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The Isère Region Looks Forward to Winter

Skiing starts at 800m and heads up to 3,600m. The spectacular mountain resorts and the people of Isère in France are waiting to share their region with visitors again. Much of its skiing is perhaps not familiar to UK visitors – yet.

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Isère is a department in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region in south-eastern France.

It extends from the banks of the River Rhône to the summits of the French Alps.

It has the major ski areas of Alpe d’Huez and Les 2 Alpes in Oisans plus smaller resorts in the Vercors,  Chartreuse and Belledonne areas.

The resorts are home to Nordic skiing, Alpine skiing on the major summits and glaciers, snowboarding, freeriding, snow shoeing and dog sledding.

The second mountain range, the massif of Belledonne, offers 250 km of slopes with a vertical descent of 1200 m.

It is a region unfamiliar to many British skiers – and that is perhaps one its attractions.

Isere. Image © PlanetSKI.

Isère. Image © PlanetSKI.

But it has no fewer than 22 ski resorts in its four famous massifs – Belledonne, Chartreuse, Vercors and Oisans

Ski resorts in Isere

Ski resorts in Isère. Image © Isère.

We have written about the area in the past on PlanetSKI: Isere beckons for Winter

Les 7 Laux offers easily accessible off-piste areas, as well as a large network of marked pistes, including the famous ‘Casserousse’ in Chamrousse, where French sport legend, Jean-Claude Killy, won the Olympic gold medal in 1968.

Although Vercors is mainly known for cross country skiing, the landscape is different to Oisans or Belledonne: skiers can go through forests with much steeper and craggier terrain available.

The slopes are less challenging than in Oisans, yet good skiers can still find some serious black slopes, such as the ‘Carole Montillet’ piste (former ski champion) in Villard-de-Lans / Corrençon-en-Vercors, which is the main Alpine resort in Vercors with 125 km of runs.

PlanetSKI is visiting the Isere area in December to report back from this corner of the French Alps.

Our senior reporter Jane Peel will be in Les2Alpes and our editor, James Cove, is taking the train to Grenoble and skiing the smaller resorts of Chamrousse, Les 7 Laux and Villard de Lans.

The ski resorts have been waiting more than 18-months to welcome back UK skiers and snowboarders.

“The question on everyone’s lips is ‘How will Coronavirus affect ski holidays this winter?’ ” said the resort as the winter approaches.

“The honest answer is that nobody can be truly sure, but the Isère region has every intention of delivering holidays to those willing to travel.”

Here at PlanetSKI we asked the region to tell us what we can expect next winter:

Events:

Les 7 Laux celebrates its 50th anniversary: Several events will take place during the winter and summer seasons in all the villages of Les 7 Laux – Prapoutel/Le Pleynet/Pipay.

Expect an array of exhibitions plus sports, concerts and unusual events. “Joie de vivre” (the enjoyment of life) is the key phrase for this anniversary, celebrating the development of the resort and shaping the future.

Les 7 Laux  is the largest ski area in the Belledonne range and sits at an altitude of 1,350 m to 2,400 m.

The resort offers a wide variety of slopes and in particular, secure access to the Vallons du Pra, an exceptional wilderness area that has become a marked and secure off piste area while preserving the wild character of this high-altitude territory.

Facts about this resort as follows: 22 lifts, 45 pistes, totaling 120 km (10 green, 10 blue, 18 red, 7 black) plus 7 black “freeski” off piste.

Families will love the snowpark, the fun trails or the freerando access.

The main interest for experts lies in the off piste and ski touring, which is extensive.

Grenoble, Capital of the Alps, elected European Green Capital 2022: Each year, the title of European Green Capital is awarded to cities that demonstrate a strong commitment to the environment and to sustainable development.

The city of Grenoble demonstrated its vision, enthusiasm, and ability to inspire other cities by highlighting its eco-responsible actions from the last ten years.

Image c/o OT GRENOBLE Image © PIERRE JAYET

Image c/o OT GRENOBLE Image © PIERRE JAYET

It is a great city to be based in to explore the nearby resorts of Chamrousse, Les 7 Laux and Villard de Lans.

Activities

The resorts in the Isère region offer plenty of varied and accessible winter activities for all levels,.

There’s Nordic skiing, Alpine skiing on major summits and glaciers, snowboarding, freeriding, snow shoeing, dogsledding, ski touring and snowshoeing.

There are some brand-new activities for the 2021/22 ski season.

Snowshoeing and yoga retreat, the zen attitude in Chartreuse: Discover the Chartreuse Massif in Isere while staying in the warm and welcoming gites at Chant de l’eau, in the heart of the village of Sappey en Chartreuse.

This retreat is for anyone in moderate physical condition.

Learn to use yogic techniques to regulate the physical effort, to relax, and self-massage.

Become a trapper, following the trails of deer, ducking under snow covered branches in absolute silence, with only the sound of the snow crackling under the snowshoes.

No prior experience in yoga or snowshoeing required:  all techniques are easy to learn.

Walking, exercise, yoga, relaxation, meditation, free time with delicious and healthy food… all the right ingredients for a balanced and rejuvenating retreat.

Choose from five or six days with relaxation and positive energy in the mountains in a wild and unspoiled nature.

Each day begins with a hatha yoga session which mainly works the postures for a gentle awakening of the body and mind.

After a balanced breakfast, it’s a day of snowshoeing in the surrounding Isere massifs.

Back to the bedroom, after a good herbal tea, one hour of yoga is offered before dinner at the table d’hôte.

