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Serre Chevalier

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
SuperFrankLampard wrote:
I went to Serre Chevalier three years ago, my last time skiing and I wasn't that impressed. We went in March and there was no snow in the town and on the sides of the Luc Alphand run was no snow at all, just a grassy/muddy mess. There was lots of ice. The main ski area at the top and down the other side of the mountain was fine though.


The time you mention was a dreadful year as snow conditions go. But you pays your money and takes your chances, I suppose. We went there in Jan that year and it was bad then as well. If you'd gone last Jan (04), you'd have raved about the conditions - they were superb, much in line with the whole season.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
<b> SkiBandit </b>, just a follow up from last week - have booked accom through the serre chevalier tourist website - just went for a studio in villeneuve in the end - good price too - hope you find somewhere good for yourself and the missus - may bump into you at some stage durin the week
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, just got back from Serre Che, the week was interesting.. several points to note about current conditions in Serre Che:

1. The Piste map is a joke, at best. Most hilarious is either the drag lift that goes downhill, or the blue run that goes uphill? By day 3 we had given up trying to navigate using the piste map and relied on common sense to get us where we wanted to be.

2. THe lift system is very annoying. We stayed in 1400, and getting accross to Monetier (1500) where the superior snow conditions were, is nothing short of damn annoying. You basically have two options. 1, take the bus (?!?!) 2. Ski 2 very flat blue runs both going accross the same ridge (serviced by 2 incredibly slow lifts) If you have been there, you will understand how frustrating this is, why on earth they did not think about this slightly more carefully is beyond me,

3. Not their fault - but current snow conditions are not that great. Ice is prevalent on all the nice black runs, and most of the runs that look as though they might be good, are closed. There are large holes in many of the green pistes, and the snow underneath draglifts is very poorly maintained in many places. OFf-piste conditions are also poor nearly everywhere except in Monetier and through some tree patches towards Chantemerle.

4. Snow park was woeful, only opening halfway through the week and having just two small jumps. (there was no snow while we were there, so why it wasn't open at the start of the week was beyond me)

ALl my points are negative, so i feel as though i should qualify them with some positive sentiments as well! I did have an excellent trip, but only because i was able to take myself off-piste (to avoid completing destroying my skis on the (only) red run back from Monetier) and i did not rely on the piste map. Although the lift system is frustrating, the bus service in the bottom of the valley was generally prompt and well run. Another positive is their decision to use electronic lift passes, a welcome break from the paper rubbish we are used to. Just a shame they didnt upgrade their lifts, with the lift pass system.

Point to note: My friend suffered a dislocated shoulder, if you or a member of your grou pfinds yourself in that position - INSIST you are taken to hopsital in Briancon, do NOT let them take you to the medical centre in 1400. My friend (who is an expert on dislocated shoudlers, having done it 3 times) was badly treated by a doctor and nurse, and then shoved in a taxi to get to the hopsital in briancon, WHY on earth they did not just take him straight there, rather than bringing him to a doctor who didn't really understand what he was doing in a very dodgy medical centre, was beyond all of us.

All in all, a good trip, but if you are going out there soon be prepared for bad snow conditions, poor lift system and map and to have to walk to the lits in the morning!
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Funny, never found the lift system or piste maps a problem! Have to agree about the two blues over Cucumelle - Roche Gaultier, I think - they're tracks and in the mornings, after a night of snow mobile action, can be atrocious. The two lifts are Balme (very long, old and slow) and either Frejus or Cucumelle (both old and slow).

Some of the old lifts have been replaced in the area (notably Bletonet out of Chantemerle and Prorel) and I think PG mentioned somewhere that the lift system was being taken out of public ownership and being bought by one of the big operations and that further replacement is on the cards.

