Review of Serre Chevalier Family Ski Holiday in Chantemerle, France

Dec 15, 2023 BY Luke Rees

Last Easter I took my boys, aged nine and eleven, away skiing for their first ski holiday in five years. As a solo parent I drove from the UK, and did as much snowboarding in as possible while they were in ski lessons. Read this review of Serre Chevalier family ski holiday in Chantemerle, France, to find out how we got on.

review of Serre Chevalier family ski holiday in Chantemerle, France

Getting to Serre Chevalier

To reach this resort in the Southern French Alps most people fly to Turin which is 1.5 hours by car. Alternatively you can head to Grenoble (2h), Lyon or Chambery (2.5h). You can also take the overnight sleeper train from Paris to Briancon, which links up with the Eurostar.

To keep the costs down, and save on our carbon footprint, we drove to the Alps in a Kia Sportage. The easiest route from East Sussex is to take the Newhaven to Dieppe ferry by DFDS. From Dieppe to the Alps is a little than from Calais, so driving two hours out of our way to Dover for a quicker crossing seemed pointless.

We took the overnight ferry, which leaves at between eleven and midnight most evenings, and takes about five hours. We were due to arrive in France at before five in the morning, so the eight to nine hours drive would mean a mid-afternoon arrival.

I figured my kids, who were 11 and 9, would sleep a lot of the way. Unfortunately bad weather delayed the ferry by more than three hours, meaning a rough crossing. We all slept a few hours in the car waiting to board the ferry and then more on the comfy reclining seats once onboard.

Driving to Serre Chevalier

A long drive on little sleep is not ideal, but it was actually fairly easy despite it raining most of the way. As the only adult in the car I let my kids take it in turns to sit up front. This was so they could operate the toll booths which is tricky in a right hand drive vehicle without a passenger!

Review of Kia Sportage GT-Line S HEV AWD

Driving in France is much easier than the UK. The only slightly tricky part is around Paris where it became busy and satnav and I had a bit of a falling out due to poor directions on the ring road. The French motorways are much quieter than, for example, the M1 or M6 let alone the M25 in the UK.

The end of the drive to Serre Chevalier was up into the mountains via La Grave on the D1091. The road reaches 2,000m so the rain that had plagued us all day turned to snow at around 1,500m. Meaning the AWD of the Kia Sportage was tested driving in fresh snow – it did very well not skidding at all!

Review of Serre Chevalier Family Ski Holiday

My goal of this family ski holiday in Chantemerle, Serre Chevalier was two fold. Firstly, I wanted my kids to learn to ski and begin to develop a similar passion as I have for the mountains. Secondly, I was hoping to be able to ski down the mountain with my boys.

There was only one problem – neither of them could ski and being a snowboarder there is no way I could teach them myself. They’d has some lessons in Finland about five years earlier but they’d completely forgotten everything!

Review of ESF Chantemerle Kids Ski School in Serre Chevalier

Kids Ski Lessons by ESF Chantermerle

I booked them into lessons with ESF Chaltemerle. 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. With 17,000 instructors, teaching out of 250 French ski resorts, they were in safe hands!

I simply dropped them at the meeting point at half past nine and was due to collect them at the end of the lessons at midday. They began at the small beginner area with a magic carpet and two drag lifts found at the top of the Chantemerle gondola. I kept an eye on the lesson while doing some snowboarding myself.

My boys quickly got the basics so would be getting the chairlift up the mountain the next day. After lunch we practiced together on the bunny slopes. It was clear they were really enjoying skiing!

Skiing as a Family

On day two of this review of Serre Chevalier family ski holiday in Chantemerle, they took a chairlift up and a long green run all the way back down. 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 chairlifts together to explore the slopes properly.

review of Serre Chevalier family ski holiday in Chantemerle, France

This pattern continued – the boys having lessons while I snowboarded around Serre Chevalier and after lunch we’d go out together. By the end of the week they were confidently doing blue runs, a boardercross track and even a short section of a red slope (by accident).

Their progress through the week was incredible. From not being able to put on their skis to flying down slopes faster than I was comfortable with – I was very proud. And the most important thing was that they loved it and want to go again next winter.

For more info on the lessons, check out a detailed review of Serre Chevalier ESF Chantemerle here.

