere you plan to see the New Year in, make sure you've planned ahead.