10.11
2011 Advice and tips

So what’s the name of the resort?

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So what’s the name of the resort?

Where shall we go skiing this year? Courchevel, Méribel, Val d'Isère, Morzine, Avoriaz?

All of these well-known resorts are synonymous with great skiing and lively nightlife. However the down side to these can often be crowded slopes and expensive holidays. If your idea of a great ski holiday includes quieter slopes, no queues, less expensive lift passes, less expensive ski hire and mountain eating/drinking whilst staying in an authentic French village then you should take a closer look at Châtel and La Chapelle d’Abondance in the Abondance Valley, part of the vast Portes du Soleil ski region.

Situated to the south of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) and stretching to Switzerland, the Portes du Soleil is the largest internationally linked ski area in Europe and includes the resorts of Morzine, Les Gets and Avoriaz. It has 650 km of pistes, plenty of off-piste adventures and a great snow record from the start of December through to when the lifts close at the end of April. Statistics provided by the ski club of Great Britain data show how this area can hold its own when compared with the higher, more famous resorts. In fact one of the best snow records belongs to Avoriaz which is very easily accessed on skis from both Châtel and La Chapelle d’Abondance.

The villages of Châtel and La Chapelle d’Abondance are both authentic French farming villages: there are still 40 working farms in the valley producing the milk which goes to make the Abondance cheese for which the region is known. Both villages are easily accessible from Geneva airport (75 minute transfer) and an 8.5 hour drive from Calais. Châtel is the livelier of the two villages and offers a range of bars, restaurants and après ski entertainment, whereas La Chapelle d’Abondance offers an altogether calmer experience, with several bars and restaurants and a micro brewery – very popular with the visitors and locals alike. The villages are a 5 minute drive away from each other and there is a frequent free bus service between the two during the day – although for those staying in catered chalets there is usually free in resort transport as part of the holiday.

There is plenty to choose from in terms of accommodation, from small self-catered apartments and chalets, to luxury catered chalets and hotels, but the one thing you will not find is the large tour operator. All of the catered chalets are owner run and offer a very personal level of service geared to giving you the best all inclusive, hassle free holiday - ever. The other benefit of the lack of large tour operators is that the slopes are not crowded and outside of prime school holiday periods (New Year and February) you will rarely have to queue for lifts. Both Châtel and La Chapelle d’Abondance have invested millions in the lift systems over the past 5 years and both villages are investing in other activities for the winter holiday maker. Outside of skiing and snowboarding the visitor to this area can try cross country skiing, snow-shoeing, dog sledging, skating, under ice diving, paragliding, and for a bit of pampering there is the thermal centre of Lavy les Bains (40 minutes away in Switzerland).

Whilst there is much debate over whether catered or self catered holidays are the most economical, in this time of economic uncertainty and a poor sterling/euro exchange rate, what is certain is that the lesser known resorts will be able to offer a more flexible and economic alternative to the more established resorts. Lift passes are often less expensive, drinks and food on the mountains and in the bars is normally less expensive, a range of accommodation to suite all budgets is available and very often with payment in sterling – no exchange rate fluctuations. So, before you decide where to ski this coming winter take a closer look at these two resorts which offer fantastic skiing, are unspoilt by tourism, have a natural Gallic charm, Savoyard tradition and will save you some money.

To find out more please go to: www.savoiefaire.co.uk

This article first appeared on FrenchEntrée.com

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