In spite of the drags and old (charming?) lifts, when the snow cover is good, the area is well linked and you can manage the whole region in a day, there and back, with a lunch stop with relative ease. Wouldn't like to try it at half-term, though!
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
magicrichard, when you say very flat blues , do you mean pole the whole way or is there enough momentum to get to to the next "slope"
.... i'm getting a little bit nervous here - am off next week and i think I will be invoking every single snow god i know in order to get a little bit of the white fluffy stuff to fall in Serre Che
.... anyone know what the conditions in nearby resorts are like, should it come to that (alpe d'huez, psv, montgenevre, etc.)
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Is the general consensus that you need a car? If you go without a car - then which village is best to stay in?
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
doogo, the blues aren't flat enough to have to pole. they are tracks around a ridge. Not found the piste map a problem either, and I'm the one who has to use it. mountain mad, you can get around without a car. all villages are linked by the pistes or the skibus. The resort has been run by the local coucils themselves until recently hence the lack of investment on the lifts, although things have improved over the last few years.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
thanks for the quick reply - it has made it to a shortlist that now consists of about 10 resorts... will just have to see what holiday i can find for the best price on 5/6th Feb!
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mountain mad, you'll love the place, I'm sure. Well, at least you should if the snow's ok wink

If you do get there, look out for a little mountain bar/restaurant called Pera Juana on the Rochamout blue down into Monetier. It's tucked away on a quietish tree lined run and is charming. Always good for an 11.00 rum and chocolate chaud stop Toofy Grin

As Helen says, you don't need poles on those 2 blues, but they're in an exposed position and can get very icy and bumpy, with not a huge amount of room if you "miss" a turn. All good fun!

doogo, Puy St Vincent is nearby and the conditions the last time I looked are excellent. There's a report on the place here.
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magicrichard, which medical centre? Hurt my shoulder last time I was there skiing, and had no trouble with medical centre.
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I fail to see how 100m-ish of altitude can make the Monetier area that much better than Villeneuve... unless, of course, it's down to the lower number of skiiers hitting the area? Villeneuve is usually busier that Monetier, but only because of its more strategic position.

I don't recall any lift or piste issues on a day trip there a few years back - thoroughly enjoyed myself!
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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.
carled, you wouldn't think so would you, but the snow has been consistently better there each time we've been, due i think in part to the lower number of skiers, but also the altitude of the upper slopes Mark Hunter, 1st time we were there, Julian had just bought a new pair of skis that day, and we headed over on the recommendation of the ski shop. He hates tracks like that anyway, and as the kids were smaller then, he kept looking behind him as we skiied away from the chairlift to make sure theywere OK (even though I was at the back, as usual), Next thing we knew his skis disappeared over his head, and his backside followed close behind. We never did get to Monetier that day, as ny the time the rest of us had stopped laughing, and he had climBed halfway back up the slope to find his new skis, he was almost down on the Cucumelle, so we followed. Oh, but what a laughiti gave us, fortunately no injuries!!!! snowHead
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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
C'mon Helen! There are hardly any of the Monetier upper slopes that go above the Villeneuve ones! Once you get down to Bachas you're pretty much at Frejus/Grand Alpe height, so it can't be that... in fact, having just dug a map out, there is significantly more skiing at higher altitude in the Villeneuve sector compared with Monetier... It's probably almost entirely down to the lower number of visitors.

Actually... looking at the map, I'd forgotten just how many bloody drag lifts there were up there... It's all coming back to me a bit now. I seem to remember having to mess about a bit and having to ski down to get lifts back up, to ski down to a lift that was perhaps only 50m higher than we were inthe first place...

Oh well... it probably beats Montgenevre, eh?
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
carled, when I go in January the slopes below Bachas are usually quite dark and gloomy, so don't get much sun. I've always found the snow much worse at Frejus, but good at Grande Alpe and down below Prorel.
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
doogo No Poles required, and on the first blue you can jump off the edge if you get bored and take a more "direct" route down to the lift!

Helen Beaumont The medical centre just after the pharmacy on the left hand side down some steps. Was quite worried getting there in the ambulance as you go round past the back entrance of the Supermarket and it looks well scabby! It was the third time my mate has suffered a dislocated shoulder, and he said it was the worst he's been treated. The doctor was grumpy and wouldnt listen to what he was saying - despite the fact he was speaking to him in fluent French!

