If you are the type of person who prefers to go on adventures rather than lie on the beach, a trip to the Alps this summer might be the perfect getaway

Away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, you can escape to the mountains and completely disconnect from the world to enjoy some real thrills. This summer, Ski Club’s Sophie went to see how many activities she could fit into one weekend at Les Deux Alpes Outdoor Festival. 

Arriving in the mountain-top resort of Les Deux Alpes, it was easy to get a feel for adrenalin pursuits when we saw more bikes on the roads than cars. Squads of mountain bikers dressed head to toe in protective gear and covered in mud dominated the high street. Looks like it was a good day on the mountain!

Hit the trails on an E-bike

Although Les Deux Alpes is a mecca for downhill mountain biking, there is biking for all levels in the resort. First up, I tried e-biking, short for electric biking. I’d heard a lot about it but never had the opportunity to try. We collected our bikes from Bike Infinity in the centre of town and although the sky was black and threatening, the trails were waiting and we had the green light to get going. One thing I will say is that e-bikes bikes are HEAVY, but that’s only because of the battery pack which is crucial for your enjoyment. Our guide Julien explained that we should just cycle normally and control the input from the battery using an electronic screen on the handlebars… very high tech! As we pushed our bikes toward the start of the route, we could get the bike to move independently by pushing a button. 

Thomas Hawkins

We followed a gentle forest path which hugged the mountain to get a feel for the weight and handling of the bike and to the right was a spectacular view of the valley below. At this stage, the bike felt no different to a normal bike. It was when we were faced with a climb that the e-bikes came into their own. By pedalling gently, the battery helped us cycle uphill. It was then that the penny dropped and I understood what all the fuss was about. Put simply – e-bikes allow you to cycle UPHILL with minimum effort. It feels like you’ve found a cheat code for a game because e-bikes defy gravity and logic, giving you the boost you need to make steep climbs easily. The route we took was a beginner route specific to e-bikes, and there are several trails accessible from the town.

E-bike hire from Bike Infinity starts at €40 and free beginner lessons are organised every Tuesday from 6-8pm by the tourist office.

Boost your adrenaline with downhill mountain biking

Mountain bikers that visit Les Deux Alpes are not there to mess around. With over 90km of tracks to explore encompassing four areas and 2,300m of vertical descent, the mountain is quite literally your playground. Downhill biking is a big step up from the relaxing world of e-biking so we were kitted out head to toe in protective padding. That included shoulder, elbow and knee pads plus back, chest and shin protectors. Feeling like Power Rangers, we set off on our jolly way. The first challenge was the lift. With no skis attached our feet, the chairlift was a different beast altogether and we were taught to pull the bike up on one wheel and pop the top wheel into a ‘bike hanger’. After then we had to scoot around to the front and jump on. I failed at the first attempt and had to be saved by Julien. Climbing up the mountainside on the chairlift, we were treated to a birds-eye view of bikers following various descents, zipping through the lush countryside like ants with a need for speed. The top station of Vallee Blanche lift offers a 360-degree vista of the surrounding mountains which will take your breath away if the altitude hasn’t done that already.

For beginners, there is a training area near the top with different surfaces to practice on such as bumps, berms (banked corners) and winding deck trails called North shore sections (after the North Shore area of Vancouver that popularised this style of riding). At an altitude of 2,100m, even short bursts of energy required a lot more effort, so we were seriously sweating after the training. We spent some time lapping these features before heading towards our first green trail. With our confidence built up, we took on the descent with no problem, taking care to arc through the top of the corners and keep our weight back over bumps. Cruising through the countryside with views of soaring peaks everywhere, it was a struggle to keep our eyes on the trail. 

The only sound was the faint whirring of chains from other bikers and the odd marmotte squeak. As we caught our breath at the bottom, Julien decided we were ready to level up to a blue run - cue panic amongst the group! At the top, we headed towards a trail which was busy with other riders. The route was longer, steeper and had several opportunities to try jumps and North shore sections. Just like skiing, the trails are rated by colour and you can feel the difference in the terrain and technical knowledge required. And like any other extreme sport, you can injure yourself. During the descent, we saw somebody being taken away in a stretcher and were thankful for our padding. I experienced the sensitivity of the brakes firsthand when I flew over the handlebars a few times, but luckily my padding kept me safe and I escaped with only a few bruises. The bike park is the perfect place to learn the ropes and progress at your own pace.

