Wide view of skiers leaving high-speed chairlift above Puy Sat Vincent

Puy Saint Vincent

Pays des Ecrins, Hautes-Alpes, French Alps

In the southern French Alps close to Briançon and just below Serre-Chevalier, with solid-value family skiing for most levels.

Surrounding peaks rising to well above 3000m create a sheltered setting and particularly fine scenery.

Shortest transfers are from Turin, and there’s an overnight train from Paris to Briançon.

Long drives from the UK are rewarded by economical skiing both here and in several other nearby resorts.

Skier on wide, tree-lined piste, with Puy Saint Vincent ski village below

The Ski Area

Puy Saint Vincent’s ski area is varied, although relatively compact. The terrain is almost exclusively north-facing (which helps preserve snow conditions between falls) and extends well above and below the tree-line. For advanced skiers there’s also some worthwhile, quite challenging off-piste which you can explore (with a guide) between the peaks of La Pendine (2750m) and the Pointe de l’Aiglière (3310m).

A six-day or longer Galaxie lift pass also allows you to ski a full day in each of the nearby resorts of Pelvoux-Vallouise, Serre-Chevalier, Montgenèvre, Sestrière, Les Deux-Alpes, l’Alpe d’Huez and La Grave. We’d call that a highly-attractive deal - but keep an eye on road access this season, as things have been severely disrupted by landslides near La Grave.

Finally, the snowfall record here is good, and the same applies to the weather, frequent blue skies offering a reminder that we’re in the sunny southern French Alps.

Resort Information

Altitude : 1400m - 2750m
Puy Saint Vincent
Pistes Total:
75 km
6 Green
14 Blue
12 Red
2 Black
Ski Resort Lifts : 12
5 Draglifts
7 Chairlifts

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Wide view from cafe terrace, showing village apartments and ski lifts

The Ski Village

Not one village but three, divided between locations at 1400, 1600 and 1800m, the mid-point being the most animated, with multi-level apartments above a selection of bars, restaurants and a modest indoor shopping arcade. The ski-school assembly-point is a convenient few steps away.

Neither of the lower centres is exactly traditional, though. For a more chalet-like feel you’ll be better off at the more recent ski-in/ski-out development at 1800m. Either way, on the road approaching the ski area you’ll pass some charming old villages typical of the Pays des Ecrins, while just along the valley lies the smaller ski area of Pelvoux-Vallouise and several mountain hamlets presided over by Mont Pelvoux (3946m).

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

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Novice skiers meeting at ski school area, with slopeside apartments in background

Best For

Although there’s terrain for everyone here, including off-piste free-riders, the relatively compact local terrain means that Puy Saint Vincent will appeal primarily to budget-conscious young families looking for a safe environment for children and novice skiers. That said, intermediates will find challenges locally, and if they have transport there’s straightforward access to Serre Chevalier, Montgenèvre and beyond. Off-piste and cross-country opportunities among truly stunning scenery broaden the appeal.

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Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery


Cross-Country Skiing

Mostly for experienced skiers, some pistes shared with snow-shoe.
45.6km Cross-Country and Nordic Ski Trails

Handiski...

  • Up to 100% free ski pass for disabled skiers and 50% for companion (proof required, other conditions apply).
  • Reserved parking 6 places at 1600, 1 at 1400. Ramp to front de neige at 1600 possible for drop-off.
  • Three detachable chairlifts are accessible.
  • Access to 28km of cross-country trails. The same discounts apply to ski de fond pass.
  • Specialist instruction and loan of equipment by pre-booking with ESF - Chalet ESF 1600 Tel: +33(0)4 92 23 35 11 or www.esf-psv.com
  • Useful website: Handi-Alpes

icon-smileyYes please...

  • Mostly north-facing pistes retain their snow-cover.
  • You won't get lost here.
  • Small-is-friendly atmosphere.
  • Range of activities including ice-climbing.
  • Natural snow until late into the season.
  • Solid value all round.
  • Off-piste skiing for experienced skiers - plus much easier, enjoyable itineraries in unspoilt, woodland settings.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • Long distances for those driving from the UK.
  • You might hunger for more terrain – there’s lots nearby.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • Relax, take it easy and discover the woodland excursions accessible from beside the Crêtes piste.

