Châtel is located in the massive Portes du Soleil ski area tucked behind Lake Geneva in the northwestern corner of the Alps and straddling France and Switzerland. It’s one of the many resorts that make up the area, but arguably the best placed of the lot and, without doubt, the most “French” of them all.
1 – Easy access
Châtel is conveniently close to Geneva Airport and typically driving times are about one and a half hours, although you can get there even faster than that. There’s a scenic drive around the lake to Thonon, and then you’re up into the mountains quickly – but the road is gentle rather than the hairpin-bend type. It’s also one of the first resorts you’d get to if driving from the UK and a great option when you have your car all week in resort. It’s also not too far from Verbier in Switzerland if you fancy a day trip.
2 – Accommodation options
Unlike some resorts, Châtel seems to have a good mix of chalets and self-catering accommodation – there are no big luxury hotels in town but plenty of catered chalets and upmarket apartments like the Chalets d’Angèle. New developments are appearing too, for example the Lion d’Or right next to the Super-Châtel lift station, which is giving the town a feel of an up-and-coming resort that’s growing in maturity while retaining its character.
3 – Yummy food
The ski area has some of the best on-mountain restaurants in the Alps, and many are far more reasonably priced than larger resorts. It’s hard not to find a place to eat wherever you are, with everything from the standard selfservice fare in restaurants such as the Plaine Dranse to more upmarket options like Le Crémaillère in the Village des Chèvres (Goat Village) tucked away in the Lindarets Valley. This area has one of the best collections of mountain restaurants in the Alps. If you’re a good intermediate skier or above, you could get over to the Pleney area of Morzine during the day and dine at La Vaffieu, where the views across to Mont Blanc on a clear day are amazing.
4 – Miles and miles of skiing
Actually it’s not just about quantity because the runs here are generally really interesting, and there are plenty of wooden slopes to provide shelter if the weather comes in. But if you’re into variety, then heading away from Châtel into Avoriaz and then over into the Swiss side to Les Crosets and Champéry ensures you don’t have to ski the same run in a day and during a week; even very good skiers will find they can explore a new area every day. A brand-new lift connection that’s been completed this winter now takes you from the Super-Châtel area across to Linga, meaning no more bus ride from town to get into the main system. This also completed the Portes du Soleil circuit without the need to use a bus.
5 – Great for learning
The local ESF ski school in Châtel has an excellent reputation, and the gentle, quiet slopes surrounding Super-Châtel are ideal for beginners and children. There’s a good nursery area at the top of the Super-Châtel cable car, but the best thing is the progression from there – easy blue runs criss-cross the forested border area between France and Switzerland, offering learners the chance to explore while not pushing themselves out of their comfort zone. You can even grab a coffee on the Swiss side and head back all on blue runs. There’s now a new blue down to the top part of Châtel, meaning that first-week skiers can get all the way down without taking the cable car.
Erna Low has seven nights on a self-catered basis, including return Eurotunnel with Flexiplus upgrade at the CGH Chalets d’Angèle, from £171pp (ernalow.co.uk/0207 584 2841). Ski rental from skiset.com
Rail travel: fares from London to Moûtiers start from £111pp standard class return via Paris or from £149 standard class return on Eurostar’s direct ski service. For bookings and more information, go to Voyages-sncf.com