A guide to Avoriaz
Avoriaz is one of the most distinctive Alpine ski resorts you will probably ever visit; perched high on a rocky promontory, it looks down over the cliff edge towards Morzine and beyond. Situated at the centre of the Portes du Soleil, it falls within the Chablais region of the Haute-Savoie.
The Portes du Soleil is renowned for being the largest international ski area in Europe, spanning both France and Switzerland and encompassing the eight French resorts of Abondance, Avoriaz, La Chapelle d’Abondance, Châtel, Les Gets, Montriond, Morzine, St Jean d’Aulps and the six Swiss resorts of Champéry, Champoussin, Les Crosets, Morgins, Torgon and Val d’Illiez.
The region embraces the best of the Alps, from quiet little hamlets to bustling resorts, picturesque rusticana to lively nightlife and extreme sports. Avoriaz is probably the most distinctive of the Portes du Soleil ski stations due to its futuristic design and dramatic clifftop location.
The Portes du Soleil region vies for the title "largest ski area in Europe," with 212 interconnected lifts servicing a mind-boggling 650 km of runs sprawling across 12 areas, eight in France and four in Switzerland. There are 273 marked ski runs as well as 216 km of cross-country trails. The Portes du Soleil region, therefore, offers a variety of skiing terrain to suit all abilities.
Circuits (taking approximately 2h 30 min) organised according to ski levels have been designed to give skiers access to the various areas. Itineraries (blue, red or black runs) are marked by a specific mountain animal such as a bear, white rabbit, jackdaw, ibex or reindeer!
Beginners are well served in both Châtel and Champery. In Châtel, a chair lift at Pre La Joux gives easy access to a high altitude beginner’s slope. In Champery, access is via the cable car from the centre of the village. In Avoriaz alone, there are 150km of lift served runs and 45km of cross country trails, as well as two fantastic snowparks. Avoriaz also has the best snow conditions in the Portes du Soleil, due to its high altitude. Read more about the Avoriaz and Portes du Soleil ski areas.
Food is a great part of life in the French Alps, and with all those outdoor pursuits to try you can rest assured it is all very hearty! Local specialities are often cheese or cream based (sometimes both…) featuring local meats, potatoes and green salad. The food in the Alps is often accused of being unadventurous and ‘lardy’ but there are plenty of delicious regional dishes besides the good old fondue. The emphasis is very much on fresh local produce and so cured and seasoned meats will have come from cattle grazed on Alpine pastures, the local cheeses of Abondance and Beaufort will be prevalent and. although there isn’t a coastline in sight, there is still a regional fish dish! The féra is caught in nearby Lake Geneva and is a popular dish served in many restaurants, alongside other lake fish such as Omble Chevalier (char), truite (trout), brochet (pike) and perche (perch).
Where is Avoriaz?
The most convenient airport for Avoriaz is Geneva. It’s about 100 kilometres away from the resort and will take you around 1.5 hours to travel up the valley by car. However, you have a number of different options if Geneva doesn’t work for you. The next best options are Chambery (1.5hrs), Lyon (2.5hrs) and Grenoble (3hrs) all of which are serviced by a number of the major airlines. Remember, before succumbing to a bargain flight into one of these airports, take a few minutes to investigate your onward transfer options; your flight may only cost you £50 but your transfer to resort could set you back €300 - €400!
Also see: Towns & Villages in Avoriaz
History & Culture in Avoriaz
Possibly the most modern resort in the Portes du Soleil, Avoriaz is instantly recognizable for its dynamic architecture based on the concept that in nature there are no right-angles. Jaques Labro built the Dromonts Hotel in March 1966, and his futuristic design set the tone for the rest of the resort. The architects of Avoriaz have embraced the bold lines and sharp angles of its cliff top location rather than the ‘chocolate box’ chalet design that we tend to associate with ski resorts. However, despite being built in the 1960’s (the same era when many ‘concrete jungle’ ski resorts were hastily constructed), the overall visual impact of the resort is surprisingly in keeping with its natural surroundings. The buildings are mainly fabricated from wood and slate and blend well into the colours of the cliffs. Many of the designers that have contributed to the development of Avoriaz have won prestigious awards, ie Académie des Beaux Arts, the Equerre d’Argent and a silver medal from the Architectural Académie. In 2003, Avoriaz was awarded a prize by the Minister of Culture for being one of the great heritage achievements of the 20th century.
