Snow parks to everyone’s taste
Since the first gondola cableway, at the time the longest in Europe, was built in the area in 1941, the facilities have been dramatically expanded to include a total of 62 lifts, serving more than 100 ski runs.
Beginners can enjoy the delights of 8 specially-designated practice areas, each with their own lifts, whereas experienced skiers and the budding professionals will find plenty of challenges throughout the rest of the ski area.
Boarders and freestylers will find themselves right at the centre of the action too, with 4 separate snow parks to choose from. The “boardercross” zone at Chantemerle with its 9 steeply-banked turns is easily accessible via either the Grand Serre or Combes chairlifts. Visitors will find a further snow park designed for skiers in a natural valley basin, near Briançon, reachable via the Prorel, Rocher Blanc and Serre Blanc chairlifts.
The large snow park at Serre Chevalier is situated at an altitude of 2200m at Villeneuve, and comprises 3 different boarding areas and a so-called “Cool Zone”. The beginners’ area contains two freestyle courses with 10 features including tables, boxes and rails. More experienced boarders have the option of an intermediate level course made up of 9 features, and the soon-to-be professionals have the choice of three separate courses with many different features on each, including a “rainbow box”. Nearby the Forêt and Casse chairlifts visitors will also find a totally natural snow park, “Mélèzone”, completely constructed from local larch wood. Villeneuve itself also contains a natural half-pipe, which is even floodlit in the evening to allow continued use.
For skiers looking to get as far away from the beaten track as possible, Serre Chevalier offers 9 black-graded “Brut de neige” routes, which have been left exactly the way nature intended, and as such provide a real challenge for “freeride” experts.
However, safety in the snow also features highly on the list of priorities in Serre Chevalier, and to this end there is the so-called “Arva-Park” at Monêtier, reached by the Bachas and Lauzières chairlifts. The centre allows winter sports enthusiasts to familiarise themselves with the basic operation of the latest in avalanche search and rescue technology.
So that visitors can relax and enjoy the snow, in the safe knowledge that their avalanche transceiver is fully operational, there are 6 “Arva Contrôle” points spread across the ski area. Skiers simply have to pass by one of these points and a screen will confirm whether or not their beacon is transmitting correctly.
During the French school holidays, twice each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, holidaymakers have the unique opportunity to pull some moves under the stars, as both the red-graded “Vauban” run at Briançon and the green-graded “Mickey” run at Villeneuve are floodlit until 10:30pm.
Nordic fans have a network of 8 routes totalling a distance of 35km to choose from, spread out along the full length of the valley alongside the River Guisane. The network of routes leads past every ski station, and is also complimented by a Biathlon track.
Fun on the snow, fun in the water
Serre Chevalier and its 4 ski stations are growing rapidly in popularity amongst families, as parents know they can rely on the superb facilities on offer. Each of the 4 stations houses a nursery, kindergarten and ski kindergarten, where budding skiers can make their first few slips and slides on the snow, thanks to designated carpet and cable lifts.
There is no need to bring bulky and cumbersome equipment for children along either, as parents have the option to hire things such as baby cots, buggies, carry-cots and high chairs once they arrive, as well as to take advantage of the “Family Pack” ski pass combo. For families with both parents and 2 or more children, who are looking to buy ski passes valid for 6 or more days, the individual ski pass price also reduces dramatically, and children under 6 years of age ski completely for free.
There is, of course, plenty for the whole family to get their teeth stuck into all together. Briançon, Villeneuve and Le Monêtier les Bains are each home to their own toboggan runs for kids and adults alike, each situated at the bottom end of the ski runs. A family adventure on foot with the aid of some snowshoes is always an exciting concept, and the routes through “Les Ecrins” national park from Le Monêtier through to the small mountain village of Le Casset will certainly not disappoint. These walks are even offered after dusk.
Arguably one of the Serre Chevalier Valley’s most outstanding features is the fantastic range of thermal spas on offer. A generous indoor pool can be found in Villeneuve, while Briançon plays host to an enormous selection of spa facilities. Briançon’s “Aquacentre” provides an indoor pool, a giant 65m flume, whirlpools, “waterfalls”, a wave machine, sparkling pools, massage areas, solariums, a sauna and a hammam. For that all round “wellness” feeling, guests should also be sure not to miss the spas of Le Monêtier, a village which of course doesn’t carry the suffix “les Bains” for no reason. Thermal water bubbles up from the ground at a temperature of 44˚C, and is only allowed to cool off slightly before flowing straight into both the indoor and outdoor pools. Guests enjoying the facilities at Le Monêtier also get treated to a stunning and unique alpine panorama whilst they are doing so.
The impressive selection of activities available in Serre Chevalier is rounded off by a few more ways to get out onto the snow. Guests have the opportunity to discover the beautiful landscape from the back of a horse, dog sled or snowmobile. Alternatively there is ride on a snow crawler, carting on the snow or driving on the ice. The more adventurous could also let themselves be pulled along the snow by a so-called “snow kite”.
To gain loftier angle on the view, and take in the spectacular landscape from above, visitors have the choice to either make a tandem flight in a paraglider, or take a ride on a hot-air balloon.
Needless to say, each of the 4 ski stations pride themselves on making sure the fun continues long after the lifts have closed for the night. Ice-skating, squash and tennis are all possibilities for a sporty evening, or alternatively there is the casino, the cinema, the restaurants and the bars.