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SERRE CHE'S MAIN DRAW - Katie Bamber, Serre Chevalier
Monday February 13, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

The tree and off-piste skiing in the French resort of Serre Chevalier is really something, especially for a place undervisited by Brits. PlanetSKI has been to check it out.

Serre Chevalier is the name of the valleyin the Southern Alps that includes 20 or so villages.

The skiing is predominantly on north facing slopes (good snow!) that starts at the bottom of the valley in Monêtier, through the villages of Villeneuve and Chantemerle, to Briancon.

The ski area is just a 30-minute drive from the freeriding haven of La Grave (See here for recent news on La Grave), but there's more than enough to explore, off piste and on, in Serre Chevalier before La Grave calls, between the larches that make for the most perfect tree skiing and off the sides of runs.

This was especially the case during my two-day stay when it dropped 15cm+ each night.

And as the resort in the Southern French Alps has no shortage of off piste there is something for everyone.

Area completely tracked outTracked out
















A huge amount is visible from the pistes.

It runs long, following the lines of lifts, and wide on the sides of pistes.

Not to mention the boundless and best tree skiing I've done.

Darren TurnerSki coach Darren Turner in the Serre Chevalier trees (see more below)











Serre ChevalierMy less impressive path through the trees
















The first move of a trip - easy as I usually stay in Villeneuve - is to be one of the first out in the morning on the Casse du Boeuf, which runs 3km down to the village as it is usually packed out and testing later in the day.

However, with the 15cm of fresh snow it is time to search for some powder.


A good place to start is the long and wide off piste under the Vallons lift.

VallonsUnderneath Vallons chairlift
















With the Paris holidays in mid swing and fresh snow during the night there was good reason to stay off piste away from the crowds and go high to discover some more of the resort's main draw.

Relatively easy-access off piste can be reached by taking the Eychauda drag lift, coming off to the left.

Skis on, taking a traverse, a drop down and a short climb leads over to a face that is steep enough for a good, long descent, eventually dropping down onto the piste.

 TK Eychauda drag liftOff to the side at the top of TK Eychauda drag lift
















Serre ChevalierAbove the pistes in Serre Chevalier




















Something that always strikes me about Serre Chevalier is the number of advanced skiers there.

It was good snow during my visit, the best of the season arguably, and it is a well connected town in a popular ski area of France.

But it seems that as soon as there is fresh snow, good skiers come out from the mountains surrounding to beat eachother to fresh tracks.

At the top of the Vallons chair, there is a boot up to drop over the back towards the village of Monêtier.

Serre ChevalierSerre Chevalier
















Serre ChevalierSerre Chevalier














There is a vast amount more of bigger skiing and better off piste routes to do in Serre Chevalier.

The Montagnolle line, when there's decent snow, gives one of the resort's good long backcountry rides with more than 1,000 vertical metres to ski.

MontagnolleMontagnolle freeride













It also has relatively easy access with a traverse.

My advice for more extreme freeriding?

Get a local guide and have them show you the real skiing there.

With the recent occurrences of fatal avalanches through the Alps and the variable snow conditions this season, make sure you are up on safety, are properly equipped and informed, and never underestimate the power of the mountain, however good of a skier you are.

Read more here of the fatal avalanche that happened in Tignes this week.

It was clear to see - both off piste and wherever snow had fallen and left undisturbed - the layering caused by snow falls and the recent temperature fluctuations.

Layered snowSnow layers
















During my trip I tagged along to a snow and safety session held by Darren Turner, a coach and Serre Chevalier local.

The avalanche warning was rated 3 throughout the time I was there but going through the safety and technical study of the snow really reminded me how vulnerable we are to the elements.

Darren has also launched an app that gives technical instruction for skiing off piste on powder or heavier snow.

See a sample of his instruction below.

Well worth a look at before or during a ski break...

The Serre Che viewsA look away from the ski area of Serre Chevalier
















There is a huge amount to explore in the resort and I couldn't recommend it more if you are looking for a new challenge when skiing or snowboarding.


After skiing fresh snow with short (but tiring above 2,000m) climbs, it shows just how quickly ski days can go when you're challenged.

Fitting with the feeling of skiing off piste and feeling completely immersed in nature, eat at Pi Mai for rustic, seriously good steaks cooked on an open fire.

Steak lunchFlame-cooked steaks at Pi Mai

















See here for my journey through the Southern Alps from Italy to France, en route to Serre Chevalier.

And more from one of our reporters out in resort earlier in the season.

As for what else there is to do in Serre Che, find out what PlanetSKI's James Rampton got up to.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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