Pow to the people!

Pow is not just for expert skiers. This Christmas, our entire extended family with abilities ranging up from mid life ‘blue cruisers’ to more neck than technique teenagers could be heard shrieking with exhilarating joy as a massive dump of the fluffy stuff descended on us. We happened to be at Serre Che that day, at monetier where it’s deep north facing bowl collects it on accessible runs. No off-piste, but miles of deep fluffy blower pow all over the pistes. My 50+ brother in law, a late in life skier who has never skied while it’s been snowing was heard talking about getting fatter skis!

The next day we were all on the pistes really early, exploring the gorgeous larch slopes of Villeneuve in Serre Che. The kids were singing as they dived off the runs into the sparkly thigh deep fluff in the trees.

From villar d’arene you can pretty much have the pick of the conditions. Yes, it’s ideal for La Grave, but if you don’t feel up to that, whichever way the weather is coming you can pick superb accessible pow. From the west, it’s a quick drive to Deux Alpes. From the north west, you can nip over the Col, through Briancon and access Montgenevre and the Milky Way. And for all the rest there’s Serre Che with it’s lift accessed bowls and perfect melezes (the lovely larch). …..

Enjoy!

Why I love Serre Chevalier by Poppy Munro age 10

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I love Serre Chevalier because it has so many places to visit……. I hope you will enjoy my favourites too.

Boarder Cross

The boarder cross is a fun way to test your racing skills recommended 5 and over I think people would enjoy the boarder cross. I enjoy it a lot but it closes every so often. Take your children there so you can see what they are made of.

Nomad Village

Take your kids over to the nomad village it has fistful of information; recommended 6 and over. I think this is the best place to have a picnic. I like learning about the nomad ways of life. You can also warm up by the stove in the Yurt.

Snow Park

Let your kids go WILD in the snow park; it is full of box’s, easy jump’s, medium jump’s and hard jump’s. I enjoy the snow park because its a mountain full of fun. We go to the snow park with Simone our instructor. Sometimes we go for the whole day and I need my twin tips. The restaurant near here has the best chips in the valley.

Cibout Run (black )

The Cibout is a extra hard run for people under 7 because they don’t piste it and its steep. But for people who are over 7 you will find it really easy. I was 7 when I first did the cibout, it was a bit difficult (big moguls) but managed to do it in 10 minutes and take my advice if your child is crying give them a sweet, treat or chocolate. The chairlift is a double seater so 1 adult and 1 child together.

The Eychauda run (red)

This is a very fast run especially quick for heading back for chips at the restaurant. You have to watch out for people learning but its best for going very quick and doing 360’s.

The Cucumelle (red).

I love this run because it has awesome big half pipes that are natural. They are off piste actually so its best to go with an adult but they are awesome fun. Its also on the way to the snow park from Monetier which is handy.

Ski School (Ski NewGen)

Simone is the best teacher to hire if you want to teach your children.  He makes it fun but he also makes sure you learn properly.  I like going to the snow park best with him, and I also like the racing with him.  He has taught us how to ski like people from different countries.  eg.  the spanish ski like a tango, the english ski like a tortoise, the french ski with their booties and the Italians ski the best (he is italian).

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Skiing with very young children in Serre Chevalier

Having no BASI qualifications but a strong desire to teach my daughter to ski, I started from scratch when she was 2. This consisted of putting skis on her, letting her walk around a bit on flat ground, and pushing her around. Sunny days only I might add – at Easter. We found at Serre Chevalier – well more specifically at Monetier- les- bains – the perfect place and environment to begin the process.

We experimented a bit elsewhere in the area with the French ‘jardin’ system but it mainly brought howls of rage and frustration from our daughter. We wanted her to have proper lessons but the French system didn’t seem right and we couldn’t commit to a whole week – she definitely didn’t want to ski every day.Image044

At Monetier – there is a beautiful area at the bottom of the slopes called Pre Chabert which has two Poma’s, a rope tow, and a tapis Volant (moving carpet!). There’s no having to go up the mountain in bubbles – you can come and go as you like. Most importantly there’s great easy toilet facilities close by, – some very quick removals of skis and running to the toilet is necessary at this age!. You can return to your van for an afternoon kip….equally important for the very young.   At the base is also a large bar and cafeteria which also is fantastic for lunch; Orangina and chips being the choice ‘menu enfant’ of our daughter. And endless crepes to follow!31122007786

Luckily also, for we were on a tight budget, children under 6 ski free, and the adult pass for Pre Chabert was very cheap. Whoever was not ‘teaching’ could go off and ski for 3 hours, and then we could swap over. Local Monetier 3 hour passes are also available which were a great help – plenty of demanding blacks and off piste fun even in 3 hours and much cheaper than buying a day pass for the entire Serre Che resort. A combination of: skiing holding onto a pole together; shouting, ‘pizza’ a lot; bribery with haribo; skiing like silly animals; skiing on one leg, singing songs, and frequent stops for chocolat chaud soon had her flying down the baby slopes.

