La Grave Ski Resort

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Nothing like La grave to conjure up thoughts of adventure in the mountains
Nothing like La grave to conjure up thoughts of adventure in the mountains
La Grave village retains its authentic, relaxed feel.
La Grave village retains its authentic, relaxed feel.
La Grave
La Grave's fearsome ski terrain reputation is well deserved, but it has much more to offer
Possibly the most important place for freeriders new to La Grave - the Patrollers Hut!
Possibly the most important place for freeriders new to La Grave - the Patrollers Hut!
La Grave France
La Grave France
La Grave ski resort
La Grave ski resort's 2-stage pulse gondola climbs 1700m vertical from the valley.
La Grave terrain includes easy off-piste routes like the Vallons de Chancel
La Grave terrain includes easy off-piste routes like the Vallons de Chancel
Technical descents requiring rappel entries to couloirs are a feature of La Grave
Technical descents requiring rappel entries to couloirs are a feature of La Grave
The P1 mid-load (at 1800m) on the first stage of the gondola is heavily utilised at La Grave
The P1 mid-load (at 1800m) on the first stage of the gondola is heavily utilised at La Grave
The Evariste Chancel Refuge sits discreetly on a rocky outcrop & is the place for lunch at La Grave
The Evariste Chancel Refuge sits discreetly on a rocky outcrop & is the place for lunch at La Grave
Les Vallons de la Meije terrain at La Grave
Les Vallons de la Meije terrain at La Grave 'ski resort'
Crumbling seracs from the many glaciers are one of several natural hazards when skiing La Grave
Crumbling seracs from the many glaciers are one of several natural hazards when skiing La Grave
No fall zones in the many La Grave couloirs are another!
No fall zones in the many La Grave couloirs are another!
Ice cave at La Grave ski resort France
Ice cave at La Grave ski resort France
All valley descents at La Grave end with a walk or car shuttle back to the village & gondola station
All valley descents at La Grave end with a walk or car shuttle back to the village & gondola station
La Grave village viewed from the ski lift car park.
La Grave village viewed from the ski lift car park.
La Grave village is full of narrow lanes, hiding plenty of stone chalets & gites for lodgings
La Grave village is full of narrow lanes, hiding plenty of stone chalets & gites for lodgings
The village of Villar d
The village of Villar d'Arene has nearby alternative accommodations to La Grave
La Grave is deep in a precipitous vallley
La Grave is deep in a precipitous vallley
Ski La Grave France
Ski La Grave France

La Grave Ski Resort

Readers Ratings

La Grave

La Grave3.5/52
La Grave3.5 out of 5 based on 2 reviews
  • Recommend
    100%
  • Would Revisit
    100%
Dolomites accommodation & lifts packages

Nearby Ski Resorts

Alpe d'Huez
Les 2 Alpes
Serre Chevalier

    La Grave Ski Trail Map
  • La Grave Ski Trail Map
  • Vertical (m)
    1,450m – 3,600m (2,150m)
  • Average Snow Fall
    Unknown (but lots up high, not so much down low!)
  • Lifts (3)
    2 Gondolas
  • Opening Dates & Times
    Late December to end April
    9:00am to 4:30pm
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs - 1(!)
    Longest descent (off-piste) - 7km+
    Advanced - unlimited but all off-piste!
    Intermediate - N/A!
    Beginner - 100%(!!)(1 x piste trail)
    Note - this is not a normal ski resort
  • Lift Pass Price
    Day Ticket 20/21
    Adult - €52
    Child - €39

La Grave Ski Resort France

La Grave ski resort in France has off-piste freeride terrain with a fearsome reputation where beginners & intermediates need not apply! In the ski resort's own words ..... 'you are not in a typical ski resort'. Far from it in fact.

La Grave is a ski resort in name only. A distinctly non-resort style traditional village & only one groomed trail high up on a glacier, the vast majority of La Grave's 2,100m skiable vertical is challenging off-piste freeride terrain with no boundaries & at your own risk.

Powder hounds with skill & experience will enjoy all that La Grave has to offer & should have it on their list of “Places to Ski Before I Lose my Nerve” list. For those that have doubts about their skills or experience but still want to experience this amazing place, get a local guide for a private tour of the mountain.

Pros & Cons for La Grave Ski Resort

Pros

  • Amazing freeride terrain for experienced skiers & snowboarders.
  • Off-piste freeride descents of over 2,300m vertical.
  • Couloir descents of over 900m vertical.
  • Cold, north-aspect ski terrain.
  • Stupendous views of the Alps.
  • Absolute sense of freedom (& the responsibility that comes with that!) in a ski area like no other on the planet.
  • Long ski season generally from early December to early May.
  • A couple of classic ski bars in the village for the inevitable après debriefs.
  • In a sea of over-developed local ski resorts (i.e. Les 2 Alpes), La Grave is still a serene, authentic French mountain village.
  • Sense of camaraderie between everyone on the hill.

