The late, great ski-mountaineer Doug Coombs helped put La Grave on the map when he set up camp here in the 90s. Now, it’s a mecca for big-mountain purists looking for
no-frills steep skiing in the form of 7,000-vertical-feet of glaciers, cliffs, couloirs, and no-fall zones. A 12th century village tucked into the French Alps about an hour from Grenoble, La Grave is a 500-person town with an intimate family feel. Everyone knows everyone here, and the social life revolves around potlucks at private homes. With one lift, no avy control, no ski patrol, no marked runs, and no guide required, La Grave makes Silverton, Colorado look like the Romper Room. If you’d like to survive La Grave, hire a guide. Xavier Cret grew up in the region, worked with Coombs, and is now one of the most respected skiers in the valley. Book him through La Grave’s Bureau des Guides. For customized, private outings, hire Joe Vallone, a friend of pro-skier Chris Davenport. Stay at the Skiers Lodge, which offers guided groups, live music, and is only a three-minute walk to the lift (from $102 per person per night, double occupancy includes breakfast and four-course dinner, high season December 24-March 31).