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When to go to the Alps?

ZenwavemasterZenwavemaster Posts: 683
edited September 2009 in Tour & expedition
I'm thinking of going to Bourg d'Oisans next year to spend a few days riding the cols round there. When is a reasonable time to go in terms of weather? Is May ok or should I push it back to June to be surer of nicer weather?


  • I would say late June/early July, or Sept/October, no later than end of Oct.

    Some of the passes are not open until late May.

    See A phone call to the tourist office (the speak good English) and they will send you (for a few euros) a very good platicised laminated guide book of routes for raod bikes.

  • I was in Bourg for a couple of weeks in the middle of August this year. Although it was warm in the valleys, it wasn't uncomfortable, and it meant that early starts (0730) were perfectly possible to get some good long days in. I noticed that it was considerably cooler in the early mornings just before I left.

    You'll have a great time - what an awesome place. :D
    We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies - it is the first law of nature.
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    As suggested to other thread, try contacting,

    UK couple who run cycle lodge on the col d'ornon road (just south of Bourg) and great place for cycle base.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • The alps on the Italian French border can be tackled from Late May until October. May can be a bit wet so be prepared. You will either have lovely sunny weather or spend all day in your waterproofs. Late June is good for the higher Cols as they can get a bit wintery before then. August can often get stormy in the afternoons. If you want quiet roads, fabulous colours and good weather I would suggest September. Most of the Tourists have gone home and you get the roads to yourselves. For a Cheaper alternative to Bourg d'Oisins check out the Italian side where prices are much cheaper and the food much better!
    Fly London Turin for a quick transfer.
    My playground is the Alps, come and join me!
  • Brian BBrian B Posts: 2,071
    I got up the Galibier, the Alpe, Croix de fer etc in the middle of May a few years back. I think we were lucky and there was a lot snow at the side of the road on the Galibier. I would wait and go early June.
    Brian B.
  • I went last July for the tour de france. Weather was fantastic then - up to 25 deg in the valleys by the afternoon but cool in the morning. If you want it quiet though I would avoid the area when the tour is around. Alpe d'huez is fantastic - a must! Cant wait to go back
  • June , July , August , September .

    Snow will still be evident in late May , early June .

    October ? Hmmmmmn , .... I once nearly froze to death - seriously ! - in a white -out traversing the Albula pass in the month of October an age ago . Upon return from Italy had to beat it around via Nice to give the alps a miss as all passes closed .
    "Lick My Decals Off, Baby"
  • BlondeBlonde Posts: 3,188
    In May many roads will be shut due to snow. We couldn't get over the summit of the Galibier in June last year (road closed) and had to go back down through the tunnel with a van behind us shining its lights! In July and August it can be hot on the climbs, but we still had some snow and sleet falling on the tops when we did Chamonix-Nice in mid July last year (we experienced a high of 30 celsius and a low of 2 Celsius on the same ride/day and it took me two hours to stop shivering after the last cold, wet descent, despite wearing five layers). Our more recent trip in June this year was very wet, and again it began to snow at the top of one of the cols, so remember to take some wet/cold weaher gear - esp. a waterproof jacket, leg warmers, some gloves and maybe some toe covers for descents. The weather can close in rapidly and unexpectedly, so when you come round a hair pin near the top of a pass don't be too surpirsed if you find it is snowing, sleeting or raining, even in July. I'd suggest July to August as the best time, but take some Nuun or similar reyhration tablets for your bidon.
  • I run a bike holiday company based in Sainte Foy (near Bourg Saint Maurice). I would definitely wait until June, you'll be very lucky to be able to ride the high cols in May. The three major cols around us are the Col de l'Iseran, Col de Petit Saint Bernard & Cormet de Roseland.

    The Iseran generally doesn't open until the end of the 2nd week in June, the Petit St Bernard (Italian border) opens at the beginning of June and the Cormet is also the beginning of June unless it clears naturally. These are the dates on which the roads will be cleared of any remaining snow by plough. If they clear naturally before these dates, then they may open (or at least be rideable) earlier, but it's unlikely.

    Check us out at :
    Mountain bike holidays in the French Alps -
  • i went september (1st week) and am going the same week this year. weather was mixed but neither too hot in the valleys and not too cold on the cols. also accomodation no problem as everyone goes at the end of august. in fact some places close end of aug and in some respects it fel t abit like out of season seaside.
  • mercsportmercsport Posts: 664
    It can be wild late September, October.

    An age ago in late september of whatever the year was, I ascended the Albula pass in Switzerland and topped out in a blizzard. After the descent and still in my shorts, in freezing rain on the road to Klosters and Davos, I was nearly dead with hypothermia ( with hindsight - I realize now). Threw my little tent up along the first forest track I came across , dived in my bag - this about 5'ish in the pm - and was still uncontrollably shaking well after midnight. I suspect my core temp' was near critical then and just the right side of life. I reckon I was fortunate to have been carrying a four season Rab down bag. It's so easy to miscalculate when desperate to get out of a rotten situation.

    After knocking the idea of another stroll through the Dolomites and diverting to Corsica, a few weeks later, upon my return on way back to UK I couldn't get past Turin as all the alpine passes were closed. This, about mid October. Had to return south and get around the alps by way of the coast into France. That was followed by the wettest traverse of France imaginable up to the ferry at Zeebrugge.
    "Lick My Decals Off, Baby"
  • mdg1157mdg1157 Posts: 222
    just came back from Bourg d'oisans yesterday, was there for a week. Was exceptionally hot, mid to high 30s most of the week, made some of the longer rides hard (thank god for alpine villages with their clean, cold water fountains. Did alpe d'Huez, and croix de fer and glandon, but picked up a book of local rides in the town and did a couple of rides on smaller roads which were absolutely awesome!
    Can't wait to go back again!
  • mdg1157

    We're off there in just under 2 weeks. Where did you get the book of local rides ? From the tourist office ?

    "There are no hills, there is no wind, I feel no pain !"

    "A bad day on the bike is always better than a good day in the office !"
  • Oh, forgot to say in last post, for last 4 years or so, we've been out to the Alps during the first week or two in September.

    Temps are generally very good. Just need to check weather forecast for the cols, as 2 year ago, we set off from Bourg St Maurice, and it was 24'c, and at the top of the Iseran, with the windchill, it was somewhere between zero and -5'c :!: Not much fun with short finger gloves :!:
    "There are no hills, there is no wind, I feel no pain !"

    "A bad day on the bike is always better than a good day in the office !"
  • mdg1157mdg1157 Posts: 222
    They gave me the book, and a local map at the campsite we stayed on, but its produced by oisans tourisme, so imagine you can get it from the tourist office in the town.
    if you do the ride up col de l'ornon, an easy one to start with, and incorporate a loop through villard reymond and villard notre dame, be very careful as you come back down to bourg d'oisans, as there are 3 narrow, unlit tunnels on the way down this very narrow road which is clinging to the side of the mountain!! I had to walk through these a step at a time using the wall for guidance, they are literally pitch black inside!
    enjoy your trip!
  • i always take some mini lights . edinburgh bikes do their own brand and also started stocking some lights (might be called pods or frogs) which will do the job
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