- Accommodation & Hotels
- Ski Area
- Ski Lifts & Pass
- Activities & Things to do
- Restaurants & Nightlife
Serre Chevalier is a major ski resort in southeastern France, in the Hautes-Alpes department of the Alps. Near the Parc National des Ecrins, it enjoys a large skiing area, with 250 km (155 mi) of slopes and favorable weather, boasting 300 days of sunshine a year. In Serre Chevalier, 80 km (50 mi) of the slopes are covered by snow cannons to supplement natural snowfall.
A huge ski area of over 3900hectares, Serre Chevalier ski resort extends for 15km along the valley to include the towns of Briancon, St Chaffrey, Chantermerle, La Salle Les Alpes and Le Monetier Les Bains. More than just a ski resort, the area's wonderful history is best expressed in the old Vauban Fort that dominates the skyline above Briancon. The fort's main street, the Grande Rue, was originally constructed in the year 1345!
Serre Chevalier is a classic ski resort, worthy of a bigger reputation than it has.
Best time to visit Serre Chevalier
During the winter months there’s a high likelihood you’ll enjoy fresh powder and large dumps of snow making excellent conditions on the slopes. With over 80% of the mountain above 2000m, the Serre Chevalier valley is known for having some of the best snow in the area and large tree coverage also means the resort is great even if the weather isn’t up to scratch. The open plateaus mean that the spring sunshine can hamper 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, with a huge amount of après ski, activities and entertainment, you’re unlikely to be at a loss in the afternoons.
Serre Chevalier Snow and Weather
Serre Chevalier has a consistent snow record, receiving snow from multiple weather directions. The 16/17 season saw Serre Chevalier and surrounding areas receive excellent early season snow setting up a deep solid base and surpassing just about everywhere else in Europe. Snow quality up high is superb, and snow-making ensures lower beginner areas and valley runs are well covered. The Powderhounds easily found fresh, untracked snow 6 days after the last snowfall - a big thumbs up.
Serre Chevalier Village
There are three villages that constitute Serre Chevalier: Chantemerle, Villeneuve and Le Monetier-les-Bains, which are spread out along a 10km stretch of road running the length of the valley, each with its own access to Serre Chevalier’s ski area.
The first village you come to as you drive along the D1091 road from Briancon is Chantemerle at 1,350m, then Villeneuve at 1,400m which is the biggest and busiest of the Serre Chevlier's villages and finally Monetier-les-Bain at 1,500m, which is the highest of the three villages. The same road continues from Monetier to the Pic du Combeynot National Park and beyond to La Grave.
Chantemerle at 1,350m is a modern looking village 6km from Briancon and the first of three villages with lift access to the ski area. Mostly made up of hotels and apartment residences, Chantemerle also includes older properties near the base area where there is a shopping complex, tourist office, restaurants and bars. Views of the Luc Alphand balck run, vertical in appearance, can be enjoyed from the bars and restaurants at the base. The Station is a lively apres ski bar and a great place to sit and watch skiers tearing down the mountain. Farther along the road away from the base area is a parade of ski rental shops and supermarkets which are close to the residences and hotels. A foot tunnel goes under the road making the short walk to the base area easier for skiers.
Villeneuve (La Salles-les-Alpes)
The biggest of Serre Chevalier's villages, Villenueve at 1,400m is the hub of the ski domain and split into old and new. The newest part of the village includes a commercial centre with a parade of shops, ski schools and the tourist office. Modern apartment residences circle a large parking area and the base area of the mountain. A little further on past the main roundabout is 'Place de Aravet' with further access to the mountain via the Aravet gondola as well as hotels, bars, restaurants and ski schools. The newest parts of Villeneuve are equipped to satisfy all skiers' needs and are a centre of activity in the daytimes, however, the old village across the river is a far more picturesque and worth visiting for restaurants and bars in the evening.
La Salle-les-Alps is a street full of classic French stone buildings with beautiful balconies. Bar Mojo has an open terrace by the river that is sunlit throughout the day. The unusual looking church St Marcellin has a deep chime and is now a museum dedicated to local history. From this church there is a steep climb to the adorable St Jean's Chapel where there are fabulous views of the valley. These churches, La Salle les Alpes and Le Bez, a tiny village that is also part of Villeneuve, are brilliantly lit at night creating a delightful nocturnal picture visible from miles around.
Monetier les Bains at 1,500m is the highest of Serre Chevalier's villages and located just past the Col du Lautaret. This beautiful village is a small quaint place with little modern infrastructure. St Martin's church dominates the village, whose grand stone walls typify the old French architecture found throughout the Serre Chevalier valley. Opposite the church is a small square and Bar Alpen, a lovely place to sit on sunshine days and enjoy a beer.
Monetier is the quietest village in the domain with fewer bars and restaurants, however, the bars and restaurants that are in Monetier are quality and worth visiting. The ski lifts are located behind the village and accessed via short walk through narrow streets. Alternatively a free shuttle bus runs every 20 minutes between the village and the ski lifts. Another shuttle visits all of Serre Chevalier's resort base stations.
Monetier-les-Bains is also home to the thermal baths that reputedly have good healing qualities and are worth visiting after a day's skiing to sooth-tired legs. The baths have an indoor pool at 44° C and an outdoor pool at 36° C which have been tastefully renovated and include huge windows which allow views of the surrounding mountains to be enjoyed by day or night.
