Serre Chevalier
Serre Chevalier

Serre Chevalier

© Frédérique Voisin-Demery
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Serre Chevalier

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile

Our Editorial team's advice

Known as 'Serre Che', this posh resort in the Southern Alps is actually a valley that stretches out for nearly 8 miles from Lautaret pass to Briançon. A rather atypical place, the Serre Chevalier Valley is home to 3 villages (Le Monêtier les Bains, La Salle les Alpes/Villeneuve, Saint-Chaffrey/Chantemerle), 13 hamlets and a UNESCO-listed World Heritage City: Briançon.

Serre Chevalier is not just a succession of villages though, it is also a very diverse area covering 155 miles of skiable terrain, be it in amongst larch trees, on the wide slopes or the small trails. Enthusiasts of cross country skiing will also be thrilled. The reason for all of the snow at this resort is that the slopes lie in the shade. You can't have it all! As for the residences, they have all been built in the sun, which means these are located on the other side of the valley. That's why you often have to cross a road to get to the ski lifts.

The Luc Alphand park has everything to make families happy, including easy areas for beginners, a legendary champion's slope for the most advanced, and for those who love thrills there's Snowpark, Boardercross, Funnycross and Mélèzone, not to mention Gromming School to learn how to drive a snow groomer.

Gastronomy holds an extremely important place in this resort home to many chefs who have come to live in the area. So, there is no lack of restaurants offering fine, even exquisite dining.

Since 2010, the resort has been trying to provide more cultural offerings, such as 'the snow culture'. This activity introduces skiers to the history of the valleys through fun treasure hunts, poetic citations on the lifts, audio instructive anecdotes in the cable cars as well as a slope for children called 'why'. Another recent initiative is the introduction of 'cols'porteurs', a team which takes skiers behind the scenes of a ski resort. Young and old alike will learn how ski lifts work, how snow is made, etc.

This is a resort that is careful not to rely solely on its assets, opting instead to ensure that its guests remain interested and loyal (although this is something it really doesn't have to worry about).
The only damper to this valley: the traffic connections between the villages could use an overhaul (currently buses pass every 20 minutes) and the lack of entertainment in the evening.

To see

In both summer and winter, a visit to Briançon will give you the opportunity to discover the Cité Vauban and its fortifications hidden here and there.
Le Rocher blanc (the white rock) in the valley of Guisane is an extraordinary and ancient site.
The superb sundials decorating the façades of numerous buildings bear witness to the importance of the sun in the region.
The Museum of Holy Art, located in the Saint Pierre de Monêtier chapel, has a very rich collection of religious objects on display: sculptures, ornaments, pieces of gold work, etc.
The many little hamlets with their old buildings, churches and southern feel.

To do

In winter, spend a couple of hours with the family and a col'porteur, who will take you on a free guided visit behind the scenes of a ski resort (you will learn how a ski lift works, about the history of the valley, and how snow is made, etc.)
Learning how to drive a snow groomer at the Gromming School may be a little pricey but it is very fun if you like to drive big machines!
Spend a few hours at the Monêtier Thermal Baths, where among the jets, the indoor and outdoor pools, the Turkish baths, the saunas, the audio walks and the whirlpool baths, relaxation is guaranteed.
Skiing, skiing and more skiing!

pros

  • +  The Monêtier Thermal Baths, the largest in the Alps
  • +  The skiable area (155 miles)
  • +  The many, and high-quality, restaurants
  • +  A large city in the vicinity
  • +  Cultural events and initiatives for the environment

cons

  • -  The high price of the passes
  • -  No half-day passes
  • -  The liaison between the villages
  • -  The lack of entertainment in the evening and at night

To think about

Come with your car if you want to be able to travel from village to village easily without having to wait 20 minutes for a bus out in the cold. Think of booking a spot for your child at the kid's club or at the day nursery. Ask for your Go Everywhere card at the tourist information office. It will give you discounts in some of the shops and is credited with points every time you make a purchase at the resort. These points can win you some free gifts.

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To avoid

Food here is not overly expensive, unlike at some resorts where it is better to purchase your groceries beforehand. The nearness of Briançon to Serre-Chevalier makes it easy to buy everything you need all in one place and not completely ruin your budget by shopping in mini supermarkets.

To try

There is no lack of good little restaurants at the resort and although the Hautes-Alpes region might not have many culinary specialities, the chefs here borrow ideas from the neighbouring regions and give them their own special twist. No need to worry, even the most demanding of diners will be satisfied. The 'white menu', offered by some of the restaurants and promoted by the tourist information office in a small pamphlet, is a meal that was started as an idea to go along with the 'Neige de Culture' (snow culture) initiative which lasts all winter.

To bring back

Serre-Chevalier is not the ideal place for finding souvenirs and gifts. It will be difficult to find something other than cuddly toys or plates with 'Serre Chevalier' written on them but made in China.