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History of Les 2 Alpes

Discover the Les 2 Alpes of yesterday

Updated

The ‘Two Alps’ of the name refer not to the mountains, as you may presume, but to the neighbouring villages of Venosc and Mont de Lans that sit at the southern and northern tips respectively of the elongated resort of Les Deux Alpes.

Originally quiet pastoral communities the surrounding land was little more than a boggy plateau, worked by sheep and goat farmers and frequented by the occasional crystal digger or Chamois hunter.

Early history

The original ‘ski resort’ of the area was not Les Deux Alpes as we know it but La Berarde, which was founded in 1925 when the first access road was completed. The first ‘ski lift’ was a simple tow rope that got off to a fairly inauspicious start when it apparently fell down a mere 15 minutes after the opening ceremony! Maybe people weren’t particularly inspired with confidence at this point as very little else happened until after the end of World War II.

In 1946 however, the first local ski school was formed with a grand total of 3 instructors; 45 keen pupils enrolled on the first day.

It then took around 10 years for the resort to establish itself; the opening of the Diable Gondola in 1956 and the launch one of the first ski passes a year later helped the development of Les Deux Alpes into a prototype ski resort.

Recent history

The 70’s and 80’s saw great developments. By 1970 business had boomed and Les Deux Alpes now boasted a total of 40 hotels and 46 ski lifts; by 1980 there were 150km of groomed and lift-served pistes. In 1984 the lifts extended to an altitude of 2568m, giving year round access to the glacier via the Jandri Express Gondola, which is still renowned for being the world’s fastest ski gondola. The Dôme Express broke new ground in 1989 when it became the highest funicular in France and one’s of the world’s few underground funiculars.

Les Deux Alpes has the unfortunate image of being a ‘purpose built’ ski resort, with all the connotations of ugly apartment blocks and masses of grey concrete that goes with it. However, it is not as 'aesthetically challenged' as you might expect. The last 10 years have seen a consistent program of renovations; a number of ‘tired’ hotels have been bought out by DAL (Deux Alpes Loisir ski lift company) and transformed into high class residences and many apartment blocks have been clad in attractive wood on the outside and remodelled on the inside to create more spacious modern living areas.

Les Deux Alpes is now the largest ski resort in the Dauphine region and is the second oldest ski resort in France, after Chamonix in the Haute-Savoie. Les Deux Alpes in the 21st century is renowned for being a snow sure, lift efficient resort with a great social life and plenty of scope for winter and summer sports.

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