From where to stay, where you’ll find the best ski runs & the top things to do in Portes du Soleil, this is my expert guide to skiing in Chatel!
As I stood at the top of Cornebois, I had the most gorgeous views of the French Alps all around me. Everyone who got off the chairlift would briefly pause at the view, almost as if hypnotised by the beauty, before lowering their ski goggles and heading off down the slopes with a cheeky grin on their faces.
Once I pulled myself away from the view, I followed them in the exhilaration of skiing again. I was pack in one of my happy places.
I can honestly say that the skiing in Chatel doesn’t get much better than this. Put it this way – you’re in for a skiing holiday of a lifetime!
If you’re thinking of booking a Chatel skiing holiday, then this is the blog for you.
In it I’ll detail exactly what the skiing is like here, what are the different runs and when is the best time to book.
I’ll also give you some of the best things to do in Portes du Soleil (the wider region in the French Alps), so even if it’s not all about the skiing for you, you’ll still have something fun to do! This includes things like ski touring in Abondance and dog sledding in La Chapelle d’Abondance, so there really is something for everyone.
So, if you’re looking at skiing in Portes du Soleil then look no further than Chatel. Hopefully this blog post will inspire you to visit this stunning part of the Alps.
Getting to Chatel
Châtel is located right on the French-Swiss border in the Haute Savoie region of the French Alps.
The drive takes around 1h:40m, but that does depend on the weather. When I arrived, there was over a metre of snow in 24 hours, so they didn’t have time to clear the roads yet.
Because of that, it took nearer to 3 hours driving from Geneva to Chatel. However, a few days later they had cleared all the roads, so it only took 1h:40m again. A lot of it does depend on the weather, so factor that into your timings.
A private taxi or minibus from the airport to Chatel will cost you approximately €180 to €240 (depending on the number of people you’re travelling with). The main taxis in Chatel is Taxi Rubin – I used these a few times while I was in Chatel and they provided a great service.
If you’re flying on a Saturday, there are two busses from Geneva Airport to Chatel with Altibus. Tickets costs 35 per person, and the buses run from 13:30 and 17:05. They return to Geneva every Saturday at 09:40 and 13:40. Unfortunately there aren’t any other busses other than the Saturday bus.
Finally, the other option is to catch a train from Geneva Airport to Aigle, a small town in Swizterland but close to the French border. From here, you can either catch a bus or a taxi to Chalet.
For the buses and train, you can check the latest times and prices here.
Obviously a taxi is the easiest option, especially if you can split the cost between you.
Because Chatel is only 1h:40m away from the airport, it does open up this region to a long ski weekend if you’re short on time. You could easily do three or four days here and still squeeze in a lot of skiing.
Skiing in Chatel
Now let’s talk about the skiing in Chatel!
Chatel prides itself on being a cute alpine village right in the heart of the French Alps. It’s not like the big ski resorts you’ll find in the Alps – it’s a much more authentic experience aimed at an older demographic and families.
Because of that, it’s super chilled out here. I felt that people really wanted to immerse themselves in the skiing and the beauty of the mountains as opposed to the apres ski. It made things a lot calmer I can tell you that!
If you’re a beginner or intermediate skier (like I am), then this is the place for you. I really do feel like they cater to beginner and intermediate skiers a lot more here which is nice.
In total, the whole area is split into four main resorts that make up the Espace Liberté ski area:
- Chatel (which in itself is split in two: Super Chatel and Linga/Pré la Joux. More on that below)
- La Chapelle d’Abondance
- Morgins (in Swizterland)
- Torgon (in Swizterland)
A ski pass here means you can ski at any of these four resorts – there are lots of interconnecting lifts between all four, so getting from slope to slope is very easy.
In total, there are over 130 kms of ski slopes in this region.
Espace Liberté stats:
- Total pistes: 130km
- Total slopes: 81
- Green: 13 (16%)
- Blue: 32 (40%)
- Red: 29 (36%)
- Black: 7 (8%)
- Lifts: 62
- Altitude: 1,202m – 2,202m
What I loved about the Chatel ski resort is it really caters towards all ages and abilities. Just skiing around here, I saw lots of families skiing together all the way through to people catching some big air in the snow park.
Beginner and intermediate skiing
If you’re a beginner or intermediate skier, then you’ll love the Super Chatel sector. This has the most green and blue runs, but also includes a snowpark, a DVA park, and a high speed run too.
This area is directly connected to the Swiss resorts of Morgins (via the Chalet Neuf ski lifts) and Torgon (via the Tour de Don ski lift).
I spent an amazing day skiing Super Chatel and all it had to offer. You can catch the gondola to the centre of the ski village, and from here there are a number of chairlifts and pullies to different parts of the mountain.
