At MadDogSki we are often invited to visit a resort with a simple and clear agenda following the general premise of ‘Arrive, ski, leave’. There is of course time allocated for eating (and sometimes drinking) and sleeping, but in the main you visit a ski resort and go skiing.
Not so on my recent visit to Serre Chevalier (“Serre Che” to its fans). If you didn’t know, this resort in the southern French Alps has one of the biggest ski areas in Europe, but what’s most interesting is that 80% of the ski area is above 2000m and (the bit I really love) receives an average of 300 sunny days a year.
The resort is made up of three villages and one town which run in a line through the valley. The villages of Monêtier, Villeneuve, Chantemerle, and the UNESCO recognised fortified town of Briançon, are all linked by a regular bus (free with your lift pass). So it’s easy to get around no matter where you end your ski day.
The slopes are varied with high altitude skiing and tree skiing through larch forests with a freestyle snowpark and off-piste if you want to challenge yourself a little.
But that’s only half the story because Serre Chevalier is about so much more than the skiing. In our short trip we tried both ice carting and snoocing. This ice karting photo wasn’t taken by me – we went at night which greatly added to the fun but didn’t add much to the quality of my photos.
Driving around at night, close to the ground on sheet ice sounds like it should have been a bit disconcerting, but the reality felt much safer than I expected. Of course, I was probably driving way too slowly and I admit to being lapped by several younger drivers, but I console myself I’m a better insurance risk.
Snoocing also involved proximity to the ground but was definitely a day time only experience. You can read more here, but essentially you perch on a seat balanced around 25cm above a single ski which takes you down the piste with all the ‘real’ skiers and snowboarders navigating around you. It’s so new (piloted in Serre Che last season) that it’s a real conversation starter whenever you stop for more than a minute. Great fun, so try it for an afternoon – you can find it in ten ski resorts in France this season.
But it wasn’t all adrenaline and energy. For something more relaxing I can recommend a chill out session in the 2,000-year-old thermal baths at the Grands Bains de Monêtier Spa and afterwards you can follow in our tracks by taking a ride in a piste basher whisking you straight up the mountain for a fondue dinner.
Again, this isn’t my photo because I was safely tucked inside the piste basher while a -20 blizzard raged outside. Those piste basher drivers know what they’re doing – training takes an average of two years, which might not be as long as a black cab driver in London, but the conditions are a bit more challenging.
Serre Chevalier genuinely has #somethingforeveryone. But don’t just take my word for it. If we’d had more time, we could have indulged in snow shoeing, fatbiking, ice climbing, paragliding, snow kiting, Nordic walking, sled dog riding, ski joering, pony sledding, snow paintballing (with environmentally friendly pellets of course), sledging or ice driving.
Serre Chevalier really have everything organised – even down to picnic BBQ spots on the mountain where you can pre-order everything you need for a grill out with altitude. And, of course, they have Wi-Fi, and either electric sockets or a solar-powered charging area.
Come and try Serre Chevalier and you might never ski (or do all that other stuff) anywhere else…
Kate stayed with Zenith Holidays in the Chalet Refuge, Serre Chevalier.
Thanks to Bréchu Sport in Villeneuve La Salle Les Alpes for ski hire.
If you fancy an evening ride in a piste basher there’s more information here.
Dinner on the mountain was at the Restaurant Chalet Ratier.
And a big thanks to Lisa Gibello and the Office de Tourisme de Serre Chevalier Vallée Briançon.