Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Serre Chevalier Travel Guide - Travel S Helper

Serre Chevalier

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Serre Chevalier is a significant ski resort in the Hautes-Alpes region of the Alps in southern France. It is located near the Parc National des Ecrins and has a huge skiing area with 250 km (155 mi) of slopes and ideal weather, with 300 days of sunlight each year. Snow cannons cover 80 km (50 mi) of the slopes of Serre Chevalier to augment natural snowfall.

Serre Chevalier ski resort spans 15 kilometers down the valley and includes the villages of Briancon, St Chaffrey, Chantermerle, La Salle Les Alpes, and Le Monetier Les Bains. The area’s magnificent history is best portrayed in the medieval Vauban Fort, which dominates the skyline above Briancon and is more than simply a ski resort. The Grande Rue, the fort’s principal thoroughfare, was first built in 1345!

Serre Chevalier is a classic ski resort that deserves a better recognition.

Serre Chevalier info card

Resort Altitude1350m
Highest Lift2730m
Total Piste250km
Longest Run8km
Directions of SlopesN, N/E
Uphill Capacity73000
Total Lifts74
Gondolas/Cable cars9
Chairlifts19
Drag Lifts46
Snow Parks1

Best time to visit Serre Chevalier

During the winter months, there’s a good chance you’ll be treated to fresh powder and massive dumps of snow, creating ideal conditions on the slopes. With over 80% of the mountain over 2000m, the Serre Chevalier valley is regarded for having some of the greatest snow in the region, and the resort is still wonderful even when the weather isn’t cooperating. Because of the open plateaus, spring sunshine can impede skiing towards the end of April, but north facing terrain and extensive snow maker coverage means you’re still likely to find some excellent snow – start early for exciting mornings on the piste, and with a huge amount of après ski, activities, and entertainment, you’re unlikely to be bored in the afternoons.

Serre Chevalier Snow and Weather

Serre Chevalier has a stable snow record, with snow falling from a variety of meteorological directions. During the 2016/17 season, Serre Chevalier and adjacent regions had superb early season snow, establishing a deep solid base and outperforming almost everywhere else in Europe. Snow quality is excellent at higher elevations, while snowmaking ensures that lower beginning slopes and valley runs are adequately covered. Six days after the previous snowfall, the Powderhounds quickly discovered fresh, untracked snow – a huge thumbs up.

Serre Chevalier Village

Serre Chevalier is made up of three villages: Chantemerle, Villeneuve, and Le Monetier-les-Bains, which are spaced out over a 10km stretch of road that runs the length of the valley, each having its own entrance to the Serre Chevalier ski resort.

As you travel down the D1091 road from Briancon, the first hamlet you come to is Chantemerle at 1,350m, followed by Villeneuve at 1,400m, the largest and busiest of the Serre Chevlier’s communities, and lastly Monetier-les-Bain at 1,500m, the highest of the three villages. The same route connects Monetier to the Pic du Combeynot National Park, and then to La Grave.

Chantemerle (Saint-Chaffrey)

At 1,350m, Chantemerle is a modern-looking community 6 kilometers from Briancon and the first of three communities having lift access to the ski area. Chantemerle is mostly made up of hotels and apartment dwellings, but it also has older structures at the base area, which has a retail complex, tourist office, restaurants, and pubs. Views of the Luc Alphand black run, which seems vertical, may be appreciated from the bars and restaurants at the bottom. The Station is a bustling apres ski bar with a superb view of skiers blasting down the mountain. A parade of ski rental stores and groceries located near the houses and hotels may be found farther down the road away from the base area. A foot tunnel runs under the road, making the short trek to the base area more convenient for skiers.

Villeneuve (La Salles-les-Alpes)

Villenueve, the largest of Serre Chevalier’s settlements, is at 1,400 meters above sea level and is divided into two sections: old and modern. The most recent addition to the hamlet is a commercial center with a parade of stores, ski schools, and the tourist office. Modern residential buildings around a vast parking lot at the mountain’s base. A little farther on, beyond the major roundabout, lies ‘Place de Aravet,’ which provides further access to the mountain through the Aravet gondola, as well as hotels, pubs, restaurants, and ski schools. The newest areas of Villeneuve are geared to meet all skiers’ demands and are a hub of activity during the day, but the ancient hamlet across the river is significantly more scenic and worth visiting in the evening for restaurants and pubs.

