Tag Archives: Hautes-Alpes

Puy Saint-Vincent: don’t tell everyone…

Skier on piste with Puy Saint-Vincent 1600 visible below
Even the highest pistes filter safely back onto sheltered tree-lined return runs.

Why do I love skiing in France – apart, obviously, from having some of the world’s greatest mountain terrain from which to choose? Well, after having visited around fifty French ski resorts (and counting) I’m still surprised at what I discover along the way. A couple of seasons ago we decided to head over to the Southern French Alps, to discover just what most mainstream skiers, who tend to set their sights rather further north, might be missing. Great snowfalls, clear blue skies and unpressured pistes were just some of the things which bowled us over and convinced us that we’d stumbled upon a huge but relatively undiscovered area which deserves to be much better known among leisure skiers.

Places like La Joue du Loup, Superdévoluy, Pra Loup, Foux d’Allos, Les Orres, Orcières, Vars, Risoul, Montgenèvre and Serre Chevalier all revealed to us their own distinct characters, and we’d still only scratched the surface. Obviously it’s just not possible to press on and do it all at once (but we can dream..) and in any case we try to maintain a balance in our resort review coverage. So our first trip of this season would take in just two ski visits in the Hautes-Alpes area: one involved returning to complete unfinished business in Serre Chevalier, and the other would take us to somewhere much smaller nearby, and which had so far eluded us.

The phrase “small is beautiful” could have been penned with Puy Saint-Vincent in mind. The original village, clinging to the sides of a deep valley, is nothing if not authentic, with centuries’-old chalets at every turn. Continue up to the ski villages at 1400, 1600 and 1800m altitude, however, and things begin to look more like a serious ski resort should. Even so, first impressions give little hint of the vertical drop on offer: 1350m or around 4430ft, much of it below the tree-line, where safe glade-skiing opportunities beckon among silent larch and pine forests.
True, the lower villages have much of their accommodation in large units, but in their respective settings they’re not unattractive. Skiers staying in the 1800 village, though, have not only chalet-style architecture but also the welcome bonus of ski-in/ski-out convenience.

We enjoyed our time here, as you’ll see just as soon as our full Resort Review goes live. For now, though, I’ll merely say that while big-league Serre Chevalier grabs all the media attention, its near-neighbour Puy Saint-Vincent quietly gets on with offering great, high-value skiing in a truly beautiful setting…

Our base in Puy Saint-Vincent 1800 was a cosy piste-side apartment in La Dame Blanche, for which we thank SARA and our friends at French Ski Specialists Ski Collection.

Skiing another side of Serre Chevalier…

Skier on piste above mountain backdrop
The Parc National des Ecrins creates a dramatic backdrop to skiing in Serre Chevalier.

If you’ve seen our Resort Review of Serre Chevalier then you’ll know that although the stats, etc., are all there, my first visit (a great Press Trip kindly hosted by British ski operator Erna Low) had only allowed time to discover part of this vast ski area near Briançon, in the Hautes-Alpes. But I’d already seen more than enough to want to get back as soon as possible and see just what else I’d missed.

It took awhile, but a few days ago we finally drove cautiously over the windswept Col du Lauteret (freshly reopened after the huge snowfalls which had swept in during our stay in l’Alpe d’Huez) and dropped down through le Monêtier-les-Bains to the village of Chantemerle.

I’ll recount the story in more detail in our forthcoming update of the Review on mountainpassions.com , but I can tell you that we’re more than glad we came. Snow conditions had held up well, thanks to low temperatures, as we joined both new arrivals and locals alike and headed up the mountain for our own Ski Sunday. Nothing compares to being there, with the wind in your hair and the skis running smoothly beneath your feet.

Our plan was simple: head up above Chantemerle and work our way westwards across to the sector above Briançon. Getting around proved equally straightforward, thanks to clear new signage and a capable modern lift system. There’s even a smartphone app (for both iOS and Android, for once) to help you find your way, map your progress and more besides.

As it turned out, our route would be influenced by the steadily-strengthening winds blowing in from the southeast (Provence and le Mistral are not far away) which discouraged us from hanging around on higher, more exposed sections – just long enough to shoot some images of the literally breathtaking panoramas spread enticingly before us. So, while the weather held we took a bracing plunge down to join Le Chemin, a Green-graded cruise (one of the best scenic runs we can recall) all the way round to the Prorel gondola lift which hauls skiers smoothly up from one of our favourite French towns. So before heading back up and working our way back to Chantemerle we enjoyed the perfect overview during a relaxed lunch from the sun terrace of the Pré Loup restaurant, right beside the lift mid-station.

Our base in Chantemerle was a spacious 4* apartment in the Résidence L‘Adret, for which we thank our good friends at Ski Specialists Peak Retreats.

Serre Chevalier in Pictures

MountainPassions brings you a selection of winter images from the Serre Chevalier ski resort in the Hautes-Alpes. Just click on any image to view the gallery. For a full and independent resort review visit our website.

Mountains of things to do…

Ski resorts are finding more and more ways to attract and entertain visitors and this year we’re seeing plenty of new ideas. We recently tried the hugely entertaining Mountain Twister at Les Saisies – a 750 m roller coaster style luge descent suspended high above the mountainside (there’s another called the Monty Express at Montgenèvre which runs for 1400 m). For budding freestylers, there are several new Big Air Bags providing a  much-needed soft landing to even the most timid beginner, as at Piau Engaly in the Hautes-Pyrénées. Here  they also entertain people at the end of the season with a water splash where it’s best not to stand too close as even the audience ends up getting wet. Among the host of other unusual activities we’ve tried are ski-joering, snow-shoeing, snow-kiting, dog-sledding, and some we haven’t yet plucked up the courage to try such as  parascending, speed-riding (Valfréjus), a Tyroléan cable (Orcières), ice-diving (Tignes, Piau Engaly), or ice-driving (Serre Chevalier, Val Thorens). Orcières is a great family resort where you can not only try ice-diving, but you can even spend a night in their igloo village or experience the thrill of dog-sledding. Visit Undiscovered Alps, specialists in multi-activity holidays which can be tailor-made to your requirements.

What’s also become apparent is a growing number of festivals. After Méribel’s hosting of the popular Altitude Comedy Festival, the show moves to a different ski resort each year, while Méribel’s attentions turn to music with its Little World Festival starring well-known international acts and staging over 40 gigs throughout the week.  After several successful years the Rock the Pistes music festival in the Portes du Soleil area, has become established taking place in March each year

While temperatures are thankfully dropping again, the action’s hotting up in the mountains….

Montgenevre & Serre Chevalier, Hautes-Alpes

View our latest gallery of pictures from Montgenèvre and Serre Chevalier in the Hautes-Alpes. Viist MountainPassions.com for our full resort reviews.

Le Dévoluy, Hautes-Alpes

Le_Devoluy-17676, originally uploaded by MountainPassions.

We were so impressed by the family skiing on offer in this wonderful region in the Hautes-Alpes known as Le Dévoluy. See the gallery on Flickr and read more about the resorts of La Joue du Loup and Super Dévoluy on MountainPassions.