Serre Chevalier opens with two metres of snow

8th December 2019, by Dave Watts

Serre Chevalier resort is a series of villages based on charming old settlements – this is part of Chantemerle (pic: Zoom)

Serre Chevalier resort is a series of villages based on charming old settlements – this is part of Chantemerle (pic: Zoom)

The heaviest snowfalls in November and early December were in the most southerly resorts in the Alps. These include Serre Chevalier, one of my favourites. Serre Che opened some of its slopes for the weekend of 7 and 8 December with 200cm of snow at the top and 60cm at the base. The resort will open non-stop for the season from 14 December till 19 April 2020.

Its slopes face mainly north, 80% of them are above 2000m and a third of the pistes are equipped with snowmaking, so snow is usually good even in a poor year.

The main lifts from the valley are fast gondolas and chairs and more fast chairs are being installed most years – including this year, when a new six-pack replaces the old Eychauda chair and a new four-person lift replaces the old Cibouït chair (both in the Monêtier sector). To read more about these and other new developments click here

The main lifts from the valley are modern and powerful and most years more fast chairs replace older lifts higher up (pic: Jeremie Boure)

Serre Chevalier is also midway through its impressive and ambitious Renewable Energy project

Its ski area is big, with 59 lifts, 81 pistes and lots of good off-piste in and above the treeline – it claims 410 hectares of groomed and marked runs and a total of 3901 hectares of skiing. It 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 for intermediates of all standards.

Serre Che has a big ski area and great off-piste as well as 81 varied pistes

And you are not limited to the normal 9am to 4.30pm ski day of many resorts.  In peak periods, a selection of lifts here open from 8.30am for early skiing and some are open late for floodlit night skiing. The resort also offers First Tracks every Wednesday where you go up the lifts before they officially open with a ski patroller and get fresh tracks on immaculately groomed slopes – and it’s free with a normal lift pass.

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.

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

The Grands Bains thermal spa is a fabulous place to relax, with all sorts of spa facilities (pic: Grands Bains)

Other different and unusual activities are available too. These include snowkiting (being pulled on skis or a snowboard by a kite), Snooc (ski tour up the mountain on special skis which then convert into a sledge for the return trip), fatbiking (mountain biking on snow on bikes with special wide tyres) and ski-joering (being pulled along on skis by a horse or pony on specially-prepared tracks). They also offer ice driving and ice karting and rides out in piste bashers with the grooming crew.

Various events are organized during the season, including:
- 18 and 19 Jan Trophée Andros (an ice driving race, part of the French championships)
- 20 to 31 Jan Altitude Jazz Festival
- 14 March Grand Prix de Serre Chevalier (a fun race open to all, covering the whole ski area)

Serre Che has lots of things to do as well as skiing – including having a go on the ice driving circuit (pic: Zoom)

Coming soon: the first stage of a huge new Folie Douce complex with a 1500 bed hotel, restaurants, après-ski, shops and its own ski school is due to open in 2020 or 2021.

Special offer: During most of December and January and from the end of March to the end of the season, Serre Chevalier has a special offer of 7 nights apartment accommodation and a 6-day lift pass from just 249€ per person.

For more about the resort, its skiing and accommodation, click here

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