Although I have placed this nicely in the Avoriaz section, my opinion refers to the Portes du Soleil, of which Avoriaz is a part. The Portes du Soleil is situated nicely atop the border between Switzerland and France, a short drive from Geneva and easily accessible from the French side too. The quantity and quality os skiing varies greatly dependin on the time of year (more on that later) but they advertise themselves as having over 600km of runs, and so far I have no reason to doubt that. I've been skiing since the age of 3 and snowboarding for about 4 years as well, so have been fairly well qualified to put this collection of resorts through its paces. There are a huge number of resorts linked together in the Portes du Soleil, and Avoriaz is the largest of these. The town itself is quite large, and almost everything there is skiing-related. The buildings look horrible, frankly, but are warm and cosy for the most part, though obviously there is a degree of variation between the individual hotels and apartments. You can ski directly from the door, which is also a benefit - there are far too many resorts around France and Switzerland that require a long bus ride before you can hit the slopes, whereas in Avoriaz you are actually right in the middle of a huge network of runs. The skiing itself is suitable for all ages and levels of experience. There are plenty of flat and shallow runs for complete beginners, and a superb ski school for kids, and at the other end of the scale you have a collection of black runs including a World Cup downhill run and the mighty 'Wall of Death' (so called by the French because it is ridiculously steep - and a lot of fun). There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in town, so whether you want a quick snack to refuel yourself for the afternoon's skiing or fancy a candlelit dinner, there is plenty of choice. There are actually a few cafes on the slopes themselves as well t
hat do very nice food - and I have found that Italian style dishes are often a good choice - cheap and good if you plan to carry on skiing after you eat. I mentioned the weather, and this is very important in the Portes du Soleil. A few of the resorts near Avoriaz are quite low (though Avoriaz itself has snow from December to March or April) and as a consequence it can be difficult to get to them if you go too late in the season. Late January and early February are the best times to head over - plenty of powder snow, and all resorts will be open. If you head over in late March, expect to be confined to the Avoriaz locale and find ice and slush in equal quantities. Snowboarders will have just as much fun, if not more, than skiers. There is a huge board park in Avoriaz, complete with half pipes and jumps, and a trip over to the Swiss side of the resort will take you to the jump park at Les Crosets - complete with loud music and beer on demand! Finally, the queues. Everyone moans about queueing, and you have to expect some queueing whichever resort you go to, and I have found that Avoriaz is particularly good for this. Though very popular, the most travelled routes have been upgraded over recent years to have faster and higher-capacity lifts which has meant that queues rarely become a problem. Overall, the Portes du Soleil is one of the best resorts I have found. The range of runs is amazing, and the location itself is breathtaking. There are few better feelings that gliding on powder through a forest (Les Lingarets) then taking on some of the steepest runs on Earth (Avoriaz) in one afternoon. If you like skiing or snowboarding, this is a great place to spend as much of the winter as you can spare!
We have just come back from Avoriaz. It was without any doubt the worst skiing holiday we have ever had. Now, before you go and cross Avoriaz off your list of places to go, let me first say that it was nothing to do with Avoriaz itself. We were just desperately unlucky to get some absolutely miserable weather. Out of six days we got just 3 1/2 days skiing and that only because we were going slowly mad sitting in the appartment for hours on end and decided to go out whatever. On top of that, two of us were down with heavy colds. No, Avoriaz itself is a most impressive resort. The highest in the Porte du Soleil region, it is virtually guarunteed snow (which we had, plus rain, gales, cloud-ins...). The village was created from scratch specifically as a ski resort so don't expect any quaint old buildings. Nonetheless they have done a very impressive job of designing a resort that looks attractive and still has plenty of facilities. It is located at the head of the valley leading up from Morzine and is built around sheer cliffs. Spectacular. The majority of the accomodation is high-rise appartments. We were in those located right next to the entrance to the village in the Falaise district and are "managed" by Pierre et Vacances. Managed is deliberately put on quotes. To say that they managed the accomodation is to give them far more credit than they are due. Avoriaz is a "traffic-free" resort. I need to qualify that. No visitor vehicles are allowed in the resort. There are two car parks at the entrance to the village, one open-air and one covered. They are subject to a parking charge. The only traffic allowed in the village are the horse-drawn sleighs that you can use like taxis, and various tracked vehicles that are used as "buses" and to tow what I can only describe as sheds on runners. These are used to transport visitor's baggage from the car parks to
