Les Deux Alpes/La Grave: A Glacier And Major Challenge -

Les Deux Alpes (also known as Les 2 Alpes or Les 2 Alpes 3600) is a ski resort in the French Isère département. The town sits at 1650 m and lifts run to 3600 m. It includes the largest skiable glacier in Europe and is France's second oldest ski resort.

The "two Alps" in the name, just for the record, refer to the two villages of Venosc and Mont De Lans that sit at either end of the north-south plateau on which the resort was built. Access to the resort is by road from the north because no road connects the resort to Venosc down the steep slope to the south.

The glacier means you can ski year-round. A funicular railway goes under the ice and takes skiers and riders up to 3450 m from where the panoramic views are superb, including Mont Blanc, some 100 km away.

The resort is described as "upside-down," as the lower slopes down to the resort are steeper and more challenging than the higher ski areas. The wide ego-pleasing glacier runs always are fun. Less advanced skiers either take a gondola down to the resort or follow a lengthy, gentle but narrow, track on the path of the access road. A wide area at the very bottom is for beginners.

La Grave ski area can be accessed from the very top lift at the Dome de la Lauze by either walking or, sometimes, by ski tow behind a Snowcat. It is only recommended for advanced skiers under supervision of a qualified guide.

Make no mistake. La Grave isn't for the faint of heart. The ski area has no pistes or marked runs. One telecabine makes its way up to 3200 metres. Get off at the top (rather than at an intermediate station) and you need to understand there is no easy way down. You'll head down at your own risk.

Best bet is to employ one of the excellent local guides at all times. La Grave is an unpatrolled high mountain region with many lurking dangers. You may not even see some of them readily. Just be prepared.

The resort area is a 71 km-drive southeast of Grenoble, the gateway airport. There are bus transfers from Grenoble after each flight taking about two hours. Train service also is available.

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