The Orcières ski area is attractive because it combines a rugged Alpine climate with Mediterranean influences on the weather. Snow-sure and favoured by the sun, it is the ideal destination for all pleasure skiers and nature lovers. Skiers and snowboarders of every level come here to enjoy themselves and, off the pistes, fun and excitement is also well-provided for.
1) General information about the Orcières ski area
- Varied pistes at altitudes between 1,850 m and 2,725 m
- 100 km of pistes and 30 lifts and cable cars
- Located at the heart of the Écrins National Park in the French Maritime Alps
Ski or soak up the sun? Both are possible in the Orcières ski area! The ski area at the heart of the Écrins National Park lies at snow-sure altitudes between 1,850 m and 2,750 m. 100 km of pistes ensure a great variety of options. 55 km of these are suitable for beginners and families and are designated blue or green. Advanced skiers and real skiing experts can let off steam on the 38 km of red or 7 km of black pistes. 30 lifts, including 3 cable cars, ensure rapid transport up the mountains.
Because of its altitude, the Orcières ski area is regarded as extremely reliable for snow. 92% of the ski area lies at more than 2,000 m. The snow depths reach between 20 cm and 70 cm at the valley station and 50 cm to 180 cm at the mountain station. In addition, snow can be artificially produced for the pistes. The season first starts very late – shortly before Christmas – and winter sports remain possible until late in April. As the ski area lies at the edge of the Alpine and Mediterranean climates in winter there is not only snowfall, but the sun also shines. In the winter months, a daily average of 6.5 hours of sunshine has been recorded and April is a particularly sunny month.
In both top rating criteria “Lifts & cable cars” and “Reliability for snow”, the Orcières ski area receives 3 out of 5 and 4 out of 5 stars respectively from our experts.
2) Orcières ski area map
3) Skiing in the Orcières ski area
A large part of the Orcières ski area lies in the specially-conserved heart of the Écrins National Park and provides the ideal conditions for nature-loving skiers of all levels with its unspoiled wild mountains. Beginners and families with small children are particularly well-catered for in the Orcières ski area. The sun-drenched southern slopes are pure skiing pleasure and the 55 km of blue and green pistes provide a gentle entry to skiing. Two ski schools with different emphases ensure the right support for ski novices. Both ski schools focus on the youngest skiers and provide child-focused support for the first attempts in the snow. In the “Jardin des neiges” (English: “snow garden”), the youngest can learn to ski with lots of fun. The ski area has been accredited “Family plus” because of its many family-friendly facilities.
For thrill seekers, the black pistes – some very steep – provide challenges for real experts: the peak of Le Drouvet mountain and the northern slopes of Serre-Eyraud are especially popular. The 38 km of red pistes also stretch skiers at a higher level.
At an altitude of 2,300 m, visitors will find this ski area’s 16,000 m2 snow park, where lots of fun is guaranteed. The snow park is suitable for both beginners and experts, with a large playground with jumps, boxes and rails, as well as a whoop-line and two quarter pipes. The big airbag makes for a soft landing for anyone working on their jumps, and the boardercross and slalom runs provide further challenges. Fun in the snow is front and centre on the “Opoualand” and “Waouland” pistes.
The Orcières ski area is also a real paradise for cross-country skiers. 43 km of prepared trails are perfect for classic cross-country runs or for skating. Most of the pistes can be classified as challenging and are marked for advanced cross-country skiers. Tour participants and freeriders can venture out into the alpine landscape with skies or snowshoes. A real adventure playground awaits visitors who want to experience the unspoiled ambience of the mountains, snow and sun and leave their ski tracks in undisturbed powder. Courses with experienced tour guides are available for beginners.
The Orcières ski area provides the best conditions for all types of skiing. Our experts therefore give 4 out 5 stars for the criteria “Families & children” and “Beginners”. The snow park also receives an above average 4 out of 5 stars. The facilities for “Experts & freeriders” especially pleased our experts and it receives the highest point score.