La Salle-les-Alps is a boulevard lined with traditional French stone houses with lovely balconies. The open patio by the river at Bar Mojo is sunny throughout the day. The remarkable St Marcellin church has a deep chime and is now a museum devoted to local history. A hard walk leads from this church to the beautiful St Jean’s Chapel, which offers spectacular views of the valley. These churches, as well as those at La Salle les Alpes and Le Bez, a little community inside Villeneuve, are magnificently lighted at night, providing a lovely nighttime scene visible for kilometers around.

Le Monetier-les-Bains

Monetier les Bains, situated just beyond the Col du Lautaret, is the highest of Serre Chevalier’s communities at 1,500m. This lovely town is a tiny, rustic community with minimal contemporary infrastructure. The community is dominated by St Martin’s church, whose magnificent stone walls are typical of the medieval French architecture seen across the Serre Chevalier valley. Opposite the church is a little plaza with Bar Alpen, a nice location to relax and drink a beer on sunny days.

Monetier is the domain’s quietest hamlet, with fewer pubs and restaurants; yet, the bars and restaurants in Monetier are of high quality and well worth a visit. The ski lifts are situated behind the hamlet and may be reached by taking a short walk through the settlement’s tiny streets. Alternatively, every 20 minutes, a free shuttle bus travels between the town and the ski lifts. Another shuttle service travels to all of Serre Chevalier’s resort base points.

Monetier-les-Bains is also home to hot spas, which are said to have medicinal properties and are worth visiting after a day of skiing to soothe sore legs. The baths contain a 44° C indoor pool and a 36° C outdoor pool that have been elegantly restored and have enormous windows that enable views of the surrounding mountains to be enjoyed day or night.

Briancon

The bulk of skiers that visit Serre Chevalier stay in Villeneuve. Briancon, at 1,326m, is similarly prepared for tourism and has its own base area with Gondola Le Prorel reaching the ski mountain. Briancon (officially the highest city in the European Union) has a population of about 12,000 people and all of the amenities one would expect from a town of this size, including a railway station with frequent trains to Paris. The new town emerges at the base of the ski resort and climbs the opposite side of the valley to the walled medieval town and the old fort. The historic town is located under a 17th-century fort. Within its fortifications are colorful residences with wooden balconies that dwell on steep narrow alleyways full of taverns, stores, and restaurants, as well as cobbled pathways leading to a plaza and church at the Fort du Chateau’s summit with beautiful views of Briancon and Serre Chevalier.

Serre Chevalier Ski Resort

The Serre Chevalier valley, spread among a multitude of towns and hamlets, is not your typical alpine resort – but that’s exactly what we enjoy about it. While there isn’t a central center of restaurants, bars, and hotels, staying in one of the towns allows you to spend a more ski-focused, budget-friendly week in the mountains.

The four major bases are Briancon, Chantemerle, Villeneuve, and Monêtier, each with its own personality but all with excellent lift access to the summit.

Briancon, a typical French village, is at the further end, its cobblestone streets and olde worlde architecture earning it the moniker ‘Le Ville d’Art et d’Histoire.’ It’s perfect for intermediate skiers as well as non-skiers searching for things to see and do in town, with easy access to the ski resort via red slopes.

Chantemerle, located in the valley’s heart, provides the finest access to the slopes as well as a major center with stores, pubs, and restaurants. It’s ideal for novices and families, with a variety of mild green and blue routes heading back to the village.

Neighboring Villeneuve is the place to go for vibrant après and low-cost self-catering accommodation — its central position allows for quick access to the ski area, and with a number of pubs at the foot of the home run, you’re never far from the action.

The tallest settlement, Le Monêtier Les Bains, is rich in alpine beauty at 1500m. This rural mountain hamlet is well-known for its thermal spas and has a laid-back attitude that makes it ideal for a romantic trip. Traditional stone building is accented by spectacular mountain vistas and access to some fantastic skiing along tree-lined routes.