Also, the Red "Bez" run in the Frejus area gets steadily worse throughtout the day, and coming home on it with 3 beginners, was interesting to say the least, very very icy in the middle with big fat old men taking up the slightly more powdery sides... with every ski school on the mountain seemingly choosing to come home that way!

carled Agreed, although it may also be due to the fact that Monetier is never in anything but shade? Not a complete exper on why snow conditions are different throughou the monuntain, but it was always a little chilly in Monetier

Drag lifts in general wern't too much of a problem i found, though some of them do get very busy, espeically around the green beginner runs. THe main issue was how isolated Monetier is, which could so easily be solved with one chair, or even (just because they love them, a drag!)
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I've always quite liked the trek over to Monetier. Not because it was good skiing but because it seemed like you were entering a completely separate part of the mountains. I'm probably just weird though.

I guess I'd be more annoyed if I was working my way over from Chantemerle or Briancon.
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
magicrichard, oh i went upstairs with mine. More like the local GP there, but good advice given. No serious injury though. Glad you still managed some positive comments though. I looked at the piste map this morning and can see which lift you mean going downhill. It's a very short drag on the blue slope on the Briancon side.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Helen Beaumont, Yes, a very odd moment was had there, we concluded it must just be the bizarre piste map, they wern't actually going to make us walk 50metres uphill with our skis!

I managed positives becuase it is a good resort, just let down by a few annoying niggles, that could easily be sorted out. Just so anyone reading this thread who is going out there isnt too disheartened, it is a good, fun resort. I have to make particular mention to the currently closed "tabuc" run on the far right of the piste map to anyone who is lookig for some pure fun!
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magicrichard, yes that is a fun run. I particularly appreciated the tame way in which it starts, lulling one into a false sense of security, before providing a rude awakening! The last couple of hundred meters do allow for calmness and serenity to return, though wink
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Mark Hunter, It's fab, particualrly as it was closed, so its not grommed at all, making it feel like u are doing some off-piste. And in fact you can dart off into the trees on numerous occasions, and there are some briliant pumping station huts to jump off on the way down. WE spent most of the morning building a nice kicker off the top one (about 50m down on the left hand side - for anyone heading out there!), got some brilliant pictures if anyone is interested!

Can also recommend the Yeti Grotto bar for a fun night out!
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The piste map will not make sense on a lot of runs at the moment. Maximizing available snow, the bashers have created new runs and re-routed runs to avoid rocks, grass etc. Conditions are great on all the slopes with snow makers and best conditions in the valley are on the Prorel 6 man side. As it will be quiet until Feb there won't be a problem skiing with limited snow. Mongenevre conditions are worse as most runs are sun exposed.
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I'm arranging a group to Serre Che in March... most of the group haven't been skiing before. Virtually every day I'm getting an email from one or other saying, "there's no snow you know, what's going on, will it be ok when we go, what's the matter, why isn't it snowing, how much snow will there be, what will we do if there's no snow...?" or words to that effect. I keep trying to tell them that it's about 10 weeks until we go so can they chill the hell out! Honestly...

Anyhow - glad I plumped for Serre Che instead of Montgenevre on the strength of what Chris just posted!
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
carled, it's not uncommon for SC to get good-excellent spring snow. Having just arranged a trip for 16 (trip been and gone now) I can appreciate how these things can start to weigh on the mind. Fortunately it snowed big time a week before we arrived. Relief didn't describe the news on the snow!
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chris, we'll see you there soon.
carled, don't worry. The beginners won't really notice too much anyway. Chris lives there and will keep us all posted. As for me, I'm there in 10 days, so my anxiety is more urgent!
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Ah! I see... didn't realise Chris was a native! Which bit of Serre Che are you in Chris? We'll be staying in Villeneuve. Got a good deal from the Tourist Office on accommodation & liftpass combined. We're staying in the "Le Bez" and "Grand Pre" apartment blocks - near the Frejus chair apparently... If anyone wants to start piping up with tips on good (but not too expensive!) restaurants, somewhere for a pizza fix, a decent lively bar, good spot for Apres Ski... fire away!

