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Oh those queues!!!
Member Name: grahamt
Date: 07/01/01, updated on 07/01/01 (378 review reads)
Advantages: Miles of good skiing
Disadvantages: Inadequate lifts, huge queues
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.
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