All four towns have easy access to the slopes, and frequent ski buses travel between them, so if you finish your day at the other end of the ski area, you can easily return to your base.

Skiing in Serre Chevalier

The ski area has wide-open, sunny plateaus, gorgeous tree-lined lines, and a flawlessly groomed carpet of white under your skis or board, with some of the greatest conditions in the French Alps (80% of the slopes are above 2000m).

The piste is accessible from all four cities, and nursery slopes run from each, enabling novices to develop confidence in peace – with assistance from the area’s top ski schools, they’ll be climbing higher in no time! Further up the mountain, beginners will discover a handful of soft blues and consistent greens. Chantemerle is one of the greatest places for novice skiers since it connects to Serre Ratier, which boasts a variety of cruisey blues flowing through the forest on wonderfully groomed terrain.

In the Parc National des Ecrins, intermediates may freely explore through some of the most magnificent landscapes in the French Alps. Glide over Grande Alpe’s vast open bowl, or enjoy a leisurely and extremely gorgeous ski into the forests on Monêtier’s lower slopes. Those searching for more difficult terrain could visit Cucumelle on the outskirts of Villeneuve and Clos Galliard near Le Monêtier. A popular and lesser-known red runs down from the Aguillette chairlift, providing a lengthy and calm route for carving new lines.

There is enough of difficult terrain for advanced snow enthusiasts to tackle. Casse du Boeuf is a wide black that runs down into Villenueve, and the La Voie Jackson run above Le Monêtier is also popular.

There’s a lot of freeride terrain up the mountain and in the forests above Chantemerle. Natural obstacles abound (particularly on Cucumelle), and there are five fully prepared snowparks and two Boardercross’ at the summit of Grande Alpe and near the Rocher Blanc chairlift.

Beginner

Each of the four major sectors has suitable beginning slopes and nursery areas, each with its unique set of advantages and disadvantages. You must take the first stage of the gondola up to the nursery slopes 400 vertical metres above the hamlet of Pra Long from Briancon. Once you’ve mastered them, there’s a little problem with a lack of really simple runs just above the town, where instead it’s largely blues and reds. It’s the same thing as Chantemerle, only there are big long greens returning to the settlement. Villeneuve has a decent selection of nursery slopes close near the town, as well as wonderful long green routes like Aravet to descend on after you’ve gained the courage to take the lift further up the mountain. Monetier offers nice resort level nursery slopes as well, but unlike Briançon, there are no lengthy greens down to the town to graduate seamlessly on to; instead, you’ll have to tackle somewhat sleeper blue runs like the Route des Espagnols.

Intermediate

Intermediate skiers will discover 99 simple green to intermediate red grade routes to zoom about on, enjoying the sensation of traveling from town to village and the sense of adventure in descending big long runs up to eight kilometres (five miles) long. The highest slopes over 2200m provide up to 600 vertical metres above the treeline and open powdery slopes.

The remaining thousand meters of vertical are primarily made up of traditional meandering routes that cut through the forest, with plunging fall lines and a variety of grades and orientations for plenty of fun. It’s all in a location of outstanding natural beauty, with some amazing views of Briançon, especially when you descend from the top of Prorel above the town.

Advanced

Serre Chevalier’s 15 black lines provide many of challenges for expert skiers both on and off piste, with the 500m long L’Eychauda run from the summit of the same name high above Villeneuve being the most difficult. These snowy summits, like most of the region’s other highest points, top some of the steepest terrain in the area and give a choice of defined black lines like Col du Vent from the area’s highest point at Pic de l’Yret above Monetier, or Isolee down from L’Eychauda.

Long blacks falling to 1000 vertical metres below the treeline include Tabuc to Monetier and Casse de Boeuf to Villeneuve. Another example is the Olympic slope named for local hero Luc Alphand, which leads to Chantemerle. Off piste – whether for a short powder fix or a full-day adventure – hike-in routes abound, and all ski schools, as well as the mountain guides office, are delighted to arrange guided trips. If that isn’t enough, famed off-piste hotspot La Grave is a short day trip away.

