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Long read - Serre Chevalier 2022

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hello all. I have just returned from Serre Chevalier with a group of 10. I thought I would jot my thoughts down on the holiday before it all slips away.

I have booked holidays for our friend group for 10 years now, we tend to go to catered chalets and as a group have been to Three Valleys, Tignes/Val d'Isère and Les Arcs (Paradiski).

The original plan of this year's trip was an overnight couchette train. With France limiting these this year I ended up picking Serre Chevalier as a destination due to the train running right into the resort at Briancon station. The resort looked a good size and I was surprised I had not heard of it before. I then looked around for catered chalets, of which there is not a huge selection. I ended up picking Hucksters chalet in Villeneuve. This was because the owner (Chris) could let us chuck our bags in early on Saturday, change and go skiing.  On the final Saturday we could also leave the bags after checking out, go skiing and then change and catch our transfer.  This would give 8 days of skiing.  Chris also offered to collect us from the Train station.

Unfortunately the French do not release couchette tickets until 2/3 months before departure. They also get snapped up quickly. However when the tickets were finally released we found that the dates we wanted to travel had no train running due to engineering works! This was more than a little frustrating as by this point we couldn't move the chalet booking as all the times were booked up. So instead I changed to flights to Turin airport and arranged transfers to the resort.

I will now run through all the bits and bobs of the trip. Please note one big caveat, that this trip happened 05/02/22 to 12/02/22 which was just two weeks after lockdown restrictions were lifted in France to allow UK tourists.

The flight
Destination was Turin.  Although Grenoble and Chambery are also near, I have had bad experiences at both these airports and avoid them if at all possible. In the end we went with BA from Heathrow airport. Ryanair from Stansted was an option and had better flight times but when you start adding things like hold luggage the prices really spiked and their constant nagging for extras put me off entirely. Flight out landed at 18:30 local time and the return flight left at 19:20 local time. This gave us an extra half day of skiing on the saturday.

Checking at Heathrow was smooth, the flight left on time and we landed ahead of schedule. On the return leg check in at Turin was a little slow with Covid paperwork but after that things were smooth with the flight leaving a little late but arriving on time. Note that I have heard reports that Turin airport is a bad place to travel on Sundays.

Transfers
We booked transfers with Snowcab (https://www.snow.cab/). Transfer time from Turin was about 1h45m with no traffic. They were waiting when we landed even though the flight landed early. When returning they gave us a pick up time of 'approx' 15:03! I thought this was a typo and they said no! And to be fair to them the driver was there at around 15:03. Nice cabs, clean and quick. Will look to use them again.

Chalet
As said above the chalet was with Hucksters (https://www.hucksterslodge.com/). The main reason behind the choice was the potential for 8 days skiing along with the catered chalet style. The price was £500 each which was cheap for mid season. However there were cuts from a standard catered chalet.
-Chalet-The chalet itself is two floors with an apartment on each floor and a shared boot room and reception. We stayed downstairs which had 6 rooms (a mixture of twins, doubles and a triple). There was one large room at the end which formed the lounge, eating and kitchen area. The rooms were mid sized and had decent storage (which made a nice change to the usual). I think the rooms had been decorated recently and the chalet was in good condition. All rooms were showers only (no baths) and these were modern and importantly had plenty of hot water. Unfortunately every shower seemed to drain very slowly meaning you had a time limit on your shower before you flooded the room. There was wifi but this really only worked at the reception so wasn't very useful. Not a big problem this year, but when roaming charges kick in again in Europe this will be a big issue. The chalet does not provide towels or soap but does provide loo roll. Chris missed telling me this but managed to sort towels last minute and didn't charge for them. The shared boot room was fine and had boot heaters but we found that with both apartments rented that these filled up quickly.
-Catered food-Hucksters only offered 5 nights catered. It also seems like the chalet is often booked as self catering. We had Rob and Tan as our hosts and they also stayed in the chalet. They let us know that they were drafted at the last minute (because of the pandemic) and were helping Chris out. Bearing the above in mind the evening meals had good sized portions and were fine. We had 2 vegans and 2 vegetarians in the group. The vegans were hesitant about going catered but Chris talked a good game and convinced them to come. I am not sure if it lived up to this. The other issue was breakfast. The only hot option was porridge and considering we were in France there were no fresh bakery baguettes/croissants.
-Location- The chalet is in Villeneuve and to get to the slopes in the morning a free bus can be taken to the main departure area from behind the chalet. When returning in the evenings you are able to ski to the river and from there it's a reasonable 6 min walk to the chalet. In relation to the whole resort this is a great location with the option of roving either direction each morning and always being able to get back quickly from the ends of the resort.
-Chalet summary-I thought the chalet was good but maybe cut a little too much to get the price down. Certainly could be a good option for self catered. Chris was there most days to help give restaurant advice and sort any issues (we missed the last bus one day and he picked us up in the minibus which was great as we were knackered). He also organised some tea and coffee for us when we came back from skiing on the Saturday even though we had technically checked out (which was well received).

