An expert guide for skiing holidays in Serre Chevalier

knight greenhouses

Serre Chevalier is unlike any other French ski resort. It is based on a series of old villages spread along a valley floor, with a sizable ski area of ​​mostly wooded, north-facing slopes rising above the southern side of the road. The old rustic villages have narrow cobbled streets and the main ones are lined with small shops, bars and restaurants. The whole area has a rural and unpretentious feel.

Each of the main villages has modern extensions built from the 1960s onwards which contrast sharply in style with the older parts. One of the “villages” is actually a city: Briançon. It combines modern buildings in the valley with an ancient walled city above which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Stay up-to-date with essential resort facts below, and scroll down for our insider guide to a day on the slopes, expert ratings and advice. For more Serre Chevalier inspiration, check out our guides to the resort’s best accommodations, restaurants, and après ski.

Inside the resort

If approaching from the nearest airport – Turin – Briançon (situated at 1,200m) is the first base of the resort along the valley, with a large gondola lift up to the eastern end of the ski area. Then Chantemerle (at 1.35m) and Villeneuve (1,400m) with gondola lifts, high-speed chairlifts and a cable car in the central part of the ski area. Finally there is Le Monêtier-les-Bains (1,495m) with a fast chairlift at the western end of the ski area. Of these, Le Monêtier is the smallest, quietest and most unspoilt.

Après-ski is relatively quiet, but each of the main villages has a few bars to explore. Another attraction is the wide variety of extracurricular activities available.

Among the usual activities such as dog sledding and tobogganing are fat tire bike rides, mountain karting (driving downhill in a specially designed three-wheeled go-kart), ice karting and a 1,100m zip line from the Chantemerle cable car, opened in 2021, which reaches speeds of 110 km per hour.

Les Grand Bains du Monêtier is a huge complex of naturally heated indoor and outdoor pools, as well as hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms. There’s also an adults-only area and a long menu of treatments, plus a restaurant with glacier and mountain views. For a different après you are spoiled for choice, including the Blue Bird cocktail bar opened in Monêtier, with its cellar of Cuban cigars.

knight greenhouses

knight greenhouses

The ancient walled city of Briançon is worth a visit if you’re not staying, and guided tours in English are available, there’s also a multiplex cinema, casino, swimming pool and ice rink.

The resort’s ski area extends from Briançon to Le Monêtier (about 15km by road), and it is possible to travel from one end to the other without descending into the villages of the valley.

It is split into four distinct sectors and makes a delightful playground for intermediates of all standards, giving a real travel feel. The resort used to boast 250km of pistes, but now instead claims 410 hectares of pistes, including the upstream areas used for ski lifts. In any case, it’s a large ski area with more than enough terrain for a week’s holiday.

On the slopes

The large Serre Chevalier ski area runs right along the valley above the four main villages of Briançon, Chantemerle, Villeneuve and Le Monêtier. It is diversely interesting and large enough to give a real sense of travel between different industries.

Snow reliability is good. Most of the runs are north or north-east facing and 80% of them are above 2,000m, so the snow remains in good condition. A third of the slopes is also equipped with artificial snow.

Another real plus for the area is that, unusually for a large French resort, nearly two-thirds of the slopes are tree-lined. This makes it a great place to be when it snows as there will be dust and good visibility through the trees in a blizzard, when there would be white conditions in treeless locations.

While there are still some old chair lifts and old chair lifts on the upper mountain, these are constantly being replaced by fast chair lifts. High-speed chairlifts have replaced the former Eychauda and Cibouit lifts above the resort. The Eychauda lift helps speed up the journey to Villeneuve.

All the main villages have good beginner areas and easy runs to progress, but it’s the intermediates who will love the area the most. They can buzz all over the area on the blue and red runs – reds outnumber blues, but many are at the easy end of the scale. There are also some nice long descents, such as Cucumelle above Villeneuve and the descent from the top of the Prorel gondola down to Briançon. This has a stunning view of the city on the way down.

Experts and intermediate-level adventurers alike will love two classic black runs that go downhill when groomed, which is most of the time. The Luc Alphand piste (named after the local 1990s downhill World Cup hero) descends to Chantemerle and the Casse de Boeuf to Villeneuve.

Serre Chevalier

Serre Chevalier

The black of Tabuc up to Le Monêtier is a beautiful and usually delightfully uncrowded escape from all the lifts. While a leisurely cruise most of the way, it has a couple of very steep pitches that are often very moguled. Many of the other black runs in the ski area are not groomed and marked “Brut de Neige”. Protected and monitored by avalanches, the ski patrol can provide more details about them.

Experts can also enjoy excellent off-piste terrain with a mountain guide, both in the upper bowls and lower in the trees.

The Snowpark’s terrain park is impressive, with four separate zones that suit abilities from novice to expert freerider. There’s also the MélèZone area in the Chantemerle forest, with fun freestyle elements, a boardercross course with big curves above Chantemerle and a more family-friendly version – the FunnyCross – above Briançon.

Besides ESF, there are many other schools to choose from and most have excellent reputations. One of the best is the British-run New Generation, led by BASI-qualified Gavin Crosby, who has been teaching and guiding here since 2001.

Who should go?

Intermediates will love Serre Chevalier best: red runs outnumber blue runs here, but many are at the easy end of the scale. Experts can also enjoy excellent off-piste terrain with a mountain guide and beginners will find good areas in which to learn. The resort is one of the easiest in the Alps to reach by train and while the après-ski is relatively uneventful, there’s plenty to do off the slopes and it’s cheap.

Know before you go

Essential information


British Embassy/Consulate:
(00 33 1 44 51 31 00; ukinfrance.fco.gov.uk)

ambulance (samu): dial 15

Police: dial 17

Fire (pompiers): dial 18

Mobile emergency response: dial 112

Touristic office: See serre-chevalier.com, the Serre Chevalier Tourist Board website, for weather reports, lift status, webcams, traffic details, and local event listings. Pick up maps, brochures and other information at the offices. There are tourist information centers in the main villages with their main office at the Center Commercial Pré-Long in Villeneuve.

The basics

Currency: EUR

Area code: from abroad dial 00 33, then omit the zero at the beginning of the 10-digit number.

Time difference: +1 hour

Local laws and etiquette

  • When greeting people, formal titles (Monsieur, Madame and Mademoiselle) are used much more in French than in English.

  • The laws of vouvoiement (which version of “you” to use) take years to master. When in doubt, except when talking to children or animals, always use the formal vous (second person plural) form rather than the more casual tu.

  • While driving it is mandatory to keep fluorescent bibs in the car and an emergency triangle in case of breakdown. From 2021 it is also mandatory to have snow chains on cars or winter tires from the beginning of November until March

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