Serre Chevalier Vallée is located in the Southern Alps in France. Serre Chevalier is less than 1 hour from Torino (Italy), 3 hours from Lyon and Marseille; all of which have international airports from where the resort is accessible by trains and shuttles. It is around 70km further down the road from Alpe d’Huez.
Serre Chevalier Vallée is the collective name for 13 villages stretching 17 km along the Guisane Valley to Briançon, France’s highest Alpine town and UNESCO site. The main ski resorts are in Briançon, Chantemerle, Villeneuve and Monêtier.
Serre Chevalier is situated along a valley with quite four little villages at various bases of the resort. Each of the small villages around the resorts is linked by lifts which gives the resort an expansive feel. The four towns are Briançon 1200, Chantemerle 1350, Villeneuve 1400 and Le Monetier Les Bains 1500. The number afterwards refers to its height.
The major town is Briançon which is a charming French village and has been given heritage status by UNESCO. This provides a very pretty backdrop to working a winter season at Serre Chevalier. The other towns are smaller and quieter, but still quite charming.
Briançon gets really busy during the holidays but is otherwise fairly quiet. Serre Chevalier usually has lots of French workers, but also Swiss and Italians. There are usually quite a few British working for tour operators and usually a handful of Australians and New Zealanders.
Photo: Panoramic view of Serre Chevalier
Serre Chevalier Vallée has around 250km of larch-tree lined slopes – which are situated between 1200 meters and 2800 meters. The mountain is very suited for intermediate riders with a lot of cruising terrain and nice tree runs down lower.
Some of the hidden but great areas of the Serre Chevalier area include:
Backcountry at La Grave
La Grave, Europe’s largest off-piste area, is close to Serre Chevalier. There is a 30 minute lift to the top and then you choose your line down.
It is highly recommended to do this with a guide (which may cost up to 100 Euros) because it is mostly glacier and there are a lot of crevasses. It is preferable to ride La Grave straight after a dump as it tends to get icy otherwise.
Photo: Open bowl at Serre Chevalier
Opening day is usually mid-December and closing day is usually towards the end of April.
Snowfall is not a strong point for Serre Chevalier, particularly as it is fairly low at its base. Average snowfall is 4 meters which is little below average for French resorts. 154 hectares of slopes covered by snow cannons to supplement natural snowfall.
There are, however, 300 days sunshine every year which means you will likely have a good number of bluebird days during the season.
Generally face to face interviews are required by employers in Serre Chevalier, but first contact for potential employers can generally be done by phone or email.
Speaking French is certainly a big advantage in Serre Chevalier; however, the resort now attracts a large number of British tourists and many places will consider English speaking applicants. It is best to apply by October for jobs, although jobs do appear during the season.
Maison des Saisonniers
The Maison des Saisonniers is an excellent information service where employers will post seasonal jobs. It is an office run by the local municipality and is designed to assist seasonal workers. It has a physical office located in the town of Villeneuve and is open every Monday to Friday during the year.
You can visit the office to get a list of jobs currently advertised in town as well as a list of rental properties currently advertised. Their website also has job and rental information (French only) www.ccbrianconnais.fr/saisonniers1.html.
Other Job Resources
Pôle Emploi (www.pole-emploi.fr) is a governmental organization which helps people to find jobs all over France. They sometimes post jobs in the Serre Chevalier region.
Mon Job la Montagne (www.monjobalamontagne.com) is a job search tool for French ski resorts which may have jobs.
The Serre Chevalier Office of Tourism (www.serre-chevalier.com) may be able to help those looking for accommodation or advice on jobs.
Several tour companies operate in Serre Chevalier. These companies run full package holidays for tourists, including buses to and from the airport, accommodation in their tour run hotels, help with getting around town and getting ski passes etc.
The Metro Ski Show, held in London in late October, is used by companies to search for prospective employees. Otherwise, it's best to start applying in about July or August. If you're coming from overseas, you can contact the tour operators directly to apply for a job. Many of the British companies will only hire UK nationals.
Turin is the transfer airport for tour operators which, being quite close, makes life much easier. The road is usually quite clear.
Those within the EU are able to work in France without a visa. For those outside the EU, you will need a French work permit.
See the Work a Winter Season in France for information on visas in France.
A season pass to Serre Chevalier gives you several free days in other resorts including Alpe d'Huez and Les Deux Alpes, both of which are only 45 minutes' drive away by car or by bus.
You also get free days in Montgenevre, Sestriere and Puy St Vincent, while Sestriere is 45 minutes away also by car and provides access into Italian resorts.
Briançon is probably the best place to live as it has the most activity and is the most vibrant. Villeneuve is the next best town in terms of vibrancy, followed by Chantemerle.
Apartments to rent for the season are easier to find in Briançon, simply because the town is bigger. There is a regular shuttle service end to end between Briançon and Monêtier which many employees use which is also very handy for exploring the area.
There are a few smaller villages in the valley which can be worthwhile. St. Chaffrey and Le Bez are the two best of the little places. The bus service runs through these two, but they are still quite a long way away from the après-ski. If you're late out you'll have to walk home.
Accommodation for employees is dependent on the employer but is generally not provided.
The Office of Tourism also holds a list of available rental properties (www.serre-chevalier.com).
There are free newspapers in the shops and these often have classifieds for season renting.
Logement Saisonniers sometimes has places listed.
There are a number of estate agents in town which can help find rental properties although they will charge a fee.
Rent will be usually be around 350-500 Euros per month for a studio.
If you can get enough of you together you can get a 4-6 person apartment in Villeneuve for around 500 Euros.
The bars all have a really French feel to them. Briançon 1200 has the best parties and atmosphere of the four villages although Villeneuve is a close second. There are often free concerts, live music and staff parties throughout the season.
In Briançon 1200
Kitchen Club is a small cafe style restaurant which is open until 1am. Il Cappuccino is next door for the best coffee in town. Duo is a really French place with nice couches and a piano man. The Schuss is the place to go when you need to catch the latest game on TV. The Gotcha bar has cheap beer and dancing on the tables is not an option!
A late night club is 'The Baroque', which is open till 5am.
In Chantemerle 1350
The Royal has live music during the evening. At night they get DJs and dance parties.
L’Élixir is a night club that is open pretty late. Hotel Plein Sud has a chilled atmosphere and small bar. The Grand Hotel Café (formerly The Saloon) has drinks, pool and they do good discounts for season workers.
In Villeneuve 1400
Club After Ski (formerly Baita) is the nightclub where you will end up at some point. Mojos is a popular place for season workers and sometimes brings in DJs. La Grotte is a restaurant area with imported beer and stays open until midnight, with TVs for games, and live music most nights. Noctambule is a small French bar that plays dance music. The Kub and the 1420 Bar are the places to dance into the night.
In Le Monetier Les Bains 1500
This is one of the quieter places at Serre Chevalier. Bar L'Alpen is a tavern bar that organizes night concerts.
Photo: Paysage at Serre Chevalier
Serre Chevalier has a full calendar of events each winter including ski races, snowshoe hikes, fireworks and snowboard and freestyle events. On the ice circuit, you might find racing cars and the course is open throughout the season.
There is an ice hockey rink in Briançon which hosts one of the best teams in France and is certainly worth attending at least once during the season.
Briançon has a theater and casino while Les Grands Bains du Monetier has over 4500m2 dedicated to rest and relaxation in pools with hot water springs.