Cons

  • Expensive lift pass relative to the ski lifts, prepared slopes & services provided.
  • Lift lines are ‘par for the course’ on the best powder days – patience is required.
  • Slow, cramped sometimes frustrating pulse gondola lifts.
  • Main ski routes can be quickly tracked out & (heaven-forfend) even bumped up.
  • Second stage of gondola & glacier surface lift are regularly closed due to poor weather.
  • Guided groups for the public can have a mix of ski abilities, with the worst groups comprised of experienced freeriders & those that have over-estimated (or inflated) their ski ability.
  • Limited public transport services to the area ( 2 or 3 buses per day).

Pro or Con (depending on your perspective!)

  • Effectively no groomed terrain – this is an off-piste mountain.
  • Teleski lift on the glacier only runs later in the season.
  • Terrain is only suitable for advanced or better snow riders equipped with avalanche safety gear & the knowledge to use it.
  • Even a single descent can be long & arduous – a particularly good level of ski fitness is required as there is no way back once into much of the more interesting terrain.
  • To find & access the best untracked terrain during a short holiday visit, a mountain guide is required.
  • Can be super cold up top (but it is winter on a 3,600m ish high glacier isn’t it!).
  • Many couloirs are accessed via an abseil (with requisite skills, equipment & confidence to do it or get a guide!).
  • Minimal high-end accommodation in La Grave.
  • Limited on-mountain restaurants.
  • Close to the major ski resorts including Alpe d'Huez, Les 2 Alpes &, via the Lautaret Pass, Serre Chevalier & Montgenevre.
  • Valley descents require vehicle pick-up or a short (but for some, strenuous) 50m vertical walk back up to the gondola base station. If this is an issue for you, it is time to ask whether skiing La Grave is something you should really be doing!

Skiing & Snowboarding Terrain

If seeking adventure on a big bold mountain, La Grave is for you. Legendary for often the wrong reasons, the terrain at La Grave is heady mix of gloriously long descents of up to 2,300m vertical in open bowls, wide glaciers, super perfect trees, luscious ridges & couloirs. Mixed in with it are crumbling seracs, crevasses, cliffs, no fall zones & all manner of natural obstacles ever seen in the mountains.

See the La Grave ski map here.

The ‘usual’ ski routes at La Grave (those marked on the ‘trail map’) can become quite tracked & bumped, particularly the Vallons de la Meije. The Vallons de Chancel is the easier of the two main descents. Whilst it is not quite what one expects in a freeride paradise, La Grave is often more rightfully referred to as an ‘experience’ as opposed to a powder-laden festival of untracked face-shots. And ‘experience’ often means that to get to the goods (i.e. an untracked couloir), a rappel/abseil is required at the entry point or further down the descent. As with many places in the Alps – Chamonix, Andermatt, Engelberg etc, La Grave is NOT a place to blindly follow ski tracks or guided groups.

There are those that say any strong intermediate can ski or board at La Grave with a guide. That may be true, but it is certainly not recommended. Anyone that cannot ski confidently off-piste in variable snow conditions should not attempt La Grave. The one groomed slope on the Girose glacier is an aberration that is usually only open from March (same for the surface tow that serves it!). Beyond the bounds of the tow, glacier hazards exist, but descents from the Girose are the stuff of legend. Beyond the toe of the glacier, the terrain gets serious. If not up to the technical descents to the valley, it is possible to get back into the ‘ski area’ from low down on the glacier via a skin to the Col du Lac. Descent is then via the normal Chancel route. A stop in the Evariste Chancel Refuge is essential.

The ski lifts at La Grave are approaching the realm of the ancient relic. Born in the late 1970s, the ‘pulse’ gondola which serves the lion’s share of the terrain is in two stages. The first runs from the village (1500m elevation) up to 2400m. There is a mid-load ramp called P1 at 1800m elevation which allows both ascent & descent. The second stage ascends to Les Ruillans at 3200m. From here the fun begins, or further ascent can be achieved onto the Girose glacier. A snowcat transports a dozen skiers at a time across to the Girose when the tow operates from early March, or you can skin there when it is not! The resort tops out at around 3600m. The journey time from bottom to top can be in the realm of 30min on the gondolas. Lift queues on a good weather/snow day can be hectic to say the least.

If contemplating heading across from Les 2 Alpes via the Dome de la Lauze, give due consideration to what you are undertaking. Once in La Grave, you will realize you are ’not in Kansas anymore Toto’. And as with everything at La Grave (& we say it often), if in doubt, get a qualified mountain guide.

Where is La Grave France?

The village of La Grave is in a remote part of the Hautes Alpes region of south-east France. By road, La Grave is 80km (1½hr) east of Grenoble & around 40km (50min) west of Briançon via the 2,058m Col du Lautaret. Gateway airports are Lyon (LYS), Geneva (GVA), Turin (TRN) & Marseilles (MRS).  A rental car from the airport is the easiest mode of travel to La Grave. Ensure it is fully winterised.

Due to the limited nature of public transport to La Grave, if one doesn't get a rental car, we recommend looking at a private transfer either direct from the airport or from the train station at Grenoble, Oulx (Italy) or Briancon (particularly if in a group of 3 or more people).

Search & book private transfers to La Grave here.