Practical Information

Getting there

By Car
For Dover-Calais ferry travel, other cross-channel routes, offers and bookings visit P&O Ferries

Driving from the north, go to Grenoble then via the Col du Lauteret to Briançon. Alternatively, take the A43 via the Fréjus Tunnel into Italy, take exit for Oulx / Montgenèvre and follow signs for Briançon. From Briançon follow signs for Gap on the N94. You can take the first turn right after about 10 mins signed for Puy Saint Vincent but we advise that you continue to L’Argentière then turn right and follow the signs for the ski station. PSV 1400 is left at the village entrance, but continue straight ahead for PSV 1600 and 1800.

By air
The nearest airport is Turin (130km). Otherwise, Grenoble (170km) or Marseille (240km) are possible with public transport connections.
Try vfd.fr for transfers from Grenoble to Briançon.

By train
There’s an overnight train from Paris Austerlitz to Briancon, from where you can get a local connection to L’Argentiere-les-Ecrins and a local bus to PSV. There are direct TGV trains from Paris Gare de Lyon to Oulx (Italy) taking around 4½ hours.

Bus connections take you to Briancon, then change for PSV. See 05voyageurs.com for timetables.

Book your TGV fast train from Paris or Eurostar’s ski train direct to the French Alps with OUI.sncf

Transfers
Visit Ski-Lifts for the best range of ski transfer destinations from airports and main rail stations.


Things to do

Ice-Climbing

With proper instruction the sport of ice-climbing is accessible to all. In the secluded valleys of Fournel and Freissinières are remarkable frozen waterfalls and curiously shaped stalactites which are waiting to be discovered. Guides, instruction and special equipment are essential - see our ice-climbing feature to find out more about the activity.
Several local companies offer instruction in ice-climbing including:
Ice-Fall.com
Tel: +33 (0)6 62 33 84 71
Visit website
Là-haut
Tel: +33 (0)4 92 23 46 15
Visit website
For a comprehensive list of all winter activities and guides visit the Pays des Ecrins website.


Cross-Country Skiing / Snow-Shoeing

There are 28km of trails, all of which are groomed daily and offer magnificent views. With 4km of easy green pistes, 6km blue, 10km red and 8km of black trails there are choices for everyone. Complete beginners can try a free Villaret loop, although if you are already an experienced Nordic skier try the steep technical trails such as the Combe Noir or tour les Têtes, with unrivalled views over the Durance Valley.
Lots of marked walking trails help both walkers and snow-shoers to discover the area too.


Nordic and Alpine Skiing Lessons

Ecole du Ski Français (ESF)
Tel: +33 (0)4 92 23 35 11

Qualified instructors teaching every level of Alpine skiing and snowboarding. Children’s classes are limited to 6 learners per group, adults up to 10, or you can book private lessons. There’s also a special family rate which offers big discounts if 4 or more members of the same family are learning at the same time. Several languages are spoken, so make sure you express a preference when booking.


Where to stay

Tried and testedLa Dame Blanche

Puy Saint Vincent 1800

La Dame Blanche ski-in ski-out apartments,  Puy Saint Vincent 1800

Situated at the uppermost part of the resort, you can ski in and out of this well-sited residence, with fabulous views over the surrounding peaks of the Parc des Ecrins.
Although compact, the apartments are some of the most well-conceived we’ve stayed in. We had a 2-bedroom apartment with separate bathroom and toilet, double and twin bedrooms and an amply-proportioned lounge/dining area with a large family dining table, sofa (convertible for further sleeping accommodation) and a door opening onto a balcony with views. There’s a surprisingly well equipped and well laid out separate kitchen with dishwasher, fridge, microwave and hob.
The underground parking costs extra but has direct lift access to the apartment floors. The ski lockers are on the same level as the piste and it couldn’t be easier to boot up and ski out in the morning. One extra little advantage is a small shop/café where you ski out, with a small terrace overlooking the piste - perfect for a coffee or cold drink at any time of the day. The shop sells a limited range of groceries but does have fresh bread and pastries in the morning and a selection of local specialities - try the Tourtons...


Where to Eat

Tried and testedl'Etoile des Neiges

Les Prés, 05290 Puy-Saint-Vincent
Tel: +33 (0)6 78 97 41 32

l'Etoile des Neiges mountain restaurant, Puy-Saint-Vincent

On-mountain restaurant situated in a woody glade at the foot of the Crêtes piste and just below the arrival of the Prés chairlift. This attractive chalet with a large sun-deck is constructed entirely from local timber and inside there’s a log fire and cosy atmosphere.
The menu is interesting, with a good choice of tasty hot dishes and pasta with various sauces (several vegetarian) at around 8€. There was a super salad bar where you can help yourself to a small or large plate from around 6,50€. Big bowls of home made soup looked really appetizing.


