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Guest Blog by Chalet Isobel
When people think of the Portes du Soleil ski area, they tend to think of the large ski resorts of Avoriaz, Morzine and Les Gets. However, nestled within this 650+km immense ski domain is the hidden treasure of Châtel.
Traditionally a French farming village Châtel has kept much of its historic charm and old farming ways. Come summer there is an annual festival to take the cows up into the hills to pasture and another celebrating their return at the end. The village of Châtel is quintessentially picturesque. It is composed of chocolate box style chalets, dotted around the mountainside and alongside the meandering river Dranse. The town itself has an attractive church at its centre, with an imposing backdrop of the mountains forming the Portes du Soleil behind. It hosts a traditional weekly market in its adjacent town square throughout the year, at which you can buy the traditional Abondance cheese made locally in the valley, as well as other local produce.
As a ski resort Châtel is hard to beat. As part of the vast Portes du Soleil ski domain the area offers over 200 lifts and 650km of pistes in 12 interlinked resorts and 2 countries. It has an ideal combination of great snow, fast access to skiing and a near-limitless area to explore, as well as the charm and beauty of an authentic alpine village. Châtel is uniquely positioned within the Portes du Soleil, to provide some of the best skiing, for all levels, in Europe. With a 1.5hour transfer time from Geneva, Châtel is one of the most easily accessed and scenic resorts, yet it enjoys the benefit of easy access to the high altitude ski areas of the purpose built resort of Avoriaz, in just a few chair lifts. Add to this the fact that it doesn’t accommodate the extensive numbers of other resorts such as Morzine or Avoriaz, which means that those enjoying the mountains do so with much reduced lift queues than those experienced elsewhere.
The range of skiing in the Portes du Soleil is incredible. Whether tackling the daunting moguls of the Swiss Wall and taking in the awe inspiring sight of the Dents du Midi, to enjoying the jumps and rides of The Stash, cruising between the off piste/on piste areas of Combes and Cornnebois or beginning with the more gentle pistes of Super Châtel, there is something for all levels.
However Châtel isn’t just a great escape for winter. With its incredible mountains and lift network right on its doorstep, outdoor adventurers gravitate to Châtel as much for the summer as they do the winter.
Châtel is fast getting a name for itself with mountain biking enthusiasts. In addition to its stunning scenery, Châtel and the Portes du Soleil area of the French and Swiss Alps offer almost endless options for mountain biking (cross country, enduro/ freeride and downhill). Châtel alone has 90 kms of well-marked mountain bike trails and one of the best bike parks in Europe. However, it doesn’t stop there. Châtel’s central location in the Portes du Soleil – which includes 850km of marked trails through 14 villages (including Les Gets, Avoriaz, Morzine, Morgins, Champery, Torgon, Champoussin and Montriond), 8 permanent downhill tracks, 4 bike parks, and 23 lifts that are opened and usable with mountain bikes in the summer – means that Châtel is the perfect base for a fantastic mountain bike holiday.
It’s not just the road and mountain bikers that enjoy the mountains in Summer though. Walking in the Alps in the Summer really is like dropping yourself into a scene from The Sound of Music. Coming upon traditional accordion players practising in small bars at the top of a mountain hike is an experience not to be missed! The vast hiking trails and lift network mean that walking in the mountains can be enjoyed by everyone. Whether that is an extreme hiking expedition including stopovers at traditional refuge huts studded beside alpine lakes on longer routes, or something more family friendly, like a chair ride up to Lindarets to visit the Goat Village for lunch followed by a stroll to the waterfall and a dip in the river and a chair back up the mountain after.
Châtel is also fortunate enough to have the beautiful river Dranse flowing through it. In addition to offering incredible picnic sites and dipping experiences this means that Châtel is in a great position for white water enthusiasts, offering rafting, canyoning and hydrospeeding opportunities down the river. For those after more gentle water sports, paddle boarding can be enjoyed on the village lake, or you could just head for a swim and sunbath in the outdoors part of the village pool.
With the river Dranse providing white water rafting opportunities, the mountains acting as a playground for mountain biking, climbing and via feratta, there is something for everyone out there. And if that isn’t enough to satisfy the real adrenaline junkies in your group then, for those real thrill seekers, it is worth visiting Châtel just to experience the unique Fantasticable zipline. There are 2 Fantasticable lines stretching over Plaine Dranse which allow you to fly 240m above the valley in a superman position at up to 120km/hour! This is something not to miss!
The only question that remains is when to visit, summer, or winter? Or both…
If you are looking for a place to stay in Châtel, Chalet Isobel is a luxury self-catered chalet that provides a seamless mix of character and charm, with all the style and facilities of luxury modern living. Found on the Route de la Dranse, Chalet Isobel is very close to the restaurants and lifts of the Linga ski area providing easy access to the whole Portes du Soleil domain. Surrounded by the mountains of the Abondance valley, the chalet benefits from a beautiful sunny garden, with a hot tub and access down to the river at the bottom of the garden. Although self-catered it benefits from the comfort of having a bar/restaurant next door for those lazy apres ski moments!
More information on Châtel and Chalet Isobel click here!