Despite being one of the sportiest people you will meet, I had a break from Rugby and Football in Grenoble to really nail my shoulder rehabilitation after surgery over the Summer. However, I did attend the Sports fair. This is a key example how the French should use computers to get people to sign up (nothing will prepare you on how badly organised French admin is). Basically it is held mid/late September and everyone tries to get in as early as possible and you end up having more than two thousand people pushing to get into two sports halls. The reason is that some things can get oversubscribed, especially as you can do sports for credits. I found the whole experience frustrating as there was no-one on hand to answer general questions...you have to queue for an hour and then if you find out you’re in the wrong queue or can’t do certain hours then it’s a question of tough luck mate. The best thing to do is to go on the internet beforehand, find out everything, email clubs, talk to French people and then when you turn up you know what you’re doing.
In the end, I signed up for “L’école de glisse” for skiing because you get great skiing discounts. For example, a day pass at the 2alpes will cost you around €40 but with the ski club card you'll get it for around €11 and €15 for weekdays and weekends respectively. They go to other stations as well, but this is the main one and the one I visited the most. They also run buses to get down there, which cost around another €10 for a 2alpes return. The bus is a little more expensive than getting it from the train station, but they leave from the centre of town (Place de Verdain - important to note when looking for accommodation because the buses leave 7am at the weekends) and campus (on a road near the Residences Ouest and Berlioz) so I found its not worth the hassle for a couple of euros. The final thing with the ski club is that they run free lessons on saturdays and some thursdays. And its not just the beginners who can benefit; there are more advanced lessons for people wanting to learn advanced freestyle tricks for the snowboard or to go off-piste (but you have to take a safety course for this I believe). It's all made clear to you when you arrive each time and you can ask away and see what you can find. I went to a class for the first day but just wanted to ski with my friends so I quit at lunch because it was going a little slow (not in terms of standard but too many people on the course). Be wary that if you take a skiing module for credit you have to take 6 lessons, which can get annoying if you want to ski with your friends. If you've not gone skiiing before, this year is the perfect chance to learn as normally you would be paying loads to go and to have lessons. I had only been once before and was more or less a beginner. Now I'm looking forward to future ski holidays with friends from home!
As I am not an expert on skiing or ski gear, I am not sure about online sales and buying things in England for the ski stuff. However, I bought everything in Grenoble except my ski jacket that still fitted me from a while back. You can hire stuff but it gets expensive after you go for a few weekends. Adrenaline (http://www.adrenalinesport.fr/index.php) is a shop that has discounts if you are a member of the ski club, but it is quite expensive. It is however quite good for hiring boots if you're a beginner and need to find out what type of boot fits you well. After a few tries you can go and find some boots that fit and buy them at a cheaper shop or maybe second hand. I bought my stuff from loads of different places. There is a Decathlon in the Tronche (part of extended Grenoble just north of campus - http://www.decathlon.fr/fr/store?store_id=PS_27) which is quite good for finding cheap upper body layers and skiing socks. Generally they've got a lot of decent quality sportwear for not too bad prices. I also bought my gloves there. Next there is a shop near Geant Casino called "La Boite à Skis" (http://www.la-boite-a-skis.fr/). This doesn't have a big selection of things apart from skis and boots - especially second-hand ones. I bought my skis and my boots from there, both second hand but they treated me well. I believe that you can also hire stuff from there.
Next I went to Troc Sport (http://www.trocsport.fr/ - 96 Avenue Gabriel Péri, 38400, Saint-Martin-d'Hères) which is also near Geant Casino. This deals only with second-hand items but if you go early and find something good then fantastic. In summer it changes into cycling gear like most of the sport shops. I didn't find anything there but my friend picked up some good boots. For googles and ski poles, I found some good ones on discount at Intersport (136 av. Gabriel Peri, Saint-Martin-d'Hères). Its not a proper skiing shop, just sport in general, but just cheap your eyes out for good stuff on discount. Its just a little further down the road from Geant Casino and Troc Sport. If you take a right at Intersport and then the first left, and you want something a little bit more up market, theres a shop called Espace Montagne down the end of the road by IKEA (http://www.espacemontagne.com/ - Rue Charles Darwin, ZAC Portes du Grésivaudan, 38400, GRENOBLE) where you can also hire things out. It is a good shop for finding discounted stuff at the end of the year, but way too pricey for me during ski season.