Tried and testedLa Chaumiere

05290 Puy-Saint-Vincent
Tel: +33(0)4 92 46 50 14

Located between 1600 and 1800 is a bar restaurant with a relaxed ambiance and log fire serving classic mountain dishes, a limited à la carte and pizzas (9-16€). We chose their speciality Chicken Princess Beatrice which was an escalope of chicken with tomato, green olives, smoked bacon and melted cheese topping served with a portion of vegetable lasagne and salad - a filling meal for 14,90€. We also tried the vegetarian main course of vegetable lasagne (10,90€) which although substantial in size, would have been improved by the addition of a salad. We followed with a home-made Tiramisu, which seemed the most appealing of the desserts, all priced between 5 and 7€.
With seating on two floors, La Chaumière is used to serving big parties with generous amounts of food. Don’t be surprised to hear Eastern European voices - the owner is Hungarian and the staff speak English and probably several other languages.


Tried and testedAu Petit Chamois

05290 Puy Saint Vincent 1600
Tel: +33 (0)4 92 23 56 52

Friendly bar restaurant on the front de neige at 1600 with a sunny terrace perfect for lunchtime dining. The location close to accommodation in 1600 means that it’s also very popular in the evenings. It serves a varied menu including à la carte or a set menu gastronomic meal at 29€. Alternatively, choose from a wide range of pizzas from around 8€ - something for everyone.


Insight: Puy Saint Vincent

Rear view of two skiers in wooded glade at Puy Saint Vincent

Insight: Puy Saint Vincent

Puy Saint Vincent’s pistes are clearly visible to skiers over in Serre Chevalier, yet somehow this place is often regarded as being inaccessible. In fact, the drive from Briançon is a short one (around 20km) and easily accomplished if you ignore initial road signs and instead stick to the main road until a second route is signed at L’Argentière-la-Bessée. If we’d known that we’d have got to Puy Saint Vincent more speedily, but in the process missed some of the scenery which adds an impressive visual backdrop to skiing in this quite remarkable location.

…things open out to reveal a first glimpse of the snowy splendour of the high mountain sector basking beneath a clear blue sky.
Ski-in ski-out accommodation, Puy-Saint-Vincent
The powerful Prés six-seater chairlift leaves from the Puy-Saint-Vincent 1400 village.

Up and away in Puy Saint Vincent

Our accommodation at the Dame Blanche turns out to be piste-side, and as soon as we’re installed in our apartment we head down to the ski-room, boot up and ski out straight down to the lifts of the 1600 village. Getting there takes little more than a minute or so, giving little time to find our feet before things narrow for the final run to the lifts, where we have a rendezvous with an ESF guide who grew up in the next village, and has skied just about every corner of the local mountains.
Rather than take the nearest lift, we begin by skiing down to the 1400 village, where we pick up the Prés six-seater chairlift, which has been designed to carry gondola-style cabins as well as chairs (at which point it will become a télémix lift).

The haul takes us smoothly up to 1850m, where we take the blue-graded 4 Fontaines piste past the Draille drag-lift and back over to the 1600 village. It’s a nice, gentle introduction to the safe and mostly wide tree-lined runs beloved of early-intermediates who prefer to stay low for now, and on which more experienced skiers return to the villages from steeper terrain above the tree-line. The next haul, on the Crête des Bains 4-seater chairlift, is again mostly through forest, until things open out to reveal a first glimpse of the snowy splendour of the high mountain sector basking beneath a clear blue sky. At the top of the lift it’s clear that there’s more still to come, so we take a brief scenic cruise on the aptly-named Traversée piste, which takes us a little further round the mountain to pick up the Rocheur Noir chairlift.

Ski-lift, Puy-Saint-Vincent
High speed chairlift, Puy-Saint-Vincent

Higher above Puy Saint Vincent…

This time it’s a modern 4-seater fixed lift with a magic-carpet-style loading system, so it’s no slouch, taking us smoothly to just above the shadowy and remote-looking Vallon du Formel. The lift serves just a couple of runs but with several options. Take the lower end of the Crête du Rocher blue piste and you’ll join the Traversée run we’ve already skied, while the red-graded Vallon des Auffes does much the same, but via a more direct route. We take the blue before turning off onto Draille, a steepish red which falls away through forest to a simple but effective drag-lift which gets us back to our turn-off point. This time we join Crêtes, a blue-graded boundary run, for a gentler cruise through the tree-line, complete with a brief but highly-enjoyable off-piste excursion through silent forest where the snow lies deep and largely untracked.

