All four of the main sectors have good beginner slopes and nursery areas, each with its own pros and cons. At Briancon you need to take the first stage of the gondola up to the nursery slopes 400 vertical metres above the village at Pra Long. Once you have mastered these there is a small issue with a lack of very easy runs right above the village, where instead they are mostly blues and reds. It’s a similar story at Chantemerle, although here there are great long greens back to the village. Villeneuve does have a good choice of nursery slopes right by the village and again great long green runs like Aravet to descend on once you have the confidence to take the lift higher up the mountain. Monetier also has good resort level nursery slopes but like Briançon lacks any long greens back to the village to progress smoothly on to, instead you’ll need to tackle the slightly sleeper blue runs like the Route des Espagnols.
Something of a paradise for intermediate standard skiers who’ll find 99 easy green to intermediate red grade runs to whizz about on, enjoying the feeling of travelling from village to village and the sense of adventure in descending great long runs up to eight kilometres (five miles) long. The higher slopes over around 2200m provide up to 600 vertical metres above the treeline and wide powdery slopes.
The remaining thousand metres of vertical is mostly made up of classic winding trails cut through the forest with plunging fall lines and lots of varied pitches and orientation for plenty of fun. It’s all in an area of great natural beauty with some spectacular views too, particularly of Briançon as you descend from the peak of Prorel above the town.
Plenty to challenge advanced skiers both on and off piste in Serre Chevalier’s 15 black runs, the toughest of which is arguably the 500m long L'Eychauda run from the peak of the same name high above Villeneuve. In common with most of the area’s other highest points, these snowy peaks top some of the steepest terrain in the whole area and offer a choice of marked black runs like Col du Vent from the area’s highest point at Pic de l’Yret above Monetier, or Isolee down from L'Eychauda.
Further down below the treeline long blacks descending to 1000 vertical metres include Tabuc to Monetier or Casse de Boeuf to Villeneuve. The Olympic piste named in honour of local hero Luc Alphand to Chantemerle is another in the same vein. Off piste – both quick powder fixes or serious full-day, hike-in itineraries are numerous and all the ski schools are happy to offer guided tours, as are the mountain guides office. If that’s still not enough legendary off piste destination La Grave is an easy day trip.
Snowboard / Freestyle Skiing
The boarding and particularly the freestyle scene are constantly evolving it seems at Serre Chevalier, at last count there were three terrain parks, a quarter pipe and two boarder cross courses on the mountain to complement the abundant freeriding terrain on the powder (hopefully) slopes up above the treeline, or bouncing through the trees themselves above the villages. The main park is located in the Villeneuve sector and normally boasts several dozen features.
Cross country skiers will find more than 32km (20 miles) of tracks, most of them down in the valley linking up the majority of the 13 villages. Loops for all standards follow the Guisane river valley’s meadows and woodlands. The only very easy loop is a 2km green track, Les Albeyres, next to Villeneuve, but surrounding it and continuing on over to Le Monetier is the most challenging trail, La Virade, which is a 16km (10 mile) itinerary. There are easy blue and intermediate red loops at all three of the villages too, along with cafes and restaurants by the tracks to stop for a drink in. There are trails suited to both classic and skating styles and there’s a biathlon stadium for competition; a day pass is required to use the tracks. Given the altitude of the tracks down in the valley it is probably unwise to rely on them being fully open at the start or end of the season, although they often are.
Serre Chevalier Average Snow and Weather Conditions
Although located at a southerly latitude and having traditional village bases rather than purpose-built accommodation centres at altitude may not sound a winning combination, in fact most of Serre Chevalier’s ski slopes are above 2,000m – accessed by fast lifts from the villages, a relatively snowsure altitude even in this day and age, and with upper slopes above 2800m, these are some of the highest slopes in the region. On top of this the area receives an average six metres (20 feet) of natural snowfall annually on its north facing slopes and about a third of the huge ski area has around 500 snow cannons covering it.
A final point to make is that the successful Companie des Alpes, which owns many of the leading French resorts and has a business plan to buy primarily high altitude, snowsure centres that can continue to operate in a ‘bad year’ and thus keep them in profit, made Serre Chevalier one of its latest acquisitions.