A couple of runs I that I absolutely loved in Super Chalet were:
Chermillon (red 9 & blue 14) – I’m not going to lie, the red 9 is one of the steepest pistes in Super Chalet, so if you want to avoid this then don’t take the chairlift to the top of Morclan. However, if you fancy a challenge then red 9 quickly turns into blue 14, a lovely run that gives you the most beautiful views of the French Alps.
Le Boude (blue 18) and La Combe (red 19) – If you keep following blue 14 down, it turns into le Boude (blue 18). I really enjoyed this section as it takes you through the trees – I always love a good tree section! From here, this turns in la Combe (red 19) which you can ski all the way down to the main village of Chalet.
Chalet Neuf (blue 12) – Another easy run is Chalet Neuf (blue 12). Again, this takes you through the trees towards Bec du Corbeau and Morgins. I really liked seeing the Swiss Alps from here.
I would say the beginner skiing is particularly good in Chatel. I learned to ski in Zermatt which is so much harder looking back on it.
Intermediate and expert skiing
If you’re looking for more intermediate/expert skiing, then take a look at Linga/Pre la Joux. This is where you’ll find the most red and black runs.
Personally, I preferred Linga/Pre la Joux over Super Chatel as I found the runs longer and more challenging – I do like to push myself when skiing!
I won’t go into too much detail, but here are a few runs I’d recommend:
Les Combes (red 28) – this is one of the longest runs on the mountains.
Pré la Joux (red 32) – this is a great top to bottom run that goes right through the heart of the village.
Les Rochassons (red 36)
If you’re looking for a fun run to end the day on or to take in the views, then La Belette (green 39) is a gem. This is a winding road through the trees that’s a joy to ski. It’s an easy run, but it’s super chill and just really fun. There are a fair few off-piste run offs too if you’re looking to make things a little more interesting!
Portes du Soliel
If you’re looking at skiing an even larger area, Chatel is a part of Portes du Soleil – this is the largest ski area straddling two countries (France and Switzerland) in the world.
In total, there are 12 linked ski resorts: 8 in France, and 4 in Switzerland. This means, if you get the Portes du Soleil pass, you have over 300 ski slopes to choose from in one unique ski pass. This gives you access to over 600 km of slopes – that’s a lot of skiing!
This pass is perfect for those of you looking to ski a number of different resorts over a week or two. Also, if you want to ski in both France and Switzerland, then you’ll need the Portes du Soleil ski pass.
How much does a Espace Liberté and Portes du Soleil ski pass cost?
As I said, there are two ski passes you can get – Espace Liberté which gives you access to 4 ski resorts, or the wider Portes du Soleil ski pass which gives you access to all 12 ski resorts in the region.
Obviously the Portes du Soleil ski pass is more expensive, but it does give you the biggest flexibility of skiing between all the different ski resorts.
If you’re looking at keeping costs down, try and ski over the weekend. This is often when ski holidays/packages have their changeovers (people usually fly in and out on a Saturday), so the weekends are usually a lot quieter than mid-week.
Personally, I think if you’re just skiing for a few days, then you can just stick with an Espace Liberté pass. However, if you’re staying for a week or longer, then I’d really recommend a Portes du Soleil pass to give you access to all the different resorts and so you can explore further afield.
If you have any questions about this, you can let me know in the comments below.
Ski hire in Chatel
As you’d expect in a good quality ski resort like Chatel, there are a number of ski hire places dotted around town.
However, if you’re looking for the convivence of not having to lug all your ski gear around town, I’d recommend hiring either from Pre la Joux Sports or Intersports.
Pre la Joux Sports is the closest shop to the Pre la Joux chairlift (the one for the most red/black runs), so you can hire from there, walk 50 metres, and then catch the chairlift. This means you don’t have to lug all your ski gear on the buses.
The other option is Intersports which is right next door to the Super Chatel gondola. This is the ski hire shop that’s closest to the gondola and slopes, so again, it means there aren’t any long walks across town carrying all your equipment!
Skiing with an ESF instructor
If you’re looking at improving your skiing in a short space of time, then I’d really recommend booking an ESF instructor for a few hours or for the day.
As I was all on my own and this was my first time skiing in Chatel, obviously I didn’t know where the best runs were or how everything was connected. That’s why I wanted to book an ESF instructor and it was a brilliant decision.
I was with Max (the only English instructor in the ESF academy, so there was no language barriers) all day, and he was such a good guide. Not only did get show me all around the different ski resorts, he gave me so many tips on improving my technique. I learned more from one day with him than I would’ve done skiing a week on my own. Also, it’s just nice skiing with someone else too!
For a one-to-one lesson, prices start from €53 per hour, or you can book half-day and full-day sessions too.
Things to do in Chatel
If you’re looking at things to do in Chatel that aren’t skiing, then I’d really recommend these activities.