The majority of skiers visiting to Serre Chevalier choose to stay in Villeneuve. Monetier or Chantemerle, but Briancon at 1,326m is also equipped for tourism and has its own base area with Gondola Le Prorel accessing the ski mountain. The small town of Briancon (officially the highest city in the European Union) has a population of nearly 12,000 inhabitants and all of the facilities one would expect in a town of this size including a train station with regular trains to Paris. The new town unfolds at the foot of the ski area and climbs the other side of the valley where the walled historic town and the old fort is situated. The old town lies beneath a fort that was built in the 17th century. Within its walls are colorful buildings with wooden balconies that live on steep narrow streets full of bars, shops and restaurants and cobbled streets leading to a square and church at the pinnacle of the Fort du Chateau and spectacular views of Briancon and Serre Chevalier.
Serre Chevalier Ski Resort
Spread across a number of villages and hamlets, the Serre Chevalier valley’s not your usual alpine resort – but that’s what we like about it. While you won’t find a main hub of restaurants, bars and accommodation, a stay in one of the villages gives you a more ski-focussed, budget friendly week on the mountains.
Briancon, Chantemerle, Villeneuve and Monêtier are the four main bases, each with their own character, but all with terrific lift access to the mountain.
Typical French Briancon sits at the far end, its cobbled streets and olde worlde architecture giving it the name of - ‘Le Ville d’Art et d’Histoire’- the town of art and history. With good access to the ski area via red runs, it’s ideal for intermediate skiers as well as non-skiers looking for things to see and do in town.
At the centre of the valley, Chantemerle has the best access to the slopes as well as a main square of, shops, bars and restaurants. A number of gentle green and blue runs leading back to the village make it spot on for beginners and families.
Neighbouring Villeneuve is the place to be for lively après and cheap self-catering accommodation – its central location means easy access to the ski area and with a number of bars at the base of the home run, you’re always close to the action.
Rich in alpine charm at 1500m, Le Monêtier Les Bains is the highest village. This rustic mountain location is famed for its thermal baths and has a relaxed atmosphere making it perfect for a romantic getaway. Enjoy traditional stone architecture complimented by stunning views of the mountains as well as links to some amazing skiing through tree-lined runs.
All four villages have direct access to the slopes with regular ski busses running between them, so if you finish your day at the opposite end of the ski area you can easily get back to your base.
Skiing in Serre Chevalier
With some of the best conditions in the French Alps (80% of the slopes are above 2000m) the ski area includes wide-open, sunny plateaus, scenic tree lined runs and a perfectly groomed blanket of white beneath your skis or board.
The piste can be accessed from all four towns and nursery slopes run from each allowing beginners to gain some confidence in peace - with help from the excellent ski schools in the area they’ll be progressing higher in no time! Beginners will find a number of gentle blues and steady greens further up the mountain. One of the best towns for beginner skiing is Chantemerle as this leads to Serre Ratier which has a number of cruisey blues running through the trees on perfectly groomed terrain.
Intermediates can roam freely through some of the most beautiful scenery in the French Alps in the Parc National des Ecrins. Glide across the wide open bowl at Grande Alpe, or take a leisurely and seriously scenic ski through the woods on the lower slopes at Monêtier. Those looking for more challenging terrain should head to Cucumelle at the edge of Villeneuve and clos Galliard at Le Monêtier. A favourite and lesser known red leads down from the Aguillette chairlift offering a long and quiet run for making fresh tracks.
Advanced snow lovers have heaps of challenging terrain to try. Casse du Boeuf is a broad black running down into Villenueve and the La Voie Jackson run above Le Monêtier is another favourite.
There’s loads of free-riding terrain up the mountain and within the trees above Chantemerle. The area is littered with natural obstacles (especially on Cucumelle) and you’ll find five fully equipped snowparks and two Boardercross’ at the top of Grande Alpe and near the Rocher Blanc chairlift.
All four of the main sectors have good beginner slopes and nursery areas, each with its own pros and cons. At Briancon you need to take the first stage of the gondola up to the nursery slopes 400 vertical metres above the village at Pra Long. Once you have mastered these there is a small issue with a lack of very easy runs right above the village, where instead they are mostly blues and reds. It’s a similar story at Chantemerle, although here there are great long greens back to the village. Villeneuve does have a good choice of nursery slopes right by the village and again great long green runs like Aravet to descend on once you have the confidence to take the lift higher up the mountain. Monetier also has good resort level nursery slopes but like Briançon lacks any long greens back to the village to progress smoothly on to, instead you’ll need to tackle the slightly sleeper blue runs like the Route des Espagnols.
Something of a paradise for intermediate standard skiers who’ll find 99 easy green to intermediate red grade runs to whizz about on, enjoying the feeling of travelling from village to village and the sense of adventure in descending great long runs up to eight kilometres (five miles) long. The higher slopes over around 2200m provide up to 600 vertical metres above the treeline and wide powdery slopes.
The remaining thousand metres of vertical is mostly made up of classic winding trails cut through the forest with plunging fall lines and lots of varied pitches and orientation for plenty of fun. It’s all in an area of great natural beauty with some spectacular views too, particularly of Briançon as you descend from the peak of Prorel above the town.
Plenty to challenge advanced skiers both on and off piste in Serre Chevalier’s 15 black runs, the toughest of which is arguably the 500m long L'Eychauda run from the peak of the same name high 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.
Snowboard / Freestyle Skiing
The boarding and particularly the freestyle scene are constantly evolving it seems at Serre Chevalier, 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 up above the treeline, or bouncing through the trees themselves above the villages. The main park is located in the Villeneuve sector and normally boasts several dozen features.