Finally, theres Au Vieux Campeur (http://www.auvieuxcampeur.fr/) where I bought a face mask, my ski trousers and a backpack. I wouldn't call it a cheapy shop but it does have a variety of prices and it has a pretty massive upstairs. It is situated in a newish shopping centre and a hiking friend loved it. Theres probably loads more shops I never found, but you can really get a nice mix and save a lot of money if you put a bit of time in. Otherwise, at the sports fair there is a stall with ski stuff. I never went to it but I think it was either second-hand or well priced new skis and boots. This is around mid-September, so if you know what you're doing then and can get in early enough...brillant. I had some French friends who were delighted with what they got there.
Don't get put off if you're not a skier and you don't want to learn. I met a surprisingly large amount of people like that (including one Greek friend who hated snow!) and theres loads of other things to do - the problem is I'm in the skiing group so I'm not the best person to ask. For shoulder rehab I was in desperate need of a gym and the university converts a hall for a total of 5 hours a week into a “gym” but I didn't even bother turning up to that. The gym culture definitely hasn’t kicked off in France like in England. I found a gym called “The Athletic Center” right by where I lived, and although it’s nothing like university discounted prices, it’s a very nice gym, everyone was friendly and it was actually great to practise my French there.
There is a lot of running going on through the year in Grenoble. A standard run is up to the Bastille. I went three times in the first week and then a lot less after that...its hard work! Otherwise, you see loads of runners in Parc Mistral. Cycling is also big. The Tour de France normally passes through or nearby Grenoble. In 2011 it was where the penultimate stage was held as Cadel Evans won. There are lots of shops where you can hire VTT bikes out or road bikes and if you're brave enough you can try the climb up to Alpe d'Huez. But what I found fantastic is that there are loads of nice routes near Grenoble. You don't even need a map, just a bit of adventure. You can actually get pretty far on the Metrovelos as well!
Another thing to add is that in Grenoble, you can’t wear swimming shorts at swimming pools. I found out the hard way when I turned up with some friends to a massive outdoor swimming pool in the centre of the city. Apparently, kids play football in their swimming shorts and then go swimming dirty. The lifeguard who explained this to us called himself a French frog with another word before that, so it’s not me that thinks the rules are silly! It’s the same for the University Olympic Swimming Oool and you also have to wear a hat and its costs €40 for 100 visits among other prices. Although it is a large swimming that gets spilt into two for the weekdays, it gets a lot busier than at Warwick because the public also use it.
Otherwise, while I was in Grenoble we had a very sunny year. On the first day in April I went with a group of friends in search of lakes near Grenoble. You can get a bus from the Station to Lac Monteynard or Lac Laffrey (http://www.lac-monteynard.com/ http://www.isere-tourisme.com/articles/lac-de-laffrey-880-1.html), but with the Metrovelos in 20-40 minutes you can go to the Bois Français and les 4 Lacs. To get there follow the Isère from campus, on the north side on the river after taking the bridge crossing to Meylan. About 12-15km later and you'll find the lakes after a turning on your left. (You could just get a city bus instead but that's less of an adventure.) I had great fun here. April is pretty cold though! One lake is for Water Skiing and another is in a nice complex with a lifeguard. You have to pay 1,70€ but there is also areas to play volleyball and table tennis if you bring the stuff with you. This is only open from May onwards but is a great thing way to relax after exams.
There are loads more clubs in Grenoble, even outside the Uni. I have some female friends who loved hockey but there wasn't a university club. Instead they found one in the city and they said they had great fun. Likewise a good German friend had timetable clashes with the Uni football team so he joined a local club and had settled in well and made loads of different friends. Climbing is also really popular and the club seems to be massive. These are just my experiences, but everyone has something different to say.