I’ve done all of these activities and they are all amazing – they really made my trip to Chatel and Portes du Soleil even more special.
If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush like no other, then you’ll love Fantasticable. This is a zipline up in the mountains that takes you directly over the slopes.
I had never done a zipline in winter before (it was -10 the day I did it!), so it was such a unique experience for me. It was amazing seeing all the skiers on the slopes below too – it was such a cool perspective flying through the air.
The Fantasticable zipline is it’s next to the Des Rochassons chairlift, so it’s really easy to get to. Also, because I know you’re wondering, you get to do the zipline in full ski gear, so you don’t have to get changed or anything. They also send over your skis straight away so you can go skiing afterwards.
This really is a great way of adding in another adrenaline activity to break up the skiing for the day.
Dog sledding in Chapelle d’Abondance
If you’re looking for something a little more sedate, then go dog sledding in Chapelle d’Abondance.
Run by a company called A ton étoile, this is a great way of seeing the Adondance Valley while driving your own team of dogs.
The first 30 minutes you learn all about dog sledding. This means meeting and playing with all the dogs who are running with you. To be honest with you, if you’re a dog lover, this is probably the highlight – the dogs are so playful!
Then, once you’ve learned the ropes of dog sledding (literally), it’s time to jump on the back of the sled and go out with the dogs. These animals are born to run, and they love it in the cold, so all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the ride while they pull you along.
This really is a once-in-a-lifetime winter bucket list experience and I would really recommend it! The views through the valley really are something else.
Ski touring in Abondance
Let me say this now – this is up there with my favourite activities to do in Chatel.
One morning I went out with Julien, a ski touring instructor, and we went to the Abondance ski resort, a short 10-minute drive from Chatel.
I had never been ski touring before, so I was really keen to give it a go. Ski touring is when you put skins on the bottom of your skis and hike up the mountain instead of catching the cable car.
Then, once you’ve made it to the top – you guessed it, you take the skins off and then ski back down again. It’s like hiking and skiing all in one, and I absolutely loved it.
I’m not going to lie, it’s damn hard work at times, but that’s the whole point. And it just makes you appreciate the views so much more when you get to the top!
Dinner at Café Zeph
Café Zeph is always consistently voted as one of the best restaurants in Chatel, so you know you’re in very good hands here.
Being inside is like hanging out with your mates in a giant chalet. The atmosphere is great with everyone having nothing but good times. All the serving staff buzz around the restaurant too delivering hearty plates of food.
Because we were up in the mountains, I had to have the cheese fondue, and it was absolutely delicious. It was one of the best ones I’ve ever had, and the charcuterie board that came with it was great too.
Somehow I managed to find room for the crème brulee for dessert that they flambeed at the table. The whole meal was brilliant – the French classics done to perfection.
Go for apres ski at The Avalanche
If you’re looking for an apres ski place or somewhere to have a beer after a long day on the slopes, I’d recommend The Avalanche.
This place is usually busy from 4pm till late with live music, karaoke, sports, and they do food too.
Where to stay in Chatel
Chatel is one of the most authentic villages in Portes du Soleil that has really retained its alpine charm with wooden chalets dotted all over the slopes. The main village centre is hive of activity during winter and has extensive bus/ski lift links within a few steps of the shops.
Without a doubt one of the best places to stay in Chatel is Hotel Macchi. This place always gets rated as one of the top hotels with gorgeous views of the Abondance Valley.
A real bonus of staying here is the incredible restaurant and the use of the spa after a hard day on the slopes. It’s your quintessential French chalet up in the mountains, and it does not disappoint.
If you’re looking for something a little more budget friendly, then check out Hôtel Le Tremplin.
All rooms feature a balcony or terrace, a mountain or garden view, a flat-screen TV and a wardrobe. There’s also a sauna downstairs which is a nice addition.
A buffet breakfast is served every day in the breakfast room or on the terrace during summer. There’s also an on-site restaurant that gets very busy during the evenings too.
Down the valley from Chatel are numerous lodging options in La Chapelle-d’Abondance and Abondance. La Chapelle-d’Abondance has direct ski lift links into the Portes du Soleil via Torgon.
One of the best of these (and arguably one of the best hotels in Portes du Soleil) is Les Cornettes. Not only does this place have an amazing spa that you can enjoy, but it’s also got one of the best restaurants around too. The restaurant is always packed here as they offer a number of different menus. I ate here and it was absolutely delicious, probably my best meal that I have in Portes du Soleil.
This post was in association with Portes du Soleil showcasing some of the best things to do in Chatel. As always, all views and opinions are my own.
Are you planning on skiing in Chatel? If you have any questions at all, you can let me know in the comments below!
Planning on visiting this region in summer? Then check out my guide to the best summer resorts in the Alps!
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