Insider's Guide: The Sarenne Run, Alpe d’huez

Alpe d’huez is the proud home to amazing nightlife, awesome après (including the infamous La Folie Douce) 251km of piste and the Tour de France; it’s rightly earned nickname of ‘The Island Of Sun’ thanks to its 300 days of sunshine a year. The other claim-to-fame is the incredible Sarenne run. At 18km, it is the longest black run in the Alps.

Some argue that the Sarenne isn’t a true black. And, while the average gradient is truer of a blue-red run, once you begin your descent there’s no turning back. You are in it for the long haul. There are two ways of doing the Sarenne. The proper way, is by taking DMC 1 & DMC 2, followed by the Pic Blanc cable car. This whisks you up to an incredible 3330m, where you can’t possibly leave until you’ve paused to admire the incredible panoramic views.

Access to the Sarenne is as per The Tunnel Run and easily found by passing the tunnel entrance and continuing as far as you can go. Now, this first stretch of run is the steepest, and can be a bit tricky in difficult conditions. Once you’ve got this section out of the way, you’ll join the rest of the merry band of skiers who opted for the cheats’ path to the Sarenne. Take a moment to once again admire the stunning views, before (proudly) continuing your decent.

As mentioned, there is another way to ski the Sarenne. You can take Marmottes 1, 2 & 3, which pops you out after the steepest black section! There’s even a blue run you can loop to warm up your ski legs before continuing.

You’ve skied the glacier, and have worked your way down the Gorges de Sarenne. The run ends on an easy green-like section, so you can relax and admire the pretty gorge you ski through (and give your legs a chance to recover!) At this point, you’ve have descended 2,200 metres, over a distance of 17 kilometres. So really, regardless of the gradient – that’s a whopper!

Last summer the mountain invested in 72 new snow cannons to line the Sarenne, to ensure the snow stays in tip-top condition all winter. You can also ski the Sarenne by night by taking the last chairlift up. Once you reach the top, you enjoy a vin chaud whilst watching the sun set. Begin your decent in a group, all donning fashionable head torches. You’re accompanied by an instructor and pisteurs who ensure you get home safely. Nearer the end of the run, you can stop for a mountain meal at a traditional Savoyard restaurant, before continuing. It really is a great experience.

If, however, you need more of a challenge in your life, Alpe d’Huez is also home to the formidable ‘Tunnel’ run… Which, unsurprisingly, starts with you going through a dark gloomy tunnel through the glacier, before popping you out on to a delightful icy mogul field, where you can be greeted by people sliding for over 100m… or just frozen to the spot waiting to accept their fate! If you’re bored on a Monday morning, and want to try before you buy, have a watch of this brave man’s journey…

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