Chatel Ski Resort Guide
Chatel is a charming French ski resort with a traditional and relaxed atmosphere. Located in the scenic Dranse valley, Chatel is an old Savoyard village with a history revolving around farming. This cattle farming tradition continues today with around 30 working farms producing milk for the world-renowned Abondance cheese.
The same lush, high meadows used by the local dairy industry have also been a key factor in developing Chatel as a winter sports destination. These grass-covered slopes hold snow particularly effectively meaning only a minimum covering of snow is needed to produce a viable piste. Chatel has its own range of mostly intermediate ski slopes, but the major draw for skiers & snowboarders is that it is part of the Portes du Soleil ski area. This huge domain links 12 ski resorts and provides more miles of pistes than most holidaymakers could hope to cover in a week.
Chatel’s development into a modern ski resort has been relatively sympathetic and in-keeping with the older generation of buildings. Much of the newer building work has been on unpretentious chalet-style accommodation which are in keeping with the traditional farming structures. The lack of apartments in Chatel means ski holidays will mostly be in smaller independently-run hotels and chalets. There are also very few package holiday companies operating in Chatel – which is either a plus or a minus depending on how you feel about ski tour operators.
The construction of additional accommodation has meant that the village now sprawls along the main road coming through the valley from Lake Geneva. A free bus service links the areas together, but it is far from the car-free centre which other resorts offer. Chatel is right on the Swiss border and means a short transfer time from Geneva airport which is a definite bonus for international travellers. On weekends the resort can get busy with visitors making the short journey from Geneva and other local towns.
Chatel’s relaxed pace makes it a perfect alternative to the larger French ski stations like Chamonix or Morzine. This makes it a perfect location for families or adult groups looking for a quieter ski holiday. Having said that, apres-ski is known for being livelier than in many other smaller resorts and there are many busy bars in Chatel plus a nightclub. Local amenities include a good range of shops and restaurants plus a bowling alley and cinema.
Skiing in Chatel
Chatel’s local ski area is extensive and includes 73 pistes with a total length of 83km. This mostly intermediate terrain is split across two distinct local sectors heading in opposite directions from the village itself. The Linga gondola takes skiers off towards Avoriaz and the French side of the Portes du Soleil, while the Super Chatel gondola whisks you towards the resorts of Morgins, Torgon and the extended Swiss sector.
Chatel village sits at a relatively low altitude of 1,200m but its ski lifts take you as high as 2,200m meaning guaranteed snow cover as well as runs with a vertical descent of up to 1,000m. As you head upwards from the resort thickly forested slopes make way for open snow fields, and then rocky mountain tops above them. All of it is particularly scenic. There is one permanent red run down to the resort from beside the Super Chatel gondola which is a lovely way to finish the day for intermediate skiers and above.
The proximity of Chatel to Lake Geneva serves to create a microclimate in this area which is of great benefit to the local ski resorts. The large expanse of relatively warm water coupled with cooler high-altitude slopes of the nearby Alps aids cloud formation. Chatel and nearby resorts therefore have a much better snowfall record than their modest altitude would normally allow.
For many skiers & snowboarders the biggest draw of Chatel is its link to the huge Portes du Soleil ski domain. Made up of 285 pistes offering 650km of potential skiing across both France and Switzerland, it is arguably the largest lift-linked ski area in the world. Chatel’s location forms a break in the linked circuit with a frequent bus service shuttling people from one end of the village to the other. Those who stay in Chatel itself have the benefit of being able to choose which area they want to ski in before they set off each morning.