Skiers on tree-lined piste below Avoriaz ski resort

Avoriaz

Les Portes du Soleil, French Alps

Avoriaz 1800 is the highest ski resort in the huge Portes du Soleil ski area and one of the French Alps’ most snow-sure.

Avoriaz is just 45 min from the A40 autoroute exit at Cluses, along with TGV high-speed train services from Paris.

Road transfers from Geneva airport take just 1hr 10 minutes or so.

Skiers at mountain restaurant, beside Swiss border above Avoriaz, Portes du Soleil, French Alps.

The Ski Area

Avoriaz 1800 offers varied groomed terrain for all levels locally, or a huge 650 km piste network for those armed with a full Portes du Soleil lift-pass It adds up to a whole lot of quality skiing in some magnificent settings.

Which pass to buy will depend largely on your technical level – novices and early intermediates have enough easily-accessible terrain to be getting on with around and above Avoriaz itself, while just about everyone else is likely to be here for the full Grand Domain experience.

We’d bet that very few skiers will actually do it all in a week. But that’s not the point; as you’ll see straight away from the piste-map, wherever you head it will feel like something of an adventure.

In fact, just a couple of chairlift rides will get you to the Franco-Swiss border (so carry your passport and remember you’ll be leaving the Euro-zone), seamless gateway to linked areas like Champéry, Champoussin, Morgins, Torgon and Val d’Illiez.

That’s in addition to the French ski resorts of Abondance, Châtel, La Chapelle d’Abondance, Les Gets, Montriond, Morzine and St Jean Aulps – most are lift-linked, and for the others there are free shuttle buses.

Resort Information

Altitude : 1800m - 2466m
Avoriaz
Pistes Total:
79 km
Avoriaz pistes
4 Green
14 Blue
26 Red
6 Black
Ski Resort Lifts : 34
16 Draglifts
18 Chairlifts
2 Gondolas
1 Cable Cars
Portes du Soleil
Pistes Total:
600 km
Portes du Soleil pistes
34 Green
119 Blue
101 Red
32 Black
Ski Domain Lifts: 197
4 Magic Carpets
102 Draglifts
78 Chairlifts
9 Gondolas
4 Cable Cars

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Skiers and other visitors with ESF ski instructor in Avoriaz, Portes du Soleil, French Alps.

The Ski Village

A first encounter with the trademark high-rise style of Avoriaz 1800 can feel rather like Blade Runner-comes-to-the-mountains, but once you know the remarkable history of this place (and precisely why the startling architecture looks the way it does) chances are you’ll warm to it. Or not.

There’s no denying that the traffic-free concept works very well, making it all ski-in/ski-out – or that everything you need, from the gentlest of ski-school areas to a wide range of shops, bars and restaurants, is close at hand.

Tucked away beyond the central ski-school area, though, you’ll discover another side to Avoriaz. The Dromonts area has a calmer, less in-the-thick-of-it atmosphere and not surprisingly some of the most desirable addresses, including the illustrious Hôtel des Dromonts, which is high on style, both inside and out (and which remains, surprisingly, the only hotel in Avoriaz).

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

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Young skiers pinicking beside piste in ski resort of Avoriaz, French Alps

Best For

Avoriaz 1800’s primary appeal is undoubtedly (but by no means exclusively) to families and younger skiers, to whom it has always been just about ideally suited. It was designed from the outset with youthful skiers in mind, in fact.

That said, there are some long, quite demanding black runs here too. It’s also an obvious choice for anyone looking for a snow-sure base from which to explore the vastness of the Portes du Soleil ski area.

It probably won’t suit traditionalists (who have plenty of choice in nearby alternatives like Les Gets and Châtel) but the wealth of apartment accommodation, bars and entertainment, combined with as much ski terrain as you can handle, offers a solid-value package for keen skiers and snowboarders.

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Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery

Snowboarding

Beginners to advanced level with competition level Super-pipe.
5 Snowparks
1 Snowboarder Cross
1 Half-Pipe


Cross-Country Skiing

Eight circuits ranging from forest to plateau with extensive views.
38km Cross-Country and Nordic Ski Trails

Handiski...

icon-smileyYes please...

  • High-altitude cross-border skiing in les Portes du Soleil.
  • Lots of varied skiing, efficient lift system with hands-free lift passes.
  • Car-free, ski-in/ski-out village with new aqua leisure centre in the heart of the resort.
  • Short transfers from high-speed rail links and Geneva airport.
  • Lively après-ski and youthful, upbeat vibe.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • Elsewhere in the Portes du Soleil things are less snow-sure.
  • The high-rise architectural style won’t suit everyone.
  • Return runs can become congested.
  • Car-parking charges can be significant.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • Consider carefully your priorities for accommodation - particularly if you prefer calmer locations.
  • Download the free Portes du Soleil mobile phone app - available for iOS or Android.