Cross country skiers will find more than 32km (20 miles) of tracks, most of them down in the valley linking up the majority of the 13 villages. Loops for all standards follow the Guisane river valley’s meadows and woodlands. The only very easy loop is a 2km green track, Les Albeyres, next to Villeneuve, but surrounding it and continuing on over to Le Monetier is the most challenging trail, La Virade, which is a 16km (10 mile) itinerary. There are easy blue and intermediate red loops at all three of the villages too, along with cafes and restaurants by the tracks to stop for a drink in. There are trails suited to both classic and skating styles and there’s a biathlon stadium for competition; a day pass is required to use the tracks. Given the altitude of the tracks down in the valley it is probably unwise to rely on them being fully open at the start or end of the season, although they often are.
Serre Chevalier Apres Ski
There’s never a dull moment here and with four different towns oozing character you’re sure to find something to suit you. Ski down the home run at Chantemerle to find the popular station bar where après ski begins with a happy hour or if you’re based in Villeneuve, the Grotto at the base of the slopes is the place to be for that après ski buzz! 1420 in Briancon is perfect for an evening of sophisticated drinks. The liveliest après is found at Villeneuve with a number of bars for evening drinks - The Frog is a popular favourite and Mojo is a hot spot for winter warmers with friends. There are a number of clubs where the party carries on into the early hours such as Le Kub and Le Baroque.
You’ll find plenty of restaurants in the valley to suit every palette including pizzerias, steak houses and traditional French bistros. Restaurant 34 is famed for its fondues and Capassa is nice for a casual pizza night. Traditional French cuisine can be enjoyed at The Marotte, set in a small stone building in Villeneuve or Auberge du Choucas in Monêtier. For an evening of fine dining and smart drinks, the Peche Gourmand is a top establishment and Le Loup Blanc is also highly noteworthy.
Any non-skiers will be thoroughly entertained with a host of activities. Take a unique experience on the snow dog sleighing, snowmobiling or on a snowshoe excursion - you can even picture the mountains in a whole new light on a hot air balloon trip. For a relaxing day, the thermal baths at Le Monêtier aren’t to be missed and you can indulge in treatments in one of the wellness facilities. Shows and live music concerts are also put on throughout the season.
Families in Serre Chevalier
This resort is perfect for a family getaway to the slopes and has been awarded the ‘Famile Plus’ award to prove it. Of the four main towns in the valley, the family favourite is Chantemerle due to its ski in / ski out accommodation and central access to the Serre Ratier ski area which has the best beginner runs- perfect for family days cruising steady blues and gentle greens. Hotel Plein Sud and Hotel Grand are located in front of the main run and close to the ski school for easy access to this part of the mountain. With a range of hotels in a variety of board options, self-catered apartments and fully catered chalets paired with cheap and easy flights and transfer or self-drive and channel crossing options families will be sure to find the perfect option for a holiday to the snow.
L’Adret apartments offer comfortable accommodation in prime location for families. With a variety of casual pizzerias and family-friendly steak houses in the resort, self-catered apartment accommodation can be a good option. This also gives you the opportunity to cook for yourself which is a good idea if children have specific tastes or dietary requirements.
Each town has a beginner area so whichever town you choose to stay in, learners can gain their confidence nearby. For families bringing their younger ones to the slopes for the first time, Club Piou Piou is a kindergarten dedicated to teaching newbies to ski, so parents can leave their children in safe hands whilst they go off to explore the mountains.
There are a number of events put on for families throughout the year such as parties, workshops, and games evenings. An inflatables festival is a regular occurrence over Easter when an aqua slide contest and sledge race are also known to take place. In the evenings, you may catch a torchlit descent by the instructors or a light show to truly excite the little ones.
Parents can make the most of the childcare facilities available by looking out for accommodation with mini clubs and there are also a number of nurseries in the resort. Remember to book early to secure the best deals and call us for friendly advice and easy booking!
Group Holidays Serre Chevalier
Groups looking for an action packed week on and off the slopes will find everything they need here, with over 250km of varied terrain and a lively après scene.
We have some charming accommodation with beautiful views over the mountain such as the L’Adret Apartments. Chalets can be ideal and those who can get a big enough group can enjoy sole occupancy - Chalet Pyrene offers central location holding up to 14 occupants. We also have a number of hotels like Club Med that are suited to groups wanting to make the most of the skiing and the nightlife in a bigger, more sociable property.
Serre Chevalier’s four different towns with four different characters mean every group will find something they enjoy. Groups looking for nightlife would be best to stay in Villeneuve where you’ll find a number of lively bars- head to The Frog and on to Le Kub for a good party and Mojo bar for a more chilled evening. Monêtier is a better base for those wanting a quieter holiday and is especially nice for couples on a romantic break. This authentic mountain town offers traditional alpine accommodation and the chance to try out the famous thermal baths, which make for a special evening of relaxation.
Any less confident skiers can cruise down the slopes at Serre Ratier, the more advanced can roam the mountain to find some tree lined reds and whilst the really keen try out the air kicks at a snow park, the rest of the group can take a break with a drink in the chill out area to watch. A good meeting point for groups after a long day on the piste is the Grotto at Villeneuve to start the après drinks.
For the best value on your group holiday, book one of our package deals with flights and transfers included or opt for a self-drive package with channel crossing. For large groups departing from different places we also have great deals for accommodation on its own if you want to book your travel separately.
Transportation - Get In
The closest airports are :
- Grenoble airport (lowcost airport)[2h45 by car]
- Lyon [3h by car]
- Milan(Italy)[2h40 by car]
There is a train station in Briançon.
- the main line is Marseille-Briançon.
- A night train comes from Paris, making it easy to reach by train from the UK.