Resort
Serre Chevalier is a decent sized resort and really well linked together. There were very few, if any, duff runs that just exist to link areas. Most of the chair lifts are express style with just some of the low use lifts being slow. Lots and lots of big interesting runs too. There were also many runs through the trees.  The resort is known for its off piste and we could clearly see lots and lots of easily accessible terrain. The only downside was that beginners tend to get funnelled down some tight blues at the end of the day and these got pretty busy/moguly. Lots of food options on the mountain. A particular highlight for us was 'Le French' opposite the base of the Grand Serre chair lift. An excellent self service restaurant that had not only great BBQ items but also a great vegetarian/vegan selection which was tough to find anywhere else. We are definitely planning a return visit to the resort. Big thumbs up.

Snow
We were told these were the worst conditions since 1997! When we arrived at peak season (5th Feb) it hadn't snowed properly in the resort that year! It also didn't snow (apart from a few flakes one day) while we were there. This meant quite a few runs were shut, particularly the high altitude blacks. There was also no off-piste available at all. The runs that were open were all hard packed snow. Lots of stones were also showing on some runs. We were very impressed how little ice there was considering the conditions and the resort had done well to achieve this. Runs in the sun started to get slushy in the afternoon. After not skiing for two years were still very grateful.

Ski hire
We hired gear through Ski connections (https://ecole-ski-connections.com/en/). The gear and prices were fine. One of the party blew a nice chunk out of their ski on a piste rock and Ski connections just charged 30 Euro which I thought was very reasonable.

Guiding
We also booked a guiding lesson with ski connections. This was for 5 people and was £400 for 2 days of 4 hours each day. We had planned this to be our first off-piste but with no snow we had to come up with different plans. The first day (4 hours) we had some on-piste tips and then did avalanche training which was very informative. The second day we had more piste tips, some guiding and a few off piste detours (these were cool little trips along tracked routes). As someone who hasn't had a lesson in over 10 years I wish I had done this earlier and will be looking to book another on my next trip.

Zip line
Some of the group went on the big zip line. This was given a big thumbs up. You need to book in advance. Take yourself and all your gear up to the departure point. Get geared up then zip down a kilometer of line to the base of the Grand Serre chair lift. You then take a bag with your harness and gear back up the chair lift and collect your skis. Cameras must be secured to yourself either with a lanyard or harness. The start is quite vertiginous and the advertisement says you can hit 100km/h. We had ski tracks running and just nudged over 100km/h! Not completely for the faint hearted.

All in all, a great trip and already thinking about next time Smile Thank you Chris, Rob and Tan for hosting us.


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Sun 13-02-22 20:05; edited 1 time in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Nice report! Sounds fun!
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Excellent, interesting and useful write-up - many thanks.
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Even though we have been here many times as this is one of our favourite resorts I enjoyed reading your report. Having been there during better conditions I can truly say the skiing is superb. Fingers crossed for some more snow this season.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@turboblackbeard, I found Chris very helpful when we booked with Hucksters at Peisey Vallandry a few years back. Like you I`d say the offering was very bargain basement, but to be fair that is the Company`s ethos. I`d have preferred a little 'more' but the location was fantastic, and we were accommodated so that we got lots of potential ski days.
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Thanks. A good read and a resort to consider
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Snowing today Very Happy
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@turboblackbeard, good report, Chris is a good mate of mine and in the heady days of curfew we'd take it in turns to nip across to each other as I live just up the hill on the other side of the road Laughing

Chris has been in the ski hospitality business for years, along with his business partner Dale they have just bought an interesting Pensione above Cesana at Sagna Longa on the Claviere ski pass, which should offer great potential for escaping the French High season hordes.

