Posted on 21 September 2021
If you’re looking for reasons why you should buy a ski property in Alpe d’Huez, there’s more than a few. You might consider the characterful town, large ski area, or proximity to Grenoble Airport. One thing you might not have heard of is the little single-lift resort an Alpe d’Huez season-pass will score you access to.
When the lease to the gondola in La Grave ran out in 2016, freeride skiers everywhere worried that France’s ultimate cult ski destination would finally have to close. Then, the company behind Alpe d’Huez stepped in. With that, the off-piste wonderland that is La Grave was saved and Alpe d’Huez had a brand new attraction.
As Autumn arrives, and the first snow hits the French Alps, we take a look at La Grave. The resort that Alpe d’Huez saved from oblivion.
La Grave: a Potted History
With a single lift, and a huge bowl of unpisted terrain, La Grave is a cult favourite amongst big mountain skiers. It can be treacherous and it certainly isn’t family-friendly, but this unknown resort is the ultimate destination for expert skiers and snowboarders.
The only lift in La Grave opened for skiers in 1978. The next decade saw the resort gain a reputation amongst expert skiers, but remain very under the radar. While Swedish pro skier Pelle Lang first skied the resort in 1984, it wasn’t until 1989 that it first appeared in print. British journalist Adam Ruck wrote a feature on the resort, fearing that it would eventually close due to a lack of visitors.
La Grave was featured in ski movies as Valley X or Val Terces during the 90s and soon started to gain international acclaim. US skier Joe Vallone began guiding in La Grave in 2002 and became one of the resort’s biggest advocates. La Grave has very few pistes or markers, those that do exist are only on the glacier; the resort’s reputation for being the wildest ski resort in the world is well earned.
Alpe d’Huez buys the lift at La Grave
As the lease that the Compagnie des Alpes had with La Grave ticked down to its’ expiry date, expert skiers wondered what would happen to France’s premier off-piste destination. Then, SATA arrived. The company, that runs the lifts at Alpe d’Huez, took over the lease for the next 30 years.
With that, anyone wondering why you should buy a ski property in Alpe d’Huez suddenly had a whole new winter wonderland to consider. The addition of Alpe d’Huez to the season pass of Alpe d’Huez is a huge boost for expert skiers. With events like Tomorrowland now on the calendar, the resort will only get more popular.
As La Grave borders Les Deux Alpes, there is talk of extending the cable car up to 3600m. As of this year, the only way to get up that high from La Grave is via a small t-bar lift. The additional cable car will mean that skiers in Les Deux Alpes can ski in La Grave, and vice versa. The new lift aside, it was written into the lease that SATA must maintain the wild, off-piste nature of La Grave’s ski area.
Why You Should Buy a Ski Property in Alpe d’Huez to Ski La Grave
While the slopes of La Grave are infamous, it’s almost certainly not the sort of skiing you’ll want to spend every day doing. Sometimes, even expert skiers want a day on the pistes. If you’re looking at the reasons why to buy a ski property in Alpe d’Huez, the range of skiing on offer is a real draw to the resort.
Alpe d’Huez has slopes for skiers of all ability levels, requires no additional training or guides. By contrast, skiing La Grave will require a guide and avalanche training. That’s not to say you will always need to hire a guide; as you ski the routes, you’ll slowly get to know the best lines. With that said, you will need to know how to navigate glacier and off-piste safety.
A day skiing in La Grave is practically guaranteed to be amazing! That said, it’s probably not what you want to do every day. That’s one of the big reasons why you should buy a ski property in Alpe d’Huez. It gives you the best of both worlds; you’ll be able to ski La Grave whenever you want, but also choose to cruise the pistes when you’re after a relaxed day out.
Alpe d’Huez: a Growing Resort
In the last few years, Alpe d’Huez has been lowkey growing into the place to be. We’ve seen the establishment of Tomorrowland Winter and the arrival of La Grave onto the ski pass. Alpe d’Huez has a laid-back vibe that’s a far cry from the Michelin starred glamour that you might find elsewhere.
As a key stage in the Tour de France, Alpe d’Huez has a strong summer season, and with the addition of La Grave, it’s also home to one of the most varied and unique ski areas in the Alps. The resort even has an excellent, family-friendly, beginner area! You can take your kids from a beginner to an expert without worrying about them outgrowing the terrain.
Alpe d’Huez itself is fairly large, sitting on a plateau, with more bars and restaurants than you can shake a stick at. The resort was established in the 30s, so it avoids the purpose-built brutalist architecture that you’ll find in some other ski areas. It has a swimming pool and ice rink in the centre, and a charming, eclectic vibe. With some excellent new developments in the pipeline, Alpe d’Huez is a great choice whether you’re searching for the ideal ski resort to spend the winters or a great investment.
When it comes to reasons why you should buy a ski property in Alpe d’Huez, the addition of La Grave to the skiable area only makes this a more attractive prospect. The blend of a family-friendly main resort, with the option of skiing a genuinely great off-piste wonderland, is unmatched.