Last Easter I drove across France to Serre Chevalier for a family ski holiday. Surprisingly, the slopes were quiet despite it being the UK school holidays and prices were very reasonable too. This article is a review of ESF Chantemerle, the kids ski school in Serre Chevalier that we used.
My boys had previously skied in Finland a couple of seasons before Covid. But with temperatures below minus 30 degrees Centigrade they were only taught for 45 minutes a day. Five seasons after that Ruka family adventure in Lapland, now aged 9 and 11, they were essentially beginners when we arrived in Serre Chevalier. So I booked them onto group morning lessons with ESF.
ESF, or Ecole du Ski Français (French School of Ski), is the largest ski school in the world teaching more than two million people per year in French ski resorts. Originating in 1937, post WWII they have grown from 200 to 17,000 instructors who teach out of 250 offices.
ESF now run probably the biggest selection of ski lessons on the planet. They teach everything from beginner to racing, ski to snowboarder, telemark to touring and have different levels broken down by age and ability. If you have ever been on a skiing holiday in France you’ll probably have spotted plenty of their red clad instructors.
In Serre Chevalier there are four ESF offices. You’ll find them in Briancon, Villeneuve, Monêtier and Chantemerle. Each are different villages, or in Briancon’s case a town, giving you access to the Serre Chevalier slopes. We were based in Chantemerle, so the short walk from our apartment to the ski school, based at the base of the main gondola was very convenient.
On the first day my boys were a little nervous about going into lessons without me. But being a snowboarder there is no way I could teach them myself. So I booked them in to ESF Chaltemerle.
The meeting point is in a square at the base of the Chantemerle gondola. There are many different groups meeting at once but there are flags for the different levels so you know where to stand. The instructors quickly put my boys nerves aside by speaking great English and by being fun and engaging.
Soon they set off up the gondola without me.
At the top of the gondola is a small beginner area with a magic carpet and two drag lifts. The lesson began using the magic carpet but before long they were using the drag lift to reach the slightly longer and steeper beginner slope.
In between doing some snowboarding myself I kept an eye on the lesson. At the end the instructor said they were going to split into two groups the next day. Those that hadn’t got the basics would be staying on the bunny slopes, while others, my boys included, would be getting the chairlift up the mountain.
The instructors drop the kids back at the top of the gondola and won’t just leave the children if you are a little late. They also gave a breakdown of their progress each day.
At the end of that first morning of lessons we had a spot of lunch. Then hit the beginner area again so the boys could practice what they learnt. It was clear that they were loving it, which was helped by the ESF Chantemerle instructors that make this kids ski school in Serre Chevalier both fun and proficient.
On day two we met at the same place and again made their way up to the ski area. The kids started with a quick refresher and then they took the chairlift up and a long green run all the way back down. By pure chance I happened to cross their path half way down the mountain and it was clear that they were really enjoying themselves.
After lunch they were very tired so we just played in the snow. But in the afternoon on all the other days we went up the chairlift together to explore the slopes properly. This included doing blue runs, a boardercross track and even a short section of a red slope by accident.
The progress through the week was incredible. From not even being able to put on their skis to flying down slopes faster than I was comfortable with – I was so proud of them. They were both awarded the ESF Flocon (snow flake) at the end of the week meaning they can begin in the second level when we return to the mountains next winter.
And the most important thing was that they loved it. Yes they found it very tiring but they kept going and pushing themselves because they were having fun. Being able to take them out together on the mountain was a great experience and something I hope to repeat this winter!
The boys had great fun and progressed quickly, which is testament to the instructors and the style of learning through ESF. So to conclude this review of ESF Chantemerle I’d say I thoroughly recommend them as a kids ski school in Serre Chevalier. I was pleased that my boys, who are not very sporty, picked up skiing so quickly and are already asking about going again this winter!
And Serre Chevalier is a great resort. It is not a big name in the UK market, as such the slopes were quiet during the Easter holidays and prices were very reasonable. I drove to the Alps in a Kia Sportage for this trip, and for three of us, in nice accommodation, eating out at lunch, a couple of dinners, lessons and lift passes it cost under £2,000. So you can have a good value ski trip in school holidays.
I hope you found this ESF review helpful. Check out the British ESF website to book you or your children’s ski lessons for your next holiday: www.esf-uk.co.uk