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DAY 4 OF MY SKI SAFARI - Katie Bamber, Portes du Soleil
Monday February 11, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

Katie Bamber finishes her Ski Safari in Chatel, having skied from Les Gets through Morzine & Avoriaz in Les Portes du Soleil.

 

 


Chatel is as French-farming-ski-town as they come.

It couldn't be more different to last night in Avoriaz, despite the similar privacy and size.

Almost entirely French (the people you'll find enjoying themselves), it's completely genuine and attractive for just this reason.

The village-town is set upon two streets, both of which are buzzing and lively.

The few restaurants are all warm and inviting and the scene, atmospheric.

Try Le Fiacre for where it seems everyone from the town eats, drinks and socialises.

A modern menu with filling and cosmopolitan fish dishes are on offer (which of course I chose) as well as your craved melted local cheese dishes and meat feasts.

I stayed at the family run Macchi hotel, right in town with traditional, luxurious decor - complete with roaring fires and comfy facing sofas to enjoy from.

It also served the best breakfast in Les Portes du Soleil, yes better even than the 5*s, with juicers for freshies of your own mixing, as well as everyhting else you could possible challenge them to.

Then there's the connected spa.

It's run by an Indian couple and is the most gorgeous retreat from traditional French rustic life.

Step downstairs in the Macchi, knock on the door and you're not in the Haute Savoie any more...

Hotel Macchi SpaHotel Macchi Spa Chatel



























Resplendent in decoration with gold statues and luxurious furnishings, calming music and unlike any alpine spa I've visited.

As was the deep, deep massage I had.

Easily the best in the Alps and perhaps anywhere.

Heaven after booting around resort to resort.

What a way to finish and I left for the airport after an exhausting morning of skiing Super Chatel, Barbossine, Linga and to the next resort of La Chapelle completely without company, except my excellent guide, sore from the deep tissue massage.

Could you board an easyJet any more readily?

So that reminds me, the skiing...

ChatelChatel




























To Ski:

On my way in to Chatel from Avoriaz was Pré-La-Joux / Plaine Dranse, where I was promised cows grazed through spring and summer months.

Not just any cows, either.

Abondance cows.

As I'd arrived in the Abondance Valley, something I'd heard at every turn as producing the best local cheese, not to mention having seen on every menu.

But we're talking skiing right now...

My last morning of the ski safari was Châtel and beyond.
  • The Corbeau sector of the Swiss resort of Morgins
  • The Swiss resort of Torgon
  • The resort of La Chapelle d'Abondance
Chatel Chatel ski area




























Ok, the lifts are slow and the area old school.

What this really means:

Good, challenging slopes.

Completely to yourself.

All the fools (which would have been me without my guides and mission of the ) forget about the far reaches of the Portes du Soleil.

Easily the best skiing I've had was Morning 1 on the Mont Chery.

Day 2 in Avoriaz - Champery, on those hidden winding Swiss hills behind and the pistes above Avoriaz.

Day 3: Super Chatel to La Chapelle.

It feels like I'm listing the entire area, but these really are the quieter corners of Les Portes du Soleil.

And the beauty of it all? The Portes du Soleil ski pass (linking 13 resorts in France and Switzerland).

And more importantly the ski safari - so you don't have to worry about re-treading the tracks you made on the way out in time to get home.

You get to ski all these private, wonderfully different and excellent ski zones on just one pass.

Chatel is cool in that it's on the French Swiss border.

So while the village is French, the ski lift towards Super Chatel will land you in Switzerland.

There are amazing views of Lac Leman, the enormous lake Geneva, and you'll hop back and forth over the border without even noticing, unless you stop to read those piste signs.

I can imagine this area suffers from snow, there being few cannons around and exposed to milder wather from the west, but I hit it well in mid-January and it couldn't have been more perfect.

I'm still overwhelmed by the journey of this ski safari, how I've felt at each stage and how lucky it is to experience such different, original and beautiful mountain areas, all on one pass, in four days.

I'll have to sum it all up tomorrow when I've collected my head.

It's been a journey of dreams.

How have I left it so long?

ChatelChatel




























LES PORTES DU SOLEIL SKI SAFARI - DAY 3

Avoriaz is a fantasy resort.

Hidden high in the cliffs, the architechture camouflaged into the mountain scape by design and materials, it sits at 1800m high above Morzine with links to Châtel in one direction and to Champéry in Switzerland in the other.