A combination of train & bus can be used to La Grave, but it can be onerous. TGV fast trains to either Grenoble or Oulx in Italy are the first step. Buses do the run via La Grave on the Express Regional Line 35 Grenoble-Briançon twice a day Monday to Thursday & three times a day from Friday to Sunday through the winter season. Buses start & finish in both directions at the respective Grenoble & Briancon train stations (gare). Buses are regular from Oulx to Briançon. Search & book train & bus tickets here.

For detailed information about getting around the French Alps, see our Travel in France page.

La Grave Accommodation

In a spectacular location amongst the Alps southern glaciers & below the imposing 3,983m La Meije, the small village of La Grave is all traditional stone & simple, intimate accommodations with just a few hotels along the main road. There is not a 5-star luxury hotel or Club Med resort to be seen. Perhaps it’s the lack of mid-winter sun, super-groomed piste & high-speed express hooded 8-seater chairs that is keeping them away!!

Search & book all La Grave ski accommodation here.

In La Grave itself, the obvious choice for most visitors is the Hotel Castillan. Its interior may be tired, but it is well-priced & 'authentic', plus is just across the road from the ski lifts. Other great places to stay include the Skiers Lodge (just up the road). Numerous other hotels, including Hotel Panoramic-Village (arguably the best in town), gîtes, chalets & apartments are all just a short stroll from the ski lift base. Up on the mountain at 2508m elevation, the Chancel Refuge has simple overnight lodgings & food for the ultimate alpine stay in the area. Should La Grave be booked out (happens!), then try some of the nearby villages & hamlets, but only if you have your own transport. The nearby village of Villar-d'Arêne (3km away toward the Lautaret Pass) often has availability. Several traditional hamlets on the sunny ridge above La Grave (Ventelon, Les Hières, Les Terrasses or Le Chazelet) can also have simple rooms or chalets available. Down valley, the hamlet of Les Fréaux may have something too.

For anyone with a car, day trips can be done to La Grave from any of the nearby resort villages at Les Deux Alpes, Alpe d’Huez & Serre Chevalier (assuming the Col du Lautaret is open!), vastly expanding the lodging possibilities.

For detailed info on the best places to stay locally, see our La Grave Accommodation Info page.

Nearby Resorts

La Grave can be linked by ski via Dome de la Lauze with the nearby 'real' ski resort of Les 2 Alpes (subject to weather & snow weather conditions). Don't leave your return trip too late!

Across the valley from La Meije, the Les Chazelet village has a small ski area on its sunny mountain ridge with around 430m of skiable vertical. It is 7km (15min) by car from La Grave.

By road, La Grave is only 25km west of the Serre Chevalier ski resort’s best village & ski terrain access at Le Monêtier-les-Bains.

Review

The Powderhounds visited La Grave in season 2020, and whilst the place is clearly amazing, unfortunately snow conditions were not (such is life!). One of our close friends did enjoy a few days exploring couloirs there in March with a guide, so we were able to live vicariously through her. Yay! We will head back in 2021 to explore it properly on a powder day or two .... or three. In the meantime, check the Austrian equivalent of La Grave at Krippenstein!

See how La Grave compares to the rest of the European ski resorts on the Europe ski resort ratings page.

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Tours in or near La Grave

Safari (Road Trip) Tours

La Grave-Sestriere Powder Skiing Safari France-Italy
GUIDED OFF-PISTE ADVENTURE
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Ski Days | 3+ Resorts
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Skiing between the French & Italian alps over the southern alpine glaciers, this exceptional tour begins in La Grave, France, passes through Serre Chevalier & ends in Sestriere, Italy. Great off-piste combination of high alpine & tree skiing, plus beautiful villages & accommodation.
Price p/p From price based on twin/double-share room occupancy, min group of 7 on an 8 day trip.
Base/invoice currency is in EURO inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 2,368
View Details
 
Powder Hunt - Elite Freeride Skiing Long Weekend
GUIDED OFF-PISTE FREERIDE POWDER HUNT
3 Days | 2 Nights | 3 Ski Days
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Join in the hunt for the best off-piste freeride powder skiing in the moment over three action packed days on a long weekend. Location options include La Grave, Sestriere, Zermatt, Chamonix, Monterosa, Verbier, 3 Vallees & others. Join a fixed date tour or create a custom tour to suit your best dates & group size.....
Price p/p From price based on 2 nights twin-share lodging in a minimum group of five people.
Base/invoice currency is in EURO inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 887
View Details
 
See all Safari (Road Trip) tours that visit La Grave here

Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area Tours

Freeride the Best of La Grave, Piedmont & Ecrins
GUIDED OFF-PISTE FREERIDE POWDER SKI TOUR
6 Days | 5 Nights | 6 Ski Days
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Explore the best freeride powder skiing terrain at amazing southern Alps ski areas including La Grave, Sestriere, Serre Chevalier, Montgenevre, Puys St Vincent & Queyras with a local guide. Join a fixed date tour as a single or group, or create a custom tour to suit your best dates & group size.....
Price p/p From price based on 5 nights twin-share lodgings in low season, minimum group of 5 people.
Base/invoice currency is in EURO inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 1,482
View Details
 
See all Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area tours that visit La Grave here
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