By Jessamy Baldwin
It’s not too late for a ski trip people.
How about snow-capped peaks, skiing to your heart’s content, sledging down fresh powder with your loved ones, stopping off at pretty log cabins to sip on rich hot chocolate and ice skating under the stars? If this sounds up your street, then I’ve got just the destination for you.
Fly to the quintessentially European town of Grenoble for the ultimate winter family adventure. This south eastern French city, aptly nicknamed ‘the capital of the Alps, has some of the best views in Europe with its stunning mountain backdrop and boasts some seriously stunning architecture. What’s more you can access a whole host of ski resorts within two hours of landing at the airport.
Fun In The City
Grenoble is situated among the looming massifs of the Parc Naturel Régional de Chartreuse and Parc Naturel Régional du Vercors.
Cut by the swift-flowing River Isère, the city itself has a lot to offer. It achieves a unique blend of cosmopolitan-meets-country with its excellent tram system, plethora of unique and high street shops, riverside markets and tiny restaurants dotted with fairy lights. Before heading further out to dust off your skis, check out the Pôlesud ice rink. With two ice surfaces and space for 2,100 skaters, you’re bound to have an experience to remember (closed Monday/Tuesday).
You can’t miss out on La Bastille either. Perched on Mount Rachais and dating back to 1591, La Bastille is one of the city’s most popular attractions. There’s an interesting military museum, two restaurants and spectacular views across the awe-inspiring landscape around Grenoble. Remember to pack your camera and a pair of extra warm gloves as it can get pretty chilly at the top. Then, sit back and relax with a rhum au chocolate and enjoy the vista. On a clear day, the tip of Mont Blanc even peeks through. Use the cable car which has been taking tourists from the city centre to the fortress since 1934.
Taking To The Slopes
Just a stone’s throw (1 hour) from Grenoble Airport lies Saint Pierre de Chartreuse, a family-friendly ski resort with a historical village centre and charming après-ski scene. The 35km of slopes are best suited to beginners, but advanced skiers have some off-piste terrain to play with.
You can also find breath taking views of the Parc Naturel Regional du Vercors at Lans en Vercors (1 hour from the airport). The ski area is best known for its hundreds of kilometres of cross-country trails. However, the downhill ski area which links up with Villard de Lans and Autrans also has 160km of alpine slopes.
Gorgeous tree-lined pistes and stunning views characterise the former Olympic ski resort of Chamrousse, a long-time favourite with British skiers and snowboarders (1 hour from airport). The family-friendly ski area has a separate section for beginners and children.
The Alpe d’Huez ski area, which links up with Vaujany and several other small resorts, is a cosmopolitan ski area with an international vibe and almost 250km of slopes for every level of skier or snowboarder (1 hour 30 mins from airport). The ski area is renowned for its highly competent English-speaking ski school instructors, as well as for its freeriding terrain.
Les Deux Alpes has a snow-sure ski area thanks to its glacier, which also makes it possible to go summer skiing here (1 hour 30 mins from airport). Young people flock to this ski resort for the top-notch snow parks, challenging off-piste terrain and wild après-ski scene.
Something A Little Different
If you decide to head for Les Deux Alpes, why not try something a little different? You can take a sleigh ride through snowy trees, go on a husky ride or experience unforgettable thrills behind the handlebars of a two-seater snowmobile on a night ride. Or why not try all three!? There is also an 1800m² open air ice rink and lots of different paragliding options if you want to see the snow from above.
A family favourite, sledging in the snow is something both the oldest and youngest members of your family can enjoy. In Villard-de-Lans at the heart of the Vercors, Colline-des-Bains has great snowy pistes for keen ‘sledgers’. Run by professionals, the bright and cheerful toboggan runs give an atmosphere of fun and games. There is also a free sledge area for children at the bottom of the slopes at Chamrousse 1650 near the draglift.
A modified version of this article was printed in the January/February edition of Envoyage magazine.