Fantasy, as in a James Bond concealed mountain village, camouflaged by its chic design and use of natural building materials.

Or as in a fairy tale modern resort.

Whichever your audience.

It pitches itself as a family resort, and I can see why:

The car-free aspect, where snowmobiles and horse-drawn sleighs replace wheels to cross the snowy lanes-cum-pistes, makes it pretty magical.

As does its location, hidden away high up in the cliffs and snowy peaks.

But this for me just made it hopelessly romantic.

The sunsets are better than most anywhere I've been.

The Amara 'district', three tall towers on the cliff edge that are silhouetted against the pink-orange sky at the end of the day.

AvoriazAvoriaz from above



























Avoriaz's original buildingsAvoriaz's original buildings



























AvoriazAvoriaz




























Avoriaz in local patois means "worthless" - a dry, baren land here on cliffs and rocks where there was nothing.

The rude climate and harsh winters kept away people from the valley.

But here the resort was born, from the vision of three people.

One was Olympic gold medallist Jean Vuarnet, a child of morzine who after he won gold in 1960 in Squaw Valley, was looking for a next challenge.

Gérard Brémond, founder of the self-catering accommodation company Pierre&Vacances, was to follow the operation for a new ski resort, as well as architect Jacques Labro.

And now, any building to go up in Avoriaz must be Labro style, so distinctive and unique to the village it has become.

AvoriazAvoriaz main street



























It's completely a purpose built resort, but one that goes against the grain of its contemporary 60s and 70s French purpose builts.

The resort is perfectly contained and every property is by default ski-in ski-out, an alpine village wholly designed for winter sports.

So day 2 of skiing finished at the brand new Folie Douce.

It was the adult's playground with everything you'd expect, champagne, dancing on tables and live musicians and singers belting out party tunes.

Always good to see from the outside, I stayed for one and then went to set up in my accommodation for the evening, the Pierre & Vacances residences Crozat, just a few metres down the slope-road.

Avoriaz sky scapeAvoriaz sky scape from Crozats




























This is one of the nicest P&V apartments I've visited. If you're interested, check out Pierre & Vacances holidays here.

The decor was modern, it was newly furbished and the views were to boot.

But a quick turn around and out to La Cabane, a new and very suave restaurant-bar at the top of the village.

Live singers wander the room softly singing to diners and drinkers, and through the evening it became more and more atmospheric and busy.

La CabaneLa Cabane



























La CabaneLa Cabane



























La CabaneLa Cabane




























During Day 2 of my ski safari to end up in Avoriaz in the PM, I skied Super Morzine, Arare and Mossette.

Before I set off on Day 3 skiing towards Chatel, I wanted to fit in as much of Avoriaz as I could.

So I took a horse sleigh ride to look around the village properly and headed to the only hotel in Avoriaz, Hotel les Dromonts, for breakfast.

Hotel les Dromonts was the first building in Avoriaz.

The building's foundations are based on the rock - inside you can see the tilt of the mountain like the leaning tower of Pisa, locals say.

The untreated wood, the slate (from the Morzine mines) and natural building products fit in beautifully with the landscape, the assertive roof design blending with the jagged surrounding peaks of rock.

But it's a ski safari, no matter how deep I've fallen for Avoriaz.

And so it was time to ski the Proclous area.

On to Lindarets.

These areas of Avoriaz were much busier than the slopes of Day 2.

There are more snowparks and snowboarders than your average French resort.

The standard was very impressive.

Best was the Burton Stash for big skiers and riders, its fellow famous parks in the likes of Remarkables, NZ and Jackson Hole, USA.

It's an all natural park that combines freestyle and freeriding.

In fact, it's just one of six top quality parks in Avoriaz, including a permanent halfpipe.

The StashThe Stash





















En route again towards Chatel.

Village des Chevres up in the hills for a lunch of hot goats cheese salad - there's nothing better - and on to Chatel.

The pistes of Châtel get off to an impressive start with a steep and long red, down to Pré la Joux.

For a very different evening spent to those in my previous stops.

ChatelChatel




























Avoriaz was so different to its charming and traditional neighbour resorts in Les Portes du Soleil, but no less special.

It's the most dramatic resort I've seen.

But I was about the experience somewhere I'd also been waiting for, the small resort of Chatel in one corner of Les Portes du Soleil.

Farming village life and skiing in Super Chatel.

