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Briancon Review

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Briancon Review

Rating: ★★★★★ 9,3 out of 10

“Briancon is an undiscovered gem among French ski resorts. It combines a rich history, great architecture, beautiful scenery and one of the best skiing terrains in France. The city itself lies on the French side of the French-Italian border. It is the municipality at the highest altitude in EU and has more than 11,500 inhabitants. Since the city was built on an important Alpine route between Turin and Grenoble, it has a heavily fortified old town with several small fortresses occupying the surrounding hill tops. Fortifications were built by Vauban (a famous military engineer) in the 17th century, and today they are classified as World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. The ski resort is a part of the Serre Chevalier area with Chantemerle, Villeneuve, and Le Monetier les Bains. The whole area has around 250 km of runs. It has the best accommodation in France if you have value for money in mind .”

Pros: Part of Serre Chevalier domain (great choice of slopes), not crowded, endless freeride opportunities, UNESCO world heritage old city.

Cons: Old lifts which link Briancon to the rest of Serre Che domain, if there is lack of snow or strong wind you will have to take a bus to the other parts of the domain.

briancon-ski-map

click to enlarge

SLOPES

Easy 138 km (55 %)
Intermediate 80 km (32 %)
Difficult 32 km (13 %)
 TOTAL  250 km

I will start this Briancon review with the most important thing, description of the slopes. Briancon occupies the smallest part of Serre Chevalier Valley and has no pistes that stand out from the rest, so I will concentrate on the whole area. The Prorel gondola will take you from the city to 2,360 m. From there you will have 2 options to get to the rest of the Valley. Both of those 2 lifts are old and if there is not enough snow or if the wind is too strong you will have to take the bus (free and pretty frequent) to the rest of the valley.

Slopes are diverse but blue runs are dominant, and make 55% of total length. The scenery is magnificent and there are some spectacular views. When you make your way to the top of the area (around 2,800 m) you will be able to ski on wide pistes without any surrounding trees, and as you make your way down you will enter the forest. Black runs are not groomed (or at least they look like that, even in the morning) and they are full of ice and moguls, so better avoid them if you are not an expert. The place is not as crowded as some more famous resorts in France are, so you won’t have to queue. Best slopes belong to Chantemerle and Villeneuve, where some lifts are old but they are not too slow.

The micro climate of the resort is fabulous since it has many sunny days (it is relatively close to the Mediterranean Sea) and yet it has more snow than some higher-altitude ski centres in the neighbourhood.

If you buy a ski pass for the entire area you will be also able to ski in Montgenevre (you will have to drive there), which is connected to Sestriere , an Italian resort (hosted skiing events during Turin Winter Olympic Games). You shouldn’t miss this opportunity.

 

Briancon, serre chevalier, mountains panorama

 

FREE RIDE AND TERRAIN PARKS

Great off-piste skiing is one of the main reasons why Serre Chevalier is one of my favourite ski areas. You will find a tonne of spots where you will be able to ski away from groomed slopes. Since the resort is not crowded you will be able to find powder even several days after snowfall, with little to no hiking (which is not the case in other French ski areas). The best spots are around La Cucumelle top, around Vallons and Yret lifts.

There are 4 snow parks in the valley. The biggest one is between Chantemerle and Villeneuve. It has a substantial number of different-sized kickers, rails and fun boxes. The park is well-suited for all skill levels, and you will be able to find something for yourself. There was also a video zone where you could film your run downwards and watch it on a big screen. Other snow parks are much smaller and have only rails or boarder cross tracks.

HOW TO GET TO BRIANCON

Briancon is situated in southern France, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, and not far away from the Italian border. Closest bigger cities are Turin in Italy and Grenoble in France.

If you are coming by airplane, the nearest airport is in Turin, Italy, from which you will need 1h 43 min by car (121 km). Another option is Grenoble, which is around 190 km away and will take you 2h and 20 min (by car). You can use public transport from cities with airports but it is going to take longer, and you should check the bus timetables.

Briancon has a train station, but you will have to change trains in order to get there. There are no direct lines from bigger cities (Grenoble, Marseille, Turin…).

 

briancon morning panorama

 

WHERE TO STAY IN BRIANCON

If you are only interested in skiing maybe you should find accommodation in Chantemerle and Villeneuve. When there is a lack of snow, or if the wind is too strong, you will have to take a bus to those slopes which are open. On the other hand, if you want options after a day on the snow this is the place for you.

There are no luxurious hotels but you will get the best deal for your money. This means that for a certain amount of EUR you will be able to get a much bigger apartment with a spa section (pool or hot tub and sauna), compared to other famous resorts in France. e.g. in Briancon where you will get a one-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and you will be able to use the spa. In other parts of France you will only get an apartment where you will be forced to cook and sleep in the same room. TIP: Choose your accommodation close to a bus stop or the first station of the gondola. When we were there we stayed at Nemea L’Aigle Bleu, not new but close to the gondola and with everything you might need.

 

Briancon review old city main gate

 

WHAT TO DO AFTER A DAY ON SNOW (APRES-SKI) IN BRIANCON

Briancon has many things you can do after a day of skiing. From walking around the UNESCO World Heritage old city, to shopping for souvenirs or a visit to the cinema. You can buy groceries and cheese 🙂 in 2 big super markets, since the French have at least a million brands and kinds of cheese. There are many restaurants. We had pizza at Les Tables and it was great. Just around the corner there is an interesting pub called Le Central with its English expatriate governor and local regulars, which sometimes has nice live music. You can even go to McDonald’s if you are a fast-food addict.

If you think that Briancon is an ideal resort for you, find your accommodation via Booking.com.

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