skiing in france tips

Sunday, January 27, 2002

  • GETTING THERE: You can fly to Lyon or Marseille in France and take a bus, or you can land at Turin airport about 70 miles away in Italy.

    You can also take the high-speed TGV train from Paris for 4 1/2 hours to Oulx just over the border in Italy, and take local transportation to Briancon from there. Perhaps the simplest way is to take the overnight train from Paris, for a trip of about 10 hours to Briancon.

    From there cabs and buses take you to the respective towns and villages.

    SKI SEASON: The season generally runs from December into April, though things really start to get into high gear just before Christmas. Serre Chevalier will be most crowded around New Year's and during the French school holidays. If you can do it, aim for late January or mid-March, when all the elements should be at their best.

    INFORMATION: The ski area's official Web site is www.serre-chevalier.com. This page has information about ski schools, accommodations, current weather and snow conditions. There's also a section in English.

    The general e-mail address is contact@ot-serrechevalier.fr.

    The e-mail address for reservations is resa@ot-serrechevalier.fr.

    The telephone number for the central tourist office is: country code 33 for France, followed by 4 92 24 98 98.

    Almost everyone who picks up the phone will speak English, and chances are they can help you in a couple other languages, as well.

    The mailing address for the Chantemerle tourist office is:

    Office de Tourisme.

    05330 St-Chaffrey France.

    LODGING: All towns have a range of accommodations, from small Alpine hotels to apartments. Most apartments rent for a week at a time, from Saturday to Saturday, with very few exceptions. It is preferable to stay near the ski lifts. Otherwise you will have to hike across town every morning and afternoon. A ski bus system makes the circuit of the area, with a pickup every 20 minutes.

    PRICES: The Serre Chevalier prices tend to be fairly reasonable compared with those in other, better-known areas. For example, you can rent a snowboard and boots for about $88 a week.

    A roomy apartment for five people cost s $610 for the week over Christmas. If you're in a hurry, you can pick up sandwiches and soft drinks for five people for about $20 at a snack bar.

    LIFT TICKET PRICES: Adult lift ticket prices, for the whole Serre Chevalier area, range from $26.25 for one day to $133.50 for six days. A six-day pass for a child (ages 6 through 12) costs $95.25. Bring a passport-size picture; depending on the length of your stay, it may save you a couple of minutes when buying the pass.

    SKI SCHOOLS: There are various ski schools to choose from, including the Ecole du Ski Francais; the Ecole de Ski Evasion; the Ecole de Ski Buissonniere; and a school called Axesse. All offer lessons in French, English and Italian, and several other languages are possible.

    DINING: Briancon has the widest choice of restaurants, since it's bigger than the other towns. Restaurants in Monetier Les Bains, at the far end of the area, offer the most charm. Try the "raclette," which is a dish of melted cheese, potatoes and other vegetables along with bits of meat.

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