Oisans, a little-known part of the Alps
Contrary to popular belief, Oisans is not a mountain range, but rather the compilation of the Romanche basin and its tributaries: every drop of rain that joins a mountain stream that then flows into the Romanche, will have fallen … in Oisans! Simple really!
This area is made up of six valleys, stretching from the village of Gavet at 390 m to the summit of the Ecrins at 4 103 m. So, as you can imagine, there is a wide range of diversity!
A vast lake, called the Saint-Laurent, used to cover what is now the Bourg d’Oisans plain, from Livet to the ‘Rampe des Commères’ (where the road up to Les 2 Alpes starts to climb steeply). However, in the night of September 4 1219, the natural barrier at the end of the lake, at Livet, gave way. A huge torrent swept over Grenoble, partly destroying it. Archived records state that thousands lost their lives…
Oisans, a communication crossroads
Despite the vagaries of the landscape, the steep slopes and the climate, the passage has always been open. The trails on which you are going to cycle were carefully maintained, being saved each year from landslides, cascades and avalanches.
Oisans used to be a place of exchange, poor in cultivable land, but rich in all kinds of ore, making it a paradise for collectors, but hell for miners. Today, Oisans is well-known for the Tour de France cycling race, its international ski resorts, its ‘capital’ Bourg d’Oisans and the Ecrins National Park (in which cycling is strictly forbidden).
Hydroelectricity, with the dams of Chambon and Grand-Maison in Vaujany, has taken over from mining. Tourism has replaced agriculture and other industries… and now, thanks to the creation of way-marked trails all over the region, mountain-biking is really taking off. Get rolling!