If you want to come by TGV(high speed train) from Lyon or Paris, the most efficient way is to take the Paris-Milan line and to step out at Oulx, Italy. Then there is a bus (30 mn) to Briançon.
- If you come from Grenoble, you have to take the D1091 and cross the Lautaret pass.
- If you come from Italy, you have to take the SS24 and cross the Montgenèvre pass.
- If you come from South (Marseille, Sisteron) you have to take the highway A51/E712, then the N85 to gap and the N94 to Briançon.
There is a bus from Grenoble to Briançon (2/day) and a bus from Marseille and Gap to Briançon.
Serre Chevalier’s ski area includes 250km of pistes and good skiing for all abilities at the foot of Le Parc l’Ecrins, the biggest glacier park, and a mix of Mediterranean and Alpine climate with plenty of sunshine on well maintained north facing slopes.
Serre Chevalier's ski area includes four ski villages - Monetier les Bains, Villeneuve, Chantemerle and Briançon - between 1,500m and 1,200m above sea level and nine peaks of which Le Pic de l'Yert (2,830m) is the highest. Serre Chevalier's ski area is good for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities and a typical day involves skiing well-groomed slopes from one side of the ski area to the other with a choice of 103 runs including 12 black, 39 red, 29 blue and 23 green runs. Artificial snowmaking covers two thirds of Serre Chevalier's 250km pistes to ensure good snow conditions all season from early December until late April.
Monetier les Bains
Monetier le Bains (1,500m) is the quietest of four villages and provides the most challenging skiing, however, the ski lift system is the oldest and slowest in the valley. The base station on the outskirts of the village includes a small arcade of shops, ski schools and wide open slopes for beginners with two-drag lifts servicing the nursery slopes beside the main chairlift that rises to Bachas mid-station at 2,176m. The groomed slopes below Bachus include numerous red and blue runs that weave through the trees to the base station and the Tabuc black run around the back of the mountain, which is gentle to begin with then plummets down a steep, mogul filled face ending with a flat stretch some distance from the base station at the Ski du Font.
Monetier's treelined slopes reach as high as the Bachus mid-station. From Bachas the Cibout chairlift climbs a further 319m to the top of an open bowl and a red run or a black run down. There's also a natural half pipe which is great for thrill seekers looking for big air and entertaining for those riding the Yert chair which takes skiers to the highest point in Serre Chevalier at 2,398m, and from where you can ski to Villeneuve. The views from the top of the Yert chairlift are of steep edgy cliff faces with sharp rocks and mean looking couloirs that form the back of the Cucumelle peak, but the route across the valley is via a red or black run to the Cucumelle chairlift that leads to Villeneuve.
Villeneuve (1,400m) is arguably the most popular of Serre Chevalier's four ski villages with a massive variety of runs and many interesting features. The Villeneuve base area has two parts, the biggest of which is between the Frejus gondola and the Case du Beouf chairlift. The base area is near a modern shopping arcade where both the Tourist Office and the ESF and Ski Connnections Ski School offices are situated. The base area has two draglifts and a rope pull for novices. It's also the meeting point for ski schools and can be busy at times. Situated beside the base area is the Le Mickey green run, which is a hive of activity and can be accessed by Place de Aravet, a square with parking, restaurants, ski schools and bars. The Aravet gondola starts here and alights at Aravet, a mid-station at 1,972m with a beginners' area with a magic carpet. A long and gentle green run weaves its way from Aravet back to the base and is a perfect picturesque tree run for beginners.
Back at the base, the Case du Beouf high-speed chairlift is the quickest way to ride back up the mountain; taking less than 10 minutes to reach 2,273m and passing above the epic Case du Beouf black run, which cuts dramatically through the trees. On sunny days skiers are silhouetted by sunlight, illuminating their snow trails as they speed down the face. The top of the Case du Beouf offers marvelous views of the Cucumelle and the possibility to ski towards Monetier or Chantemerle. More advanced skiers should head towards Monetier via the Clot Gautier chairlift. The Clot Gautier red run passes the Eychauda draglift that leads skiers to L'Eychauda, the highest peak in Villeneuve. There is a black or red run down to choose from which are part of the Brut Neige area, meaning runs are not groomed yet are secure. This allows skiers to experience off piste sensations in safe conditions. There are many ways one could ski back to the Clot Gautier chair allowing this area to be easily lapped, using a different route down each time, with a good chance of cutting fresh lines in the powder.
From the top of the Clot Gautier chair 2,490m there are wide-open blue runs leading to the area known as La Balm, which is serviced by two draglifts and also has a green run which is ideal for beginner skiers. Ski passed La Balm to reach the Vallon Express chairlift, opened in 2011, which rises to the base of La Cucumelle 2,221m and means that one can now reach Monetier from the base area in Villeneuve by riding just two chairlifts.
From the top of the Case du Boeuf it's also possible to ski to Chantemerle using the Marteau blue run which passes the snow park and leads into the Luc Alphand black run, named after the former French ski world champion who lives locally. The impressive black run plunges into the valley allowing dramatic views of Chantemerle beneath. For intermediates there are also blues and greens that meander through the trees passing through the Melizone snow park in the forests with natural park features sculpted from wood and huge logs.
Villeneuve is also home to Club Med with its own base area, which is located about one kilometer away from the main base station where the cable car Pontillas leads to Frejus at 2,065m. The 'Club Med' cable car provides an alternative way up the mountain to the area beneath La Cucumelle and is open to all, but it's seldom used by non Club Med clients and the runs down to Pontillas are often icy and crowded with Club Med clients, and best avoided if possible.