Snowboard / Freestyle Skiing

At Serre Chevalier, it appears that the boarding and especially the freestyle scene is constantly evolving; at last count, there were three terrain parks, a quarter pipe, and two boarder cross courses on the mountain to complement the abundant freeriding terrain on the powder (hopefully) slopes above the treeline, or bouncing through the trees themselves above the villages. The main park, which is situated in the Villeneuve area, usually has several dozen elements.

Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiers will discover more than 32km (20 miles) of trails, the most of which are located in the valley and connect the majority of the 13 communities. Loops for all standards traverse the meadows and forests of the Guisane river valley. The sole really simple loop is a 2km green track, Les Albeyres, near to Villeneuve, but the most difficult route, La Virade, is a 16km (10 mile) itinerary that surrounds it and continues on across to Le Monetier. There are also simple blue and intermediate red loops in all three communities, as well as cafés and restaurants beside the tracks where you may stop for a drink. There are trails for both traditional and skate styles, as well as a biathlon stadium for competition; a day fee is necessary to access the tracks. Given the height of the valley trails, it is generally prudent to count on them being completely open at the start or end of the season, but they are often.

Serre Chevalier Apres Ski

There’s never a boring moment here, and with four distinct towns to choose from, you’re bound to find something to your liking. Ski down the home line at Chantemerle to reach the famous station bar where après ski starts with a happy hour, or if you live in Villeneuve, the Grotto at the foot of the slopes is the place to be for that après ski rush! 1420 in Briancon is ideal for a night of refined cocktails. Villeneuve has the liveliest après, with a variety of pubs for nighttime drinks – The Frog is a popular choice, while Mojo is a favorite site for winter warmers with friends. Le Kub and Le Baroque are two clubs where the party goes on till the wee hours of the morning.

The valley has a variety of eateries to suit every taste, including pizzerias, steakhouses, and classic French bistros. Restaurant 34 is well-known for its fondues, while Capassa is ideal for a casual pizza night. Traditional French food is served at The Marotte, a tiny stone house near Villeneuve, and Auberge du Choucas in Monêtier. The Peche Gourmand is a good choice for an evening of excellent food and sophisticated beverages, and Le Loup Blanc is also highly recommended.

Non-skiers will be kept busy with a variety of activities. Take a one-of-a-kind experience by snow dog sleighing, snowmobiling, or snowshoeing – you can even see the Alps in a whole new light on a hot air balloon ride. The hot baths at Le Monêtier are not to be missed for a peaceful day, and you may indulge in treatments at one of the spa facilities. Throughout the season, there are other shows and live music concerts.

Families in Serre Chevalier

This resort is ideal for a family ski vacation and has received the ‘Famile Plus’ certificate to prove it. The family favorite of the valley’s four major towns is Chantemerle, thanks to its ski in/ski out accommodation and direct access to the Serre Ratier ski resort, which offers the greatest beginning runs—perfect for family days cruising steady blues and mild greens. For quick access to this portion of the mountain, the hotels Plein Sud and Grand are placed in front of the main slope and adjacent to the ski school. With hotels offering a choice of board options, self-catered apartments, and fully catered chalets, as well as affordable and simple flights and transfer or self-drive and channel crossing alternatives, families are likely to discover the ideal option for a snow trip.

L’Adret flats provide nice family housing in a convenient location. Self-catering apartment accommodation might be a suitable alternative in the resort, which has a selection of informal pizzerias and family-friendly steakhouses. This also allows you to prepare for yourself, which is beneficial if your children have unique preferences or nutritional concerns.

Each town includes a starter area, so no matter where you reside, learners may acquire confidence nearby. For families taking their children to the slopes for the first time, Club Piou Piou is a kindergarten devoted to teaching beginners to ski, allowing parents to leave their children in safe hands while they explore the mountains.

Throughout the year, there are a variety of activities for families, such as parties, seminars, and game nights. Over Easter, an inflatables festival is a common event, along with an aqua slide contest and sledge race. In the nights, the instructors may perform a torchlit descent or a light display to fully delight the children.

Parents may take advantage of the childcare options available by opting for accommodations that include mini clubs, and there are also a number of nurseries in the resort.

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