In our latest ski travel article Isabelle Ferier visits a mountain resort that offers so much pleasure to so many travellers.
The Orcières resort is located at the gates of the Ecrins National Park at an altitude of 1,850 metres, and its ski area is suitable for all levels of skiing and rises to 2,725 metres.
A particularly friendly ski travel resort, it can also boast of being one of the sunniest resorts in the French Hautes-Alps. Particularly sensitive to caring for the environment, this ‘eco-responsible’ resort does everything to reduce energy costs, offers sustainable mobility and has set up a series of initiatives to reconcile tourist activity and ecology.
This charming resort has many shops, restaurants, bars and offers accommodation for an extremely varied clientele. If skiing and snowboarding are the main attraction, a number of unusual and new activities also bring fun, rejuvenation, laughter and adrenaline to winter vacations.
I tried it with great enthusiasm – an unforgettable flight on one of the longest zip lines in Europe. Like a bird, I flew on my snowboard, lying down on my craft between the top of Drouvet (2,650m) and Lac Long (2,500m). With a speed of up to 140 km, this unique and breathtaking experience in the heart of the mountains provided an extraordinary thrill. During my night snowmobile ride to the Rocherousse plateau, at an altitude of 2,300m, I discovered new sensations… seed, powder and mysterious landscapes.
The Rocherousse plateau stands out as a true high-altitude amusement park – head to the Winterparc for new gliding pleasures. A special buoy lift provides access to the slopes to prevent fatigue. We hurtled down specially designed tracks. This activity, which may be practised alone or in a team, offers a unique experience. Personally, I tried it out with other journalists, with much laughter at the rendezvous.
Note for families: Baby slopes have been designed for the little ones, from four and above.
After a short briefing, we went for a ride at the head of a team; during this magnificent escapade I slipped into the skin of a musher, with a minimum of technique and balance, what happiness it was to bond with my companions, three adorable sled dogs full of energy and vitality.
One of the most intense memories of this discovery trip to Orcières was our outing on ski touring and, for me, on the splitboard, which is a snowboard that is split in two and becomes a real pair of touring skis, equipped with specially designed bindings and skins.
Fitted with a DVA (avalanche detector), a probe and a shovel, we were supervised by ESF professionals. A ski touring trip from the top of the resort (at an altitude of 1,725 metres), we climbed the Col De Freissinière (via national des Ecrins) to the top of Rochebrune.
This ascent offers an exceptional panoramic view. Reserved for sports enthusiasts and experienced skiers, the climb ‘stings the thighs’ and some fairly steep sections get the adrenaline pumping. After this progress, which was certainly sporty, the long off-piste descent is breathtaking. What a joy to ride on immaculate snow bathed in a feeling of freedom in the heart of a splendid and imposing mountain.
Orcières Merlette is also good for other day and night activities, such as the Pop Song Live music festival, which takes place in a festive atmosphere on the snow front.
There is also an aquatic area, skating rink, bowling, local products and many other pleasures to discover.