Alpe D’Huez: VIP Ski luxury and summer fun in the mountain pastures
- Credit: Emma Bartholomew
Emma Bartholomew finds plenty to keep all ages entertained in Alpe d’Huez, with horse riding, mountain biking, bob sleigh and ice skating.
The drive up to Alpe d’Huez is steep and amok with hairpin bends - 21 to be precise.
It’s a legendary stage of the Tour de France, when hundreds of thousands of cycling enthusiasts will come out in force to line the narrow verges in campervans. The chaotic crowds are so dense that it was only during the clean up operation one year that a body was found to have fallen down a ravine and no one had realised.
When the zigzagging comes to an end you emerge into a plateau of rolling green pastures.
The village is triangular, and VIP Ski’s Chalet La Ferme is nestled away right at the top in the best possible spot.
I whiled away many peaceful hours sitting on the balcony - where chamoix and flowers are carved out of the wood – basking in the bucolic view, listening to crickets and staring at the snow-capped mountains of Les Deux Alpes in the distance.
The immense three-storey chalet is as plush as you would expect from VIP ski, with stone walls, slate roofs, vaulted ceilings and solid timber floors.
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Travelling off-peak in summer means you can soak up its luxury for a fraction of the price in winter.
Every VIP Ski chalet boasts a hot tub and there’s a sauna here too in the basement – which I ramped up to its top heat to totally sweat it out, with Finnish sauna competitions in mind.
The chalet is conveniently located next to the cable car where many of the resort’s activities take place.
My teenage sons and I joined in an initiation in mountain biking – or vélo tout terrain (VTT) – a lot of fun for 30 euro.
We started out on the flat practising holding the brakes with one finger, and cycling along with our bottom off the seats. I’ve tried mountain biking a couple of times before but had never learned those tips. By the time we took our bikes up in the lift and tried coming down the bumpy and at times rocky tracks, I felt really confident – whereas I’d have hesitated and slipped before.
From the same lift you can reach the top of the pic du Midi Blanc at 3,330 metres, where on a clear day you’re guaranteed a stunning view of a fifth of France.
Taking the cable car back down halfway it will take about three hours to walk down to the village, passing the most stunning turquoise lake, butterflies, and mountain flowers.
A 10-minute walk just past the cable car is the Poutran International Equestrian Training Centre, where my eight-year-old daughter had an excellent lesson, which is really value for money at 25 euro.
Another day my 68-year-old mum, my teenage sons, my daughter and I all went horse trekking. We came off the road and went past some spectacular lakes, covering way more distance than you can on foot.
If you head down into the village in the other direction you’ll find oodles more entertainment.
We all took several turns on the luge bob sleigh which is 35 euro for 25 turns. Its brake is between your legs and you can pull it up if you’re feeling cautious – or leave it down to go flying around the corners and feel as though you might come off the metal track.
Close by is the X-fly where you can jump into an air bag from eight metres up, or zip wire over to the other side of the valley and back.
And just around the corner you’ll find the Palais des Sports, where there’s an indoor pool, climbing wall, and badminton and squash courts.
Half way back up to the chalet is the outdoor pool, which has a section for little ones and 25m lanes for serious swimmers, and an ice rink – which provided yet more inter-generational fun.
The boots on loan here are better than most and it’s really beautiful gliding around outside with a view of the mountain – just don’t forget your sunglasses.
The mountains are a brilliant action-packed alternative to the beach, where all generations can join in and it’s excellent value in the summer months.
VIP Ski’s Chalet La Ferme sleeps 10 in five bedrooms with balconies. Priced from £105 per night based on two sharing with serviced self-catered accommodation. See vip-chalets.com or call 0208 875 1957.
Six-day premium pass costs £65 per adult, £35 for children. alpedhuez.com.