Dad and I took the Flixbus from Lyon to the Italian town of Oulx, then hopped on a local bus to Briançon. We had fallen in love with the ski town last year, and we were absolutely thrilled to be going back. I spent the first ten minutes of the winding bus journey looking down at my phone, then the next hour or so sincerely regretting that decision. The scenery was gorgeous, but my motion sickness was in full force. I was so relieved when it was time to get off the bus.
This year, Dad and I stayed in a small apartment at Les Aiglons Blanc, a short walk from the Prorel gondola. The facility is actually a retirement complex that rents out extra apartments to skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer. We would come back to our apartment after skiing all day and the residents would be playing bingo or taking part in other social activities in the main foyer. More than once, I had to rescue poor Dad, who would find himself surrounded by elderly womenfolk asking him questions in French. They must have thought he was a new resident!
Briançon is well-known for its fabulous dining options, and Dad and I took full advantage of what the city had to offer. Even though our legs felt like jelly after a long day on the slopes, we still managed to hike all the way up to the old city to have supper. We ate at two highly-rated restaurants, Le Gavroche and L’Étage. Both places served traditional local dishes in cozy settings. I had my first-ever tartiflette, and it was scrumptious. We also went back to L’Alpin in the new town, where we feasted on a fondue bourguignonne.
On our first ski day, Dad and I walked the short distance to the Prorel lift, where we popped into the same rental shop as the year before. The nice couple who owned the shop remembered us, which made me so happy. I suppose not many Canadian father-daughter pairs come skiing? They even gave us a small discount for coming back. If you are ever at Serre Chevalier Briançon, and you need to rent equipment, I highly recommend Go Sports 🙂
The weather was sunny and clear for most of our three days on the slopes, which made for wonderful skiing. There was even more snow that last year. We were able to ski right down into the village without hitting any serious ice patches. I loved making my way down the mountain and enjoying the incredible scenery.
Dad and I skied separately, since we ski at very different speeds. At one point, however, I truly could have used his language expertise. I came across a group of Czech skiers, and one of the ladies asked me (in English) to take a Polaroid photo of the group. I didn’t quite get the timing right the first time, and the lady told her group (in Czech) that I would try again. I responded “dobře” to the lady, which means “okay” (in this context). Big mistake on my part. She started speaking to me quickly in Czech, and all I could do was smile and nod. I understand some Czech, but not enough to completely follow a conversation. I usually tell people that I don’t know any Czech just to avoid these types of situations. This time, I broke my own rule and paid the price. I took the photo for her (properly this time), then skied off before anyone else could try to talk to me!
The best part of our stay in Briançon was when my friend Victoria from Ottawa joined us for a night and a full day of skiing. When she arrived in town, we took her to Plan B, where she enjoyed her first-ever raclette. We had a delightful time mixing together melted cheese, potatoes and charcuterie until we were completely stuffed.
I had such a blast taking Victoria all around Serre Chevalier. Victoria did amazingly well for her first time in the Alps and her first time skiing in a few years. Neither of us is a particularly daring skier, so we were quite well matched. We stuck to the beginner and intermediate runs, which was perfect for both of us. The most epic part of the day (for me, anyway) was when we happened upon an “expert level” poma lift. Beginner skiers aren’t advised to take the lift, because you wind up getting dragged up steep slopes and jolted about as the trail zigs and zags. I had a grand old time, but Victoria a bit less so. “I thought I was going to fall off!” she told me, half crying, when we had reached the top. We stuck to gondolas and chairlifts after that little adventure.
I was sad to say goodbye to Victoria, who took a late night bus back to Lyon. I spent my last day skiing alone and exploring a part of the resort that I hadn’t visited yet, the Monêtier-les-Bains section. I enjoyed discovering new runs and adding them to my list of favourite places on the mountain.
When Dad and I returned our ski equipment to the rental shop, the friendly owners asked us “will you come back next year?” I don’t know whether we’ll be back next year, but I know for sure that we’ll return some day. Serre Chevalier and the town of Briançon have captured my soul.