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At the beginning of the 20th century, Chatel was a tranquil farming village, where the arrival of winter saw the evacuation of its inhabitants (mainly cows) to warmer climates. The countryside was as magnificent as the old chalets in the valley.
Fast forward 70 years, and this strong identity still remains, in the authentic mountain lifestyle and traditions at the centre of Chatel’s character as a ski resort. Many of the local families are still central to the industry, with 38 working farms and 800 Abondance cows. It is their cattle who make the world famous Abondance cheese (a bit more about this later). However there is one small change to the village, and that is that it’s become one of the 12 ski resorts that together form the Portes du Soleil, boasting an extensive range of skiing, as well as fantastic bars and restaurants to satisfy its many visitors who return year on year.
The introduction of the Vonnes drag lift in 1947, and the subsequent arrival of the famous Rolan Macchi (father of future French skiing champion Francoise) who set up Chatel’s first ski school which he ran for 10 years, transformed the resort and put Chatel firmly on the winter tourist map. With traditional Alpine chalets and mountain huts, surrounded by many towering pine trees, Chatel really has become a major skiing attraction, but uniquely has retained the personality and charm it proudly possesses from its farming roots.
Due to its position between Mont Blanc and Lake Geneva, Chatel receives regular top ups of snowfall, as opposed to a major dump at the start of the season followed by a random sprinkling throughout the peak months. The lush high meadows and grass covered slopes hold the snow extremely well, thus the result is compact, fresh powder snow, and great skiing conditions throughout the winter, all the way up to April. The enormous range of skiing on offer as a result of Chatel’s position within the Portes du Soleil means that around 650km of piste is available, served by 198 lifts. Furthermore the 90 minute transfer from Geneva makes Chatel the ideal place for those seeking a short getaway.
Chatel has invested in itself heavily in the last 60 years, and it now boasts an effective snow cannon system, as well as a dedicated piste bashing team who scan the depth of the snow on the piste and subsequently use this to ensure even coverage across the piste. Add to this the already great snowfall that Chatel receives and it is no wonder that professional and Olympic skiers have used the resort as a training facility.
The two main mountain ranges are the Super Chatel/Barbossine and the Linga/Pre la Joux areas, and we recommend you buy the PDS lift pass which covers the swiss side around Champery and Les Crosets, which is usually ignored by Chatel goers, so it is prefect if you like a quiet piste. Chatel is the highest village in the Abondance valley, which is south facing, so expect to be skiing in the sun! There are many nursery slopes for beginners, in conjunction with super reds and challenging blacks for intermediate and advanced skiers. Above the Pre la Joux lies the small mountain village of Plaine Dranse, where there are 15 restaurants/bars to chose from, with Chez Babeth and Le Marmots being the most high-end in terms of height and price. The former is worth the trip just to see the infamous owner; Babette a legend in Plaine Dranse. There is a bus which takes you directly from Chatel to the Pre la Joux/Plaine Dranse area.
When it comes to quality food in the village of Chatel, the choice is endless. Le Perrier, La Poya and Restaurant Antoine are the places to go for high quality, traditional french cuisine. There is also a wide selection of bars on offer, such as Le Fer Rouge and the Nazca wine bar, and if you want to watch the sport, look no further than Pub L’Avalanch; which unsurprisingly has a very English feel to it.
If you are a big family wishing to spend money on a luxury holiday, or perhaps a couple celebrating a special occasion, we recommend Chatel as the perfect place for you. The picturesque landscape and varied range of skiing for different levels of ability makes this destination a great choice for all ages and preferences. Whilst the nightlife is perhaps not as lively as other resorts, there is still the popular late night Bowling Alley, which is perfect for a nightcap. For the shopaholics out there, Chatel offers a range of upmarket shops for those seeking some retail therapy, such as outdoor clothing stores, souvenir shops and speciality produce. For the cheese lovers, you cannot miss out on The cheesery, where you are taught how to make the local fromage – and then eat it!
Chatel is a hidden gem, in terms of a luxury skiing holiday. The people who visit Chatel value the range of skiing on offer due to its position in the Portes du Soleil, as well as attractive scenery and traditional architecture. There are some beautiful, luxury chalets in the Abondance Valley which have their own specific style; the roof always has two equal parts, gently sloping and overflowing on each side. The locals boast of this architectural heritage, which reflects their skill to build homes that can cope with challenging terrains and changing weather. There is no pretentious stigma attached to Chatel; the hard working, proud attitude of the locals is reflected in the villages culture and the atmosphere it portrays.
If you are looking for one of these luxury chalets to stay in, look no further than Chalet Blanc. It is situated on the edge of a tiny enclave on the outskirts of Chatel, with beautiful views of the Abondance Valley; a peaceful backdrop to the outdoor hot tub and perfect place to relax after a long day on the slopes.
Far enough from Chatel centre to enjoy uninterrupted views and true peace and tranquillity but close enough to get to any of the lift stations and the town centre in only a few minutes; Chalet Blanc offers our guests the best of both worlds. – Michael Atkinson – Owner – Chalet Blanc
On demand, private transfers are offered to and from any of the 5 lift stations, meaning you don’t have to wait around for the bus or walk around in your ski boots, as well as transfers to and from Geneva airport which are included in the £900pp per week. The pinewood interior of the chalet and roaring log fire reflect the authenticity of Chatel, and create a very warm and cosy environment. The 48” UK digital TV, with movie library and surround sound, means staying-in is a great option if you don’t fancy frequenting the village after dinner.
The five en-suite double bedroom means Chalet Blanc sleeps up to 14 guests, and if you book the chalet exclusively for £9000, then 9 hours of complimentary ski tuition is included with a highly recommended private instructor. A scrumptious breakfast is provided each morning, followed in the evening by a delicious four course meal, made by Chalet Blanc’s professional chef who uses locally sourced produce to create a blend of traditional themes with a range of other cuisines. The sauna and massage room provide a great therapy after a days skiing, and can be supplemented by afternoon tea, coffee and cakes. In addition to these inclusive services, Chalet blanc can also arrange lift passes, equipment hire and ski school/private tuition.
Find out more about Chalet Blanc