Serre Chevalier's main resort villages are [from east to west and lowest to highest altitude]: Briancon; Chantemerle; Villeneuve; and Monetier-les-Bains.
Briancon is a beautiful 17th Century fortified town (an UNESCO World Heritage Site) and is a buzzing commercial town, the highest town in France in fact; it guards the southern end of the Col de Montgenevre, a minor pass between France and Italy.
The town's military history intersects with the history of skiing, since the soldiers stationed here at the end of the 19th Century were some of the first French troops to be trained as ski patrollers; the rudimentary stopping technique in those early days was simply to fall to the ground, a 'manoeuvre' still referred to as the 'Briancon Stop'.
The Serre Chevalier ski area extends west from Briancon and stretches across six peaks to Monetier-les-Bains; the middle twin villages of Chantemerle and Villeneuve are the principal resort bases and share the bulk of the core ski area. The whole domain has a great range of pistes for all abilities, with many tree-sheltered slopes, and the linear layout invites touring from one end to the other, giving a satisfying feeling of big-mileage travel.
A two-stage gondola provides the sole uplift from Briancon, giving access to a little beginners' zone at mid-altitude and onward links via the summit of Prorel into the core Grand Serre ski area; the Briancon sector is lightly wooded and contains a handful of fair reds, the best of which runs all the way down to the edge of the town (snow conditions permitting).
At the opposite end of the domain, the slopes above Monetier-les-Bains include a nice selection of tree-lined reds and a fair black, plus a couple of short but testing runs off the highest point in the entire Serre Chevalier domain. The link from this sector eastwards into the core domain is a narrow route via the Col de la Cucumelle at 2,500m, with a lovely long red run down into the Frejus sector above Villeneuve.
The core Grand Serre area above Villeneuve and Chantemerle is served by a number of gondola lifts from various points in those two villages plus a cable car from Chantemerle; again the lower slopes are forested, traversed by a few gentle yet narrow trails, sliced through by a couple of epic long black runs.
The uppermost slopes are within open bowls, crisscrossed with a good network of nice intermediate runs, although most of the highest peaks are served only by tedious ski-tows.
The best beginners' zones are on the base-area slopes at Villeneuve and Monetier-les-Bains.
Off the slopes and apres ski
The historic and atmospheric citadel of Briancon is well worth a visit to view the impressive ramparts and the warren of quaint cobbled streets within, filled with lots of little shops, café-bars, and restaurants.
The modern lower part of Briancon also has plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops (including a couple of hypermarkets); as well as a cinema, a casino, an ice rink, a tenpin bowling and games arcade, and an aqua-leisure centre with a swimming pool and fun pools. There is also a small indoor swimming pool at Villeneuve.
Monetier-les-Bains is sited by natural hot springs and has a fabulous thermal spa complex - 'Les Grands Bains' - with indoor and outdoor pools, aqua-massage features, steam rooms, saunas, and Roman baths.
Apres ski in the villages is laid-back and friendly, focused mainly on the handful of bars nearest the base-area slopes and lift terminals; Le Frog pub in Villeneuve is a well-established favourite.
Later on in the evenings, occasional live music and/or karaoke are usually the best that can be expected of any of the bars dotted along the valley villages; there is a tiny nightclub in Villeneuve, plus a couple of bigger ones in Briancon, but nightlife in Serre Chevalier is generally quite low-key.
All of the villages are connected by free ski buses during the day and local bus service in the evenings; late-night returns from one village to another require a taxi.
Bars and clubs
Le Loco Loco
Ullivan Coffee Pub