Chantemerle is small with no beginner slopes at the base station, but the Bletonet chairlift and Troncon cable car both provide access to the mid-station at Serre Ratier (1,900m), which is a main centre of activity with wide-open area with nursery slopes, cafes and Le Chalet Hotel Ratier. The Café Soleil is a popular place for lunch and breaks, with ample deck chairs and seating facing a broad and flat area, served by two draglifts and a magic carpet, which is ideal for novices.
The Combes and Oree du Bois chairlifts leave from here, rising above the tree line and providing access to the Genepi blue run to Villeneuve, and a big open bowl with excellent blue runs leading to the Gran Serre chairlift which rises to Serre Chevalier at 2,491m and offers spectacular views from the summit. Advanced skiers can drop off the back of the Serre Chevalier peak and ski off-piste to the Villeneuve ski area arriving at the bottom of Clot Gautier chairlift. Piste skiers can enjoy an excellent blue run that follows the ridgeline into the bowl below which ample blue and red runs that lead to the Prorel chair lift which rises to Prorel (2,400m) and is gateway to Briancon.
Alternatively, the Saludes red run leads into the Edutis red run that winds through the trees to the Aiguillette chairlift which rises above the 3km long Aiguillette red run. The Aiguillette chairlift is slow and this part of the ski area is often very quiet and thanks to its trees, provides shelter and better visibility in bad weather. A choice of blue and red runs at the top of the Aiguillette chairlift lead back to the Serre Ratier mid-point. To return to Chantemerle from Serre Ratier, advanced skiers and plucky intermediates can ski the Luc Alphand black run, while beginners and less confident intermediates can ski the easy Briance green run.
Briancon is the smallest of Serre Chevalier's four ski domains. There is no skiing at the base area and the ski area is accessed by the Prorel cable car, which rises to the Plateau de Pralong mid-point (1,600m) where there is a restaurant and a small nursery slope with one draglift for novices. The cable car continues from mid-point to the Le Prorel peak at 2,360m where two red runs or two blue runs and the Serre Blanc draglift lead to the ski area above Chantemerle.
The best slopes in Briancon are the long classic red runs between the top of Le Prorel and mid-station. The Remparts red run splits into three red runs which are wide, steep and often very quiet, but sometimes icy in the mornings so are better skied once the sun has softened the snow a little. Briancon's ski area is south-facing has more sunshine than the rest of the Serre Chevalier valley and offers spectacular views of the town below. There's also night skiing once a week during the high season from 7-10pm on the floodlit Vaubaun red run from the Plateau de Pralong mid-station down to the base station with lovely views of the town lights shimmering below.
Serre Chevalier Beginners
Serre Chevalier’s best areas for beginner skiers are Villeneuve and Chantelmerle. Villeneuve is ideal for total beginners and children. The base area is fitted out with three draglifts and a pull rope which access smooth, flat wide-open areas that are away from the end of the more advanced runs.
The 'Mickey' piste is a green run at the base that is broad and has a variety of gradients for beginners to descend in accordance to their ability. This piste can become crowded as it also forms the end of the blue run 3.8km 'Marteau'.
There is a magic carpet at the top of the Aravet bubble and a ride up this lift is included in the beginner's pass. This allows total beginners the chance to enjoy beautiful mountain views whilst practicing. The magic carpet area also has a garden for toddlers with giant cartoon flowers and inflated toys - a truly magical world.
The 3km green run 'Aravet' is by far the most picturesque and lengthy run from which a beginner can benefit. The piste's hairpin bends gently meander down the mountain and through the forests in an enchanting manner, however, it is a fairly narrow run that may be frightening for some beginners as the edge of this piste drops into 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' tree run in Villeneuve or take the easy green 'Briance' that winds its way back to the base in Chantemerle.
Villeneuve and Chantemele have a multitude of blues beginning from the peaks 'Serre Chevalier' 2491m and 'La Foret' 1972m that allow capable beginners the opportunity to experience skiing from the top of the mountain to the bottom allowing them spectacular mountain views and even have a go at the beginner jumps in the snow park.
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 Intermediate Skiing
Serre Chevalier is a first-rate ski resort for intermediate skiers. The 250km of skiable terrain has a suburb selection of well-maintained reds and blues in all kinds of terrain enabling intermediates to challenge themselves and enjoy varied terrain with spectacular mountain vistas.
Villeneuve offers intermediates an assortment of reds by either heading to Monetier or Chantemerle. Towards Monetier the red run 2.7km'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.
Chantemele 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 allowing intermediates to work on technique on the gentler slopes before being faced with steeper terrain. The chair lifts 'Le Prorel' and 'Combes' are ideal for lapping this area. The red runs 1.5km 'Saludes' and 2.7km 'Edutis', begin above the tree line before plunging into the forests. They are broad and spacious and excellent for intermediates.
Briançon's reds are difficult as their gradient are steep and are better for more advanced skiers, however, confident intermediates will benefit from their challenge. These reds are best avoided in the morning as they can be very icy. From Le Prorel 2043m these gnarly reds seem endless as they plummet into the historic town whose views are incredible.
Monetier's steep terrain is best left for adventurous intermediates and advanced skiers. From the peak Yret at 2830meters the conditions can be icy and the pistes full of moguls. A better place for intermediates is around the top of 'Cibouit' where red or blue runs zig zag their way from an open bowl into the trees before arriving at the base allowing a charming descent. This area is better skied early on whilst the sun still shines in this part of the ski domain.