Practical Information

Getting there

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

By Road
On the A40 follow the direction for Chamonix. Exit at Cluses, then continue to Taninges on the D902. Head for Les Gets, Morzine then Avoriaz 1800. Book a parking place in advance.

By air
The cheapest and quickest way to reach the Portes du Soleil from the UK is via a low cost flight to Geneva (90km from Avoriaz). Hire a car when booking your flight or book a taxi in advance.

Visit for the best range of ski transfer destinations from airports and main train stations.

By train
For the Portes du Soleil travel by Eurostar from London to Paris then to Cluses(4½ hrs) or Geneva (3½ hrs). See Altibus for shuttle details, an adult return journey costs around €30 from Cluses or around 65€ from Geneva.

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


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

Nightlife

Night party, Avoriaz

Night Party, Avoriaz. Image © OT Avoriaz

La Cabane

51 Place des Ruches
74110 Avoriaz
Tel: +33(0)4 50 74 20 60

Live jazz music live once or twice a week.


The Place

Centre Commercial - Le Snow
74110 Avoriaz

Popular bar for live music and a good atmosphere and it's where you'll find the locals enjoying an after ski drink.


Rock the Pistes

Annual Rock the Pistes Festival, Portes du Soleil

This unique live music festival with a big-name line-up consists of concerts on the slopes in the Postes du Soleil ski area, plus a host of fringe events in the heart of the villages. Usually takes places during March. For more details visit www.rockthepistes.com


Where to stay

The beautiful L'Amara Spa is one of the largest in the Northern Alps of France. The spa can be accessed directly from each residence via covered walkways and boasts a huge heated swimming pool, sensory pool, steam room, saunas, Jacuzzis, fitness area, crêche and a luxurious treatment centre offering various massages, wraps and beauty treatments.

The luxury l'Amara Residence, Avoriaz

All the spacious self-catering ski apartments at L'Amara have South/South-West facing stepped balconies with large windows, looking out over Avoriaz and the Morzine Valley. The fittings and furnishings have been specially designed, with a luxury decor throughout.

Enquiries and bookings:
Ski Collection
0844 576 0175 (UK)
or +44 (0)2392 890 960
reservations@skicollection.co.uk


Tried and testedWhen we visited Avoriaz, we stayed in La Falaise district and particularly liked being high up in the village, enjoying magnificent views from our balcony. There's a small supermarket and a bakers plus a handful of restaurants close by, but most of the bars and restaurants (plus a larger supermarket) are in the main village a few minutes’ walk away. It's great being able to ski from the door, and if you plan it well you can ski back too, at the end of the day.

Our Tip: Unless you are staying in a residence with its own parking*, keep your luggage to a minimum, or at least ensure everything is in a suitcase or bag.
The village is completely car-free so all the accommodation is virtually ski-in ski-out. This also means that you have to unload your luggage, transport it to your apartment then remove your car to a car park. Underground parking is 13.50€ per day or 82€ per week** (you can pre-book your place on http://avoriazparkings.com) and the closest outdoor parking is also payable. Free outdoor parking is available further from the village. Sledges are provided to transport baggage to your apartment - a 1€ coin is needed.
*payable **prices subject to change


Where to Eat

Tried and testedLa Réserve

L'Epicéa
341 rue des Traîneaux
74110 Avoriaz
Tel: +33(0)4 50 74 02 01

Terrace, La Réserve restaurant, Avoriaz

Smart restaurant with contemporary chalet style dining room and a comfortable terrace outside with bench seats and animal skin throws. It mainly serves quality Savoyard dishes, which are complimented by a good choice of local wines. We shared a fondue with friends and were impressed by the impeccable service and warm ambiance.


Tried and testedLa Tane Ô Marmottes

Plaine Dranse
Châtel

Skiers on the terrace, La Tane Ô Marmottes, Plaine Dranse, Châtel

One of several mountain restaurants situated in the Chatel sector at Plaine Dranse. This one has a very cosy traditional interior with log fire and a sunny terrace outside. You'll find traditional dishes, salads and pasta, plus a friendly and efficient service.
We enjoyed Escalope de Volaille with mushrooms served with chips and salad, and a Vacherin (local cheese) melted in its box and served with potatoes and charcuterie. Main courses around 18€.