Bike park facts and figures
Les 2 Alpes bike park is open from 22 June to 31 August
It is suitable for beginners and experts with 2 green runs, 8 blue runs, 8 red runs and 4 black runs 
TheEasy2ride park is located next to Les Lutins Ski lifts
One day lift pass costs €26.50 and it's €106 for 6 days 
New for summer 2019: 4-hour lift pass for €20 
MTB season pass is €265, reduced from €345 last summer
 A bike costs between €30 and €90 to hire, depending on the technical spec

Bruno Longo

Cool off with snowsports on the glacier

Skiing in June? You must be having a laugh, I hear you say. The glacier at Les Deux Alpes is the biggest skiable glacier in Europe and is open from 22 June to 25 August. Ski clubs and schools from all over the world come in droves to train and stay at the top of their game but the glacier is also open to the public. If you want to learn to ski, there is a beginner slope perched at 3,400m. On the wide, sweeping blues, international teams from Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Canada, Korea and more train in alpine and freestyle disciplines. Taking the Jandri gondola up, the landscape couldn’t be more different from winter. Snowmelt leaves the mountains naked with bare brown earth and rocky scree gives the mountains a moonscape feel. Mountain bikers can be seen tackling vertical itineraries across the scarred landscape and vast, empty faces bake in the summer sun.

After a peaceful half-hour in the gondola, prepare for the silence to be shattered once you land at the top station. The air fills with excited chatter as people gather their skis and snowboards to head towards the glacier. A double draglift takes riders to the top of the glacier where they can cruise down wide-open slopes or climb higher to the summit. The glacier is also home to the biggest summer snow park in Europe. I spotted a few Mexican hats and ponchos, so I followed the trail and found myself in the middle of the Duo Pepito competition. During the annual event, freestyle skiers and snowboarders throw down their best tricks on kickers, rails, boxes and a towering superpipe. Judges have ‘dollars’ which they award to the riders they see doing the most impressive tricks, and whoever has the most dollars wins a €2,000 cash prize. During my visit, the park was packed out with excited freestylers getting into the spirit of things, playing trumpets on the tow and dressed as tequila bottles. There was even an inflatable llama perched next to a quarterpipe. Ole!

A Ski Pass (which can also be used in the bike park) costs €41.70 per day and €210 for 6 days.
Prices in August are slightly cheaper. 
In winter, our ILG sessions are popular in Les Deux Alpes.
Find out what Les Deux Alpes has to offer in winter here. 

Watch local talent in the brand new skate park

The appetite for freestyle skiing up on the glacier translates into skating down in the town for the people living in Les Deux Alpes. The desire for a bigger, safer skate park in the resort has been answered this summer with the opening of a brand new facility. The €250,000 project encompasses a permanent module recessed into the ground, just a few minutes’ walk from the town centre at 1,600m. My visit during Outdoor Festival gave me the opportunity to catch the King of the Plaza competition, drawing a big crowd to the impressive bowl. Finding a perch up on the edge of the park, I joined about 200 spectators as young locals and visitors went head to head during the competition.

The park has a bowl, two quarterpipes and several rails plus plenty of open space to play with. Competitors went two by two, throwing down their best tricks in the hope of reaching the final. It seemed like the whole town turned out to see the competition and spectators young and old cheered from the sidelines, giving the competitors a confidence boost. The skatepark is free to use and a fantastic addition to the resort, one that clearly channels the thrill-seeking passion of the mountain community. 

Take to the skies in parapente

Paragliding is possible in Les Deux Alpes in both winter and summer, but summer is when the vivid colours of the mountains really bring them to life. A short walk through the picturesque village takes visitors to grassy fields full of wildflowers looking out over the sheer drop into the Venosc valley. Having paraglided in winter over the town, I was very intrigued to see how summer in the sky would compare. My guide Xavier was relaxed and friendly, helping to put my nerves at ease by telling me he had worked in the resort for 30 years. After a short briefing, I was harnessed up and told to run down the slope with him attached to my back. The take-off was smooth and the green fields dropped away suddenly to reveal the plunging valley below. From the air, Les Deux Alpes looked like a dinky toy town which could easily be engulfed by the surrounding mountains.

We circled higher on the thermals and Xavier explained that Les Deux Alpes is a paragliding destination which is suitable only for experts, due to the challenging airflow in the area. Hanging in the air was peaceful...there was no clatter of cranks from bikers, no whistling of marmottes, just peaceful silence in a striking landscape of majestic peaks. The only traffic was birds and a handful of other paragliders so the aerial motorways were all ours, as we swooped from one side of the valley to the other, taking in the meandering rivers of thundering meltwater and miniscule houses below. If there is one thing that you need to tick off your list during a visit to Les Deux Alpes, it’s taking to the skies.

Paragliding sessions cost €75 and are available from 2 Alpes Parapente and Air Ailes.

Along with all of these activities, Outdoor Festival hosted five trail running events including one sky running route to the glacier! Another aptly named 'La Diable,' consisted of a 2,000m of vertical climb over 7km. After a busy weekend, I had had my fill of outdoor thrills. I'll save the sky running and Mountain of Hell bike run for next year...

Sophie was a guest of Les Deux Alpes at Hotel Côte Brune which is conveniently located five minutes walk from the Jandri lift and town centre.