When we were planning our first ever motorhome ski tip, James could neither ski nor snowboard and so we were looking for a beginner’s paradise on every level. We hadn’t stayed one night in a motorhome let alone taken it over the channel and up a mountain. For this reason we wanted somewhere easy to get to, with failsafe parking options, that offered confidence inspiring skiing for a beginner. That’s how we came to choose Alpe d’Huez as our first motorhome skiing destination. By luck, not judgement, we picked the perfect place.
Alpe d’Huez is one of the best places you can take your motorhome or campervan skiing. Located on the edge of the Écrins National Park in the Southern Alps, the main resort is 9 to 14 hours drive from Calais depending on whether or not you take the toll roads. It has several excellent options for overnight parking, is easy to get to, and has an excellent snow record with fantastic skiing for mixed ability groups.
We refer here to Alpe d’Huez but the ski area we’re covering in this article extends to 250km of piste covered by one ski pass and includes a number of surrounding linked ski villages. This ski area is known as the Grand Domaine. We spent several weeks touring the Grand Domaine in a motorhome, taking in everything it had to offer – skiing in the sun-bathed bowl that overlooks Alpe d’Huez itself; night swimming in the steaming outdoor pool; going to an ice hockey match; walking in the woods; and taking on the world’s longest black run, the infamous Sarenne.
Here we’ll walk you through your motorhome and campervan parking options for staying in this ski area and share some of our hard learned hints and tips for motorhome skiing in Alpe d’Huez.
Note: Unfortunately, the Grand Domaine isn’t set up well for caravaners at the moment but if you’re looking for caravan friendly resorts, check out our Top 10 Campsites for Caravan Skiing in Europe.
Reasons We Recommend Alpe d’Huez for Beginner Motorhome Skiers:
- The skiing is really varied, offering everything from lovely narrow tree-lined trails to vast uninterrupted pistes. There’s something for everyone with the sunny aspect meaning you get long days and can be reasonably confident of good weather.
- The season runs from early December to late April so if you’re not confident of the winter capabilities of your van, you can choose warmer times to test your systems.
- There are loads of places to park. Despite the closure of the enormous Aire in Alpe d’Huez resort itself, there are still plenty of places to park if you want to ski in the Grand Domaine.
- Alpe d’Huez is a large purpose-built resort with all the convenience that comes with that, but it’s also surrounded by quaint alpine villages that offer the chocolate box experience.
- There are so many activities in and around the resort, it’s incredibly well organised and an excellent choice if you have non-skiers in your van.
- It’s Alp d’Huez. One of the most famous roads in Europe – 21 bends. Once you’ve tackled these in your motorhome, you’ll realise that maybe you aren’t cut out for the Tour de France after all.
Driving to Alpe d’Huez in Winter
Driving down through France is a breeze. If you opt to take the toll route you will save half a day driving but it will hit you in the wallet for upwards of £100 each way (vehicle dependent). Alternatively you can drive the additional 100km and save some beer tokens for your Après piggy bank – either way it’s a very straight forward journey.
Le Bourg d’Oisans is the frontier town to the Grand Domaine and there have been upgrades to the carriageways into the town that make it even more accessible and reduce any congestion you might encounter if you are unfortunate enough to hit change-over day.
If you need to top up on LPG, the Total Garage at Vizille is en route where you’ll also find a great Lidl as well as the usual assortment of shops and services.
Once in the Oisans Valley, we recommend stopping to service and top up on any extra food you need at the Casino supermarket in Bourg. Whilst it is marginally more expensive than some of the huge supermarkets you will pass on the way down, we advocate contributing to the local economy and this is one way you can do that. There is a Flot Bleu service point and if you want to stay overnight before embarking on the 30 – 45 minute dizzying ascent up to the resort, there’s a free Aire with a toilet a few minutes drive from the supermarket. You can find information about this Aire here.
6 Epic Places to Park Your Motorhome for Skiing in Alpe d’Huez
There are numerous places to park a campervan or motorhome in and around the Oisans Valley which serves as the gateway to the Grand Domaine Ski Area however here we are going to focus on the 6 best places to park if you’re on a ski holiday.
Motorhome Parking Alpe d’Huez Ski Resort
The massive motorhome Aire in Alpe d’Huez has closed and has been replaced with a small number of dedicated campervan parking places in the Altiport car park. This parking is free of charge for motorhomes and provides access to water and drainage as well as toilet facilities. There is no electric hook-up so all vans will need to be self-sufficient. Those looking for longer stays can contact us by email for more information about your options.
Visit Snomadsites – Alpe d’Huez Motorhome Ski Parking for detailed information including how to get there and our hints and tips for staying in Alpe d’Huez.
Motorhome Parking in Vaujany
Vaujany is a ski station situated in the mountains beyond the valley town of Allemond. To get to it you need to turn off the main highway before reaching Bourg-en-Oisans if you are coming from the direction of Grenoble.
In the the Village of Vaujany there is a brilliant Aire that has spaces for 10 campervans and costs €15 per night (€70/ week) with access to water, drainage and electric hook up for each space. There are free toilets in the Sports Centre next to the Aire.
