Perhaps you have grandparents who's skiing days are behind them, friends staying who haven't caught the skiing bug or you just fancy a break from all that thrashing around in the snow. Look no further for some helpful ideas for activities for non-skiiers in and around Châtel.
The village itself is charming with no large hotels and buildings almost exclusively in the traditional alpine style. It is easy to get about with a free and frequent bus service (see the timetable) running to several different routes serving the village and beyond with plenty of bus stops around the residential chalet areas.
It is pleasant to walk through the main section of the village from below La Poste up to Lac Vonnes and even the walk up to Petit Chatel isn't really so challenging. There are plenty of coffee shops, bars and restaurants open throughout the day providing welcome opportunities for relaxation and people watching. I can mention La Poya, Bar L'Isba, Nasca, La Reserve as places to stop off and enjoy a chocolat chaud but check our blog top ten bars in Châtel for more ideas. Fortunately lunch and dinner spots abound!
Along the main road, Route de Vonnes, various craft shops make an interesting diversion for cheese, cured meats, génépy (a local alpine plant flavoured digestif), wooden toys, pottery and more. There are two cinemas, Le Chamois and Le Morclan 2000 showing French and English films as well the bowling alley at Le Chaudron open from mid-late afternoon, above the church and behind Le Vieux Four). Off the main road and down the hillside from the church is the wood emporium of L’Atelier de Théo, selling toys, gifts and traditional mountain furniture. It's well worth a look.
A pleasant walk up to Lac Vonnes at the top of the village will take you to the lake which hosts ice skating on dedicated rink beside it. A small museum, The Old Customs House, nestles above the lake by the roadside and there is a small chapel opposite. If walking is your thing there are a number of walks that depart from here and rise through the trees (Abondance walking guide). They are marked and further details can be found at the tourist office in the centre of Châtel. Several trails run by mountain chalet restaurants (such as Cantine de They above Morgins and Chalet de Theo above Petit Chatel) which offer an attractive destination or stopping point. If you feel a little more adventurous, but without necessarily being at all strenuous, the lovely Tania will take you snow shoeing through the forests. Contact us to arrange snow shoeing bookings at preferential rates.
Several of the ski areas can be reached by non-skiers as well. The Petit-Châtel lift, Super-Châtel gondola and Portes du Soleil lifts all rise above the village and are accessible for pedestrians. There are more trails marked starting from these points, though through deeper snow. For the less energetic, beside the top of the gondola sits L'Escale with a marvellous terrace overlooking the valley. Great for a sunny day (and cosy inside if it's snowing). The Linga gondola and Pierre-Longue chairlift are also open to pedestrians offering more walking, restaurants and meeting points. The latter rises up to the Plaine Dranse bowl, filled with some very characterful chalet restaurants and cafés and a great area to catch up with ski-footed friends.
Market day is Wednesday and every week you can explore a range of local stalls from 8.30am-12.30pm on the road beneath the church.
The aquatic centre, Form d’O, is a great new addition to Châtel offering a variety of classes, indoor and outdoor pools as well as a huge hot tub and spa treatment. If you have forgotten your trunks or swimming costume you can pick up a new one on the way in!
Not so far afield are the villages of Morgins in Switzerland and La Chapelle lower down the valley from Châtel. They are easily reached by bus and offer their own collection of characterful shops as well activities such as husky rides. La Chapelle in particular hosts some very well regarded local restaurants including Les Cornettes where if you are very lucky you might experience a lunchtime alphorn recital...
If this is not enough have a look at our blog article for more winter activities in Châtel!