Skiing in Vaujany
Easy access to fantastic beginner slopes through to world-renowned black runs makes Vaujany in the French Alps a gem of a ski resort, explains Jamie Purkhardt.
Vaujany is just different! Part of the sunniest resort in the French Alps with more than 300 days of glorious blue skies a year and perched on a beautifully scenic slope in a corner of the Alpe d’Huez ski area – here the similarities to big purpose-built resorts ends. Vaujany is perhaps the ultimate backdoor ski resort.
The resort of Vaujany resides on the mountain side. It has developed over the years to accommodate the eager tourist wanting to have everything at their fingertips – spa, bowling alley, swimming pool, gym, ice skating rink etc. The village is served by a sophisticated system of escalators making it easy to get around.
There are great little bars with sun terraces for a traditional Kir aperitif, a chance to mingle with some of the village characters and it’s never far to wander along to one of the charming little restaurants popular with holidaymakers and locals alike.
GUIDE TO SKIING IN VAUJANY
Vaujany offers skiing holidays with easy access (on your doorstep!) to the entire Alpe d’Huez ski domain with more than 250 kilometres of pistes, 84 lifts, the incredible Sarenne Run (the longest black piste in Europe) and the famous ‘Champagne Run’ and ‘Ski Everest Challenge’. Snow is guaranteed due to the Pic Blanc Glacier standing at 3330m and, with more than 300 days of sun each year, so is a tan!
With a combination of a great ski school, fantastic private tuition and excellent mountain guides, together with, the vast ski area of Alpe d'Huez there is enough to satisfy any person for the week, with varied slopes for all levels.
Vaujany is an exceptionally pretty area with picnic stops galore and views aplenty - don't forget your camera!
The fantastic local area of ‘Montfrais’ is a green and blue piste paradise, ideal for learning, an amazing landscape and perfectly uncrowded. It is here that the Vaujany ESF bases itself. This is the home of the children's ski school with its Jardin de Neige, nursery slopes, restaurant for the kids’ lunch and easy access via the Montfrais bubble – ten minutes out of the main lift station in the village.
Beginners and children will learn to ski on often virtually empty pistes, close to plenty of hot chocolate stops and with very easy access to meet parents or friends when the lessons are over.
For those who want to branch out, you can use the lift system to access the substantial wide beginner slopes around Alpe d'Huez. At the end of the day cruise down a gorgeous blue and you’re back to La Villette.
The vast ski area of Alpe d'Huez strikes the perfect balance for intermediates with steep technique-testing runs and long sweeping wide pistes through stunning mountain scenery. The Signal de l'Homme at the far side of the Sarenne Gorge offers open slopes with good gradients. The slopes above Villard-Reculas are also popular, and the descents in the upper part of the Alpe d'Huez bowl are plentiful.
The run down the Chamois from 2,700m to Oz Station via the Poutran can be a challenge, or for a true sense of achievement try the Sarenne, which is perhaps only graded black due to its length and isolation. You’ll be able to claim you’ve done the longest run in the world!
With uninterrupted service, next to no queues and fast lifts, it takes little more than 30 minutes from getting on the superb Vaujany 160-person cable car at 1300m before you step out ‘on top of the world’ on the Pic Blanc Glacier at 3300m, majestically capping the Grandes Rousse Domain. The view is breathtaking (it is claimed on a clear day you can see a fifth of France!), and the options for challenging skiing are plentiful.
Tunnel and Champagne RunThe Sarenne and Chateau Noir, the longest black runs in Europe, offer wild, unspoilt scenery and isolation. The famous ‘Tunnel’ which runs straight down the front face is very steep and always a challenge and together with Les Rousses and La Fare makes up part of the 2200m Champagne Run, the greatest on-piste vertical descent linked into a lift system in the world!
This is something totally different. As yet, very few skiers have discovered the gem that is Vaujany’s amazing backcountry terrain. Those of us that have experienced it know it is something special.
Vaujany is very close to La Grave; Europe's and perhaps the world’s most famous off-piste ski area. However, we meet La Grave guides skiing in Vaujany. Why? Because off-piste conditions are often better than on the notoriously fickle La Grave slopes.
The layout of the mountains around Vaujany is a very happy coincidence. The huge Massif des Grandes Rousses towers above the village to the north-east, creating a freeride paradise for those “in-the-know”.
The off-piste possibilities are vast and varied. For a sense of remote mountain wilderness, try the Glacier du Grand Sablat or Combe du Loup. The descent to Vaujany via the awesome Pyramide and Couloir Perrin is always memorable with glacier seracs, turquoise ice fall and hidden bowls.
TOP 5 EXPERIENCES
1. Skiing - The Champagne Run
The greatest on-piste vertical descent linked to a lift system IN THE WORLD (3300m-1100m).
2. Off Piste - Roche Melon
A lovely open off-piste route through trees, open meadows and gulleys, often with excellent powder lasting days.
3. Mountain Restaurants - such as Chalet du Lac Besson
The cuisine is brilliant, prices are incredibly reasonable and the service is attentive… unlike some other resorts where you feel like cattle.
4. Backdoor skiing - (1250m – 3300m)
You can get to the very top of the Alpe d’Huez resort quicker by staying in Vaujany than anywhere else; due to the lift system, but also the limited queues!
5. The scenery
The ski area is by far one of the most beautiful in the Alps with views spanning into Switzerland and Italy.
WHEN TO VISIT
Best times to go:
The best snow conditions are generally in February and March. The resort has by then accumulated a good snow depth so you can expect good off-piste conditions. The days are starting to get a bit longer and in March you can actually enjoy sunset at around 1830, whilst sipping on a Kir Royale on your terrace, in the hot tub, or at the apres bar of your choosing.
April is also a great time to go as the spring snow lasts longer than most resorts.
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