their accomodation. Other than that it's either skis or shank's pony. The central area of the village is occupied by nursery slopes and a Children's Village, where they teach the real toddlers to ski. Several ski lifts and tows run up through the middle of the village. You need to use these to get high enough to be able to access the majority of the runs. We were fortunately already high enough and started the day with a run down to the Proclou lift. From here you can go back up to the village of carry on down via the Seraussaix lift to Morzine. We did that just once but Morzine had virtually zero snow, so we just turned round and came straight back. I would love to be able to tell you what the skiing was like there and even further over in Les Gets but under the circumstances that isn't possible. There are loads of runs all around the local area and connections in addition to those to Morzine and Les Gets, to Chatel and into Switzerland. We didn't make it over to those areas either but we did ski in Chatel about eight years ago and we had a great time. The highest proportion of runs are classified Blue but that covers a multitude of sins. We came across some sections on what were classified as Blue runs that would have been challenging on a Red. The mogul run off the edge of Mossettes down towards Lindarets was an example. They have introduced a system of recommended circuits. They produce a little booklet where for each of the regions of the Porte du Soleil they plan out for you a route that leads you round various runs and lifts, eventually bringing you back to your starting point. These are organised in various levels of difficulty. We tried a couple and thought they were an excellent idea. Generally my one complaint about Avoriaz is that the lift systems are in general not really up to the standard you would expect of a major resort. Lift queues were long everywhere. Ther
e are still antiquated lifts that are either slow or only three or two seats. There are still many drag lifts where these are rapidly disappearing from most other resorts. Tour is the only six seat express lift. That is just one of the lifts going up through the village. There needs to be far more investment in new and updated lifts to cope with the queues. There is plenty of non-ski activity. If eating out is your thing then we tried a few for you. La Falaise is only a pizzeria but their pizzas are enormous and really good quality. I struggled to finish mine. On New Year's Eve we ate at Le Bistro. We had a good meal but they didn't bring out the party poppers, hooters and peashooters until after midnight, a pity really. A few years ago we had a similar do at Ty Sable in Mottaret and then they had all the goodies out right from the start. It did make the whole evening far more enjoyable. We ate twice at Au Briska in the centre of the village, lunch and evening. We had the Hot Rock in the evening and it was excellent. Be careful to book evenings in advance. Most restaurants seemed always to be fully booked. And if you want the Hot Rock make sure you tell them when you book. We went to L'Ortolan in Falaise for that one evening only to be told that they weren't prepared and need to be told in advance, even though there were no notices saying so. We had to make do with a Fondue. It was OK but it wasn't what we wanted. There are loads of mountain restaurants and bars. Our favourite was Les Marmottes at Lindarets. It's the furthest one of the four but worth walking past the other three. It's quite small and those in the know get there early. There is also a bar (Le Studio 9) in the Dromonts district below the Nursery slopes where they have loads of games machines and have also managed to squeeze in a full size, two lane tenpin bowling alley. We ended up there a few times. A go
od way to pass some time when the weather is simply impossible. We had promised my son ski boots for Christmas but agreed to buy them on holiday, not because we expected them to be any much cheaper (although they were actually very good value) but because it gave him the chance to make sure that there were no problems. We actually got them at Superski in the centre of the village. If you decide to do likewise, ask for Phillip. He's English and knows what he's talking about. He got the boots spot on and my son had not a moment of trouble with them. So, would we go again? Probably. We nowhere near tried all the available runs and there were many that looked very interesting if only the circumstances had been better. But, next time we will book late, when we know the weather and snow is going to be good and we will book out of high season to try to avoid the lift queues. And we will NOT be staying in anything managed by Pierre et Vacances! Maybe we'll try a chalet next time.
