Serre Chevalier is not a single resort, but the collective marketing name adopted by a string of villages that line the road to Grenoble between the high mountain pass of the Col du Lautaret, and ancient garrison town Briancon, close to Italy.
The Serre Chevalier ski domain offering 250kms of groomed pistes, many of which are treelines, are a perfect cruising ground for beginners and intermediates, whilst experts may wish to venture off-piste. Serre Chevalier has three major ski villages Le Monetier-les-Bains (1500m), Villeneuve (1400m), Chantemerle (1350m) plus the old fortress town of Briancon (1200m), which has its own ski lift connecting it to the pistes. And these are just the main places to stay, because there are another nine tiny villages lining the 14km road, and some purpose-built developments situated on the slopes.
Serre Chevalier is known for its sunshine, which in many cases for a ski resort is a double-edged sword. Many of Serre Chevalier’s slopes however broadly face North-East, and the upper runs are quite high (the top lift rises to 2,730m) with the lower ones shaded by trees. This combination means that skiing is enjoyed in most years from Christmas through to Easter. The runs predominantly suit intermediates but there are good nursery slopes and cheap passes for beginners as well. Advanced skiers should try the off-piste, which includes both open bowl skiing and routes through the trees.
There is also a wide choice of ski schools and guides for those who want to learn, improve, or explore the off-piste safely.
Apres-ski is relatively quiet, but each of the main villages has a few bars to explore. There are however the usual activities like dog sledding and tobogganing, fat-tyre bike riding, mountain karting (driving downhill in a specially designed go-kart), and ice driving or go-karting on the circuit used for the Trophee Andros ice racing championships every January. Le Monetier also has a fabulous large thermal spa (Les Grands Bains) with indoor and outdoor pools, steam rooms, saunas, a waterfall and a music cave.
December – April
The ‘Mickey’ piste is a green run which offers beginners different gradients to descendin accordance to their ability. This piste can however become a little crowded as it also merges with the tail end of the blue run 3.8km ‘Marteau’. Magic carpet at the top of the Aravet bubble allows total beginners the chance to enjoy the beautiful mountain views whilst learning. The magic carpet area also has a garden for toddlers with giant cartoon flowers and inflated toys – a truly magical world. Once the absolute basics are mastered, try the 3km green run ‘Aravet’ which meanders down the mountain and through the forests. Chantemerle’s area for total beginners is situated at the top of the gondola ‘Trocon’ at the mid station Serre Ratier 1900m. There are two drags and a magic carpet in a large flat area for beginners. From here it is possible to take a simple route that links to the green ‘Aravet’ rund described above. Monetier does have a good area for beginners at its base, but options further up the mountain are limited and the same can be said of Briancon.
Serre Chevalier is just perfect for intermediate skiers with lots of well-maintained reds and blues in both in and out the trees. The best of Villeneuve is the 2.7km red ‘Clot Gautier’ is not to be missed and the new ‘Vallons’ chair lift enables skiers to ride the 3km red ‘La Cucumelle’ descending from 2221m all the way back to base. Chantemerle has an excellent area for intermediates from the peak ‘Grand Aigle’ at 2491m. This peak accesses an open bowl that is home to a group of blues and reds varying in gradients Briancon’s reds are difficult as their gradient are steep and are better for more advanced skiers, however, confident intermediates will benefit from their challenge. Monetier’s steep terrain is a bit too steep for timit intermediates. However the more adventurous can head to the top of ‘Cibouit’ where red or blue runs zig zag their way from an open bowl into the trees.
Serre Chevalier offers plenty of challenges for the advanced skier both on and off with 15 black runs and many off piste options. The toughest black is the 500m long L’Eychauda run from the peak of the same name directly above Villeneuve. In common with most of the area’s other highest points, these snowy peaks top some of the steepest terrain in the whole area and offer a choice of marked black runs like Col du Vent from the area’s highest point at Pic de l’Yret above Monetier, or Isolee down from L’Eychauda.Further down below the treeline, long blacks descending to 1000 vertical metres include Tabuc to Monetier or Casse de Boeuf to Villeneuve. The Olympic piste named in honour of local hero Luc Alphand to Chantemerle is another in the same vein. Off piste both quick powder fixes or serious full-day, hike-in itineraries are numerous and all the ski schools are happy to offer guided tours, as are the mountain guides office. If that’s still not enough legendary off piste destination La Grave is an easy day trip.