Insight: Avoriaz

View of mountains with Swiss Wall piste sign and ski-lift at Avoriaz

Insight: Avoriaz

The long hairpin climb from low-lying Morzine inspires a certain tension, particularly if like us you’re here during a low period in a season whose snowfall record has been variable. After threading our way up the side of the valley the route finally flattens, and we emerge onto a snowy plateau where cross-country skiers are burning off the calories determinedly. Our attention, though, is drawn beyond them to the dramatic outline of Avoriaz silhouetted against more distant snow-capped mountain peaks. It’s like nothing else we’ve seen, yet looks instantly familiar, thanks to countless images in brochures and magazines.

Our attention is drawn beyond to the dramatic outline of Avoriaz silhouetted against more distant snow-capped mountain peaks. It’s like nothing else we’ve seen, yet looks instantly familiar…
Skier's-eye view from chairlift passing apartment blocks in Avoriaz, Portes du Soleil, French Alps.
sled-dogs Avoriaz centre
horse-drawn sleigh in Avoriaz village centre

Minutes later, after passing lines of iced-up cars parked at the roadside (followed by many more in a more secure official car-park) we reach the end of the road. From here on it’s car-free, so we’re directed to an underground car-park from which we can transfer the contents of the car to our accommodation. A couple of flights of stairs later we emerge heavily-laden and search for the nearest hook-up point for the small moulded sledges provided for visitors’ luggage. Popping a one-euro coin in the slot releases a sled and gets us moving for a return trip to the apartment. Alternatively, you can take a horse-drawn sleighride for your transfer. Obviously, it’s all second-nature to returning visitors, but for first-timers like us it’s not exactly intuitive.

Pay-back time

But it’s a price well worth paying for the pleasure and convenience of what is effectively a fully ski-in/ski-out village. In somewhere like Arc 1950 this feels like a nice touch, but since Avoriaz is substantially larger, being able to ski rapidly to and from your apartment is a key part of day-to-day practicality. Next morning, for example, it takes just a couple of minutes to ski from our base over to the Lac des Intrêts chairlift, at the opposite end of the village.
From here it’s possible to bypass the lift and take the blue-graded Crôt piste for a long cruise down through the trees to Les Prodains. This is a popular access point for skiers taking the shuttle-bus from Morzine, since it’s linked to Avoriaz by the Prodains cable-car.
Just days after our visit the mountain will receive fresh snowfalls, but for now Crôt is closed to skiers.

So we set our sights on the terrain below Les Hautes Forts (2466m) and ride the Lac des Intrêts lift. At the top we warm up the legs by skiing all the way back down on the blue-graded Bleue d’Arare, followed by another, less-direct run down Bleue du Lac. Both of these runs offer enjoyable, steady cruising with some steeper sections (and elevated views of the village) to make things interesting. With today’s early morning conditions being on the icy side of firm, they also test both our edge-grip and our reflexes, so we peel off onto the blue-graded Aller de Chavanette link-run to see how things are holding up on the nearby slopes below the Le Fornet (2250m).

View of ungroomed ski terrain from chairlift above Avoriaz, Portes du Soleil, French Alps.
Swiss Wall piste sign, with mountains and ski-lift at Avoriaz, Portes du Soleil, French Alps.

Ice alert

The Fornet 6-seater lift gives plenty of insight into snow conditions around us and serves a choice of snowcross runs – the blue-graded Marmotte and its red-graded counterpart Pschott. Either option looks and sounds off-puttingly icy, particularly the ungroomed Marmotte, where determined skiers are working their way with varying degrees of success through the ungroomed mogul-fields. Suspecting that right now things could be a bit on the speedy side on these runs, we opt for a calmer and more predictable cruise on Bleue du Fornet. It’s one of the higher runs above Avoriaz and is joined by a couple of reds on the way back down to the base of the lifts in the Combe de Chavanette.

Up for a challenge?

This time we take Choucas, a 4-seater chairlift to the Pointe de Vorlaz (1812m), launch-point for the two short reds we saw feeding back onto on Bleue du Fornet (which in turn joins the Retour Chavanette for a final blue cruise back to the village). More hardcore fans can access this point via a pair of long, steep draglifts – a fitting curtain-raiser for what awaits at the nearby Franco-Swiss border, which (very) experienced skiers can cross via the celebrated black-graded Chavanette or ‘ Swiss Wall’ piste. The steeply-pitched, ungroomed run is almost always heavily moguled all the way down to Champéry but today, not surprisingly, it’s closed due to extra-icy conditions.