Serre Chevalier Advanced & Expert Skiing
Serre Chevalier’s enormous ski domain offers advanced skiers a lot of challenging terrain all over the valley. The highest peak ‘Pic de L’Yret’ 2830m in Monetier has the steepest terrain and excellent off piste skiing. Serre Chevalier has a lot of off-piste visible from the lifts which can be reached by short hikes without the need for touring equipment.
At the top of the 'Yret' chair in Monetier is a steep cliff face that offers a demanding off piste descent, visible from the Yret chair lift. To reach the cliff face, follow the ridgeline along the black piste 'Col du Vent' passing the barrier underneath the Yert chair. The descent is accessible after a traverse to the right, crossing top of a couloir until the cliff face becomes wide open where it is possible to drop. The sharp descent leads to the edge of a gentle blue which can be crossed into an adrenaline filled natural half pipe whose sides are steep before arriving back at the start of the Yret chair.
Monetier is home to Serre Chevalier's Arva Park that is situated by the blue run 'Eychauda'. The park has Arva signals buried within it that are designed to simulate searching for victims in an avalanche. This park is a great way to ensure visitors know how to use their Arvas. There are also six Arva checkpoints situated throughout the valley that will enable skiers to check there arvas are working correctly. These points are clearly marked on the piste map.
Serre Chevalier's ski domain is tagged with 'Brute de Neige' areas. These areas are secured but not groomed, allowing skiers to experience challenging natural conditions in safety. Advanced skiers should head to Villeneuve's 'Brute de Neige' area, situated high above the tree line at the top of 'L'Eychauda' chair at 2659m The black run 'Isolee' maps the ridgeline; a drop to the left at any point along this run accesses a broad cliff face that offers skiers many off piste routes back to the chair lift 'Clot Gautier.' This speedy chair enables quick access back to this excellent Brut de Neige area as well as the piste 2.7km 'Clot Gautier' which is an outstanding red run. The 3km red run 'La Cucumelle is surrounded by wide open smooth curvaceous gullies that spread out across the face of the mountain, a brilliant off-piste area. A short hike up la Cucumelle to its peak broadens the amount of off piste terrain available. Also to be noted is the 3.km back run 'Case du Beouf' that is steep, long and testing, it cuts through the forests that can be penetrated for an alternative off piste ski tree decent.
In Chantemerle advanced skiers should head for the 'Aguillette' chair otherwise known as the loan lift. The top of this chair can be accessed by visible off piste on the face of the peak 'le Prorel' 2566m. There are many interesting rock features and trees to ski through around the 2.8km 'Aguillette' red run which is brilliant, as well as its neighbouring red run the spectacular 2.5km 'Etudis' which was made for speed freaks.
Serre Chevalier's tree skiing is fabulous because the trees are well spaced. The forests are made up of big larches that grow further apart from each other than alpine forests due to their need for extra moisture. Around 'Aguillette' advanced skiers will find a plethora of routes through these beautiful forests. The advantage of these skiable forests in Serre Chevalier that it is especially good for bad light days which will test any advanced skier to their limits and enable people to ski in weather conditions that render resorts without trees un skiable.
Briançon's wide-open sheer red runs are excellent for advanced skiers as they are long, broad and generally very quiet. Advanced skiers can, therefore, really test themselves away from the crowds on the 3.km long reds 'Rempants', 'Charonde' and 'Grand Gargouille' with spectacular views of the historic town unfolding directly beneath them.
Serre Chevalier Snowboarding
Serre Chevalier’s Snow Park is in Villeneuve at 2,200m. It covers four hectares and is 700m long, so it’s not massive and can easily be lapped. It’s fairly quiet and although a good place to improve freestyle tricks, it’s not the best place for true park fanatics.
The Snow Park is split into beginner, intermediate and advanced areas with about thirty features in total. The beginner area has small jumps, a box and hip jump ideal for first timers in a park. The intermediate area has three decent sized kickers, a box and rainbow rail. The advanced area has three black jumps, the last of which is enormous, but not always open. A small drag lift services the park and passes the park shaper's lodge where there is a chill out area playing reggae tunes with occasional BBQs.
A little further down the mountain past Aravet on the way to Chantemerel is the 'Melezone', a snow park named after the 'Meleze' (French for Larches) trees that unfold in the forests where classic snow park attractions have been sculpted from local wood. Features include boxes made of huge logs split in half, wooden jibs, horses and seesaws to slide over. The Melezone, serviced by a draglift off the side of the black run 'Luc Alphand, is a good place to practice freestyle while riding in the picturesque forests, however, be careful of those using the area for picnicking!
Serre Chevalier's visible and easily accessible off-piste offers ample opportunity for free riders to spot good cliff jumps and cut some lines in fresh powder without the need for long treks. A short easy hike up La Cucumelle or La Balm will lead riders to lengthy off-piste descents, over natural half pipes, interesting rock features and through-the-trees. Serre Chevalier's excellent tree skiing is ideal for snowboarders and skiers alike as the trees are perfectly spaced enabling riders to navigate the trees in many directions and at speed.
Serre Chevalier's off-piste tends to be visible from the chairlifts and is not exceptionally gnarly and, therefore, it is fairly safe for experienced off-piste skiers and riders. The off-piste can be mostly accessed without the need for a guide, but should be ridden with care and with the use of avalanche beacons. There is an Arva park in Monetier that simulates the use of beacons in a burial situation along with six Arva check points across the mountain that are well marked on the piste map.
Ski lifts & pass
Serre Chevalier’s ski lift system is varied and predominantly quite old, but the sheer size of the ski area means that once past the base stations skiers spread out in all directions and queuing times at ski lifts are generally acceptable expect at peak periods.