Oh... I know what I meant to ask... My wife's a non-skier but desperately wants to "come up top" on a day or two for a walk around with (hopefully) glorious views! The T/Office say that she can get a gondola up for a few euros... does anyone know which gondola? If there's a choice, which is the best one for a pedestrian to bimble around at the top of?!
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carled, you can get the Cable Car up froim Chantemerle to Serre Ratier, that would probably be the best for a non-skier. Restaurant in Villeneuve-Le Pastelli in Le Bez,also La Bidule, also quite a few in the old village of Villeneuve(across the main road, use the underpass) , le Frog, towards the Aravet lift. Bars, Le Noctambule (old village).Ther's a really good pizza place there too. As long as you avoid the Auberge du Choucas in Monetier-les-Bains, none are too expensive. Up the mountain-Le Troll (at Serre Ratier), Peyra Jauna (on the far right as you come down the mountain at Monetier), Bivouac du Casse (near Casse du Beouf chairlift,Pi Mai in Frejus village for a gourmet lunch, and the Echaillon ( 2 mins form Casse du Beouf (turn right at the top of the lift) down the 'Bois' piste. It is marked on the piste map, and the Chalet de Serre Blanc, for fantastic views, and wonderful Chocolat Chaud (1st marked restaurant from top of Prorel chair towards Briancon. The Bachas restaurant is also good. You're actually spoilt for choice Carled. If you're looking to eat in any of the other villages PM either me, Chris, or Mark Hunter, we can all help.
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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.
Thanks Helen - sounds great! Is there anywhere near the bottom of the pistes in Villeneuve that's good for a post-ski beer or seven? Hopefully we'll still be able to ski down to resort by then!

Oh - we were going to get a bus transfer from Turin, but we're now considering hiring a few people carriers for about £15 per head more. Seems to me they could be handy for going to Briancon supermarket instead of Villeneuve for better prices and also for day trips out to nearby resorts. Anyone got any ideas where would be best? Obviously if snow's pants, then we could head for the Deux Alpes Glacier, but I've been there twice and would rather do Puy St. Vincent or perhaps Montgenevre for a change...

Do you think we'd save £15 per head by the end of the week in reduced supermarket costs and less public transport costs? Added convenience too!
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carled, there's a few at the bottom of the Aravet, and I think one at the bottom of the Frejus gondola, but none at the POntillas. You should be able to ski down (have done in April). The supermarkets are def better in Briancon (but use the one along the Gap road past the ski lifts rather than the one in town) , As for other resorts, if snow crap in Serre Che, prob worse in Montgenvre as it gets more sun. BUT, we passed thro a couple of years ago, and they'd had a huge dump of snow overnight, but only a sprinkling in Serre Che. Not tried PSV, but if snow is bad LDA will be busy . Also, as the skibus is so reliable you can finish your skiing in Chantemerle and drink in the Yeti, the bus runs along the valley until about 6 o'clock (it's free with lift pass)
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Thanks Helen (feel free to call me "Carl" by the way!) you're a mine of information! I need to bear in mind that my non-skiing wife will be at the bottom of the Villeneuve section waiting for me at the end of the day and will take a dim view if I bog off to Chantemerle to get sozzled... Madeye-Smiley I kind of like the idea of having a car to hand, even if it is going to cost a few more quid each. Thanks for the tip on the Briancon supermarket. How far out of town towards Gap is the one you mention and what "brand" is it, can you remember? What's the problem with the town one - just not as big?
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Carl, , she can get the bus along too,an dget sozzled with you. no need to hang around Villeneuve all day. , you can get a guest card for free access to the bus. The supermarket in town is full of tourists and the other one (about a mile), full of locals, therefore better prices and less queues. Send the missus along to the hot baths in Monetier-les-Bains too, lovely. Chris can prob help you more, but we've been 5 times and stayed in all the villages. We're back there next weekend, so will look out for other bars etc. We're buying a place out there for next season, but it won't sleep 17 unfortunately.
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carled, Carl, the supermarket in the town is the Geant it is OK but very busy and often has long queues at the check outs.