ChatelChatel



























LES PORTES DU SOLEIL SKI SAFARI - DAY 2

Despite what I knew about Morzine, I actually took it relatively easy.

Soaking in the party scene from the outskirts was enough for me...

But I did let go after a long day on the slopes in another.

On completely the other end of the spectrum to apres.

I booked in with Morzine Massage.

Yep. A sports massage to beat the tension out of me.

Even better, I didn't even have to leave my hotel room - I told them when and where, and within 5 minutes of stepping out of my boots I was face down and relaxing.

I'd highly recommend this as an alternative to a lively apres.

Perhaps just for one night on holiday?

MorzineMorzine

























I did, however, have to go out to eat.

Or wanted to rather, to be part of the wining-dining Morzine scene.

And it was on the edge of town where the right restaurants and bars seemed to be.

Chaudanne is the name of a very popular restaurant that serves traditional Savoyard cuisine in a modern and warm setting.

La Chaudanne wine caveLa Chaudanne wine cave

























For me, there is no choice when a French onion soup is on the menu.

It was, as ever, divine.

And to follow I chose roasted cod from the more contemporary menu, the starter not being a 'delicate' one.

Chaudanne seemed to be everyone's top pick for that night with an excellent atmosphere and very many languages swirling around.

I had to indulge a little with the Morzine nightlife, so after dinner I visited the cool local brewery, the Bec Jaune.

Again, situated on the near outskirts of town, this seemed to be where locals had come to spend the evening.

And not too late I dragged my relaxed, very indulged but slightly pathetic ass home to bed, to sleep, to pack up and to hit up the slopes between and around Avoriaz.

Bec JauneBec Jaune

























Actually this was to be a Switzerland day.

Not just a cross-border skiing day, which is exciting enough, but the day I finally get a sighting of Avoriaz.

I've been waiting a good few years for this, hearing reports from friends and colleagues.

It's a Marmite place, apparently...

I don't understand why.

It's gorgeous, dramatic, secret, what's cooler than being cool?

Avoriaz is at the heart of the Portes du Soleil.

It sits at 1800 - the buildings are architecturally incredible and are designed to blend in and look like the jagged cliffs and rocks that surround them.

I'm having to rein myself in not going on about the village of Avoriaz right here, as all I've done is skim through on a board.

I'm not landing yet, there's much more of the Morzine-Avoriaz slope scene to explore.

And Hell is it a good one.

One I'm calling my new favourite.

Les Dents BlanchesLes Dents Blanches



























Skiing borders France and Switzerland.

The Swiss Wall is here, on the border - the steepest slope in Europe (if you like that kind of thing) averaging a 90% gradient.

Swiss WallThe Swiss Wall looking unfairly mellow after attempting to board down




























I headed down towards Les Crosets (in Switzerland) and mixed it up to have a Swiss lunch.

One of the best and most decadent: Croute.

The ultimate Swiss lunch, potatoes bread soaked in wine, cheese, eggThe ultimate Swiss lunch, potatoes, bread soaked in wine, cheese, egg



























Ski Safari route planning with necessary accoutrements for such a mission in the AlpsSki Safari route planning with necessary accoutrements for such a mission in the Alps



























I saw some Swiss sights, Les Dents Blanches that beautifully jag up above you - the closest I got to these gorgeous teeth.

And headed back to France.

Following a local for a blinder of a view of Avoriaz and a couple of powder turns:

AvoriazFollow a local guide for secret spots




























Avoriaz form aboveAvoriaz from above



























I finished the day paying respects to my previous home, from the new one up in the cliffs.

A run from Avoriaz to Morzine.

Do it at the end of the day, before getting the swanky gondola back up to the village.

It'll be one of the best you do.

AvoriazIn the Morzine-Avoriaz ski area



























Avoriaz on the cliffsAvoriaz on the cliffs




























I'll leave you at this point as I explore the James Bond mountain village of Avoriaz.

'Til next time...

SKI SAFARI: DAY ONE

I'm about to head off on a 'Ski Safari' - or snowboard safari, rather - through the Portes du Soleil.

It's my first time visiting this much loved linked ski area in France.

I'm about to experience exactly why so many adore this area that covers Switzerland and France (what a novelty!).

Perhaps even in the best way possible.

Firstly because I'll be staying in four of the resorts, while visiting the slopes and restaurants of several more, all on one fine trip.

The adventure of it all comes from doing this tour on skis;

I'll pack up each morning (handing my bag to a lovely Portes du Soleil shuttle company - who'll whip it round to my next destination) strap into my snowboard and head to the next resort, covering as much of the ski area as I can each day.