A short walk from the Aire, you’ll find an elevator to the ski lift platform where you can take a telecabine up to the Grand Domaine and from there, over to Alpe d’Huez or to the two small ski areas of Montfrais or Alpete.
You can ski back into the Vaujany area (last run is black) but you need to plan ahead here because you have one last lift to the village itself. If you are over by Montfrais or Alpine you can of course get the bubble back to the village. However, no stay in Vaujany would be complete without a huge row about timings and a long taxi ride from Allemond!
We stayed for 12 days in Vaujany and everything you need to know about the Aire is found here SnomateSites – Vaujany Ski Aire.
Auris-en-Oisans Motorhome Aire
On the other side of the mountain from Alpe d-Huez is Auris-en-Oisans – a really lovely little ski station with a great Aire that has 24 bookable spaces. For Less than €10 per night, you have access to parking, electric (extra charge), water and waste. For more information about this parking spot and some tips that will prevent you from undertaking the scariest drive of your life, check out Auris on Snomadsites.com.
Allemond Municipal Campsite
The addition of a new telecabine from Allemond in the valley to Oz-en-Oisans Ski Station is fabulous news for motorhome skiers and this area as a whole. You can now stay at the Municipal Campsite in Allemond and directly access the Grand Domaine for skiing.
Here are some of the benefits to choosing Allemond to stay with your motorhome or campervan:
- The sheltered valley position means that your van won’t be under the strains of altitude and exposure so if you’re not sure just how well it will cope (or you know colder conditions will be a challenge)
- No hairy switch-backs to negotiate if you have a white-knuckle passenger on board
- Services – with the new telecabine comes better services in the town. Allemond isn’t like the quaint alpine villages up in the hills but it has restaurants, shops and services that will make for a lovely stay and if you’re looking for a quiet spot out of the more vibrant resort, this is a great option.
Parking will be limited to 8 pitches this season and you can find out more information here.
Motorhome Parking in Oz-en-Oisans
Motorhome parking is available at the car park known as Les Cheneviers in Oz-en-Oisans – a ski village that links directly with both Alpete (taking you back to Vaujany) and main Alpe d’Huez ski area. This Aire has fantastic views but no services so an off-grid set up is required. The telecabine is just a 10 minute walk from the parking area.
Oz is also the place you end up when you didn’t plan your return trip to Vaujany! In previous times you would have to get a bus down to Allemond and then a taxi to Vaujany but the new telecabine from the ski station to Allemond at the base cuts out the bus journey!
Motorhome Parking in Villard Reculas
Whilst there’s no dedicated Aire in Villard Reculas, motorhomes are welcomed in the car parks and there are two areas that have public toilets in the vicinity which make this a great spot to park if you are in a campervan without a WC. This little village sits below Huez and is accessed from Huez.
8 Tips for Motorhome Skiing in the Grand Domaine
Avoid French School Holidays – this is an extremely popular resort with a lot of capacity for groups so avoiding school holidays is advised. (find all the up to date French School Holiday dates here)
Avoid change-over day – Saturday is change-over day for tour operators and whilst none of the roads in this area are what we would describe a very hairy, they are unpleasant when congested.
Ski Sarenne – the world’s longest black run. Don’t be frightened to tackle it on a nice day – James skied Sarenne after 4 days on his board and whilst he has an irritating knack of being able to pick up almost any sport with 60 minutes of concentrated practice, it really isn’t a ‘proper black’ if you pick your day. Choose a nice sunny lunchtime after the ice has loosened off preferable on a Saturday or out of high season when you won’t have to contend with crowds.
Once you’re over the steep bit at the top, it’s a lot of comfortable cruisy runs with plenty of space. It’s 16km and has some of the most magical views of the national park and beyond.
Après Ski at La Folie Douce – it’s not to everyone’s taste but it is a bit of a ‘must do’ at some point during a ski holiday in Alpe d’Huez. It starts at 2.30pm daily – to find it, follow your ears.
Ski Saturday for a fraction of the price – Saturday ski passes are about €20 less than the equivalent any other day so plan to stay put, avoid the traffic and get a bonus day in.
Waffles and Picnics at La Mere Michel – can’t be bothered to make your own picnic? No problem – pick up a take away snack at La Mere Michel or sit on the terrace and have waffles!
Watch an ice hockey match in Vaujany – Ice hockey is huge in this part of France and Vaujany has a state of the art facility and a great atmosphere on match nights
Helicopter to Les 2 Alpes – for €70 return per person you can catch a helicopter to Les 2 Alpes for the day. If you have a 6 day pass to the Grand Domaine, your pass is valid in Les 2 Alpes.
There are so many things to do in the Grand Domaine that you could stay all season and be a busy bee! With so many choices of places to stay, Alpe d’Huez really is a fantastic place to motorhome ski. It’s a very motorhome and campervan friendly area and with the combination of serviced aires and off-grid options, anyone looking for an extended stay without racking up the mountain miles will love the Grand Domaine.
If you like the idea of touring in one ski area also check out our article – The Ultimate Guide to Skiing in the Portes du Soleil.