First time skiers and snowboarders, or beginners looking to improve their technique will find plenty of good areas to practise in Alpe d'Huez.
Alpe d'Huez is an excellent place for beginner skiers, with two large and four smaller nursery ski areas, 41 green pistes and 34 blue pistes to practise on once you've mastered the basics.
Best beginner areas
The two largest and most central beginner ski areas in Alpe d'Huez; Les Bergers and the lower slopes of the DMC area, are really accessible from the centre of resort and offer beginner skiers and snowboarders plenty of scope to practise and progress.
Les Bergers nursery ski area
Les Bergers is a great place for beginners on their first visit to Alpe d'Huez. It has two drags lifts and three chairlifts serving around 12 green pistes and seven blue pistes. This area is also designated as a low-speed zone to allow beginners the safety they need to improve.
Once you're comfortable on the greens, you have direct access to the higher slopes of the area via the three stages of the Marmotte bubble or by taking the Rif Nel Express or Romains six-main chair. At the top of the first stage of the Marmotte lift (the six person chair lift section) is La Folie Douce from where you have many options, both red and blue, that wander back down to Les Bergers. From this area you can also redirect yourself by line of sight or by following the well-signposted routes across to the base of the DMC beginner zone.
DMC nursery ski area
This area is served by the DMC 1 (lower lift), the Jeux chairlift, five drag lifts and a magic carpet. There are 12 green pistes here, a beginner snowpark and a sledging track. From the top of DMC 1 you can cut across to the right and link up with Les Bergers beginner area, thus increasing the number of green and blue pistes available to you.
The DMC area is located at the end of the famous “Lobster pot” lift system and therefore is easily accessed from anywhere in resort, also with two major lifts serving the pistes of the DMC (the gondola and six-man high-speed Jeux chair), lift queues here rarely pose a problem. A green run from the top of the new Signal lift has been shaped to form a lovely gently sloping run back down to resort level and is served by new state of the art snow cannons.
In Oz there is a small nursery ski area with two drag lifts which serve five short, gentle green pistes. One of these pistes is adjacent to a magic carpet for complete beginners. If you're ready to progress from the nursery area there are a further three green pistes at the top of the Alpette gondola. For further progression onto blue pistes, you can take the short Roche Noir lift to connect with the bottom of a blue piste called 'Chevreuils' or take the longer Poutran 1 gondola lift to join the top of the much longer 'Champoutery' blue piste.
Another of the smaller nursery ski areas, and the lowest lying one (1,480m) in the Alpe d'Huez ski area can be found in Villard Reculas. This area has a magic carpet and three drag lifts to help you build your confidence. There are four green pistes in this zone and two blue pistes. The smallest of the lifts 'Escargot' is also the least intimidating, so perfect for complete novices. You can reach this ski area from the top of the Signal lift if you're able to ski long blue pistes already, if not you might want to consider basing yourself in the Villard Reculas village or the centre of resort instead for easier access to the larger beginner areas.
There are four lifts you can use to access the nursery ski area, which includes a magic carpet and a chairlift. From the top of the beginner area there are around six green pistes and variations you can practise on. To get here from the centre of Alpe d'Huez you'll need to be comfortable on blue pistes as the link from the Auris chairlift is down a long blue piste called 'Col'.
Vaujany / Montfrais
Closest to the village of Vaujany is a small drag lift which access a short green piste called Sapins. A little further up the mountain at the top of the Villette Montfrais gondola is a small nursery area which is served by the bottom section of the Montfrais drag lift. There are two short green pistes here, Ecreuils on either side of the lift. Once you got to grips with the basics, take the second Montfrais drag lift which will allow you access to three more blue pistes, or the Clos Giraud chairlift where you can progress onto a much longer blue piste called 'Chalets'.
Beginner ski lessons
If you're learning to ski for the first time, Alpe d'Huez has plenty of choice of ski schools who teach children's ski lessons and adult's ski lessons. Children's lessons are determined by their age and ability, whilst adult lessons are determined by ability and interests.
Beginner ski passes
If you're joining a ski school as a complete beginner, you will probably start off in the nursery areas where a ski pass isn't needed, making use of the free beginner ski lifts mentioned below or just practising on the slopes without using any lifts at all.
Petit Rif Nel, Ecoles 2 drag lifts and the Grenouilles rope tow are all free of charge, although you'll still need a hands-free ski pass to be able to access them - you can pick one of these up at the lift pass office on arrival in resort.
You can also buy a "First Ski" (1ere Gliss) pass, which allows you on all drag and chair lifts in Alpe d'Huez except the Alpauris and Marmottes 1 chairs. This pass includes the Rif Nel beginner zone, around six green pistes and the Espace des Jeux beginner zone; a protected beginner area on the Signal sector of resort. This area also has five blue pistes and four reds, for those who are ready to tackle something more challenging. All the drag lifts and chairlifts marked with a yellow circle on the piste map (not the interactive one) are included in the 1ere Gliss pass. These passes can only be bought at the ticket offices in resort.
Beginner ski hire
Pre-booking your ski hire in advance allows the hire shop to prepare for your arrival and smooths the process. A key thing you should consider when booking your equipment is how close your accommodation is to the ski hire shop, or to the foot of the pistes for when lessons have finished. Even if there are several equipment options to choose from, we recommend you go for the most basic. Beginner skis are short, flexible skis that are easy to turn or, if you're snowboarding, you'll have a shorter stiffer snowboard that's easier to control and generally cheaper too. You won't need to know about the technical aspects of any of the equipment as ski hire shops will advise you to get the best model for your ability and size once you've booked.
What should I wear when skiing or snowboarding?
Buying all the gear before you go can be daunting if you’ve never set foot in a ski resort before. The key items to bring with you, along with the obvious ski jacket, ski trousers and sunglasses, are as follows:
- Layers - thermal tops and leggings, fleeces, hoodies, hats and a good pair of ski gloves and a helmet. Weather on the mountain can change pretty quickly, and you are much better off wearing layers of thinner items as opposed to a big, bulky jumper.
- Socks - a variety of socks ranging in thickness, it may sound weird but in our experience hire boots can be quite painful with the wrong socks.
- Sun cream - even when it’s cloudy the sun here can (and will) still get you, and don't forget the underneath of your chin as the sun reflects off the snow too. Don't forget a lip salve with an SPF.
- Piste map - make sure to always have one in your pocket while you're out on the mountain. You can pick up paper copies from the lift pass or tourist office once you've arrived in resort.