Choosing a ski resort for families?
It’s 15 years now since I came to Oz en Oisans in the Alpe D’Huez ski area and put my money down for Chalet Galibier. It then took 3 further years for the chalets to be finished and we started Chilled Mountain in 2007. In the previous 10 years we visited many resorts through the French Alps, the Italian Dolomites, the Swiss Alps and the Austrian Tyrol, so what made Oz and Alpe D’Huez the perfect resort for me and my family?
Firstly; size really does matter, both the total area and number of runs but also the height of the top of the mountain. Alpe D’Huez has its peak at the Pic Blanc glacier, with lifts going up to 3330m. This means whatever the weather is doing lower down, you have guaranteed skiing. In the last 25 years we have seen several seasons across Europe where snow has not been plentiful and ski resorts have resorted to putting on other activities. Though there are many off slope activities in Alpe D’Huez, the skiing has never been off the menu. As I write this blog today there is 245cm of snow on the upper slopes! Where there has been less of the natural snow than ideal then the now 963 snow cannons across the resort and the height to make sure they can be operated, has also helped out. On skiable area I started as a snow boarder and my wife is a skier so I looked for both extent of Off Piste as well as Piste runs. Alpe D’Huez has a total lift served area of 236Km2 and 250Km of Pistes, (70Km of beginner slopes, 130Km of Intermediate slopes and 50Km of expert slopes). Outside of the lift served area there are vast area reachable by Helicopter return skiing (Heli-skiing is not legal in France however in Alpe D’Huez you can depart from the top of Pic Blanc, drop more than 2Km vertically and end up in a far flung field before being returned to the Alpe D’Huez Altiport by helicopter from as little as 70 Euros and then take 2 lifts to the top again and repeat!).
After size there are a number of factors that became clear that mattered with a family, proximity to airports and good flights are essential. Oz is served by 3 airports (Lyon, Grenoble & Chambery) all less than 90 mins drive away, Geneva is also only 2 hours away. Alongside an extensive ski area we wanted a friendly pedestrianised village and the ability to ski back to the chalet. Having the main lift 50m from the chalet is also a luxury that has been very welcome over the years, especially with small children. Activities and access to the mountain for non skiers has also been essential over the years as my parents came out with us as a young family. Both of the lifts leaving Oz are gondolas and many of the major lifts through the area are also gondolas, which means non skiers can join you pretty much anywhere on the mountain.
A factor we didn’t originally recognise but now really appreciate as much as all the others, is the friendliness of the resort. Oz is 31 years old so most people owning and working in the resort are from different areas. Combined with being a very international resort (French, British, Dutch and Belgians are equally represented) makes for a great atmosphere and a lovely space to spend a week or a decade of skiing!