is tricky to figure out the first time skiing the groomed cross-country tracks -- yet so good for late springtime snow -- so I'm giving this detailed report of ...
My first time skiing on the Lac Besson and the Poutrans cross-country pistes at the giant Alpe d'Huez ski station (or collection of stations). Surrounded by spectacular mountains, and with a reasonably interesting layout of trails, some close among lakes and cliffs. Mostly at altitude 1850m to 2050m, and above tree-line.
Getting started here is a bit different from most other cross-country areas, because you can ride up on a mechanical lift to get from the Alpe d'Huez base village (GPS lat long approx N45.0958 E6.0702) to reach the main trail network areas. Here's what I found ...
As you drive up the paved access road to Alpe d'Huez village from the main highway which connects Grenoble + Bourg d'Oisans + La Grave + Briancon, higher up you'll see signs that direct you to turn right to go to the ski pistes and ski lifts. Following those signs leads to a big parking lot (no charge when I was there) by the Bergers shopping mall (N45.0899 E6.0765), which sells tickets for cross-country skiing, and is surrounded by several mechanical ski lifts. But those lifts are only for downhill skiers to reach dowhill ski trails. They are not the lifts that lead to the cross-country ski trails. Getting from the Bergers shopping mall to the lifts for cross-country skiers requires skiing (or hiking) up for about 1.1 km distance in the NNW direction, including over 60 vertical meters of uphill labor. Nicer coming back down at the end of your day, but if you did not want to start your day with an unnecessary uphill "warmup", then do not turn off right, and . . .
Instead follow the signs for "village center", and try to find parking somewhere near the base station of the "DMC 1" lift (N45.0976 E6.0697), where it might be more difficult or expensive to find available parking.
. . . (or if a driver of the car feels strong to do an uphill "warmup" ski (? or find a shuttle bus?), could drop of all the other skiers and their equipment near the DMC lift and park the car down by Bergers -- then they purchase tickets and wait for the driver to rejoin by skiing).
I bought one trail pass ticket (for around 10 Euros) to be permitted to ski on the groomed cross-country trails, and a separate lift ticket (also for around 10 Euros) for riding up (one time) on the mechanical lift - (I don't know if this ticket also includes a ride down on that lift, because I skied down).
. . . (I was told that both of those different tickets need to be purchased with cash, not credit card).
There are two lifts ("DMC" and "Les Jeux") available for cross-country skiers, and you have to choose which one at the time of purchase. DMC at its mid-station connects slightly better with the Lac Besson trail network, so I recommend purchasing the ticket for the "DMC" lift.
. . . (If want to go up by skiing instead of riding the lift, it’s about +110 vertical meters uphill over 1.75 km distance to reach the Poutran trail network. And another +100 vertical meters uphill (some rather steep) over 1.6 km distance to reach the lower SW corner of the Lac Besson trail network).
Get to the main ski trail network:
Find the DMC lift, take skis off and carry them up the stairs and let the attendant help you get into one of the lift compartments. Ride inside the compartment up to the DMC lift mid-station (N45.1059 E6.0850) -- (Do not remain in the compartment all the way to the lift top station -- Get out off the first time its door opens). When the door of the compartment automatically opens, step carefully out (carrying your skis and poles) onto the platform. Next walk down stairs or ramp to the snow.
Where's the cross-country ski trail? Good luck finding a sign for it. This giant ski area is mainly for downhill skiers, so almost any sign you see is intended to point you toward a downhill-only trail or a downhill-skier lift. There are also hiking trails for non-skiers (French "pietons"?) on snowshoes or walking boots. These trails are generally close by (and often parallel to) the cross-country (French "nordique"?) ski trails, but separate from them. So try to figure out from the icon symbol on each trail sign whether it's for you or the hikers (or rather more often only for the downhill-skiers).
hint: The closest Lac Besson trail (approx GPS lat long N45.1053 E6.0853) is about 30-50m uphill SE or E from the DMC lift mid-station. The trail for the Poutran cross-country network (roughly around N45.1063 E6.0819) is up to 100 meters NW or W a bit downhill. The Lac loop is has more interesting scenery (lakes + cliffs) and more interesting trail design than most of the Poutran network (and is generally higher) so I suggest starting with the Lac trail, since if you later want to ski back down to Alpe d'Huez village, you'll meet the Poutran network along the way.
. . . (to be continued) . . .