Why go skiing in Serre Chevalier?

12th December 2018, by Dave Watts

On the run down to Briançon there are fabulous views of the town and the old walled city of Vauban. Pic: Zoom

On the run down to Briançon there are fabulous views of the town and the old walled city of Vauban. Pic: Zoom

Serre Chevalier received lots of early snow and was able to open parts of the resort as early as 1 Dec this season. It opens fully from 15 Dec to 22 April.

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 the new Côte Chevalier six-pack at mid-mountain linking from the Villeneuve to the Chantemerle sector will replace two slow old chairlifts.

The main lifts from the valley are fast gondolas or chairs – this one is from Chantemerle. Pic: Zoom

It’s a big ski area with 59 lifts, 81 pistes and lots of good off-piste in and above the treeline. 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.

And you are not limited to the normal 9am to 4.30pm ski day of many resorts.  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 pistes are well groomed and on Wednesdays, you can ski them early by joining the free First Tracks group. Pic: Zoom

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 the ancient walled city of Vauban high above that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The others, Chantemerle, Villeneuve and Le Monêtier, are all much smaller.

Atmospheric Le Monêtier is the smallest of the main villages to stay in. Pic: Thibaut Blais

Le Monêtier will see the opening of a new 4-star hotel this season with just 21 rooms, all with fabulous mountain views. Le Monêtier is also 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. 

Don’t miss the warm thermal waters of Les Grands Bains in Le Monêtier

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), mountain karting (riding down the mountain on a three-wheeled kart), 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.

Ice driving is just one of many unusual activities you can try

Various events are organised during the season, including:

•  19 Jan to 2 Feb Altitude Jazz Festival
•  19 and 20 Jan Trophée Andros (an ice driving race, part of the French championships)
•  19 Feb Grand Torchlight Descent (in aid of a children’s charity)
•  16 March Grand Prix de Serre Chevalier (a fun race open to all, covering the whole ski area)
•  29 and 30 March Trophée Serre Chevalier (a serious Giant Slalom race for 200 contestants, with a free open-air concert on the mountain)

The Altitude Jazz Festival is on from 19 Jan to 2 Feb this season. Pic: IsabelleDelfourne

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.

For more information, visit serrechevalier-reservation.com

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