- 22 Resorts
- Consistent Snow
- Diverse destinations
- Resorts open before those of many other states
- Home to Vail, Beaver Creek, Copper Mountain
Slap bang in the centre of the Portes du Soleil ski area, Avoriaz (1,800m) has access to some serious terrain – 650km to be exact. The local ski area ain't too shabby either with fast, modern lifts and high, snow-sure slopes receiving around eight metres of powder each winter. Avoriaz is also one of the French greats for freestylers – there are now five snowparks and a super-pipe.
Architecturally, Avoriaz is one of the more modern resorts in the Portes du Soleil but, in contrast, transportation around town is delightfully old fashioned. It is one of the few pedestrianized resorts in the Alps so you won't see any cars here; sleds, snowcats or horse-drawn sleighs are the only form of transport allowed, and skis of course – the resort’s high-altitude means skiing back to your hotel is the norm. Avoriaz has a very narrow selection of hotels and restaurants, but just a lift ride away (with more choice) is the British favourite, Morzine.
The Portes du Soleil is one of the largest ski areas in the world, comprising 650km of slopes and 12 resorts. With a vast and varied choice of ski runs, the area offers endless possibilities, allowing you to cross the border into Switzerland.
In the heart of the Portes du Soleil sits Avoriaz – the highest resort in the area with the best snow conditions; its local ski slopes receive, on average, eight metres of powder each winter. The resort has lifts and pistes fanning out in all directions. Its closest slopes can appear a little bleak and tree-less, but they are fairly snow-sure and are served by fast, modern lifts. If you’re heading out further afield, be warned the lifts beyond Chatel are outdated and slow.
There’s plenty to satisfy all skiers in Avoriaz: long, gentle cruisers and highly acclaimed ski schools for families; five snowparks and a superpipe for freestylers; and the terrifying Swiss Wall, Olympic downhill and fast, technical off-piste routes for experts.
Here are three off-piste runs that should not be missed on powder day: Vallée de la manche – a 10km descent with dramatic views of the Mont Blanc; La Pointe de Vorlaz – a very fast and technical run; and the Swiss side of Mossette which starts with a narrow passage before opening into a large plateau and canyon.
Alternatively, for a less risky off-piste experience, all ski levels can enjoy the snowcross zones which offer all the thrills of unpisted slopes in a safe, patrolled setting: the black snowcross zones of Crozats and La Frontaliere; red snowcross zones of Les Brouchaux and Pschott; and the blue La Combe des Marmottes snowcross – a playful area of small undulations, ideal for families.
On the pistes
Expert/Advanced: Expert skiers should make their first port of call the infamous Swiss Wall. Early risers will often find powder conditions, making it not nearly as terrifying, but leave it too late in the day and the Wall turns into a seriously steep icy mogul field. Take the lifts up to the Chavanette sector and beyond the Swiss border lies the Wall. Before entering the Wall, you pass the "For Experts Only" sign. After you've completed the first six turns and rounded an overhang, the Wall reveals itself as a steep 200-metre slope. Do not try to attempt the wall in icy conditions – it can be fatal.
When your legs have stopped wobbling from conquering the Wall, take the Grandes Combes lift up to 2,400m to reach the long, steep black runs down to Les Prodains – the most demanding in Avoriaz, and featuring an Olympic downhill.
Advanced skiers have a huge concentration of long reds, winding through the trees, between Les Lindarets and Chatel.
Intermediates: Gain confidence on the three long, gentle blue runs from the top of the Grandes Combes. Other options include taking the Chavanette and Fornet lifts to cruise some seriously long blues or exploring the pretty, tree-lined routes leading down to Les Lindarets and Chatel. There’s plenty of gentle intermediate terrain above Champery in the Planachaux area. From here you can also reach the large open skiing around Champoussin and Les Crosets.
Beginners: Enrol in the Avoriaz Alpine Ski School staffed with British instructors while children aged from 3 years spend a full day’s skiing (with lunch and tea) at the Village des Enfants. After a confidence-building ski lesson in the morning, head out onto the sunny green and blue slopes right next to town to practice your turns. The blue snowcross, La Combe des Marmottes, is an unpisted, but patrolled zone offering a playful area of small undulations, ideal for families.
The half-pipe has been transformed into a Super-Pipe, now 120-metres-long and six metres high.
The well-maintained Arare Snowpark, which can be accessed from Grandes Combes, is billed as “the real snowpark for freestylers” and is for advanced to expert skiers only. It features kicker and rail lines as well as an airbag jump. Next to the Arare Snowpark is the boardercross: ‘blue’ to warm up and ‘red’ to really challenge your skills.