Compagnie des Alpes plan to open one new chairlift every year, which suggests that it will take another 11 years to replace slow fixed grip chairlifts and that's too slow! During the long French holidays in February, Serre Chevalier lift queues can be frustrating due to the vast number of visitors, but at other times during the ski season the ski lifts operate quite quickly without too much queuing.
The base areas in Chantelmerle and Villeneuve have newer lifts alongside older gondolas. From Villeneuve the fastest way up the mountain is to ride the Case du Beouf chairlift which transports skiers to 2,273m in under 10 minutes. The Aravet gondola at Place de Aravet is an old gondola allowing up to four riders at a time and provides access to La Aravet mid-station (1,972m) which is popular for beginners and children. The Frejus gondola near the bottom of the Case du Beouf chairlift leads to Frejus 2,065m. Serre Chevalier's newest chairlift, the high-speed 8-person Les Vallons Express, opened in 2011 and can transport 2,800 skiers per hour to the base of La Cucumelle 2,221m, dramatically improving access to Monetier.
The Chantemerle base station offers skiers a choice of a gondola, a cable car or a chairlift, up to the Serre Ratier mid-mountain station at 1,900m. The Grand Alpe gondola is old and slow and the Troncon cable car is also pretty slow, and the quickest lift to mid-station is the Bletonet chairlift. From Serre Raiter, two efficient chairlifts, the Oree du Bois and the Combes, provide easy access to the ski area at Villeneuve.
Monetier's lift system is the oldest in the Serre Chevalier valley and rides can be slow, but it's also the quietest of the four ski areas and hence queues are generally not too long. The Bancas lift provides access to Le Bancas mid-station at 2,176m and the Yret chairlift climbs to 2,280m in around 14 minutes, but can be closed in high wind conditions which limits access to Villeneuve. The faster Echayada chairlift starting from lower down in the valley is a good alternative as it is normally open when the Yret is not.
Briancon's ski area is reached by the Prorel cable car, which is the newest cable car in Serre Chevalier and reasonably efficient, but fairly slow. The climb from 1,200m to 2,360m takes around 20 minutes meaning most people skiing in Serre Chevalier who are not staying in Briançon will not bother skiing all of the way down to the base station and instead join the cable car at the Plateau de Pralong mid-station (1,600m) where the ride back up to the top is reduced to around 12 minutes.
|Peak season||Low season|
Free choice ski pass
|Peak season||Low season|
|5 out of 7|
Activities & Things to do
Off slope activities in Serre Chevalier include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter walking, the popular thermal baths in Monetier Les Bains and numerous villages to explore as well as other activity sports including driving and go-karting on ice!
Serre Chevalier Cross-country Skiing
Serre Chevalier has 35km of cross-country (Ski du Fond) pistes with eight circuits that stretch from Villeneuve to the village of Le Casset, close to the Col du Lautaret. The circuits run close to the river La Guisane with the ski domain towering around them and lead through villages with stunning architecture that could otherwise easily be missed. For more information visit the Hautes Alpes Ski du Fond website or phone +33 4 92 20 15 09.
Serre Chevalier Snowshoeing
The Serre Chevalier valley has many snowshoeing routes including snowshoeing in the ski area, which requires a pedestrian lift pass, and routes in the Ecrins National Park. Snowshoes are available for hire in all ski hire shops and a guide to the trails is on sale at the tourist offices. Visit the tourist office website (www.serre-chevalier.com) for more information.
Nights on the slopes
Serre Chevalier offers visitors the opportunity to walk in the ski area or ride in a piste-grooming machine at night followed by an evening meal at a mountain restaurant. Participants can also visit and learn about the night time operations of the snowmaking teams and piste groomers preparing the slopes at night. For more information about a 'Night on the Slopes', visit the Serre Chevalier website (www.serre-chevalier.com) or phone +33 (0) 4 92 24 02 41.
Thermal baths of Monetier les Bains
The Les Grand Bains hot thermal baths at Monetier les Bains offer beautiful views of the ski resort and a not to be missed opportunity to relax and allow natural minerals in the waters to inject a sense of well being after skiing. The recently renovated baths are located close to the base station in Monetier and include indoor and outdoor baths with many water features as well as Turkish baths, steam rooms and numerous treatment rooms with different themes. The thermal baths are open daily from 2pm to 9pm. Visit the website (www.lesgrandsbains.fr) or phone +33 4 92 40 00 00 for more information.
The Circuit de Glace in Villeneuve offers visitors the opportunity to drive cars around an ice track. Instructors teach clients how to drive on the ice in half-day sessions. The ice circuit is open from December until the valley temperatures rise above freezing, usually into March. Visit the ice circuit website or phone +33 4 92 24 78 44 for more information.
There's also go karting on a 550m ice track in Chantemerle, which opens from December and usually until March subject to local weather conditions. Sessions can be booked for groups or individuals and last half a day. Visit the Serre Chevalier karting website or phone +33 4 92 52 60 60 for more information.
Spend a day on the mountain with a professional mountain photographer. Michael Truelove has lived and worked in Serre Chevalier for over 15 years shooting professional skiers for magazines and advertising. He offers visitors the chance to capture an unforgettable day of skiing, with individual action shots and group photographs. For more information, visit www.pikephotography.co.uk or email [email protected]kephotography.co.uk.
