Introduced in 2017, Les Deux Alpes Outdoor festival in late June marks the start of the resort’s summer season. For many people, this is a chance to try a new sport or compete in one they are already good at. Others come here to relax in the mountains and ski, mountain bike or enjoy the atmosphere.
Les Deux Alpes is one of France’s two summer skiing resorts, has a great bike park and sits on the edge of the Ecrins National Park. The festival showcases a few of the sports available here in the summer, but there are dozens more to try.
Here’s our guide to make the most out of the festival.
There are taster and improver sessions in different activities throughout the weekend. If you get the festival pass you can take part in all of them. I suggest heading to the Slack Stadium to try out slacklining with an expert coach.
The Outdoor Festival also happens to be the highest slackline festival in Europe, so you’ll find plenty of slack related activities around the resort. A waterline above the lake, highlines and a jumpline demonstration take place alongside the coaching sessions. Besides slacklining, you can sample rock climbing, golf, Zumba, and yoga as part of the festival.
You can try numerous other sports outside of the festival programme. Book a skiing, snowboard or mountain bike lesson with one of the schools in the resort, or hire an IFMGA guide for an Alpine mountaineering experience.
Competitions in ski racing, freestyle skiing and snowboarding, running, and mountain biking take place over the weekend. All of these are open to the public at all levels. Like most sporting events in France, you will need a medical certificate to show you are fit to compete.
The best-attended race in 2017 was the ‘Course de Ouf’, a 10-kilometre obstacle race over around the lower ski runs. Running fans are well catered for with a choice of trail races on the Sunday as well.
Perhaps the quirkiest competition format belongs to the ski racing. On-snow racing in the morning acts as the qualification session for a roller ski slalom in the afternoon. The final takes place down the Rue de Vikings, so you can watch it from the terraces of the bars.
The festival’s competitions attract a wide range of abilities from expert ‘ambassadors’ to first-time competitors. If you practice an outdoor sport but never compete, this is the place to take that next step.
The resort has recruited top athletes as ambassadors to promote their sports, from slackline to trail running, while national ski teams and freestyle champions train on the glacier. At the same time, the Paragliding pre-World Cup means the skies are filled with world class flyers. Paragliding is the only sport featured in the festival where the events are solely for the professionals, but there is no shortage of high-level action to watch in other sports.
The MTB Opening Party on the Friday gives participants exclusive access to the lift-accessed downhill terrain. This is an annual event the day before the official opening. Later on, the MTB Moon Party ends the day with a barbeque on the mountain and guided descent to the town at nightfall.
You can buy two or three-day bikepark passes for the festival. These include entry to the opening party and the Team Up Enduro/DH competitions.
Rue des Vikings is an ideal place to chill out and soak up the vibe of the festival. The short, sloping road is lined with cool bars like the Jukeboxx, Melt in Art and Kré, and you can watch the roller ski slalom final on Saturday.
The Polar Bear Pub at the top of the road is a great pub, and the legendary, pirate themed Rhumerie is only a couple of minutes’ walk away.
Later in the evening, the biggest parties tend to be at Smithy’s Tavern. For a more local flavour, wander down the main street and pop into the numerous small bars where French visitors hang out.
The Goodwin Brewery makes a range of local craft beers down in Bourg d’Oisans, just a few miles down the road. These are widely available in the town’s bars, both in bottles and on draught.
If you are not a beer drinker, you can join the French locals in drinking chilled rosé wine all summer. Or you could copy the many Italian visitors and order an Aperol Spritz (Aperol, Prosecco, and soda with a slice of orange).
The Spot and Smithy’s cater well to the Anglophone market with steak, chips, burgers and the odd Tex-Mex dish. If you prefer food from the region, great French mountain cuisine is easy to find.
Highlights are the Cellier for cooking your steak on an open fire, Doume’s for doing things a little differently, or the Trappeur if you can get a table. For pizza, the Italians go to Pizza Cyan, so I follow them on the grounds that Italians know good pizza. The Michelin-starred Chalet Mounier is the best in town for fine dining, with prices to match, but Raisin d’Ours and the Entracte do quality food at more reasonable prices.
On the mountain, the Diable au Coeur is a very nice restaurant in a great location. The more rustic Kanata Bergerie has a farmhouse ambience and local food. You can access both on foot or by mountain bike, and the Diable chairlift will take you to the former as well.
Besides the sports featured in the Festival, there are lots of other activities to do in the local area. The village of Venosc caters to both sightseers and adventurers. You can get there by gondola, footpath or downhill mountain bike trail. Apart from the picturesque village itself, there is also a high ropes course and a white-water rafting centre. Climbers will appreciate the equipped crag and and the via ferrata leading back to Les Deux Alpes.
At the opposite end of the resort, Mont de Lans is another old village reachable by chairlift, on foot or by mountain bike. For those with an interest in the history of the region, the Chasal Lento museum tells the story of the local inhabitants from the Roman era to the present day. While looking at local history, the Roman Arch in nearby Bons is worth a visit. The short walk takes you through an unspoilt village and pleasant wooded hillsides. The La Molière hamlet, hidden in the forest above Bons, offers horse riding, husky mushing, and a farm visit.
Les Deux Alpes has the largest skiable glacier in Europe. Even if you do not plan to ski or snowboard, the views are fantastic and it is the best place to escape the summer heat.
The Jandri Express takes you to 3200m in 30 minutes, and the funicular continues to 3400m. Up here, there is a viewing platform and telescope, along with a ‘skywalk’ (see photo above). Back at 3200m, the ice caves opposite the restaurant are filled with sculptures and colour. I love the feeling of being inside the heart of the glacier. From the restaurant you can look up to watch some of the world’s best skiers training and the summer snowpark is world class.
The 2018 Outdoor Festival is provisionally planned for the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th June.
Feature image credit: Les Deux Alpes © JC Michel
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