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UCPA Serre Chevalier vs Chamonix

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I'm planning a cheap 3rd trip during the 1st/2nd week of March. Will be going solo so a UCPA is the obvious choice (GnarBuG Bash is a possible alternative). I've been to the UCPA Les Contamines before for a 4 day short break. The skiing experience was good but I found the centre itself to be almost entirely francophone. I was the only non French native speaker in my instruction group and in my room and pretty much the only non-French speaker in the UCPA. I know from friends who have been to other UCPAs that my experience was pretty unusual but I'm keen to avoid that feeling of linguistic isolation this time.

I really want to go to the UCPA in Serre Chevalier because it's a new centre, ski-in ski-out, has a heated pool, and I've long wanted to ski in Serre Che. However as it doesn't seem to be super popular with Brits or, Swedes I'm worried that it could be a repeat of the Les Contamines experience and prove to be a bit socially isolating for the lone English speaker. On the other hand the Chamonix centre has a solo week the 2nd week of March and as far as I can tell is usually much more international in terms of its guests. The centre itself and Chamonix's ski area is less appealing to me than Serre Chevalier. In terms of cost/convenience both are about the same. So that's the dilemma, any advice?
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I don't have any UCPA experience, but I do feel that Serre Che is indeed likely to be far more "French" than Chamonix, and with a quieter apres scene. As for the skiing, it's hard to rate one above the other since you're not a complete beginner. Chamonix skiing does suffer from being a bit disjointed compared to Serre Che, but the scenery is incredible.
Personally, as a solo traveller I would prioritize the social aspects and go with Chamonix.
Also, I would aim for the second week of March rather than the first, as the first is still Paris school holidays this year hence busier pistes.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Thanks balso, to clarify I mean a third trip this year and not my third trip in total. Having said that I prefer to stick to pistes so the off-piste opportunities is both places aren't a significant factor. Definitely now aiming for 2nd week of March given French holiday dates.
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Very different resorts attracting different types of visitors. Cham is disjointed but some awesome areas. Serre Che is all linked at large but offers nothing like the infrastructure of the Savioe mega resorts though this does make it more charming. It's certainly not a testosterone charged resort. A lot of my female skiing friends adore Serre Che
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I've been to both UCPA centres, and whilst Chamonix def has more English speakers there seemed to be quite a few in Serre Che too. My group was 2 Irish and 8 Swedes so all English speaking, and there were plenty of English voices about the village.
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You’ll find plenty of internationals in Serre Che especially in the frog and la grotte bars which are both walkable from UCPA. Serre che is very underrated and awesome if you like lots of varied piste skiing
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
I think I'm leaning towards Serre Chevalier as the ski area and the centre are both much more appealing. It sounds like I'll probably be okay from a social/language side of things. Perhaps I was slightly unlucky last time in Les Contamines.

Chamonix looks great and I'd love to visit one day but I can't see past the buses and the disjointed ski area, I think I've been spoiled by the Dolomites and Tarentaise mega resorts.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Currently in the Chamonix center and the place is a bit of a disaster, pretty much the worst UCPA experience I've had so far, definitely wouldn't recommend.

I've had friends really enjoy UCPA serre chevalier and I'll be there in a few weeks (hoping there's snow) so I can update then if you like.
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
Thanks, an update on Serre Che would be great.
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Ski the Net with snowHeads
LeFou wrote:
Currently in the Chamonix center and the place is a bit of a disaster, pretty much the worst UCPA experience I've had so far, definitely wouldn't recommend.

I've had friends really enjoy UCPA serre chevalier and I'll be there in a few weeks (hoping there's snow) so I can update then if you like.


Oh no, what are the problems there? Was thinking about heading out there later in the season as I've enjoyed that centre in the past.
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snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
LeFou wrote:
Currently in the Chamonix center and the place is a bit of a disaster, pretty much the worst UCPA experience I've had so far, definitely wouldn't recommend.

I've had friends really enjoy UCPA serre chevalier and I'll be there in a few weeks (hoping there's snow) so I can update then if you like.


Oh no, what are the problems there? Was thinking about heading out there later in the season as I've enjoyed that centre in the past.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Personally, I'd be hitting Serre Chevalier to avoid the buses in Chamonix. Unless you want to join the gnarly off piste crowd (which means signing up for the gnarly off piste courses/groups in advance) there isn't an advantage to being there.

On our visit we found a lot of serious skiiers. Great if you are a serious skier, but often at 10pm the bar was pretty quiet because everyone was knackered from 8 hours of yomping up a mountain and skiing back down again, and had an appointment at 7:30am to get on a bus and do the same again.