La Chapelle snowpark is ideal for beginners and intermediates with its jumps of all sizes. It has been designed to meet the needs of both skiers and snowboarders and features different obstacles (boardercross, jumps and woops).
Intermediates can also hit The Stash, with its wooden and natural elements. Kids have their own mini snowparks at Parkway and Lil’Stash.
Le Douchka, 64 rue du Douchka, 74110 Avoriaz (+33 (0)4 50 74 10 48). Open from 8am. Douchka serves hot chocolate, coffee, pastries, omelettes and more. Breakfasts cost between €5-15.
Mamie Brioche, 80 Place des Dromonts, 74110 Avoriaz (+33(0)4 50 92 80 29). Grab a coffee and croissant from this bakery on your way to the lifts.
La Cremaillere, Les Lindarets, 74110 Montriond (+33(0)4 50 74 11 68). Over in the next valley, this rustic mountain restaurant serves acclaimed chaterelle mushrooms and has a jolly atmosphere to boot.
La Tavaillon, Immeuble Les Fontaines Blanches, 74110 Avoriaz (+33 (0)4 50 74 14 18). This centrally located bar reportedly serves the best burgers in town. They also show Sky Sports and offer a wide range of draft beers.
Table du Marche, 40 Place des Dromonts, F-74110 Avoriaz 74110 (+33(0)4 50 74 08 11). Known as the best restaurant in town, the Table des Marche is housed in the centrally located Hotel du Dromonts. Expect fining dining with an experimental twist. Seating is in the elegant dining room or out on the sun terrace.
Salle a Manger, Immeuble Intrêts Avoriaz, 74110 Morzine (+33 4 50 74 20 02). This cosy, wood-clad restaurant at the Garde-Manger deli serves a fixed-price, three-course daily menu.
Restaurant Au Briska, 39 bd de la promenade, 74110 Avoriaz (+33(0)4 5074 09 40). Savoyard specialities in a cosy, romantic setting. House recommendations include the duck fillet with caramel and soya beans, sirloin of beef with morels, and fresh Morzine trout.
Restaurant le Chapka, Immeuble Les Fontaines Blanches, 74110 Avoriaz (+33 (0)4 50 74 23 30). Renowned for its tapas, the restaurant also serves Savoyard specialities (dish of the day €14). Spread over three rooms and two floors. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Open 10 am to midnight.
Le Piz’ Burg, 74110 Avoriaz (+33(0)4 50 79 18 17). Serves sandwiches, burgers and pizza to eat in or take away.
Le Tavaillon, 74110 Les Fontaines Blanches, Avoriaz. Centrally located English-style pub with a heated terrace, wide selection of draft beers and Sky Sports on the flat-screen. It is particularly popular for its cocktail of the day and choice of shooters.
Le Chapka, Immeuble Les Fontaines Blanches, 74110 Avoriaz (+33 (0)4 50 74 23 30). The trendiest bar in town, offers great tapas, live music and a pool table. Open until midnight.
The Place, Centre Commercial – Le Snow, 74110 Avoriaz. Late-night bar with a DJ and live music seven nights a week.
The Yak. Centre Commerical Snow, 39 Place du Snow, 74110 Avoriaz (+33 (0)4 50 49 51 66). Avoriaz’s only nightclub, The Yak is open every day from midnight to 4am. Has a resident DJ and expect to pay around €5 a beer.
All ski levels should experience the unique snowcross zones, which offer all the thrills of unpisted slopes in a safe, patrolled setting: the black snowcross zones of Crozats and La Frontaliere; red snowcross zones of Les Brouchaux and Pschott; and the blue La Combe des Marmottes snowcross - a playful area of small undulations, ideal for families.
While you’ve still got your skis on take the kids ski joering – holding long reigns attached to a horse’s bridle, you’re pulled along on skis behind it. This fun activity is suitable for all ages, but younger children should be accompanied by an adult.
In 2012, Avoriaz opened Europe’s highest waterpark: the €200m Aquariaz, offering year-round fun for families. It’s a great après-ski venue for those who want to warm up and relax tired muscles after a day on the slopes. With floor-to-ceiling windows, it offers great views of the Alps. Highlights include the aqua half-pipe or ‘slidewinder’, which you ride solo or in pairs in a single or double rubber tube; a waterplay area for younger children including an aquatic see-saw; and fairly demanding climbing wall alongside one of the pools.
mi Snow Making