Serre Chevalier is quite a unique ski resort being more of a line of old villages, strung out along a valley floor, with a sizeable ski area of 250km rising above the road. The traditional and rustic villages have atmospheric narrow cobbled streets, with some of them lined with small shops, bars and restaurants. The whole area has a relaxing and aesthetically pleasurable feel about it. Each of the main villages has modern and ancient parts, with the largest village being Briançon, which combines modern buildings in the valley with an ancient walled city high above that and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The modern lift system whisks you up from the village bases and offers a superb experience in the main for intermediate skiers and boarders.
The closest airport is Turin and from there Briançon, at 1,200m, is the first village along the east of the valley, with a gondola. Then comes Chantemerle, at 1,350m and Villeneuve, 1,400m both with gondolas, fast chairlifts and a cable car into the central section of the ski area. Lastly there is Le Monêtier-les-Bains at 1,495m, with a fast chairlift into the western end of the ski area. Of these villages, Le Monêtier is the smallest, quietest and most unspoilt. Accommodation centres round apartments and hotels in all these villages, (such as the Grand Aigle, Plein Sun, Roch Noir Design Hotel and Spa), with a few catered chalet options. We are happy to help advise your best option for your group or party or check out our website.
The ski area base sprawls from Briançon to Le Monêtier, which is around 15km and it is possible to get from one end to the other without going down to the base villages. It’s split up into four distinct sectors and makes a delightful playground for intermediates of all standards and this big ski area offers more than enough to play around in for a week’s holiday. Non skiers also will love this pretty area, possibly partaking in the usual activities like dog sledding and tobogganing, fat-tyre bike riding, mountain karting and ice driving or go-karting on the circuit used for the ice racing championships every January. Le Monêtier has a fabulous large thermal spa (Les Grands Bains) with indoor and outdoor pools, steam rooms, saunas, a waterfall and a music cave. The ancient walled city of Briançon is well worth a visit too if not staying there.
As regards the skiing, the snow reliability is very good with most of the skiable terrain above 2000m and North East facing thereby holding the snow well. Unusually too and more in common with America, most of the area is tree lined which helps in periods of poor visibility with “whiteouts” common in treeless areas. Thats a BIG plus if its your only ski holiday and more so with families. All the main villages have good beginner areas and easy runs but it’s intermediates who will get the most out of the area, with a great choice of blue and even more red runs (but less steep than a number of other resorts). There are great long runs too of up to 12km, especially down to Briancon with stunning views of the town on the way down.
There are also two excellent black runs down to the valley, (The Luc Alphand the Casse de Boeuf to Villeneuve runs) which are often groomed, so the more adventurous and experts will enjoy hurtling down here. The black run down to Le Monêtier is an enjoyable cruise most of the way down though with a couple of seriously steep pitches often with many moguls (or bumps in American speak). Other black runs are mainly ungroomed and marked as ‘Brut de Neige’ and the ski patrol can advise on suitability at the time you are there as they are avalanche controlled areas. Experts can also enjoy excellent off-piste terrain both in the bowls and lower down in the trees.Its also possible to ski Alpe d’Huez, Les Deux Alpes and La Grave for a day on the ski pass, which is a big plus and recommended.
For Snowboarders the Snow Park is impressive, with four separate zones suiting abilities from beginner to expert. There’s also the MélèZone area in the forest at Chantemerle, with fun freestyle features, a boardercross course with big banked turns above Chantemerle, and a more family-friendly version – the FunnyCross – above Briançon. As well as the ESF, there are lots of other schools to choose from and most have very good reputations, such as the excellent New Generation Ski School.
Serre Chevalier is not big on apres ski compared with say Alpe d’Huez or Deux Alpes, but the main villages have a few bars to explore, a cinema and an ice rink. There’s also a jazz festival in January and a fabulous thermal spa at Le Monêtier, already mentioned above, but there’s enough places to eat and drink at for most including the La Grotte bar, Le Chazelay and Le 1420 bars in Villeneuve, all offering live music and DJ’s in a lively atmosphere, the Irish themed Sisters Pub in Chantemerle and Le Collegiale in Briancon which is open until the wee small hours. Definitely a great choice for couples, families and groups wanting something perhaps a little different and unique.