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Skiing in Avoriaz

LinderetaIf you want one of the largest skiing areas in the world at your disposal with pistes for every level, and amongst the best snow found in Europe then Avoriaz could be your place. At 1800 m it is higher than many other resorts and therefore has a good chance of decent ski conditions when others may be dealing with slush. It's an attractive resort which was 'designed' in the 1960's, rather than being thrown together. From its dramatic shelf position its possible to ski 130 km of pistes in the Avoriaz area alone, known as Les Portes du Soleil, which links France and Switzerland.

The nearest airport is Geneva from where we crossed the border to France with a transfer company called Skiidy Gonzales, which should take about 1.5 hours. Look out for a flamboyantly mostacheod Scot at the wheel.

What I hadn't realised until arrival is that you are dropped at the entrance to the resort and from there there are no more regular vehicles.  Much as I didn't appreciate that fact as we dragged our bags through the deep snow to our nearby apartment, it really does add a lot to the magic of Avoriaz once you are settled in.  (We later realised that cart-sleighs can be hired for €1, in the manner of a shopping trolley.)

usskiIf your accommodation is further into Avoriaz you can take a snow mobile transfer or the fairytale horse-drawn sleighs.  You will regularly hear the horse's tinkling bells as you wonder the white streets. 

Our wooden balconied apartment block was in the Falaise area - perched virtually on a cliff edge we later realised when seeing the buildings from higher up the mountain.  This is hardly surprising when you realise that 'falaise' translates as 'cliff'.  From some apartments the view across the frosted valley and the Alps is sublime. This zone was well located for reaching everything we needed, whilst not being far from the the heart of it all.  The drop off point, supermarket, some restaurants, a bakery, ski hire and our accommodation agent (Pierre & Vacances) were all within a few paces. Once we discovered the route to the main ski lifts, after a tricky slide through the ski school on our first attempt, we were away.

The key is to get some distance from the queues and beginners to the higher, less-crowded slopes, with packed lunch on hand, and not return to the congestion until the end of the day.  There is nyeplenty of scope here for getting right away. One day we covered at least 40 miles of wonderful pistes into Switzerland. If you don't get too engaged in the apres-ski, a 9 am start is worth it. We were there in peak holiday season, but once the busiest days had passed things became more relaxed.

There's never a dull moment for the children with the water-park Aquariaz (with slides, hoses, in-door river and pool, plus outdoor jacuzzi), and ice skating and sledging.  For New Year's Eve the resort kindly put on child-friendly entertainment early on with the ski instructors leading the way with large red torches and culminated in a Gangnam Style flash mob of kids in the central plaza, plus impressive fireworks.

We did venture out at midnight as well for a raucous countdown to the New Year, but went home after the event (as the crowd seemed to be gathering un-child-friendly momentum) much to the disappointment of the teenagers present. I lost some Aunty points for having used all my energy on the ski slopes and leaving nothing for continuing the party. But it was definately happening if you wanted it.

Adult fun also extends to horse-drawn skiing, riding a husky sledge and for the very daring, para-gliding with skis.

Top Tips

If wanting to book the British ski school (Avoriaz Alpine Ski & Snowboard School) at peak times do so well in advance. I heard unfavourable reports about putting english-speaking children into the french classes. Unfortunately it was fully booked when we tried and we spent the whole week skiing with 5 children, which swung between being an amazing buzz to tantrums (and that was the grown-ups!)

swisswallIf tackling The Swiss Wall - a vast moguled orange (too difficult to be classified in the normal way) - be warned! my brother-in-law described it as the most terrifying thing he'd done in his life.

A quality, lively restaurant in the centre of Avoriaz, with varied menu, was Restaurant Les Fontaines Blanches - I recommend it.

You may not need an all-zone pass each day of your holiday, but pre-booking did seem to work out reasonably. You could book passes daily for the areas you plan to ski and build up points which may give you a free day. Check out options on this website - www.skipass-avoriaz.com

If pre-booking your skis, you may find the shop is in an inconvenient location to your accommodation. Weigh up your budget concerns with the hassle factor.

We liked staying in the Falaise area. Apartments for 5 cost over €1000 for a week in the peak period.