Serre Chevalier celebrates 80 years of skiing

17th December 2021, by Dave Watts

Serre-Chevalier combines extensive and varied skiing with charming old villages and towns

Serre-Chevalier combines extensive and varied skiing with charming old villages and towns

The first cable car in Serre Chevalier opened 80 years ago in 1941, in the midst of World War 2.

Since then it has grown to be the biggest ski area in the southern French Alps, with 250km of pistes, 59 lifts and skiing for all abilities – 13 black runs, 29 red, 26 blue, 13 green – and lots of good off-piste in and above the treeline.

The ski area is one of my favourites and spreads along the valley from Briançon to Le Monêtier (around 15km by road) and you can get from one end to the other without going down to the valley villages. It’s a resort where you really get a feeling of travelling around because it is split up into four distinct sectors and makes a delightful playground.

Its slopes face mainly north, 80% of them are above 2000m so snow is usually good even in a poor year. The main lifts from the valley are fast gondolas and chairs.

Key lifts from the valley are gondolas and fast chairs

Quite apart from downhill skiing, a lot of other different and unusual activities are available too. These include paragliding, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, ice climbing, tobogganing, fatbiking (mountain biking on snow on bikes with special wide tyres), mountain karting (on a 3-wheeled kart down a 4.4km trail), ski-joering (being pulled along on skis by a horse or pony on specially-prepared tracks) and a giant 1.1km long zipwire.

A giant zipwire is just one of many non-skiing attractions

The villages you stay in (there are four main ones plus lots of smaller ones) are based on ancient old settlements with narrow cobbled streets to which modern extensions have been added from the 1960s onwards. They still retain a certain rustic and unpretentious charm.

One of them, Briançon, is really a town which has modern buildings in the valley and an ancient walled city high above that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The others, Chantemerle, Villeneuve and Le Monêtier, are all much smaller.

Les Grands Bains in Le Monêtier is a wonderful place to relax in

Le Monêtier is home to a fabulous large natural thermal spa Les Grands Bains with indoor and outdoor pool, a waterfall, steam rooms, saunas and an outdoor hot tub. 

The resort is at the forefront of environmental protection. Its renewable energy programme was set up in 2016 with a clear objective of reducing its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030 and expects to meet its first goal of a 30% reduction by 2023. This is being achieved with a mixture of hydroelectricity, solar panels and small wind turbines.

You can book your stay in Serre Chevalier this winter by clicking

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