The Sarenne (Alpe d’Huez), the longest black piste in the world
Sarenne, the queen of the Alpe-d’Huez (Isère), we do not get tired of it: 16 km of non-stop gliding and 1800 m between the highest and lowest points after you start surrounded by breathtaking views at more than 3000 m high, at the summit of the Pic Blanc.
It is the longest black piste in the world. Hence, there is a signposted route as one piste and not several tracks that can be linked in order to optimise the piste mileage. The descent along the Alpe-d’Huez is called Sarenne from top to bottom. It is 1820 m between the highest and lowest points. It rises to 3330 m of altitude and, 16 km later, to 1510 m, one touches the end of the dream piste.
Sarenne starts from the summit of the Pic Blanc, the highest point of the ski domain recently renamed “Alpe-d’Huez Grand Domaine Ski” – a matter of visibility on the Internet, it seems. Except that for the experts, it remains as “Les Grandes Rousses”, , much more beautiful name, of this Oisans mountain range on which it was laid out.
At the arrival of the cable car, a superb terrace gives you full view with a 360 ° panorama. The Michelin Green Guide has awarded 3-stars to this extraordinary site. An orientation table meticulously describes all the peaks that take place in front of your eyes. Among these majestic peaks, the most famous one to the north: the Mont-Blanc.
The route begins with a piste on the mountainside – go easy, it is narrow and it goes down well. In the end, a left turn and, hop, one attacks the wall, wide field of snow with the sustained, powdery or bumpy slope, according to the days: this wall is never groomed. This is the steepest runway, reason one it is ranked black.
We ski here on the glacier of Sarenne with the quality of the snow always giving the high altitude atmosphere to these places. But do not go too fast. Sarenne is a universe in itself that one must take the time to enjoy. Invisible to the rest of the ski area, masked by a peak with no cables or pillars of ski lifts, it is untouched nature.
A succession of turns then leads you to the Sarenne bridge. This name is also that of the torrent which the small wooden bridge overlooks. At an altitude of 1800 m, however, this is the beginning of the end, unfortunately.
After a big right turn, change of scenery. The piste now leads you into the forest and with the background of the small river nearby. It follows its course, formerly marked by wheat, barley and rye mills along the way. In ruins for a long time, these mills, or what remains of them, now hibernate under the snow. Except one, saved, restored and transformed into the Auberge de la Combe Haute, chosen stop, at 1,650 m altitude, for a coffee break or lunch. End of the descent 150 m down below to the Alpauris chairlift station which connects the two sides of the mountain. On the left, you go up to Auris-en-Oisans side. To the right, you reach the Alpe-d’Huez area.
The longest black track in the world has long been a complicated matter at the beginning and end of the season due to insufficient snow on the bottom part and used to open only for two months of the year. That has all changed and new work has taken place to make La Sarenne piste available all season. Creation of a reservoir of 167.000 m3 (the small lake right after the wall) and the installation of a snow area of more than 6.000 m and a hundred snow cannons.
Thanks to this hugely-ambitious work, which was completed only last winter, La Sarenne is now ready when the ski area opens in early December and until it closes on 23 April this year. Next winter, the downhill queen of Alpe d’Huez will celebrate its 40th anniversary.