DAY 5 – Châtel and La Chapelle d’Abondance
Resort height: 1,200m
Snow range: 1,100-2,200m
The most fabulous breakfast at Hôtel Macchi is followed by a brief tour of the village. Chatel is a low-rise chalet-style resort and quieter than its Portes du Soleil neighbours and well suited to families and couples. Savoyard character and charm are plentiful here with local restaurants and bars and a calmer après-ski.
The skiing in Châtel is separated into two distinct areas, Barbossine-Super Châtel and Linga-Pre la Joux, with the former connecting to the Swiss face and the latter heading over to Portes du Soleil’s Avoriaz and beyond. We spent the morning skiing at the Super Chatel lift and skied in the Morgins area – very close to the Franco-Swiss border, then headed to La Chapelle d’Abondance via the télécabine La Pantiaz.
There are some lovely gentle runs through the trees around Châtel, perfect for beginners to intermediates. And superb black runs at Super-Châtel and Linga – linked by chairlifts – for advanced skiers.
For those who prefer a more gentle pace, the area offers 40km of snowshoe trails. Non-skiers are well catered for with plenty of walking trails, two cinemas and a fabulous aquatic centre, located next to the Hôtel Macchi. The brave – or foolhardy – may want to try the Fantasticable – a 1,200m zip wire at the top of the Rochassons chairlift. Apparently, it reaches speeds of up to 100km/h.
Many Châtellans (inhabitants of Châtel) continue to work in agriculture today (about 30 families in all), farming several hundred Abondance cattle, producing the famous Abondance cheese (AOC since 1990). We visited cheesemaker Mme Vuarand at her farm – a cheesemaking family for four generations who even supply Harrods in London. The flavour is divine – and apparently for 8kg cheese they need 100 litres of milk. Inside for the winter her family’s dairy herd is non-stop manufacturing.
Recommended restaurants in the village are the Le Fiacre – we loved it – also Le Macchi at the Hotel Macchi, La Poya and La Fleur de Neige. Great lunch stops in the mountains are Changabang at the top of Les Prodains cable car Chez Nannon (Troncs Express chairlift) and the unique La Paika (Vorosses piste). This former shepherd’s hut serves up fabulous steaks and seafood.
Suffice to say I put on weight with all the local indulgence but what a pleasure! A Portes du Soleil ski safari is such a great way of experiencing different resorts in France and Switzerland. Ideal for beginners, intermediates and expert skiers and snowboarders as the Portes du Soleil has 32 challenging black runs.