Review of Serre Chevalier Snowboarding

As we visited in April we were expecting spring conditions. However, on arrival day it was snowing meaning there was a little powder higher up. On the whole it was sunny but cold, with lower slopes becoming a bit slushy after lunch.

There are 13 Villages in Serre Chevalier, with 250km of pistes in four distinct areas. We were staying in Chantemerle, which is a zone that is heavily interlinked with the neighbouring zone of Villeneuve.

Review of Serre Chevalier Snowboarding in France

To the left of Chantemerle, facing the mountain (or on the ski map) you have the slopes that lead down to Briancon. You can literally ride into the town. Unfortunately this zone faces south and was closed during our visit. To the right of Villeneuve, you have Le Montier les Bains which is only reached via the Col de la Cucumelle.

During this review of Serre Chevalier Family Ski Holiday in Chantemerle we did nearly all of the open runs to fully explore the ski area. Check out my thoughts of the three open zones below:

Review of skiing and snowboarding Chantemerle

We spent most of our time here as our kids learnt in the local ski school so we needed to stay close. The main gondola from town quickly takes you to the beginner area. From there you can take a telecabin up to 2491m or one of two chairlifts most of the way up. You can also ski to the base on a relatively easy black – it’s a fun run!

From the very top is an easy blue run, which cuts through a green zone where I spend a lot of time with my children. There are green slopes zig zagging all the way down the mountain to the base. However, these were only open until the mid-station during our visit. But that was more than enough for my boys.

Review of Chantemerle family ski holiday in Serre Chevalier, france

As the week wore on my kids moved onto the blue slopes from the top to the mid station. We only managed to do the top to mid twice per afternoon. After that they were exhausted having been in lessons all morning.

To the left is the link with Briancon. Below that on the Chantemerle side – north facing slopes – there are a few excellent reds and a more challenging blue. This is a great area to go if you want to blast out a few quick runs as they were very quiet as the more advanced nature kept beginners away.

To the right a lot of the area (looking up at the mountain or on a ski map) interlinks with the Villeneuve zone. But there is also a rather nice, and not too tricky, black slope running straight down from one of the chairs to the mid station.

Review of snowboarding Villeneuve

The only slightly confusing part of the ski area is heading towards Villeneuve. This is because the slopes link with Chantemerle in a few places so you can easily go wrong and end up in Villeneuve. There are fun green, blue, red and black runs to the village, although not all were open during this visit.

Spring time ski run down into Villeneuve, Serre Chevalier

In the centre of the Villeneuve area, easily reached from Chantemerle is the Serre Chavalier snowpark. It is not the biggest, or the most creative, I have been to. But it is very good, with kicker lines for different levels and a bunch of rails and boxes. Perhaps not enough for dedicated parkrats, but plenty for more casual freestylers.

Above this you’ll find two lovely bowls reaching up to 2,659m at l’Eychauda. This is mostly above the Larch tree line and offers plenty of varied terrain for freeriders. Some of the most challenging Serre Chevalier slopes are from l’Eychauda, which would be epic in good powder conditions.

If you go a lower further down heading away from Chantemerle you reach the link to the Col de la Cucumelle. The red run down from here is great fun, and surrounded by powder fields. And from the top you can head to the Montier les Bains zone.

Montier les Bains snowboarding review

Due to only having a two and a half hour window while my kids were in ski lessons I only made it to this area twice. But I am glad I did!

Review of Serre Chevalier Snowboarding

At 2,800m you’ll find the highest SC lift at Pic de l’Yret with an incredible run from there down to the Bachas mid-mountain area. You can continue from here all the way to the base. Or take the chair up to the interesting bowl below Pas de l’Ane, with a red, blue and black slope and plenty of freeride options.

Below Bachas there are a range of slopes, with more lower mountain options than elsewhere in Serre Chevalier. There’s a whole selection of excellent red and blue runs through the larch forests. It would be incredible to explore in powder as larch are not as dense as other coniferous forests.

There is also a long black to the base which unfortunately was closed when we were there.

From the top you’ll find a long run to the Cucumelle lift to join back up with the other areas. The beauty, apart from the stunning views, is that from the 2,800m summit I was able to reach the midstation in Chantemerle to pick up my kids in less than 40 minutes. This included two lifts and three long, but very fast runs!

