With the lack of snow here in Scotland this winter it was great to be able to go skiing at Avoriaz in the French Alps this week to experience some superb conditions. To be fair, the Alps hasn’t exactly had much snowfall so far this season either; by all accounts the slopes were pretty bare until into January. But 50cm of new snow fell the week before last which meant for great skiing this week. And to cap it all, we had cloudless, windless weather on five out of six days.
I took my 12 year old son to Avoriaz, a purpose-built resort at 1800m on the French/Swiss border. Avoriaz is actually celebrating its 50th birthday this year – and has aged well. All of the buildings are constructed using similar wood and wooden slate materials which gives a soft uniformity that blends in well with the surrounding cliffs and mountains. Avoriaz is also car-free, with only the occasional skidoo and horse-drawn sledges to dodge. Last year we skied in Flaine, also built in the late ’60s but in a modernist, concrete design … which has its own charm but is not nearly as attractive fifty years on.
We saved a lot of cash by booking everything ourselves. The apartment, booked via a local property agent, was great and occupied a superb location looking down the valley towards Morzine. The panorama below was taken from our balcony.
Avoriaz is part of the Portes du Soleil ski area, a huge area linking 12 separate villages straddling the French/Swiss border. With the relatively mild and very sunny conditions we stayed high and still only sampled a fraction of the available runs. The crisp, dry air gave superb views, here to the aptly-named Dents du Midi (3257m).
The Portes du Soleil boasts something like 70 mountain restaurants. It makes such a difference to be able to have lunch and snacks out on the hill, and to sunbathe over a lazy lunch in a deck chair. I couldn’t help comparing the experience with that of Scotland, where the height of culinary tradition amounts to a hastily-eaten pie in a crowded cafeteria complete with steamed-up windows.
Another contrast with Scotland was the lack of wind last week. I guess this is the effect of a continental climate, contrasting markedly with the familiar blowy weather that greeted us off the plane back in the UK.
My son was keen to say that he’d been able to ski over the border into Switzerland (it’s kind of cool to say that !). The Swiss side was quieter, the buildings and villages more traditional and the scenery even more stunning.
We spent a lot of time on the blue runs near Les Lindarets, skiing in among the trees. These long runs gave great skiing down towards the traditional wooden chalet restaurants in the valley.
The sun streamed into our apartment every afternoon. In fact, it was so warm we didn’t have any heating on all week and had to open a door or window to cool it down at the end of every day. It was great to watch the sunset over the mountains beyond Morzine from our balcony before venturing out around Avoriaz to see the trees and nearby cliffs lit up.