We then braved taking bubbles up the mountain futher down the Serre Chevalier valley in Chantemerle and Villeneuve, and skiing long green runs back down. This gave her a great sense of adventure and achievement and was relatively controllable. We also got to visit some great other restaurants and sample other hot chocolate and chips – discovering, by the way, the great kids menu in the Grand Alpe restaurant above Chantemerle, which not only gives them nuggets and chips, a drink, a pomme pot – but greatest of all, a kinder egg!

Quickly, we were ready to head all over the mountain and Serre Chevalier came up trumps again with all under 6 going free as long as you get a pass for them at the same time as you get the adult passes.19022008856

At about this time we decided we couldn’t really teach our daughter anymore and enlisted the help of Ski NewGen in Serre Chevalier. This is an English ski school based in Monetier. It doesn’t seem to be like other ski schools. The lessons are all in English, they have very small groups, and seem to be much more fun for the average child than all the other ski schools we have tried. One lesson, the children came back particularly hyper after learning to jump on and off picnic tables in the woods. One of the instructors, Simone, even inspired my friends’ children to want to ski – after years of being seriously reluctant skiers. They came back: demanded twin tips; set off for the snow park; and have never looked back. Now the children are older, Ski NewGen are teaching them all sorts of monkeydom, and making sure their parents are having a really hard time keeping up with them.

 

Walking to huts with kids – walks that kids love!

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I have seen many articles that don’t recommend this, yet my most vivid memories as a child are staying in huts high in the French alps. With smaller children, huts can be a really great option for walking in the Alps. They give a real sense of adventure and destination, and I’ve never yet met a child who wasn’t up for that type of expedition.

The routes described below are based around the eastern Ecrins near our flat and are suitable for kids of different ages – you will know how far your own child will walk!

You dont need to take much – a spare set of clothes, a waterproof and a sheet sleeping back.  The paths are all clearly marked.  Eating in the huts is wonderful – even our incredibly fussy eater child has devoured the food.  I used to carry a spare pot noodle (yes….) but never had to use it! We usually take enough lunch for 2 days on a 2 day hike, but you can get packed lunches from the huts.  We always take ear plugs, and an ipod with ear phones is great for sending a child to sleep.  The huts always have plenty of games, cards and other diversions.  Everyone goes to bed at the same time anyway, so it works very well.  Most huts have crocs now, even for very small people.

Route 1 – Refuge de l’Alpe de Villar-d’Arène – total (2 days) 7.63 Km, 333m ascent / descent  – http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/401953816

This hut is situated high in the Romanche Valley above Villar D’Arene in the Ecrins national park. The walk to the hut and back can be done in a day but it makes a great first hut expedition for very small children (4 – 5)

From Villar D’Arene drive up past pas de L’ane. Either park here, or continue on across a small bridge and turn right, following a rough dirt track until a large open area with parking is reached. Take the well marked path across the rock steps and up a small valley to a water fall and river crossing. (Ideal spot for a biscuit and rock throwing…). Climb steeply up the well trodden path until you reach some grassy meadows. 5 years olds will be able to manage with some encouragement (stories, biscuits…). The grassy meadows are the perfect place to have a sit, rest and watch the marmottes.  From here it’s a short stroll along to the refuge. If your kids are abounding with energy, then walk on up the valley – its about 2 hours up to the lake. However, there’s often chamois to be seen so its worth going on up. Alternatively, you can set off fairly late in the day (3 pm) after another activity and arrive in time for dinner.

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Route 2 – Chardonnet hut from the Guisane valley –  Cols and the ideal hut

Day 1 – 8.5 km, 948 m ascent – http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/234674779

Day 2 – 14.7 km, 631 m ascent – http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/234677305

This is a great two day expedition over a mountain range into the Nevache valley. We did this one when our daughter was just 8.  The routes are excellently signposted and the walking straightforwards. The first day is a big ascent, but the col is excellent and there’s the descent to the hut and expectation of finding the hut. The second day is much less ascent, with the col earlier in the day, but then a long walk out along the balcons of the Guisane. The hut is excellent and child friendly, and the food second to none. we have been back to this hut twice now as our daughter is captivated by it!

