End of season in Serre Chevalier
Posted by Naeem Alvi 26th April 2010
After 18 weeks, the season is finally drawing to a close. As you would expect conditions are fairly marginal at present. Although, according to the local folk, this is the best end of season snow pack the resort has seen for years. By now, the Luc Alphand run is usually nothing but a thin strip of snow that grows thinner as the final day of the season approaches. Fortunately, due to the late season dumps we experienced a couple of weeks ago, the lowest runs in Villeneuve and Chantermele are still covered right to the edges with snow; albeit slushy, mogul-filled snow, but snow all the same.
As I’m sure is the case in most alpine resorts at the moment, there is one word on everyone’s lips… Volcano. The eruption has broken the typical bubble-like nature of seasonal life wide open, and sent the valley headfirst towards transport chaos. Last week, the bars that are still open this late in the season, played house to the unfortunate families that found themselves stranded. Tables were filled with dishevelled faces all crowding round a laptop for the latest volcanic update, headed more often than not, by a restless father making calls in broken French to try and fathom the most convoluted route of getting home imaginable. Regardless, it seems to have kept the remaining few bar managers in good stead and I can certainly think of worse places to be stuck in the world.
Asides from the volcano, the valley is pretty much shutting itself down for the dormant inter-season period. Most seasonnaires have taken to enjoying their final week in the valley before the doom of real life kicks back in. Fortunately for me, and a few others, the bar we work in is the only English-run bar still open for custom. So, instead of sunning ourselves up after a hard day in the slush ,we’re all working in a state of seasonal stupor to provide for the rest of the valley. Brilliant.
Review - Clever tips for making the most of SC
Since the beginning of the season, I pre-planned to keep this review until as late as possible. Having now experienced the full trials and tribulations of a season in Serre Che, I consider myself suitably positioned to pass on all the little morsels of advice I picked up through first hand experience.
As someone that lives in one town, and works in another, I am fairly well versed in the best ways to get around. Firstly, and most obviously the best way of getting between towns is the use the ski bus. Free with a ski pass, the bus’s run all day long. One thing I would recommend though is to try not to use the bus’s if you need to be somewhere at a specific time, and if you do, leave plenty of time for a arrival. Basically the busy periods on the timetable often suggest a bus is going to turn up every 10 minutes. Perfect right? Not really, it usually turns out to be more like four bus’s turning up at the same time, on the hour. Either way, the bus system has been a massive help throughout this season and as long as you plan accordingly, everything should run smoothly.
Travelling slightly further afield, I would recommend trying to ensure that you are travelling on a Saturday or a Sunday. This is transfer day throughout the valley and depending on how busy the resort is, there is always usually a seat going on an 8 Seater to Turin or Grenoble. In my opinion, The Alpine Transfer Company, run by Jackson and Emma is the best solution for getting in or out of the valley. Have a look at their website if you need to find a cheap and reliable transfer for you, or a small group: www.alpine-transfer-company.com
The only way to come down the mountain is to go up. Another section I feel I could write pages about. Instead I will just try to give the best pieces of lift advice I can think of.
Firstly, if you are entering the resort from Chantermele, never bother taking the telecabin. Although it may look faster, the chairlift always has a smaller cue and will beat the telecabin up by a good five minutes.
If you happen to stray into a ski school line for a lift just keep shuffling forward and play innocent.
Avoid the Monetier area if you’re not used to taking a knee bashing or your just not confident on drag lifts.
However, if you are confident on drags, they are a great means of avoiding the queues at chairlifts and usually ascend the mountain at a similar speed.
Big tip. If you do find yourself in Monetier and need to get back to Villeneuve there is a way of getting back that saves heaps of time. Although not on the piste map, riding down towards Villeneuve then ducking behind the bubble will take you to a service road that end up back at the bottom of the Marteau. Although a little sketchy at times, this a route that has prevented me form being late to work many a time.
Final tip. During February, un-strap your board and use it for riot control in lift queues. Once approaching the front of the queue just get on the lift and meet your mates at the top. It really is every man for himself during such dire times.
If you can afford to take a day off from skiing, or you’re one of those weird motivated types that can wake up before the sun, go shopping in Briancon. As the bus is free, it costs nothing to get there and the supermarkets are basically half price. Once there, buy in bulk to save having to lose another day on the hill. This is also the best place to sort out all those pesky real life tribulations like mobile phones and bank accounts. Well worth doing if your staying for the whole season.
I’m sure I could keep writing but if you know everything, it’s just going to take all the fun away. Serre Che is full of surprises and that’s what makes it such a good place to visit or live in. One final suggestion though, if you are going to spend a season here, bring as many teabags as you can. French tea just doesn’t fit the bill.
About the author
I'm spending the season in Serre Chevalier in the Southern Alps. I am a trained journalist looking to build up a portfolio within the winter sports industry. After graduating from journo school I spent most of last year in Banff, Canada and decided pretty quickly that I was going to spend this season in the mountains as well. In regards to work, I am a chef for a new restaurant in town. At some point in the season I'm also hoping to obtain my instructor's license.
- The worst things about Serre Chevalier - 14th April 2010
- Serre Chevalier on a budget - 29th March 2010
- A day in the Serre Chevalier backcountry - 22nd March 2010
- Powder time in Serre Che - 25th February 2010
- First blog from Serre Che! - 4th February 2010
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