I can recommend the Avoriaz ski area to anyone. Being in such close proximity to Geneva airport it makes it an excellent destination for a short ski break. However the area is vast and when included with the Morzine area it totals over 650km of piste. You would need to stay for several months to ski the full area! We stayed in a chalet in Ardents, a small peaceful hamlet that has been converted (but not spoiled) into a satellite resort of Avoriaz. The alpine style of the area is retained but also one quick gondola ride takes you into the main Avoriaz system and so its proximity to the best ski terrain is almost as good as its bigger, un-authentic counterpart, Avoriaz. The lift system is good with 4 new 6 seater chairs reducing lift ques in the main areas to a minimum although bottlenecks are still found on the older lifts. The skiing is hugely varied from long gentle greens to Super-Morzine to the most fearsome pisted run in The Alps, The Wall. The ski area even stretches into Switzerland so make sure you have both currencies, as exchange rates are not always particularly advantageous! My only criticism of the area is the fact that it is too low. When we went there was sufficient snow but its not really the place to go late season as nearly all of the skiing is below 2000m and apart from Avoriaz the other resorts loose their snow very quickly and the circuit breaks down leaving small isolated areas. An excellent destination for mixed ability groups, budget holidays and short breaks.
Avoriaz is a great resort, set high in the French alps, close to the swiss border. A short transfer from Geneva airport takes you to the Portes du Soleil, one of the largest ski areas in france. The skiing is great, some high, but quite a lot not so high in-the-treeline skiing which is great fun. The resort is car free and purpose built - you leave your car at the entrance to the resort, then catch a sleigh or rat-trak to your accomodation. Most of the accomodation is self catering family apartments with some chalets and hotels. The family atmosphere in resort is great at christmas, when 'Santa' arrives in a horse-drawn sleigh and gives presents to the children. On New Years eve, a brilliant firework display goes on. At this time of year, the no roads, snow and xmas tress everywhere atmosphere is very festive. I really recommend christmas in Avoriaz.
I echo chamkiong's opinion about how beautiful the french-swiss alps are. The views are stunning and have to be seen to be believed. I wanted to get to Chamonix on our stay at Avoriaz as a friend had stayed there - but a week is just not long enough and travelling from A to B can take ages-well you don't want to drive off a mountain. Avoriaz is a small town at the top of a mountain about 1800 feet above sea level. It's a fantastic sight with snow topped mountains peaking all around you. It is a quaint town, like nothing I've ever seen before. All the buildings are wooden, but not your typical swiss chalet type buildings these had some weird geometric shapes. It took a bit of getting used to i must admit. Right opposite our hotel La Duchka was huge mountain with Switzerland over the other side of it. It was fantastic to look out of the window on a morning. Being so high in the clouds, one day the cloud was so low we couldn't see the mountain and it was cold, like fog. We had to go all the way down to the foothills where the sun was shining brilliantly. A fantastic experience. Avoriaz is completely car free. You leave your car at the entrance and pick it up when you need to go down the mountain. It seemed to be a safe place for children. They had their own schools, hospital, fire dept, supermarkets etc. I still haven't seen anything like it. A little tram -like train ran around if you had difficulty getting around. It had all its own nightlife but beer was very expensive. It is a ski resort in the winter- but I don't think you'd get me up those roads for love or money. At the foot of the mountain is a lovely swiss chalet town called Morzine and a cable car runs up to Avoriaz. It is so beautiful and so clean. There are restaurants, lots of boutiques and ski shops. Don't try to get a meal after 2pm-everywhere shuts down. From Avoriaz you can travel to a lovely goat village (there'
s only 2 roads down the mountain 1 to Morzine and 1 to this village that isn't even signposted on most maps). I can't remember it's name but it is like rubbing your eyes and waking up in 'Heidi'. It's magic. The goats just wander all over the tiny twisty road half way up this mountain jostling one another to greed food off the tourists who are eay pickings-and yes they will eat everything. You do get used to goat smell after a while but I couldn't eat anything in the outdoor restaurants (fenced off from the goats.) From Avoriaz you can visit Evian, Les Gets, Thonon and Montreux in Switzerland but don't go home without a vist to Yvoire on Lake Geneva. It's an old historic city, car free but hilly, very floral and very beautiful. It is 8 years since we were there but it made such an impression it feels like yesterday. If you are wondering where to book up Pierre and Vacances do holidays there and their summer prices are unbelievably reasonable