Les Portes du Soleil has set up a new programme, which I'll end with, but of course the hard-core among you could pack up and hump your own kit through France on your planks of choice.

Katie on snowboard safariKatie on snowboard safari

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent the most wonderful afternoon and evening in Les Gets, travelling up the Mont Chery for a yoga session with a little Mont Blanc magic.

Read about the most ideal day off skis here:

A twilight walk around the village showed off its popularity with young families - the excited energy around the outdoor ice rink and carousel was contagious.

But Les Gets is far from being a solely family resort.

It's a long established ski village with a traditional alpine feel.

The architecture is gorgeous, with lots of wood and charm, and its located between the foot one of the Chavannes sector slopes and, on the other side, the Mont Chery area.

(There's even a sweet shuttle train between the two for weary but keen-to-ski-on riders).

It's easy and quick access up both sides to ski in the mornings and an appealing ride home when you're done!

Les Gets is a sophisticated ski village, one that's been around since 1936, but it's also a friendly one, that's inviting and down to earth.

Can you tell I've already fallen in love with the place?

I could go home happy already, especially after dinner last night at La Fruitière des Perrières...

(Honestly, read my initial piece if you're not a skier, or perhaps just like food).

But I've a safari to do, and Les Gets' Mont Chery ski area to explore before whipping across town and up into the linked Les Gets - Morzine area, into the snowy safari territory. 

Les GetsLes Gets village ice rink

 

 










The Mont-Chéry slopes of Les Gets has steep, long slopes and exceptional views of the Mont Blanc Massif.

There are 4 blacks, 4 reds and only 1 blue, so better for intermediate + skiers, but you'll likely have them to yourself.

Race training was going on but the pistes were otherwise quiet.

What a start to a long (but lucky) ski day, on the south facing sunny slopes of Mont Chery.

A winding cat track, crossing over lanes and farmland winds you back into town to nip across and take on the great Portes du Soleil.

Lets Gets from Mont Chery descentLets Gets from Mont Chery descent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wee shuttle trainWee shuttle train

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views in the Les Gets area are phenomenal.

From Mont Chery you can see across to Avoriaz (if you can distinguish the roofs camouflaged from the cliffs and rocks), as well as over to Mont Blanc and Chamonix.

Closer still are the slopes of Samoens, and right now in the diatance are the dramatic jagged peaks of Les Dents Blanches and Les Dents Geants.

Les Chavannes ski area has lots of trees: good for visibility, fun for skiing.

This area shares its slopes with Morzine - where I'm headed to next.

In summer there's actuallya gold course up here.

And right above is where to head to lunch, at Le Vaffieu.

It seemed to be where everyone was headed on this January Monday for re-fuelling.

Melted cheese, huge bowls of homemade soup, steaks and everything good was being carried past me.

I, of course, chose scallops (when in the mountains, eh?!) and a farmer's salad, suitably loaded with local cheese and bacon.

Lunch at Le VaffieuLunch at Le Vaffieu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Les Gets - MorzineLes Gets - Morzine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But it's back out into the cold surrounded by these views, to makwe it to home #2: Morzine

On and down the Pointe de Nyon and Chamossiere - the highest point in the area - looking out over the town of Morzine, which has already surprised me how it's sprawled and bigger than expected.

MorzinePointe de Nyon, Les Gets - Morzine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morzine has made an impression already.

Trying to fit in as many runs as I could before the day was done I skirted round the slopes overlooking Morzine, keen not to lose sight of it and miss my bolt hole for the night.

I know a little of Morzine already...

I've heard about its party scene, a rough and ready, welcoming one which Brits love it for.

I descended into the village on a great closing run and into, true to form, a banging apres ski bar with dancing musics and many-a beers cheers-ing.

My first impressions were strong, this was going to be a vibey town and one full of fun.

There were lots of couples on ski holidays, and big groups or English friends soaking up the apres atmosphere and creating the famous Morzine buzz.

It was fantastic to be able to approach the mountain town from high in the hills.

And spying up above, it's easier to notice how it's grown and spread along the valley, and how it's become the biggest town in the Portes du Soleil.

It's actually one of the oldest, older than Les Gets.

It's an old farming town - turned French favourite among us British.

So in I dive, into the revelry after a long day riding.

MorzineDown to Morzine, home for night 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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