Families wanting to ski together face the annual dilemma of choosing a resort to please everyone. Châtel has long been the sleepy sister to nearby Morzine and Les Gets but with recent investments in the town and on the pistes this beautiful alpine village should be high on your list. The village is wonderfully French in feeling compared to many alpine resorts. It is a real, active village throughout the year after all. Chalets are attractively spread around the upper end of the appropriately named Val d’Abondance – there are no large hotels here and no tour operators either. Instead the more boutique accommodation of Châtel is provided by a lively and friendly variety of owners and seasonaires who cater for most budgets. It is by nature a very family oriented resort. Transfers from Geneva are easily arranged, will meet you from your flight and delightfully take only about 90 minutes.
The ski resort is part of the huge Portes du Soleil with 200 lifts and 650km of pistes linking 14 valleys and over a dozen villages in France and Switzerland. There are four main sectors in Châtel, which are all now connected by pistes and lifts, with five main access points. There is a very efficient bus service running continually through the day and into the evening to link the whole village together as well as to the neighbouring villages and their slopes. In addition many of the higher end chalets offer their own chauffeur driven ski buses – a little luxury for the short drive to the lift.
The terrain encompasses easy and relaxing tree lined pistes to the extreme, most famously, Chavanette, the “Swiss Wall” which is actually categorised as an Orange run (too severe to be Black). Skis and snowboards are both popular and not just on the piste. There are several fun parks where you can show off your stuff in a half pipe or jump on and off the obstacles through the twisting forest runs of The Stash. And with all that mountainside there is plenty of off-piste to entertain the more adventurous skier. Guides from the ski schools will be happy to take you to the best locations on any given day (just make sure to book ahead for peak weeks). If you still have some energy keep going with the floodlit Linge piste, way into normal après-ski time!
Families keep returning to ski from the resort because of the fun and enjoyment that the area provides for all. There are several ski schools to suit your needs. The ever present ESF as well as ESI, BASS and more. Virtually all instructors speak good English and are delighted to help improve your technique. Our children had great fun with the BASS team playing cowboys and indians down the runs and the younger one was just delighted to stop for a hot chocolate to warm up.
There are several other crazy snow sports that Châtel visitors seem to love. You can join a Snake-Gliss after the last lift and whizz down on one of a set of articulated sledges, those at the tail flinging from side to side. There is the Airboard, a little like an inflatable bodyboard (a helmet is a necessity!). Or you can Yooner down the piste with friends or family on something akin to a bike with skis.
Skiing and resorts are not all about the snow sports. There needs to be time for some great meals, lovely wine and relaxing back by an outdoor bar, soaking up the sunshine. Here you are blessed. I spent a fabulous week trying to visit every chalet on the mountainside and I’m still not done. There are little cabins with deck chairs, large chalets with great menus and fantastic terraces on which to enjoy a vin chaud. Pick your favourite but book in the morning for the popular ones! For the evening, if you are not relaxing in a hot tub at your chalet, you can wander into the village and enjoy the very welcoming family friendly restaurants there too. If the children are with a baby sitter… well, there are plenty of bars as well!
There are lots of other activities to keep children, adults and the whole family amused if a day off skiing is required. Husky rides, snow shoe guided trails, sledging, building a snowman and skating are all great diversions. You can even dive under the ice to go fishing! To get away from the snow completely relax at the Form d’O swimming pool and spa or visit one of the cheese farms to taste the world famous Fromage d’Abondance.
Châtel may not be as famous a resort as some but I think its delights are one of the better kept secrets of the Alps. For family based skiing this resort is a great place to enjoy, relax or find thrills. Just wake up in the morning and choose for yourself!
Come and visit us at Clarian Chalets to create your own fabulous holiday experience in Châtel.