Stage 18: Embrun to Valloire

The first proper Alpine mountain stage today took us from Embrun over the col d’Izoard and the col du Galibier to the ski resort of Valloire. Embrun lies at the head of the Lac de Serre-Ponçon, which we encountered two years ago during Stage 18, which finished on the col d’Izoard. The post below is what I wrote about the lake on that occasion.

The Alpine stages are all squeezed in right next to each other, so we start today in Briançon, just downstream from Serre-Chevalier, then head down the valley of the Durance before turning around and heading back up to the col d’Izoard, over which you would head down to get back to Briançon. And tomorrow we’ll start from Embrun, which we encountered along the Durance today. We’ll talk more about the river tomorrow as we follow it into Salon-de-Provence, but today is all about the Lac de Serre-Ponçon.


The Durance, like many of the rivers we’ve encountered this year, has a tendency to flood violently. Significant floods in the mid-19th century drove the investigation of damming the river, but it was not until the 1950s that technology progressed to the point that a dam on the Durance was possible.

The Barrage de Serre-Ponçon was completed in 1959 and holds back the second largest artificial lake (after the lac du Der-Chantecoq). Two villages were flooded by the construction of the dam: Savines was moved to the banks of the new lake while Ubaye was evacuated. The construction of the Barrage is the background for the film L’Eau Vive by François Villiers which features a soundtrack written by Guy Béart, including the title track:

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