Advanced ski areas in Alpe d'Huez
Discover the top Alpe d'Huez advanced skiing
Alpe d'Huez has so much more to offer than the oft-skied pistes of the Sarenne and Tunnel up at the top of the Pic Blanc (3,300m). The Grand Domaine ski area has plenty of long and challenging pistes for those in search of a thigh burning run, in fact there are 27 red and 17 black pistes, many of which take to you the neighbouring villages of Villard Reculas (La Souveraine is particularly lovely), Mont Frais, Oz-en-Oisans, Vaujany and down through the forest to the picturesque village of Maronne and a few good coffee stops along the way.
The Tunnel & The Sarenne
No advanced piste guide worth its salt would fail to mention these two runs.
'Le Tunnel' run beneath the Pic Blanc cable car has a standard 'black' level steepness and is not for the faint-hearted. The snow can be very hard in the mornings due to it only getting late afternoon sun, which therefore also means it can be super-mogully in the afternoons. Those who realise they may have bitten off more than they can chew can 'escape' onto the cat-track for a less challenging route down. Bear in mind that this piste can be subject to quite a few last minute closures due to condition changes.
'The Sarenne' by contrast can be enjoyed by fearless intermediates. This really long black run from the top of Alpe d'Huez has two ways that you can approach it :
The Classic Route: Access from the Tunnel run is found by simply passing the entrance of that run and continuing as far as you can go. You will have to cope with the black that precedes the Tunnel, but it's not as daunting as its grading suggests. The Sarenne then continues for about 17km and alternates between blue and affable red until it enters the Sarenne gorge when it rather fizzles out into a 5km flat path. Where it distinguishes itself is that the scenery is stunning, the run is undoubtedly long and you ski a non-stop vertical descent of nearly 2km, whilst feeling that you are skiing in an undeveloped area of mountain (which you are!). The reason that the Sarenne is rated black is partly because there is a wide steep 'nearly' black section at the top, but mostly because once you commence the run it is not possible to turn back.
The Alternative Route: By taking the Marmotte III lift you can ski a couple of very high altitude red and blue runs that liaise at the bottom with the Sarenne run (and also miss out the 'black' aspect of the Sarenne). There is no run back from the Marmotte III lift that will return you to Alpe d’Huez other than via the Sarenne.
So once you've gotten those bad boys out of your system, what else can you turn your skis and snowboards to?
Clocher de Macle
Elsewhere, a cluster of black pistes worth a mention include the runs off the Marmottes II gondola from the Clocher de Macle.
Balcons is a steep and quiet run, Clocher de Macle itself is slightly easier but often busy, and then there is the long Combe Charbonnière which requires a fairly long traverse at the start.
Time to explore
For some variety, why not try these runs and see more of the area:
Take the AlpAuris chair to Auris-en-Oisans. Once across the locally known 'scare chair', jump on the Fontfroide lift. From the top you have unimaginable views across to Les Deux Alpes and plenty of options for nice red and black runs, such as Col de Cluy or Bergeries which take you to the bottom of the Sarenne gorge. Alternatively the Fontfroide red piste takes you towards the village of Auris, and the black run La Fuma will take you to Maronne, where the restaurant at the bottom of the piste is a real hidden gem.
If you'd prefer to start in the main Alpe d'Huez area, from the mid-station of the DMC lift head to the right and pick up the red Poutran piste, a lovely run towards Oz-en-Oisans. Tree-lined with some nice speedy sections, this run is a lot of fun and is better in the morning sun rather than afternoon shade, plus the trees make it great in snowy conditions. Oz has some fantastic little cafes and restaurants for a pit-stop, and then from Oz centre hop onto the L'Alpette cable car. From here pick up the blue run Chalets for a couple of hundred metres, then head left onto La Fare, a lovely tree-lined black piste that takes you all the way to Vaujany village, again a real treat with plenty of bars and restaurants. After a mooch around in Vaujany, jump on the Vaujany-Alpette lift, then take the 'James Bond' cable car to the Dome des Rousses (2,800m). From here you have a plethora of red runs and spectacular views, an area not to be missed. When it's time to head back jump back in the 'James Bond' cable car, and from the top of the Dome head down 'Le Dome' to the DMC lift station past the end of the Tunnel run.
There is no better way to get in the last run of the day than head to the black Combe Charbonnière. It has fantastic views across to Les Deux Alpes and the Sarenne gorge, and naturally joins the red Campanulles that brings you out above the gorge, eventually landing you back to resort at Les Bergers lift.