Serre Chevalier Museums and Guided Tours
Serre Chevalier's history is rich and interesting. There are numerous guided tours of the villages and Briancon as well as a local history museum in the Saint Luce Chapel (Tel: +33 4 92 24 54 00) in Villeneuve and the museum of Sacred Art in the Saint Pierre Chapel in Monetier (Tel: +33 4 92 24 57 43). Briancon's old town and historic fort has guided tours that take place four times a month, for dates and times and more information visit the Serre Chevalier Tourism website.
Restaurants & Nightlife
Serre Chevalier Mountain Restaurants
Serre Chevalier’s fifteen mountain restaurants are predominately canteen style restaurants with self-service facilities catering for a large clientele, but more exclusive a la carte restaurants are also on offer. Costs vary but, in general, the food on the mountain is good and not over priced.
Villeneuve mountain restaurants
La Grotte is a large English run restaurant and bar at the foot of the green run 'le Mickey'. The restaurant serves bar food at very reasonable prices. The service is great as the Grotte team is made of friendly mountain characters. La Grotte is a good place to eat and take a break in the day and also one of the best après ski bars in the valley thanks to a lively Happy hour with a different event every day.
L'Aravet 2000 is the larger of the two mountain restaurants at the foot of the Aravet gondola with a self-service buffet in a canteen style restaurant and a bar. There is outdoor seating on a terrace along with scores of red deckchairs served by waiters, an ideal place to soak in the sunshine.
Le Bercail is a large wooden lodge tucked away in the corner of Aravet with a la carte menu as well as a self-service buffet. The centrepiece of the lodge is a large wood burner creating a cozy ambience. Outside is a decent sized wooden decking area with plenty of seating.
Le Bivwack is a mountain at the top of the Case du Beouf which has a la carte menus specializing in mountain cuisine, fondues and Raclettes. The lodge is situated just off blue run 'Genepi' in a tranquil location. The outside decking faces the sun with views of the snow park to enjoy.
L'Echaillion restaurant and bar is a little further down situated on the Fangeas piste that leads through the woods. The restaurant has fabulous views of La Cucumelle and offers an a la carte menu with typical dishes. This restaurant is reputed to be the most expensive on the mountain, however, and not necessarily the best value for money.
Restaurant Frejus is a large wooden lodge at the top of the Frejus gondola at the foot of ski area La Balm with ample seating inside and out. The restaurant is a self-service style canteen whose menu is more limited than other restaurants yet on the whole cheaper. Dishes on offer include chicken and chips. The bar, run by a quirky Frenchman, is a fun place to hang out and a popular place for local mountain workers to lunch.
Le Pi Mai restaurant and hotel is among a cluster of mountain lodges in the village de Frejus at the base of La Cucumelle red run which is visible from the new Vallons Express chairlift. This authentic classic lodge, renowned for its great a la carte menu, is a charming place to take a break and enjoy classic French mountain cuisine in a beautiful environment, off the beaten track, where the staff are inviting and very hospitable.
Chantemerle mountain restaurants
Cafe Soleil is a self-service restaurant for pizzas and snacks, and the most popular of four restaurants at the mid station Serre Ratier. Its large terrace and ample deck chairs are a perfect place to take a break for food or coffee and the cafe lends fancy trilby hats to clients to shade from the sun.
Le Troll, beneath Cafe Soleil, is a much smaller restaurant and bar with a cosy ambience and an a la carte menu offering mountain cuisine and also serves pastries and hot drinks after 15.30pm
Le Relais de Ratier is a large canteen above the Security de Piste offices with a big outdoor seating area. The self-service buffet offers meat dishes, salads, omelet and crepes at reasonable prices. A great meal deal is steak and chips with a half carafe of wine. There is also a log fire inside and the staff are very welcoming.
Le Chalet Hotel Ratier is a lovely mountain log cabin with a fabulous decking area behind Le Relais de Ratier. The hotel's set back location allows one to escape the crowds and enjoy panoramic mountain views in relative calm. The restaurant has an a la carte menu serving traditional mountain dishes and is a great place for those wishing take time off from skiing and to wine and dine in style on the mountain.
Grand Alpes 2100m is a large self-service restaurant at the foot of the Grand Serre chairlift with a great selection of hot foods, salads, pizzas and snacks at very reasonable prices. The bar has a big balcony with plenty of outside seating.
Monetier mountain restaurants
Le Chapak mountain restaurant at the top of the Bachas chairlift currently is a self service restaurant, will provide fast food, snacks and salads whereas Le Flocon will be a more traditional restaurant with an A la Carte menu providing mountain specialties amid open fires in a mountain lodge. The owners are in the process of adding another restaurant, Le Flocon, which will be situated by the Arva Park and opposite Le Chapak.
Le Peyra Juana is a quaint mountain restaurant besides a small chapel tucked away in the woods off the Rochamout blue run. This small modest hut has true charisma and is a great place to take a break and dine on a small a la carte menu, which offers a choice of salads, mountain cuisine and pasta dishes.
Briancon mountain restaurants
Le Chalet du Pra Long is situated at the mid station Plateau de Pralong. The restaurant is large with wooden beams and high ceilings and has a big terrace with beautiful views of the town Briancon below. The restaurant is self-service with plat du jours and smaller plates of food available for snacking. The restaurant has a pool table, games room and open fire.
Le Chalet du Serre Blanc is a charming little restaurant at 2,235m at the top of Briancon's ski area. There are seven tables inside and a similar number outside on a terrace with exceptional views of La Valle de la Durance beneath it. The restaurant has a small a la carte menu that includes specialties like Tartiflette along with vegetarian dishes, soup of the day and desserts. The restaurant's remote south facing location means it tends to be quiet and is well worth a visit for its incredible views unable to be seen from other parts of the mountain.