Chatel – a great destination for family ski holidays

Chatel is a picturesque ski resort based at the heart of the Portes du Soleil – the largest linked ski area in the world. The resort caters for all the family which makes it an excellent choice for holidaying with children.

From as early as age 3, children can start their skiing in Chatel at “Les Marmottons” Kindergarten, run by the Chatel ESF team. Les Marmottons is situated within the main part of the village and is accessible by a regular free ski bus. It has a club house for refreshments and indoor activities, and a range of skiing terrain to suit all first time skiers. They are also well staffed with English speaking ski instructors and assistants to help get the little ones on their skis.

Children can progress through all the various levels of skiing at Les Marmottons and can proudly return home as fully fledged skiers clutching their award medals. There are a number of ski lifts from small rope tows to Poma drag lifts which teaches the children the basics of getting up the mountain and the snow coverage on the nursery slopes is guaranteed as they also have added snow making facilities and their own piste bashers.

The other ski schools in the village, the ESSI and the ESF, also offer great group lessons or private lesson options for children as young as age 4 at the two main Chatel ski areas – Pre la Joux and Super Chatel.

The ESSI is a small independent operation with English speaking instructors, offering small class sizes and easy meeting points.

The ESF are able to offer fantastic value for money on their group and private lesson packages and offer meeting points at Super Chatel and Pre la Joux. Both ski areas are easily accessed by car or by the free village ski bus.

The Super Chatel ski area is reached by gondola from the centre of the village allowing parents with little children and even babies to go up the mountain and feel like they are part of the skiing action. There are sledging areas at the top of the gondola next to the nearby beginner slopes where the snow can be enjoyed by all.

At Pre la Joux the main four-man chair lift is accessible to pedestrians and skiers alike allowing families and non skiers to go up and down the mountain by chair lift for lunch in one of the restaurants or for a hot chocolate or vin chaud on one of the sun terraces.

Families visiting Chatel find that very quickly they are able to find their way round the resort, skiing a range of slopes to suit all levels and ensuring that all members of the family feel like they can make the most of the ski area whilst still sharing quality time together.

Chatel – the best kept secret in the French Alps

If you know a bit about skiing, and someone asks you what the largest ski area in the world is, you would probably say the Three Valleys. Similarly, if you were asked where the best “snow sure” ski areas are, you might mention some of the glacier resorts such as Tignes and Val Thorens.

In both cases you would be wrong!

Currently, the largest linked ski area in the world is the Portes du Soleil area in the Northern French and Swiss Alps. The area benefits from North facing slopes and the highest average snowfall in the Alps, meaning that Avoriaz and Chatel tend to get some of the best snow conditions in Europe from the start to the end of the season. In fact, the lifts of Avoriaz often stay open until the first weekend in May. Not bad for a resort with no glacier who’s lifts only go up to 2500 m!

Avoriaz is a striking purpose built resort built on an impressive cliff top at 1800 m. Its architecture evokes a mixed response. It is extremely convenient for skiing and is right at the centre of the Portes du Soleil.

Of course, purpose built resorts are not for everyone, and if you would prefer a more traditional chalet style resort, then Chatel might be for you.

Chatel is built on the side of a sunny south/west facing slope so visitors staying in the village get beautiful views up and down the picturesque Vallee d’Abondance. However, the strength of Chatel lies in its spectacular North facing ski slopes of Linga & Pre La Joux. These areas have some of the most exciting and interesting terrain in the whole of the Portes du Soleil, and two chairlifts will take you up to Avoriaz in about 10 minutes or so.

The area gets a phenomenal amount of snow on an annual basis, and because of its aspect, it keeps it well. The domain often gets slated for its low altitude (1200 – 2500 m) but those in the know have long since realised that a high altitude resort is no good if the area doesn’t generally get much snow!

Chatel itself is a beautiful place to stay. All the buildings are chalet style and there are a number of original old farms still full of cows to be found in and around the village centre. There isn’t just skiing to keep holidaymakers entertained – the village has two cinemas, an ice rink, a lake where you can go ice diving, lots of fantastic bars & restaurants, spa facilities in a number of hotels and a whole list of non-ski related activities such as dog sledding, snow shoeing and paragliding.

One of the best things about Chatel is that it is relatively undiscovered. It attracts “people in the know” who want to avoid the crowds and find the most extensive skiing in the best areas.

For more information on this beautiful resort, you can visit the Chatel Tourist Office site or About Chatel.

The village also makes a spectacular destination in summer, but that needs a separate article dedicating to summer in Chatel.