The resort of Avoriaz 1800 has no traffic apart from sleighs, thus preserving the environment and ensuring your well-being. This means that you are not able to drive to your accommodation or around town, but parking is convenient and plentiful. All amenities are close to many of the apartments and residences and most of the accommodation is, quite literally, ski-in ski-out. Its car-free policy is enhanced by the addition of horse drawn sleighs and it is a common sight to see people sledging home after a night out!
Also see: History of Avoriaz
Events in Avoriaz
Avoriaz plays host to a number of winter music festivals which take over the resort and the pistes, namely Rock the Pistes and Snowboxx. In summer, the Pass'portes MTB festival is the biggest event for bikers, with the occasional Tour de France stage passing nearby.
Sights & Attractions in Avoriaz
Aquariaz has one of the best indoor pools and waterparks for miles around. It features waterslides and fun things to do for the whole family. On a bad weather day outside, head indoors and enjoy the tropical atmosphere!
Chalets in Avoriaz
Avoriaz offers a selection of chalets, from the traditional Alpine style to the more contemporary modern affair. Some are available over the summer months as self catered, whilst the majority are available during winter.
Apartments in Avoriaz
Avoriaz is a true ski-in-ski-out resort and most of the accommodation in Avoriaz is in apartments or aparthotels. These apart-hotels are popular in France and are run by the big holiday companies like Pierre & Vacances and Maeva. They combine the benefits of renting a self contained apartment, complete with living area and kitchen, with the facilities you would find in a hotel.
In the last few years, Avoriaz has expanded with new upmarket apartments and aparthotels being built. Now one of the best options is the L'Amara Complex, which boasts luxury apartments with relaxation and sports facilities all under one roof. The Residence Saskia Falaise is perched right on the edge of the cliffs of Avoriaz and the balconies here offer amazing sunsets.
Hotels in Avoriaz
There is a small selection of hotels in Avoriaz and they tend to be more apart-hotels. You'll find some 3 and 4 star accommodation and a Club Med resort.
Things to Do in Avoriaz
The Alps are not just for skiers and snowboarders. When all that snow melts, the landscape is transformed and a multitude of other activities become possible.
Avoriaz and the Portes du Soleil are a mecca for mountain bike enthusiasts. There is a plethora of marked trails and vertiginous downhill routes for you to test your nerves on, and every summer in June the region plays host to the Pass'portes du Soleil downhill mountain bike festival. This two day event gives everyone the chance to get involved with three routes of varying length and difficulty as well as a kids race; the most challenging being the ‘Classic’ 80km route that takes in 6200m of downhill biking. See our What’s On guide to Avoriaz for more details of when, where and how.
If that all sounds a bit too hardcore, there are plenty of more gentle routes throughout the region that you can tackle at your own pace, and the mountain trails are accessible via the ski lifts until the end of the first week in September.
For those of you who would rather enjoy the surroundings at a less frenetic pace, there are a multitude of other summer pastimes to enjoy: horse riding, walking, fishing, golf… With rolling pastures, fragrant forests and clear mountain lakes, there is a lot to be said for the Alps in summer.
Restaurants in Avoriaz
Avoriaz doesn't have a wide range of restaurants, most of the places here are Savoyard and and offer the mountain classics like tartiflette, fondue and raclette.
Through the centre of town there are slope side restaurants that have terraces on the Route de Crozats outside the Tourist Office. Here, there are some great places to enjoy a lunch time salad in the sun, and there are also some crepe stands if you prefer a mid-day snack without having to stop and sit down.
Nightlife in Avoriaz
Avoriaz has a good après ski scene and, as the town is small and pedestrianised, it is easy to wander from bar to bar. Most of the bars are down at the Portes du Soleil building. Here you'll find the Globe Trotters and Shooters Bar, which are particularly good at après ski, especially when the Dutch and Swedish are in town. There are some good bars down in the Falaise sector too like the Chapka and La Falaise.