The ascent from Pont D’Alpe is short and sharp winding up into a beautiful open valley. There’s even a buvette for an ice cream stop. The walk then winds up through a monumental rock fall on the back of the Aiguile du Lauzet and then zig zags up to the impressive Col du Chardonnet at 2673m, with stunning views back into the heart of the Ecrins.   The zig zags are a bit of a slog but Haribo bribes work wonders. Once over the Col you are rewarded with a beautiful gentle descent down the high valley surrounded by limestone pillars. Its very reminiscent of the Dolomites. We have seen loads and loads of marmottes in this valley and the rocks are very varied. You dont see the hut until at the last minute, when you happen upon it across an idyllic Alp, with a Yurt at one end.

Day 2 sharts with a short 2.54 km climb up to the Col de Roche Noire. This is an easy climb, finishing winding up through rocky screes. The Col is a beautiful spot, with a wonderful view back down toward the Guisane valley. You follow the path along the ridge a short way to the west and round behind a rocky lump before descending a very well made set of zig zags into the high wild Vallon de la Moulette. Its tempting to stop everywhere and laze around and watch Marmottes but its definately worth pressing on a bit. The next climb is much shorter, following the GR 50 across the high slopes of the Pic Ombierre. We cut down and across the forest above Puy Chevalier which provided some welcome shade in the heat, although the routes are less well signposted. There is very little water on this route until the springs under the aiguillete du Lauzet are reached so I would recommend carrying ample water and saving the majority of it for the traverse across this area. As you cross the Torrent du Chardoussier area, the route becomes a heavenly stroll with amazing views all around. The descent to Pont de Alpe is short with zig zags losing a lot of the height, and the drinks at the refuge are very welcome!

 

Route 3 – The Buffere hut from the Col du Granon – Old War remains and the Maginot line

Day 1 – 9km, 155m climb – http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/411154578

Day 2 – 10km, 520m climb –  http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/411157198

This is a lovely walk without too much steep height gain and lots of interesting stopping points.  Our daughter managed this when she was just 6.

The start is from the top of the Col du Granon, above the ski resorts of Serre Chevalier.  A straightforward traverse to the Porte des Cristols (lots of interesting rocks!) leads to a steady descent down to the beautiful lac des Cristols.  The walk then descends further before taking a fairly level traverse across the hill side to the Buffere hut.  This is very welcoming with excellent food.  A family of marmottes were living outsid when we went.

The next day is a gentle climb up to the Col du Buffere under the Grand Area.  There are all sorts of war remains and defensive infrastructure up here which was once part of the Maginot line.  The walk then continues on a high but easy traverse under the slopes of the Grand Area with lots of marmottes and great views.  When we reached the car park under the grand Area, I chose to get a lift back up to the Col fetching the car and saving the remaining 3km  200 m climbing.  However, if you do choose to climb back up, theres an excellent buvette waiting at the top!

 

 

Route 4 – Mont Thabor Hut from the Vallee Etroite – an adventure from Italy to the Savoie!

Day 1 – 8km 727m climb – http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/411815694

Day 2 – Return via Lac Vert – no climbing 10Km – http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/411816450

This is a very straightforward walk – out and back with a lovely hut and lake as its reward.  We did this when our daughter was just 8 but it could be done by younger children.  It has a great sense of route, going from Italy, through the Nevache and ending up in Savoie.    The hut is welcoming and used to children and the food is excellent.  The return journey can include a detour to see the amazing Lac Vert

 

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Forget Yorkshire and see the Tour in the Alps!

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Forget Yorkshire and see the Tour from the Col du Lauteret! Stage 14 of the 2014Tour climbs right past appartment Chancel La Grave in Villar D’Arene on July 19th on the final 8km of the mythic Cat 1 Col du … Continue reading

Family Activity Weeks

Villar d’arène is the perfect base for a packed week of outdoor activities with teenagers and Tweens. The more adrenaline, the less snapchat!! A typical week could include;

Day 1 : walk up to refuge d’alpe du villar d’arene. Easy intro day to acclimatise. Lots of wildlife on route and snacks/ drinks at hut.

Day 2 : white water rafting on the durance or the romanche. Afternoon at the biopool.

Day 3: Via Ferrata in the morning, sport climbing in the afternoon.

Day 4: mountain biking – depending on ability – uplift available to the top of the galibier (easy descent), or on the lift systems of Serre Chevalier, Deux Alpes or La Grave.

Day 5 extended via ferrata day with an ascent of the Aiguille du Lauzet

Day 6 rock climbing opposite the Meije or round in Ailfroide.

Or, Days 5&6 take a two day hut walk in the Nevache, staying at some of the loveliest, friendliest huts in the alps with superb food.

For a rest day there’s a wide range of open air pools and the historic old town of Briancon.

All walking, biking and climbing guides are in the flat, and any activities can also be fully supported and are easily booked through local qualified English speaking Guides.

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