4) Expert rating
The Orcières ski area provides everything a skier’s heart desires. Our experts award the gentle pistes in the sunny south of the French Alps 3.9 out of five stars. When rating the ski area, the expert team assess the particular strengths of the ski area. The top rating criteria such as “Reliability for snow” and “Lifts & cable cars” are each doubly weighted. To fine-tune the rating, the ski area was carefully examined in the special interest categories. Families, beginners, experts and snowboarders all have plenty to enjoy in this ski area. As the infrastructure for a successful skiing holiday equally plays a part, the experts also investigate activities away from the pistes, après ski options and food and drink.
5) Activities besides skiing
Winter visitors can ski in Orcières, but they do not have to. The winter sports resort also provides thrills and the chance to enjoy nature away from the pistes. Top amongst the thrills is the zip-line “Tyrolienne” (also known as the “Flying Fox”), which is one of the longest in the Alps and provides almost 2 km of cable with a top speed of 140 km per hour for the ultimate adrenaline kick. In the ski area, there are also some of the most spectacular ice formations for climbing. Paragliding is also on offer in winter and opens up completely new perspectives on the winter world. New rapid winter sports facilities such as snow scooting and Winter X biking are crying out to be tried out by winter sports fans happy to experiment.
Not as fast, but no less interesting, is an overnight stop in the igloo village, a snowshoe walk or a Nordic walking tour in the snow. The slopes in the ski area can be tackled by sledges, rapid snow snaking or with snow tyres. Entertainment is provided by skijoring with horses and dog sledding. Dog sledding can be learned from scratch – and there are even special courses for the youngest musher. The day can be ended in the leisure pool, the Turkish bath, the sauna, in the bowling alley or on the ice rink – or even in the cinema. There are numerous events held during the winter season to entertain visitors, and for the youngest special child-orientated leisure time activities are organised.
There is plenty of social life and lots of pleasures for the palate in the Orcières ski area. Restaurants at the stations and in the ski resorts provide sustenance for hungry and thirsty skiers and also offer spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Whether what is needed is a small snack or an expansive meal of regional specialities, nobody will go home hungry. Raclettes and fondues are very popular. Revelling from dusk to dawn takes place in the “Yeti Club”. Numerous bars and pubs are the perfect spots to stop off for a nightcap.
Après ski options are impressive and receive 3 out of 5 stars from our expert team.
6) Locations in the Orcières ski area
The Orcières-Merlette 1850 ski area lies in the municipal area of Orcières in the Champsaur valley. The village of Orcières is the main location in the municipality, which consists of 22 villages and stretches between altitudes of 1,170 m and 3,117 m. The municipality owes its name to the bears which once existed in the area and used to be very numerous. Even today the bear is present in the townscape. It is to be found in sculptures and on fountains. The furry creature also appears in the village’s coat of arms. Orcières village has an attractive church at its centre, the Église Saint-Laurent which dates from the 14th century. The actual ski resort of Orcières-Merlette 1850 lies at an altitude of 1,850 m and opened in 1962. The mountain village of Serre Eyraud with its family ski area is also part of the municipal area. The resort is shaped by its position in the heart of the Écrins National Park with its rich natural heritage and which was officially opened in 1973. Creatures such as the chamois, ibex, eagle and marmot have found their homes here.
7) Arrival in the Orcières ski area
The journey by road by car is via the A51 motorway from Marseilles to La Saulce. From there, the route goes via the N85 to Gap and continues on the RD944 into the ski area. From the north, the route goes via Grenoble and the N85, then the RD944. The appropriate winter equipment should be fitted to the vehicle for the journey into the ski area if necessary.
Winter visitors can travel by rail via Grenoble, Aix-en-Provence or Marseilles railway stations. From here there are connecting trains to Gap. From Gap, there are good bus connections to the ski area.
The journey by air is via the airports at Grenoble (approx. 160 km away), Chambéry (approx. 185 km), Lyon-Saint Exupéry (approx. 210 km) or Marseilles (approx. 215 km). A shuttle bus operates between the airport and TGV station at Grenoble to the ski area. The “Navettes Blanches” shuttle service runs every Saturday during the season to Marseilles airport and the TGV railway station at Aix. Shuttle buses travel between the locations in the ski area free of charge during the season.
8) Weather, snow depths and webcams of Orcières
Want to check to see if the sun is shining in the ski area? SnowTrex provides information on weather and snow depths, and also gives you the chance to view webcam images.