Serre Chevalier snowboarding review: Conclusion

Serre Chevalier is a spectacular ski area. The slopes offer a huge amount of variety, and considering it was the Easter holidays they were very quiet. We never queued for lifts and rarely had to slow down because it was busy. I felt safe exploring the slopes with my children as there weren’t lots of out of control skiers.

Off piste snowboarding above Chantemerle in Serre Chevalier

As a snowboarder is is an awesome resort. We enjoyed a little powder on our first and second days, and the off-piste looks incredible. The larch trees are deciduous conifers, so they shed their needles making the woodland feel really spaced out. You can easily ride through it and in fresh pow it would be incredible.

Résidence Le Hameau du Rocher Blanc 4*

We stayed in the lovely Le Hameau du Rocher Blanc residence. They are four star self catered blocks around 150 to 350m from the ski lifts, depending on which block you are in. Each block has private and secure parking set aside for it’s residents.

Our apartment was a one bed with a sofa in the living room that converted into two single beds which my kids found very comfortable. The bedroom had plenty of storage space for all our things, and a nice comfortable bed. There was a separate toilet and bathroom, which had a bath with a powerful shower.

As self catered kitchens go this had plenty of pots, pans and plates etc. However, it lacked in sharp knives with just two, one of which was broken. Please note, you need to provide your own washing up equipment, dishwasher tablets and toilet rolls. We cooked in most evenings as the kids were too tired to go out.

Swimming pool in Résidence Le Hameau du Rocher Blanc Chantemerle, Serre Chevalier, France

During this review of Serre Chevalier family ski holiday in Chantemerle, France we visited the Le Hameau du Rocher Blanc pool every day for an hour or two. It is a good size and plenty deep enough for the kids to jump in. There are sunbeds around the edge so you can relax in the rays of sunshine coming in from the huge windows.

Eating out in Chantemerle

We mainly self catered in the evenings, but ate dinner out one night plus had lunch on the slopes every day. We tried the three restaurants near the top of the Chantemerle Gondola; Relais de Ratier Restaurant d’Altitude, Le White and our favourite Cafe Soleil.

Cafe Soleil

The Cafe Soleil offers both self service and an a la carte menu. There is a lovely sun deck for outdoor dining, but also indoor seating and a separate restaurant area. The self service included kids favourites such as hot dogs, burgers and chips, plus salads and wraps all at reasonable prices. One day we ate in the restaurant and I had an excellent lasagne.

La Cabassa Restaurant

We ate out in this Italian restaurant one night. It is central in Chantemerle with a lovely atmosphere and friendly staff. The kids enjoyed pizza and I had a lovely seafood pasta dish. Prices were more than the UK, but for a ski resort quite reasonable. And the important thing the food in La Cabassa was very tasty!

Review of family ski holiday in Serre Chevalier

Review of Family Ski Holiday in Chantemerle

What a great ski area, fantastic resort and awesome family ski holiday we had in Serre Chevalier! The most amazing thing was the slopes were quiet. During the same week a friend went to the Three Valleys and said the slopes were busy with many lift queues.

I also found that it was significantly cheaper in Serre Chevalier than better known French ski resorts. This Serre Chevalier family ski holiday in Chantemerle for one adult and two kids cost less than £2,000 all in. My friends in Three Valleys spent more then £10,000 on their catered chalet holiday.

It goes to show that you can have a ski trip during the school holidays with children and not spend a fortune. Everything from the ESF ski lessons to the ski rental, and food on the mountain to post ski drinks cost significantly less. Plus the accommodation was reasonable and driving provides huge savings.

But most importantly we had a great time. My boys learn to ski and loved being in the mountains plus I got to snowboard with them meaning my goals were exceeded. And best of all they have asked to go again this year! We liked it so much that we might even head back to Serre Chevalier.

I hope you found this review of Serre Chevalier family ski holiday in Chantemerle, France useful. Please check out these Serre Chevalier skiing holidays to get something booked. Or head to www.serre-chevalier.com to find out more!

 
Alps, Briancon, Chantemerle, Europe, France, French Alps, Grand Serre Chevalier Valley, Montier les Bains, Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur, Serre Chevalier, Southern French Alps, Villeneuve (France)
Skiing, Snowboarding
Advanced, Beginner, Freeride, Freestyle, Intermediate
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