30th March 2022 | Jane Peel, Les 7 Laux, France
We’re on a tour taking in three lesser-known ski resorts in the Isère region of France and the region’s capital city, Grenoble. Stop two: Les 7 Laux in the Belledonne Massif. Time to dig out the crampons, ropes and ice axes ready for a climbing and off-piste adventure. NEW
The first stop on our mini road trip was Villard de Lans, where we found some excellent late season skiing, a village with an interesting history and some of the best food in France, cooked by a chef from Brighton.
On to the next stage and something very different.
“I like Les 7 Laux. It has some good steep runs and lots of off-piste,” our ski instructor guide in Villard de Lans tells us as we prepare to move on.
“I doubt we’ll be doing any off-piste,” I say confidently.
There’s been no fresh snow for weeks and I’m guessing there’ll be nothing worth skiing.
Enter mountain guide, Hervé Troccaz, and the contents of his rucksack to prove me wrong.
Not only are we going off-piste but we are going to need ropes and harnesses, crampons for our boots and ice axes.
The aim is not to fall off the narrow, snowy and rocky ridge we’re going to have to negotiate to get to where we need to be to enjoy the run down.
As someone who’s not too comfortable with big drop-offs, especially when they’re on both sides, I am just a little perturbed.
The start of our route is at the top of the Gypaète chair lift. We will be heading up to the Cime de la Jasse summit to ski the classic off-piste area of Les Venetiers.
“We’re not seriously going up there?” I ask incredulously. “It’s practically vertical.”
It turns out this initial steep climb is the easy bit.
The route we are taking is the shortest but the most technical and challenging way up to the summit.
“There are great 360 degree views,” we are told, followed a split second later by: “if you dare look.”
It is true, though most of the time I am keeping my eyes straight ahead.
I’ve never used crampons before and my technique leaves a lot to be desired.
Climbing also puts extra strain on my dodgy knee so Hervé kindly relieves me of my skis, though I suspect it’s more to ensure I can go a bit faster.
We regularly stop for photos – and a welcome breather.
Looking at the photos now, I can finally appreciate the scenery.
After a very pedestrian trek, we reach the summit about 1 hour and 30 minutes after we set out.
Time for a little lie down.
The ski down is so worth the effort.
It’s the afternoon and under our feet is perfectly transformed soft, spring snow.
“It’s south facing and this time of year you would not want to come down before midday,” Hervé says.
If our first reward is the skiing, the second is a very welcome refuelling in the warm sunshine at the Refuge d’Aiguebelle.
Then it’s the final ski down along a narrow bumpy track through trees until we reach a lane where the snow runs out.
Earlier in the year it’s possible to ski all the way down the lane to Prapoutel at 1,350m, one of the three ski areas of Les 7 Laux.
We have to walk for a bit – but at least it’s downhill this time – to be collected by one of Hervé’s colleagues in a van.
Rarely have I been so glad to sit down.
But what an amazing experience.
It is true that, sometimes, you really need to force yourself out of your comfort zone.
The rewards are worth it.
And what, you may ask, about Les 7 Laux for the slightly less adventurous?
The domain is made up of three linked villages: Prapoutel, Pipay and Le Pleynet.
- 22 lifts
- 11 green runs
- 19 red runs
- 7 black runs
We spent all morning before our epic off-piste adventure blasting around the pistes across the whole ski area to get a feel of the place.
We found empty slopes, soft snow and beautiful scenery.
It was a fun but exhausting day.
Somehow we have to find the energy for the third and final part of our road trip.
Next up, skiing in Chamrousse, the closest resort to Grenoble, and sightseeing in the city itself.
Flights – Return direct flights from London Heathrow to Lyon Airport cost from £60 with British Airways
Car Hire – Five-day car hire from Lyon Airport starts from £152 with Sixt
Lift Passes – A one-day adult lift pass for Les 7 Laux is priced from €27.50/£23. A full price list for lift passes can be found here
Equipment Hire – £27/€32pp per day for ski, boot and helmet hire at Skimium
Mountain guiding – ESI (Ecole de Ski Internationale)