La Grave's ski area, nestled on the magnificent slopes of La Meije mountain, boasts an array of exceptionally demanding ski runs within the Alps. Its allure lies primarily in attracting advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders who prioritize the exhilaration of skiing/riding and the breathtaking splendor of the mountains over contemporary ski resort amenities.
La Grave – Overview
Nestled between le Bourg-d'Oisans and Briancon, La Grave stands as an isolated, traditional mountain village at the base of the formidable La Meije massif. Located on the fringes of the Ecrins National Park in the Southern French Alps, La Grave shares the spotlight with Chamonix and Mont Blanc as one of the most esteemed names in European mountaineering. The rugged charm of La Meije, with its towering rock walls adorned with menacing seracs, offers a glimpse into why it remained unconquered for so long.
To those well-versed in snow sports, La Grave and its Vallons de la Meije, including Chancel, have achieved near-legendary status. These destinations embody the spirit of unrestricted freeride and extreme skiing. However, it's crucial to note that, apart from a few secured and groomed routes on the Glacier de la Girose in the summit area, La Grave has no marked slopes. The entire region is dedicated to off-piste skiing, making it exclusively suitable for experienced skiers and snowboarders, preferably accompanied by a certified local high-mountain guide.
Accessing the starting points of the ski routes is relatively straightforward, whether you ascend via the two-stage gondola lift from La Grave or connect from the summit sector via Les Deux Alpes, taking the deceptively easy groomed run on the Glacier. Nevertheless, once you initiate your descent, you immerse yourself in a challenging, high-altitude environment that has claimed numerous lives.
La Grave defies the conventions of a typical ski resort; it is, in fact, a profound mountain station that incorporates snow sports into its mission of opening up this lofty alpine realm to all mountain enthusiasts. Aspiring expert skiers and snowboarders who venture here often find themselves captivated by its allure.
Ski Resort Highlights
La Grave – Ski Map & Pistes
In this off-piste freeride haven, you won't find any official groomed slopes, avalanche protection systems, slope signs, or boundary ropes. La Grave is a place where you're free to wander wherever your inspiration and the conditions permit. However, this type of exploration demands a high level of technical skill and expertise in the realm of high-mountain terrain. Ideally, it is recommended to be accompanied by a qualified local guide who knows the area intimately.
La Grave – Off-Piste, Backcountry & Ski Touring:
La Grave is renowned for its exceptional off-piste skiing, backcountry exploration, and ski touring opportunities. Here are some specific tips and popular routes to consider:
Off-piste skiing in La Grave:
There are two renowned routes in La Grave that that stand out for off-piste skiing: the Vallons de la Meije and the Vallons de Chancel.
The Vallons de la Meije route descends to the skier's right of the gondola line. The upper section presents steep and rocky terrain, challenging but not extremely so. The top half of the slopes is expansive and often gets tracked-out, resembling a well-worn piste. The lower half becomes significantly tougher as it descends all the way to the valley floor, requiring a hike back up to La Grave village.
On the other hand, the Vallons de Chancel route stretches into the steep and rugged terrain on the skier's left of the gondola. The initial part of the route traverses challenging terrain near the glacier's tongue before reaching the Refuge Evariste Chancel, perched atop a cliff with its terrace offering stunning views. The middle section of the descent offers an exhilarating workout over untamed and rugged terrain, including a tricky traverse through the forest to reach the gondola mid-station and/or connect with the lower portion of the Vallons de la Meije route leading to the valley floor.
Backcountry exploration in La Grave:
Glacier de la Girose: This area offers a secured and pisted route on the summit sector. It's a great option for those seeking a taste of off-piste adventure while enjoying some level of safety and groomed conditions.
Ski Touring in La Grave:
Col du Lautaret to La Grave: This popular ski touring route starts from the Col du Lautaret and takes you on a scenic journey to La Grave. It provides stunning views of the surrounding mountains and an opportunity to experience the untouched backcountry.
Remember, when venturing into off-piste and backcountry areas, it's crucial to prioritize safety and be properly equipped. It is highly recommended to have advanced skiing skills, avalanche safety knowledge, and ideally be accompanied by an experienced mountain guide who is familiar with the local conditions and terrain. Always check weather and avalanche forecasts, carry appropriate safety equipment (transceiver, shovel, probe), and be aware of the current snow conditions.
La Grave – Restaurants, Bars & The Town:
The charming village of La Grave stretches along a short segment of the main road that intersects it, offering a selection of modest hotels, bar/restaurants, a small supermarket, regional produce shops, a bakery, and even a launderette.
After a day filled with thrilling adventures, recounting tales of triumphs and challenges while enjoying a couple of refreshing beers is the preferred apres-ski activity in La Grave. The terrace of the bar at the Hotel Castillan, located near the gondola base terminal and facing the majestic La Meije, serves as the prime gathering spot. As the evening progresses, this convivial atmosphere continues over dinner, accompanied by more leisurely drinks in one of the relaxed local bars.
For those seeking a livelier scene, the K2 Bar (Skiers Lodge) and Le Bois des Fees cater to a more hedonistic crowd, with dancing and occasional live music. However, it's worth noting that most visitors and seasonnaires choose to retire early to ensure they are well-rested for the next exhilarating day on the slopes.
La Grave – Ski Hire:
In La Grave, there are several ski hire companies where you can rent ski equipment. Here are a few ski hire options in La Grave, France:
SkiSet La Grave: SkiSet is a popular ski hire chain with a branch in La Grave. They offer a range of ski and snowboard equipment for rental, including boots, poles, and helmets.
Sport Emotion is another ski hire shop in La Grave. They provide a variety of ski equipment rentals and have knowledgeable staff to assist you in selecting the right gear.
These are just a few examples of ski hire companies in La Grave, and there are a few more local ski hire shops in La Grave that offer ski and snowboard rentals with a good selection of high-quality equipment available for all levels of skiers.
Here are some of the top ski rental companies in La Grave and their website URLs:
La Grave – Ski Schools:
There are ski schools in La Grave, France, that offer lessons and instruction for skiers and snowboarders of various skill levels. Here are a few ski schools in La Grave:
Ecole de Ski Français (ESF) and La Grave: The ESF is a well-known ski school with branches in many resorts across France, including La Grave. They provide group and private lessons for skiing, snowboarding, and other snow sports. ESF instructors are qualified professionals who can help improve your skills and guide you in exploring the mountain safely.
The ESI (École de Ski Internationale) is an international ski school that has a presence in La Grave. Their instructors are trained to cater to skiers of various nationalities and offer a diverse range of programs.
La Grave Ski Guides is a mountain guide company that offers personalized ski instruction and guiding services in La Grave. They specialize in off-piste skiing, ski touring, and mountaineering, providing tailored experiences for individuals or small groups.
The Mountain Guide Office (Bureau des Guides) in La Grave offers a range of guided experiences, including ski instruction and backcountry exploration. They have experienced guides who can assist you in navigating the challenging terrain and provide valuable insights into the mountain environment.
Here are some of the top ski schools in La Grave and their website URLs: