Slightly overdue but here it is, my Serre Chevalier Trip report, enjoy !
Europe is easy, you jump in your car and a few hours later you're on the slopes. So on a bright Saturday morning we set off into the sunrise. It's about 1000km from where we live to Serre Chevalier and not being in a hurry we decided to take it slow and do the trip in two days. First stop Dijon (that's where they invented Mustard, I think) which is a beautiful city, definitely worth going back some day. We arrived around 4pm and dropped off our luggage in search of a nice place to have a drink and then dinner. Even though the city is undergoing major road works the center is delightfully cosy and has a lot of atmosphere. All is wonderful except if you're hungry before 7pm because that's when they open. So after a few seemingly long hours of 'hanging around' we finally got fed. It was going to be an early night to leave bright and early in the morning for the last few hundred kilometers.
It's a good idea to leave early especially when you have to drive into the mountains. We were hitting the Col du Lautaret around lunchtime and from there it would be less than an hour to Club Med. That is of course if there is no snow ro ice on the road. Driving up it was becoming clear that at some point I would have to put on snow chains, but I came prepared. I had even practiced at the office on how to lay them out (these things get tangled in a second). The inevitable moment comes that it is no longer safe to drive without them so we pull over and I bravely tell the Mrs "It'll be done in ten minutes, easy". Yeah, sure. I had this eerie sensation a few hours early that I had overlooked something but couldn't really point out what. So soon I realized that the chains I had were of my previous car, which in itself wouldn't be a problem except that the size of my tires turned out to be much bigger than before. My hads are freezing, I see other correctly equipped fellow travelers putting on their chains as if it was a breeze and after more than an hour I am still struggling wondering if I'll ever manage to get over the hill. Thick rubber bands will do miracles and in the end I kinda got them attached but for one I would suggest: "Do try this at home!".
Nothing will stop us to get to our destination so we very very very slowly drove up and down, checking the contraption every 200m or so and creating huge traffic jams and angry drivers, until no snow or ice was to be found. Club Med Serre Chevalier, here we come.
It's always a relieve when you see the Club Med sign. You know you're there, the misery is over and the fun begins. Two slightly frozen but apparently overjoyed G.Os welcome at the entrance of the village and things are so well organised that we get our room key and all the explanation at once ... what a service and finally all is well. Just a quick drive to drop off the luggage at the entrance and back to leave the car in the covered parking lot for the rest of the week. It's €85 to parkl your car there but it is definitely worth it. If it starts snowing you will probably have a terrible time trying to get your car out of the parking lot. Especially for experienced snow chain massacrers like me.
The first thing you will notice about the resort is that IT'S BIG. But it's big AND very cosy. They have done a great job decorating the place and you would never feel it has a capacity of over a thousand guests. Actually we never had that feeling the whole week we stayed there and the resort was near full capacity. The roosm are what they are, you get what you see on the advertised pictures and are in local style. They are nice and quite big for french standards and have everything you will need. Flat screen TV etc ... but no fridge ! How could they. We like to have some cool drinks in the room just in case so that was the next problem to solve. No need calling the front desk, even though very friendly, they will not bring you a complimentary fridge; But being in the mountains, in a ski resort, in winter .... you have the best nature friendly freezer right there... outside. So attaching a small bag to the balcony got us our instant eco-friendly freezer. Yes, I know freezer ... that does indeed make drinks too cold and not immediately drinkeable but we're on holiday so we're not going to be picky, are we ?
Contrary to summer holidays unpacking for winter holidays is a bit more work. Basically the whole car is packed with ski suits and boots and skis and a lotta stuff to keep you warm and you have to fit all this in a closed. It will work but takes some time. Unless you thrown everything on the spare bed (we had a family room) and decide to dig for it whenever you need something.
Ski's can be dropped off at the ski center which is just one floor down from the main entrance and easy to get to. It can handle a lot of skis and a lot of boots but finding you little spot is easy as everything is clearly numbered. If you need to have your ski's repaired or checked they have all the equipment there ready to get you going.
All set time to explore the hotel. There is a pool behind the reception. It is quite big and quite cold, so we would discover a few days later. They post the water as being 27°C but I think the thermometer is broken. Seems that we weren't the only ones having trouble staying in the water for more than 3 minutes but apparently they are not allowed to heat it up more ... some regulation. I know, the kiddy pool is usually warmer, but that's another topic.
There is a pool table in front of the pool and two computers are there as well for those who decided not to bring their own. Wifi is available all through the hotel and it costs €20 for the week. Cheap but then again it is slow, irritatingly slow. Must be the high altitude ;-)
The main area where you will find the Bar, the boutique and the stairs to the restaurant, has windows all alongside it so you have a view of the terrace, the snow covered outside pool and the mountains. It's beautiful and we can't wait to get on the slopes tomorrow. Time to get a drink at the bar from a very friendly Bar team. You nae it and if they can they will make it for you. We have travelled far and dangerously but as we sip on our first cocktail stretched out on a very comfortable couch looking at the snowy mountains, life is good and all the worries disappear like snow in the sun.
The sun, it will be there all week and the weather predictions are great. Not a could in sight for the next 7 days and temperatures not even that could. Barely -9°C up there. BUT ! Unfortunately the hotel is located on the 'unsunny' side of the mountain so whicle you will be bathing in sunshine for breakfast and lunch ... by 2PM it's gone and you can only envy the people in the hotels on the other side of the valley whose inhabitants cal us Iceheads. Wonder why? Did they try our swimming pool ?
DAY1: Seven layers of fleece swaters and socks and gloves and thermal underwear and polar grade ski suits later we are ready to slide out of there. The slopes are right there at your door. They literally start at 3m from the door ! What a luxury !!!!!! DOn't you hate to have to take an overcrowded bus with overheated people clumsily holding their ski's and poles and kids, then a 20 minute walk in ski boots to get to the elevator. Not at Serre Chevalier ! 3m and your outthere, sliding down a very easy slope up to the main cabin that will take you up there.
There you are, at the top of the world (OK, it's not mount Everest, but you know what I mean. It's beautiful, breathtakingly, nose freezingly, foot hurtingly beautiful. It's a vast ski area. And unless you're up there from morning till late afternoon you will not be able to try every slope. Just too many of them. Big boulevards from the top all the way down and because the area is so big it does at time feels like you're the only one outthere. No waiting at the skilifts, just a little piece of heaven when you're dressed warm enough.
There is no altitude restaurant but that isn't really necessary. You can slide down the slope, take the red one or the the green one, they will both get you to 3m from the hotel door. Drop off your skis and boots in the ski locker and a wonderful buffet awaits you. Not to be compared to the crappy, overcowded and very expensive snacks you will get at any high altitude restaurant. Usually there is some activity organized by the G.O's on the terrace in front of the pool. Gluhwein, sausages, cheese etc etc etc. The restaurant has it's own terrace so on a sunny day (and we had lots of them) you'll be enjoying your lunch and a fantastic view.
You have to do it every day so you might as well do it right and that is one thing they understand at Club Med. If you like (French, but not only) food then the kitchen team at Serre Ché does a fantastic (and that's understating it) job. You will gain a few pounds even though you ski every day, there is no escape. Every day they come up with local delicacies, but going into details on this would make this trip report wayyyyy to long (and I already know it is). So we're back on the slopes in the afternoon, in a desperate attempt to work off the whole grilled cheese (yes, a delicious 5 inch wide 1.5 inch thick smooth grilled French cheese) I had for lunch. As I mentioned earlier, we're on the 'wrong' side of the mountain so you will have to go all the way up to catch those rays of sun, but again, it's always worth it.
The ski lifts close around 4pm so time to get refreshed and hang the ski suits and gloves out to dry for tomorrow. Snecks are served around 4 for all those hungry skiers coming back (yes, hungry!, amazing) and even though it will not strike you on day one, the main area will be different every day. CDV Stephan Noublanche (Stephan pronounced like the french 'enfant' ! Stéphane, pronounced like 'Cannes' at the end is his wife) is one of the few CDV's I have seen who is so involved with his team and actually works with them. Whether it is moving furniture around or setting up the evening's disco party. He is there and not only distributing orders. Stéphan and Stéphane are a great couple. The kind of CDV who makes you go back to a village just because he is there. We did talk to many G.O's and they all say the same and like to work with them. Never a bad word.
It would be unfair to thos we didn't meet so we are not going to say this or that G.O was the best. They all are and we were suprised at the general friendliness and enthousiasm the whole team was displaying. Maybe it is because a lot of them are in their first season.
Weeks like this end too soon, we wanted to stay one more day, maybe two, or more but all good things .... So after a great week of skiing, making new friedns for life, eating more than medically sound and in all having a lot of fun we have to take all the stuff we had unloaded on day one and get it back in the car (how did we manage to get all this in in the first place? It was great ! Just one tiny tiny thing. Everyone was so helpful when we arrived to get all our luggage and things up to our room so we were all ready to go, all bags packed, skis and boots and all. So we called reception to ask them to pick up our suitcases and got a "There are trolleys in the lobby, you have to do it yourself". Yes, we were leavin and our holiday was almost to an end and yes you have the next batch of G.Ms arriving. But when I ask for some help in a resort chain that is going upscale ... I also expect to get this kind of service, even on my way out.
That being said it was a great week, great place, great peole, great food, great weather, great G.O Team, Great CDV ....
Here's the video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVwUfUeIwjY&feature=youtube_gdata