Armed with the perfect excuse to head in the opposite direction, we decide to ski calmly back into Avoriaz on the much more user-friendly, red-graded Les Lanches piste. All goes according to plan until we miss the less-than-prominent turn-off sign to the Retour Chavanette return-run, compelling us to re-ride Fornet and re-ski Bleue du Fornet. This time we make the turn as planned and join the other skiers heading sedately back to the village, where we break for lunch in our accommodation.

Unmistakably Avoriaz

When we emerge we’re on foot not on skis, and head back into the village centre to join a guided tour around some of the more important architecture. Much of it, including the now-familiar high-rise apartment blocks, was designed by three young architects: Jacques Labro, Jean-Jacques Orzoni and Jean-Marc Roques. Determined to integrate the structures’ vast proportions into the landscape, the architects came up with multi-faceted facades (clad in natural, untreated red cedar shingles) beneath similarly-complex roof outlines. Look closely and you’ll see that they incorporate a second layer suspended above the main roof structure, maximising thermal efficiency.

Our tour takes in one of the first buildings to be completed, the Hôtel des Dromonts (designed by Labro) which hinted at what was to come, and still turns heads today with its startling half-windmill/half-fir-tree outline.
It was soon joined by many other visionary structures, and doing them justice requires a lot more space than we have here.

Architecture Avoriaz
Les Combes offers a scenic descent from the 2127m Tête de Linga, above Châtel.

Day Two: skiing into Châtel…

Next morning the prolonged fine spell continues, with clear blue skies, and low, low temperatures. After adding thermal base-layers we ski down to the Tour chairlift, which heads up behind the village and gives unsuspecting skiers elevated views of the skyline and its distant, snowy backdrop. At the top we take a relaxed blue-graded cruise down through the tree-line to Les Lindarets in the next valley. From here a couple of chairlifts will take skiers direct to the Pointe de Mossette (from which point, as we discovered, France ends and Switzerland begins).

We have other plans, though, and take the 6-seater Chaux Fleurie lift up to Rochassons (1900m), where a colourful totem-syle sign warns us that we’ve now reached the outer limits of the Avoriaz lift-pass. From now on we’ll be skiing on the pistes of Châtel, which get off to an impressive start with a steep and satisfyingly long red-graded plunge down to Pré la Joux, a convenient access-point for skiers driving or taking the free shuttle-bus up from Châtel. There’s car-parking and a calm, sheltered debutant area too, along with the Pierre Longue chairlift, which we ride up to another popular spot– the mountain hamlet of Plaine Dranse. Situated at around 1650m it was an isolated spot in winter, but is now well-connected to the outside world by around eight ski-lifts.

We take the Les Combes high-speed 6-seater, which gives an overview of the traditional timber-and-stone chalets (now housing restaurants, pizzerias, etc.) clustered around the rather less-typical feature of a tiny chapel built onto a vast rock which serves as a belfry. The ride takes us to the 2127m Tête du Linga. Spread before us lie the Vallée d’Abondance and the Massif du Chablais, as we launch off onto a long and frequently exhilarating red-graded descent which eventually takes us through the tree-line and all the way to just above Châtel at 1183m. Just how long becomes apparent when we realise that we’ve just skied an incredible 944m of vertical.

By now we’re at the foot of the Linga gondola lift, which hauls us back up to 1776m between dense pine forests. At the top a brief schuss takes us down to the powerful new Echo Alpin 6-seater high-speed chairlift (which replaced a 2-seater chair and a draglift) which drops us just below the Tête de Linga once again. From here the red-graded Les Combes piste takes us back down to Plaine Dranse, where we break for a welcome lunch beside the pistes at La Tane Ô Marmottes.

We leave the cosy interior sated and more than fuelled for the quick run home. Not that it’s exactly demanding – the Plaine Dranse chairlift takes us back up to Rochassons, where we ski off straight back into the Avoriaz sector. All that remains now is a quick drop back into Les Lindarets, a ride on the 6-seater Prolays chairlift and a final blue-graded cruise down Crêtes and our journey is complete.

It’s been a hugely enjoyable day, and the Châtel sector has really impressed us with its natural beauty and genuinely rewarding piste network. But we’re well aware that our limited time here has allowed us to explore only a fraction of its full potential, so we’ll certainly be returning to profile Châtel in much more detail in the future. For now, though, we can tell you that this charming and accessible sector really is a must for anyone skiing in Avoriaz. MountainPassions heart icon

Restaurants and skiers, Dranse, Chatel