Seasoned holidaymakers to France face a dilemma each spring: should they spend their holiday on the Riviera’s coast or in the Alps? Although an idyllic beach setting is amplified in its allure after the harshness of winter, an escape to the mountains could still be a wiser decision. With the weather still somewhat unpredictable, ambitious plans for a sunny beach-break could quickly diminish as the Mediterranean skies fill with clouds; an Alpine setting perfectly combines sports and leisure in the rain or shine.
Spring spent in the Alps is ideal since you’ll be able to catch the last of the snowfall, revel in sunshine when it comes and find something exhilarating to do regardless of the weather. In fact, with many ski resorts open until the end of April and the use of snowmakers a favourable possibility; spending spring in the mountains is often the better choice.
The huge French ski region of Serre Chevalier Vallée in the southeastern Alps is a great choice for springtime skiing. It has over 3,900 hectares of terrain and contains more than 100 slopes, which are aided by one of the most extensive snowmaking networks in Europe to ensure the best snow conditions for a long ski season. Even though it boasts over 300 days of sunshine a year, snow is more reliable since many of the slopes are north-facing and a third of the entire ski area is covered by a network of snow cannons.
Fans of Serre Chevalier affectionately call it “Serre Che”, and return time and time again to enjoy the great woodland runs, characterful villages and friendly locals. Serre Chevalier is made up of thirteen villages linked by a by road over the valley floor. The villages start with the old town of Briançon, Europe’s highest at an altitude of 1,326 metres, and the location of France’s first ski school in 1902. It then passes through the main villages of Chantemerle, Le Monetier and Villeneuve, up to the Col du Lautaret pass. What it lacks in the glitz and glamour of France’s ultra-luxurious resorts, it makes up for in rustic charm and authenticity. Even the main resorts have a number of traditional buildings and have largely retained its authentic character.
Le Christiania – one of the most atmospheric hotels, which caters to both skiers and summer visitors – is a charming hotel in Villeneuve la Salle. The hotel offers comfortable rooms, featuring wood panelling and other alpine touches, making them perfect for relaxing in after a long day skiing or hiking. Le Christiania also has a restaurant with a terrace overlooking the Guisane River and a spa, which includes a sauna-hammam, massage room and beauty treatments, along with a less conventional fish spa treatment. The hotel is close to the ski runs and also provides easy access to the summer pursuits of hiking, mountain biking, rafting, hang gliding, fishing and horse riding. As you can imagine, the views are beautiful too.
Indeed, if you come to Serre Chevalier in the spring, you don’t need to spend all your time on the mountain range that gives the resort its name. The southern coast is less than 100km away and, if the weather is favourable, you can combine the Alps with the Cote d’Azur on a road trip or have a leisurely day out at the beach between days on the slopes. Since it is one of the most southerly resorts in France and located close to the Italian border, it’s the perfect gateway for Mediterranean adventures. Maybe it’s not always such a tough choice to make each spring, after all!
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