When the snow started falling in November, we were sure that we would get a white Christmas in the mountains. However, when we arrived at our Chalet in the sleepy village of La Côte-d’Arbroz, just a 10 minute drive from Morzine, we discovered that barely any slopes were open. Les Portes du Soleil was basking in the sun and no snow was promised any time soon!
And so began our search for snow, leading us up the windy, mountain roads, to Avoriaz.
Avoriaz is a purpose-built ski resort perched over a dramatic cliff a few kilometres above the well-known resort of Morzine. Its architectural style is peculiar. Wooden 1960’s-multi-story-blocks sprout from the mountain. It sort of reminds me of Monaco, but with alpine textures.
On the bright side, it is entirely free of car traffic. Horse-drawn carriages serve as taxis to get ski-clad visitors from one location to another. The coolest thing about Avoriaz is that if you stay in the village, you can clip on your skis and hop out onto a slope straight our of the hotel lobby.
Skiing in Avoriaz
We bought our ski passes online and hired our skies through Alpineresorts.com having them ready for pick up on the same day. They do great offers, where you can get a pass for the entire weekend for 55 EUR! A bargain for the quality of the resort.
Wet get up early, have a rich breakfast and drive up to the ski lifts. At the top, the snow is the same electric-blue as the sky. The pistes are empty. Besides a group of kids who dash down the mountain after their instructor like wild ducklings, there are very few people around.
My skis follow the curve of the mountain and I come out onto a golden plane, where the snow-covered slope gleams like caramel in the rising sun. The crunch of the snow under my skis and the wind singing in my ears are the only sounds I hear as I make my way down the piste. It’s around 9 in the morning and I am skiing on the doorstep of the sun.
Given that there is barely any snow, only 21 out of the 52 pistes are open. You really feel it around 11 a.m. when the families, ski students and hungover groups of friends hit the slopes. It feels less like skiing and more like running to catch a train in the London underground.
I do believe, with a glimmer of hope to return, that this place is a gem when the snow falls. The lift system is world-class and you can explore several valleys with their wide runs, mostly blues and reds, before skiing back to the village for a long lunch and après-ski.
Eating in Avoriaz
Head to La Brasserie for comfortable seating in the sun, a buzzing atmosphere and their hearty daily special. The day we went, they served the duck parmentier. My heart sank when the waiter told us that there is a chance they have run out! Thankfully, we got the last two, which we thoroughly enjoyed with a carafe of house red. In no rush to get anywhere, we lunched for two hours, enjoying the sunshine and people-watching, as the sounds of hoofs and bells and clinking glasses rang through the crisp air.
While skiing, we discovered a Crêperie mid-way down the highest peak. It is owned by a sweet middle-aged man, who generously pours mulled wine as his wife makes fresh crêpes and their daughter runs the till. It is the perfect place for a pit-stop to fill up and liven up after a few hours of skiing.
Les Fontaines Blanches
On the 31st December, we tried the annual festive buffet at Les Fontaines Blanches. The spread complete with oysters, foie gras, a salad bar, a hot-out-the-oven beef wellington and a delicious selection of deserts was a stunner! Another long lunch, accompanied by a bottle of white Alsace. It was an absolute feast!
Fondue At Home
Obviously, no stay in the mountains is complete without a fondue session.
We decided to make the fondue ourselves, in the comfort of our warm chalet. For an easy way to make fondue, try this recipe. Accompany by a side of young potatoes boiled with the garlic clove that you rub the fondue pot with, and pair with a bottle of rich white wine.