The one on the road to Gap is about a mile from the town and is a Champion supermarket, and shopping there is usually much more civilised than the Geant. To find it take the road to the south, go under the Briancon gondola and straight on at the traffic lights. At the roundabout turn left, over the bridge, left at the mini roundabout and it's on your right (very easy to find).

The entrance to the Champion is on a mini roundabout if you go straight on (bear to the right) there is smaller supermarket called Ed about 300m further on, good fruit and veg and low prices, but you need to take your own carrier bags. Supermarket open at 9am this is a good time to shop, after 4pm in the season they can be exceptionally busy.
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Thanks Chris - I must remember to print out this information prior to departure!

Hmmm... quandary though... supermarket open at 9am... what time are the lifts open? Smile
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
carled, Carl no quandary send 'her in doors' to do the shopping
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Ha! You don't know my wife. She's, er, not very adventurous on foreign soil... it's all I can do to get her to go to the swimming pool on her own and even then, I'll have to take her there the first time in case (shock! horror!) some foreigner tries to talk to her!
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
carledoh dear.
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carled, Helen Beaumont and Chris OLoughlin have put you right on most things.
Couple of points neither the Geant nor the Champion are open on a Sunday so if you are arriving Saturday you need to get shopping quickly. I think both supermarkets are open till about 7pm on the Saturday.
PSV often has better snow than Serre Che if the wind has been blowing as it is far better protected from the winds.
The swimming pool in Briancon is near the Champion supermarket towards Briancon on the other side of the river from the main road, it is a good one.
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Cheers. But I'll correct you on one thing! The Champion is open on Sundays - from 9:00 - 12:30... I checked on their website! www.champion.fr

Still no good to us as we arrive in resort at about 7pm, so we'll have to try and take some basics with us.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
all right folks (serre che and PSV specialists among you especially)
... i've reached crunch day - am heading off for Serre Che tonight and am bitterly disappointed that all my snow dances have come to nought Toofy Grin Crying or Very sad (bloody knackered as well)
so the question is:
1) how much snow is there
2) despite the website saying there are 79/112 slopes open, how many really are
3) how is PSV holding up snow wise - i take it it is not as snowed out from the christmas revellers as Serre che would be
4) if skiing becomes too much of a trial, what are the good alternatives (leisure, culture, history) close by

for f@@%s sake, this is supposed to be the heart of winter when the crowds are low coz the weather is too bloody cold - i'm making a decision to buy a hybrid car, recycle everything and stop farting after I come back fro this holiday in a feeble attempt to slow down global warming
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I feel for you mate. I had a similar thing happen to me about 10 years ago in Sauze D'Oulx in the middle of Jan. We were driving up towards the resort and were staying just outside in a small place called Jouvenceaux. As we were winding up the road, I was looking at the bare mud and patches of old snow thinking, "it's ok, we're still way down in the valley, there'll be loads of snow up there..." and at that point we pulled into the hotel... The rest of my group just gave me "the look" as we trooped in. High winds shut most of the lifts and cold overnight temps froze the slush into rock solid ice. Half way through the week it rained on us. Fortunately by the time we got to the top of the chairlift, it had turned to snow and we had 6 inches of powder to play in for the last few days. All the links were still shut, it just made it slightly more bearable.

I really hope there's an unexpected dump of snow for you!
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If you get a chance and head round to PSV, carry on up that valley as far as Pelvoux. It's tiny (about 32km of runs and 8 lifts) but has some excellent pistes and is virtually empty in January. Spent one of the best days last season there. snowHead
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