Price: From 490 € four nights/five days or 580 € five nights/six days flights and transfers not included www.gitechantdeleau.com

Ski touring by starlight – Chamrousse 1650: Awarded the “Best Ski Touring Itinerary” at the 2019 Ski Touring Trophies, this multi-activity night hiking itinerary is for ski tourers who want to enjoy a nocturnal touring activity from 6 pm to 10 pm in safety.

The resort of Chamrousse has created a specific itinerary, with both ascent and descent.

Using this itinerary, however, remains the skier’s responsibility – they need to be mindful of the possible presence of a piste basher.

The free to explore itinerary is approx. 3 km and has 600 m of difference in altitude.

Reach the trail at the foot of the slopes at Recoin. www.chamrousse.com

Image ©Aeolus_OT Chamrousse_Isère

Image © Aeolus_OT Chamrousse_Isère

Breathing and cardiac coherence… at altitude – Les 7 Laux: Cardiac coherence is a breathing method that regulates the heartbeat in times of stress and intense emotion.

With this pandemic it’s a good opportunity to try a universal health tool that anyone can use – it is simple and easy to introduce to help individuals achieve a more balanced daily life.

Cardiac coherence is best practised outdoors, with rhythm variations, energising, relaxing and balancing and breathing associated with movement all allowing guests to harmonise their body and mind to the outside environment. www.fabiennehelip.com.

A one hour and 15-minute session costs 60€/£51

E-Trott’athlon in Autrans, Vercors: Experience the thrill of an all-terrain electric scooter combined with biathlon shooting with an optical rifle.

Sign up to this new competition as a family (minimum age 10) or as individuals and together, in groups of eight to 10, take on the various challenges on the choice of two pistes.

Sample the scooters, the shooting and timed laps with both included.

The one-hour package, for groups of eight to 10, costs from €25 pp / £21 pp. www.e-trottathlon.fr

Live like a trapper for an evening – Oz en Oisans: Don’t miss this unique experience with mushers Erwin and Barbara and their Siberian huskies.

Pull on some snow shoes and hiking with the huskies at sunset before tucking into a delicious dinner cooked on a wood fire in the heart of the forest.

A ‘cani-balade’ on snowshoes is a moment of intimacy with the dogs, supervised by a musher.

Equipped with a harness and connected to the hikers, the dogs accompany you on a long walk in the thick of nature.

€75 per adult, €65 per child or €250 per family www.ranchdeloisans.com

Image @OT Oz-en-Oisans

Image © @OT Oz-en-Oisans

Accommodation

Image c/o Cédric Peltier Création

Image © Cédric Peltier Création

Pop Alp in Alpe d’Huez: With its colourful balconies adorned with a hundred or so brightly coloured skis, the hotel is sure to put a smile on everyone’s face.

Even the hotel’s sign, in pop art style, is a twist on the Alpe d’Huez logo.

Once inside, guests can marvel at the universe of pop art that harks back to the 1960s.

The 3* Hotel Pop Alp hotel is designed as an exhibition, it’s a contemporary art gallery with murals, sculptures and about 50 original paintings created especially for the hotel.

Each of the 28 rooms is unique.

Image c/o Cédric Peltier Création

Image © Cédric Peltier Création

To book : A week’s stay at the 3* Hotel Pop Alp  costs from €120/£103 for two sharing on B&B board.

Return direct flights from London Gatwick to Grenoble cost from £64 pp with easyJet.

Auris expands: Auris is the departure point for the SATA lift company that will link Alpe d’Huez Grand Domain Ski and Les 2 Alpes in the coming years, meaning this small resort is set to grow in popularity.

Designed with an eco-friendly approach, the brand new piste side 3*Alp’Auris Residence sits at an altitude of 1,600 m in the heart of the resort of Auris, part of the Alpe d’Huez ski area.

With a magnificent south-facing aspect in the Grandes Rousses mountains, the residence looks out over the spectacular panorama of the Oisans peaks, the Meije and its glaciers.

The accommodation is well-equipped for four to eight people on holiday.

Guests will also find an indoor swimming area with a small and large pool, and a wellness area with a sauna and a hammam.

A week’s stay at the 3*Alp’Auris Residence costs from €416.50/£357 for four people sharing a two-bedroom apartment on a self-catering basis.

New Base Camp Lodge hostel in Les 2 Alpes: Skiing becomes even more affordable as a second hostel gets ready to open at the far end of the resort.

The Base Camp Lodge, occupying the former Hôtel des Champions comprises 30 rooms varying in size.

From shared rooms (max. 10 people) to en-suite double/twin rooms, a master suite or a 40m² family suite.

The style and décor combines Alpine touches of wood with sleek metal finished with a sprinkle of pioneer spirit.

It is complemented with a restaurant serving vegan, vegetarian, Alpine and meat dishes.

And also has a fitness room, sauna and ski room.

The Base Camp Lodge is due to open on 10th December 2021. www.hotel-basecamplodge.com

A week’s stay at the basecamplodge costs from £326 pp for a single bed in a 10 bed dormitory room with three shared showers.

Travel

The region is easily accessible from Grenoble Alpes Isère airport with numerous flights from London and other major cities in the UK.

A greater number of people are being more aware of train travel; it’s just seven hours by train from London St Pancreas via Paris to Grenoble www.snowcarbon.co.uk

All images supplied by Isere Tourisme and PlanetSKI.

Ski resorts in Isere

Ski resorts in Isère. Image © Isère Tourisme.

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