Hucksters are very affordable and like you say they are more geared to self-catering and their apartments have all been recently refurbished.

Wi-Fi in the valley is not good at the best of times and in High Season it's really affected by the massive increase in numbers, with data on you can find places where that works superbly, but not up where I live and performance can also differ wildly depending on provider.
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@turboblackbeard, thank you for your report!

Quote:
turboblackbeard: We had 2 vegans and 2 vegetarians in the group. The vegans were hesitant about going catered but Chris talked a good game and convinced them to come. I am not sure if it lived up to this.


Would you mind giving some details about the vegan food? I’m interested as to why it wasn‘t as expected, e.g. was the vegan option missing sometimes or was boring, always the same etc?
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@Simony, it was a few things. When my friend spoke to Chris to check that he could cater for vegans he was told we would have experienced chalet hosts, but one of the first things we were told when we got there was that they were Chris' friends and he had asked them to help out. If you are professionally catering for a group this was pretty risky when you consider allergies/food prep/etc. Maybe this was due to the pandemic, maybe it was because the chalet us usually self catered.

The dessert offerings for the vegans were a little sparse (apart from a nice orange sorbet at the end of the week). The afternoon tea/cake options were also a little sparse with just some fruit being offered some days.

The portions were very good and good for the price. I think they would be able to cater for vegetarians fine, but struggle a bit to create a full vegan menu.
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@turboblackbeard, Thank you for sharing the details!

I was asking, as I’m wondering how vegans get along in ski resorts. Last time I was in the mountains I was still vegetarian and already found it a little difficult to find food sometimes, esp. in France.

Although I‘ve been to a catered chalet a few years ago and it worked out fine. So I was happy to read that there are catered chalets which offer vegan food.

I can understand that it’s tricky to cater for all the different food types let alone allergies/intolerances when at the same time you want to avoid preparing completely different meals for everyone.

As you say you need some experience and expertise for this and do some proper meal planning in advance, so you can just do some little tweaks. (Or maybe just prepare a vegan cake for everyone, there are some delicious recipes where you wouldn’t even notice the difference wink )

Luckily your description doesn’t sound too bad, so maybe with some experience they will live up to the expectations next time! I would still bring some cookies for my afternoon tea just in case wink Very Happy
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@Simony, two of the group we were travelling with (the vegans) were actually looking to set up a catered vegan chalet just as the pandemic hit. A great idea but after the pandemic they have been scared off hosting.

Eating about the resort experiences varied wildly. From 'Le French' which was given a thumbs up to another restaurant where the waiter openly mocked the vegans! We couldn't believe it! At the end of the day, you are a visitor to another country. Its a shame but if they are not welcoming to vegans then take your trade elsewhere.
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@turboblackbeard,
Quote:

two of the group we were travelling with (the vegans) were actually looking to set up a catered vegan chalet just as the pandemic hit. A great idea but after the pandemic they have been scared off hosting.


That’s a shame! But it sounds as if they were lucky and the pandamic hit before they had spent all their money on it.

Maybe when there will be better times they can think about it again. There is seems to be an increasing demand for vegan hosting, in the “solo skiers…” section here there is also currently a thread about vegan places.
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Hi, we are going to Serre che in a few weeks, do you need to get a pcr/flo test if you land in Turin then get a private transfer to Serre che.
Thanks
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
turboblackbeard wrote:
Catered food-Hucksters only offered 5 nights catered.

I think that is the law in France now, unless you employ more staff.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@Joro. We had to show our NHS pass and had to have a clear LFT fit to fly (make sure you get the QR code). I think things are even easier now.
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Thanks for that, we are now booked in for a lft, can't wait.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Joro wrote:
Hi, we are going to Serre che in a few weeks, do you need to get a pcr/flo test if you land in Turin then get a private transfer to Serre che.
Thanks


Travelling in a few week? - By then I doubt you will need anything (Italy is changing its regulations from the 1st of March.)
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Thanks, I have heard that this is happening but nothing official on the UK gov or Italian website last time I checked, but I will be keeping an eye on them, hopefully this is the case as it will save me £90.
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Here is my video of the trip


http://youtube.com/v/flhoZuVMgpM&t=30s&ab_channel=AndrewKeyne

It has a bit of a random start (an in joke from the holiday) and starts properly at 25 seconds.
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