Further down we pass a chalet-style mountain restaurant, whose sun-deck is beginning to fill with hungry skiers, so decide to ski back over to the 1800 village for an early lunch in our apartment. Easy. We’re getting to like this place, and starting to find our way around – not something anyone is going to find too difficult, given Puy Saint-Vincent’s winning combination of a well-planned piste layout and clear signage. When we head back out the sun is still shining and down here at least there’s barely a breeze, so we decide to head high and see how things look and feel up around the topmost terrain, on the flanks of La Pendine (1750m).

The view from (almost) the top…

Being in a ski-in/ski-out location means that going up begins by going down, so we ski down to the 1600 village to join the Bergerie 4-seater high-speed chairlift, which takes us smoothly back above the tree-line to the start of the red-graded Clos d’Aval. This useful piste drops back down through the forest, but unlike its counterpart also served by the Bergerie lift, it first passes both the Bruyères drag-lift and the Lauzes chair-lift. Take the former and you’ll be able to ski down on the blue-graded Mésanges to the Grand Combe chairlift serving the very topmost terrain.

Do as we do, though, by continuing to the Lauzes chair, and you’ll find that the ensuing ride tops-off at 2100m, and with plenty of room to spread out on some of the longest runs in the whole domain (with around 700m vertical drop). Before we do so, we pause to take in the sensational views of the Parc National des Ecrins. Visible ahead of us in the far distance is the topmost terrain of Serre Chevalier, and far below it our starting-point in Puy Saint Vincent.

There's testing off-piste around the adjoining Vallon de Narreyroux, readily accessible from the Lauzes chairlift.
Rocheur Noir serves blue pistes, Puy-Saint-Vincent

Skiing the outsider

Turning right off the lift onto the red-graded Coqs we find that the piste soon divides, offering a choice of routes skirting a tract of protected forest (home of the Tetras or Black Grouse). The right-hand fork eventually feeds onto the Clos d’Aval and heads back to the 1600 village, but stay left as we do and you’re on Bois des Coqs, where things are altogether wilder and more remote-feeling, as we discover when we peer into the rugged abyss of the adjoining Vallon de Narreyroux.

The run is in every sense a real beauty, a back-to-nature experience which can be prolonged all the way down to 1400m by taking the blue-graded La Balme down through the forest to join Les Lutins for a final green cruise into the lowest of the ski villages (with the option of a run back to the original mountain village of Puy Saint Vincent). For now, though, we stick to Bois des Coqs to take another lift ride back up to 2100m. This time, however, we cruise over via a succession of blue pistes to pick up the Pendine 4-seater chairlift and ride all the way up to 2677m, the highest lift-served point on the mountain. Above us is the 2750m summit of La Pendine, while turning right from the lift’s top station puts you straight onto the the black-graded Carmen. We turn left, and have a choice of two reds: Pendine, which is unpisted, and Grand Combe, on which we cruise contentedly with barely a soul for company.

Up here there’s an sense of heady remoteness heightened by the shadowy presence of the cavernous Vallée du Formel falling away mysteriously to our right beneath the towering Crête de Dormillouse (2944m). Despite these powerful distractions, we focus on the view immediately ahead of us, where the piste splits neatly in two. Rather than follow Grand Combe back down to the base of the Pendine chairlift we opt instead for a gentle right turn onto Dahus, another useful red which eventually morphs seamlessly into our old friend Bergerie as it enters the tree-line.

There’s something endearing – and in a more practical sense reassuring – about Puy Saint Vincent’s approach to piste planning, and the return runs are wide enough to allow skiers to filter back onto the principal lower routes with no sense of crowding. Yes, we’re here during a quite period, but it’s clear that even in peak season things should remain more than manageable. The layout of the capable lift system also makes it perfectly possible to stick above or below the tree-line, according to your preference and ability, not to mention weather conditions.

Despite its relative compactness, we find ourselves leaving Puy Saint-Vincent the following day with more than a little regret that we don’t have much longer to spend here. There’s no pretence about this place – it’s all about having fun in an unpressured setting. For much of the time that suits us just fine, and we know that many leisure skiers feel just the same. We’ve also warmed instantly to the away-from-it-all surroundings, coupled with the sense that we’ve stumbled upon somewhere which many skiers have yet to hear about, let alone ski. Either way, Puy Saint Vincent has a big heart and earns a well-deserved place on our ‘we’ll be back’ list. MountainPassions heart icon

View over Puy-Saint-Vincent with skier