Freeriders get to shred plenty of open, tight trees, gullies and deep bowls, as well as some long steeps, where advanced riders can busy themselves for weeks on end. Serre Chevalier is perfect soft boot territory, and those riders wanting wide expanses of powder without having to hike should check out the stuff off the Balme chairlift. When it is open, the L’Eychauda t-bar is the place to head, with plenty of powder spots off the Isolee black run and some huge cliffs. In Le Monetier there’s some challenging terrain under the Yret chair that you can access off the Col du Vent black, but watch for slides.For beginners, the runs around Frejus will be more suited to their needs, with a number of long, easy runs that bring you back down the mountain into the village of Villeneuve, via some tree-lined trails. Serre Chevalier has some super-fast drag lifts, often travelling a long way at speeds more suited to riding down, not up. Watch out for the sharp turns that some of the drag lifts make through the trees.
If you have tired limbs and are looking for some special pampering then Le Monetier has Les Grands Bains du Monetier. A large, thermal spa complex with natural hot springs and spa facilities – saunas, steam rooms, a jacuzzi and bubble beds, amongst others, it also has a range of beauty treatments. The Plein Sud in Chantemerle also has its own spa, as does the Spa Montagne in the Hotel Alliey with a range of massages and beauty treatments.
For the more active
For something more energetic then there is a great ice driving circuit to try out, paragliding, ice climbing, snow kiting and snow shoeing amongst many are also on offer. Each of the main resorts also has a cinema and you can even try out piste basher driving.
If you are not staying in the 17th Century walled town of Briancon it is well worth a visit as it is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site but also the highest walled town in Europe. It also has some delightful traditional shops selling a range of local arts and crafts.
View the live snow report for Serre Chevalier here
Families have good facilities at Serre Chevalier’s different base villages and the friendly locals and unpretentious attitude of the resort as a whole can help to provide a memorable holiday. Given the spread out nature of the resort it’s of course wise to check your accommodation is conveniently located for the lifts and, if your children need them, the nursery facilities. Those fond of swimming might prefer to stay in Monetier to have the excellent complex there right on your doorstep, however Chantemerle and Villeneuve have easier slopes above them that might better suit a family with young children or nervous novices in the party. There’s both nursery provision and ski school with snow gardens at each of the four main bases. The Poussins nurser based at Chantemerle accepts babies from eight months to children aged six. In Villeneuve it’s Les Sctroumpfs which accepts children aged from six months. In Monetier Les Eterlous will take children from six months old outside the French February and late December school holiday periods, but only from 18 months during the school holidays. All three facilities advise you to book ahead. Ski school lessons are available from age three and as usual for younger children a mix of nursery provision and first lessons on snow is offered.
Hotel Rock Noir
Hotel Grand Aigle
Turin Airport: 1h30 from Serre Chevalier
Grenoble Airport: 2h from Serre Chevalier
Lyon St Exupery: 3h00 from Serre Chevalier
Marseille Provence: 4h from Serre Chevalier
If you come to the Hautes Alpes from North Serre Chevalier Vallee Briancon is accessible via the tunnel of Frejus! Estimated travel to come to Serre Chevalier Vallee-Briancon via Frejus tunnel Copenhague : 1630 km / 17h10
Paris : 726 km / 7h15
Amsterdam : 1182 km / 11h26
Lyon : 260 km / 3h10
Londres : 1170 km / 12h
Geneve : 243 km / 2h55
Bruxelles : 991 km / 9h45
Grenoble : 188 km / 2h24
Linkbus offers shuttles from Grenoble Airport to Serre Chevalier every Saturday and Sunday during the winter season.
A direct night train links Paris to Briancon. Other services connect with the major french towns and some european capitals: Lyon, Grenoble, Marseille, Brussels, Amsterdam. Information from French Railways SNCF. TGV station of Oulx (Italy), Paris-Milan line, is only 30 km from the resort: only a 4h40 journey from Paris to Oulx.