If you are considering Chamonix I'd look at Argentiere, easier access to the buses around resort and doesn't have as many gnarly groups so potential for more socialising and people keen on a beer at the end of the day instead of bed time straight after dinner.

Nothing wrong with the centre, accommodation or food in our experience last season, but would try Serre Chevalier before rushing back - remember even a fairly quiet town and even a fairly quiet UCPA centre is still going to have a youngish decent crowd who are happy to join in with a social drink or other activities in the evenings.

Thread here with useful info on what to expect from different centres, feel free to read at leisure and update with any info you have on centres visited (obviously this will change year to year too) https://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=137433
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
I'd add our experience in Les Contamines was similar, definitely a larger proportion of French speakers than other centres we've visited, but the quality of snow, food and accommodation made it for us - always plenty of French speakers with plenty of English language who make an effort with those of us who aren't quite as good at French.

Another tip is to aim for weeks when the scandinavians, dutch or other countries have their holidays, as will mean a more mixed crowd.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I had an incredible time at UCPA in Chamonix 2 years ago. In my room there were 2 other Brits, a Swiss girl and a French girl. One of my roomies was in a lesson group with a large group of friends from the UK who we always met up with in the evenings. We went to Bar'd Up most nights which is an English bar, but my favourite place was Le Privilege which had great music for dancing (much better than the club 'Amnesia' - which was literally forgettable). I thought the nightlife was better than La Plagne, Tignes or Les Arcs in terms of choice of places to go and how lively the town is in general. My lesson group was all Scandinavians who spoke perfect English. The facilities at the centre were basic but clean and comfortable. There's a sauna. They'd recently refurbished the bar and restaurant and the food was great. I did full time lessons so the bus was there waiting for you at the beginning and end of the lesson and your instructor goes with you on the bus so they make it as easy as possible. Another plus is the transfer between Geneva airport and Chamonix is really short compared to other places (I think it was 40-50 mins).

Having said all that if I were to go on another UCPA trip I would probably pick Serre Che over Chamonix, partly because it's nice to try somewhere new, but also I wouldn't want to do full time lessons so ski in/out would be so much easier... plus that pool is tempting!
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
If you choose Serre Cha, it may be worth getting in touch with SkiBound Holidays. They primarily cater for school trips but fill the spaces with private bookings, if going out of British holidays you'd be unlucky to be sharing with anymore than one school group.

I suggest it because they are British run so will definitely be able to have a chat in the hotel bar and more than likely tag on to a night out or two with the staff or other guests. Meal times are split into school and non school groups, so you won't be sat in the middle of a bunch of rowdy kids, and very often a completely different menu (you won't be stuck eating chicken nuggets all holiday either).

You would need to phone them though as it can very much be a bartering excersise in agreeing a price, bare in mind it's a full package holiday you'll be paying for (hol, flights, evening meals).

Might not work for you but worth a consideration!
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Jimbobs wrote:
LeFou wrote:
Currently in the Chamonix center and the place is a bit of a disaster, pretty much the worst UCPA experience I've had so far, definitely wouldn't recommend.

I've had friends really enjoy UCPA serre chevalier and I'll be there in a few weeks (hoping there's snow) so I can update then if you like.


Oh no, what are the problems there? Was thinking about heading out there later in the season as I've enjoyed that centre in the past.


Terrible food, bad organisation. Had the nerve to serve cold unseasoned tartiflette for Christmas dinner. Rarely enough food to make a proper lunch in the mornings, several nights had to eat out because getting into the dining room was a nightmare (although that wasn't necessarily UCPA's fault, there was a group who all arrived to dine at 8pm exactly en masse). Mix of snowboarders and skiers in certain classes. Pretty much everyone I met, including several UCPA regulars, were disappointed with the experience and the staff were apologetic. It may improve later in the season once they get into the swing of things, but I don't plan on going back when there are other centers to try out.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Unfortunately didn't get to stay at UCPA Serre Chevalier for long due to illness, but the center was much better in all senses. Great atmosphere there too (mix of English and French, but the French spoke English).
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Thanks for the update
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UCPA Serre Che is absolute my all time fav of any of the UCPA centers I have been to (Argentier, Tignes, Cham, Val T and SC) Have been to SC 4 times.

Very friendly. Not really brits but lots of Scandies. No issues as a solo traveler making buddies. The smaller size makes it easier. I found it by far the most inclusive center and as a plus point the amazing Therms are a shot hop away on the ski bus.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
FYI the pool isn't THAT hot... you need to be swimming not lounging.

The instructor show where they do flips on skis into the pool is super fun.
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