Space age Avoriaz may be at the heart of the massive Portes du Soleil ski area, but its modern architecture and high altitude location provide a very different ski-in, ski-out experience to the other resorts to which it’s linked by lift.
At 1800m Avoriaz dominates the valley above Morzine and its modernist buildings seem to grow straight out of the sheer cliffs below. It was designed in the 1960s by architects who wanted to make a statement and their fantasy-inspired, wood-clad, angular apartment blocks certainly achieved that, but if you want traditional Alpine charm, you should stay in other Portes du Soleil resorts such as Champery, Chatel or Les Gets.
Unlike them, Avoriaz was purpose-built at altitude on a slope and offers plenty of ski-in/ski-out accommodation, with pistes and lifts criss-crossing the resort. It's also car-free: visitors coming by car either park at the edge of town or underneath it. Ski transfer services from Geneva airport are therefore an easier way to get to the Avoriaz than hiring a car. And for a major ski resort, it's very compact, with everything you need just a short walk or glide away. Whilst this is wonderfully convenient - it's said that you never have to walk uphill to a ski lift in Avoriaz - there are some drawbacks. For non-skiers, there is less to do than lower down the valley in Morzine, and prices tend to be higher (although Avoriaz is still cheaper than other high altitude resorts like Val d’Isere or Courchevel).
But for keen skiers and boarders, what matters most is that Avoriaz is at the centre of the Portes Du Soleil with over 600 kms of runs to choose from, varying from gentle blues to steep slopes like the Hauts Forts World Cup run or the infamous Swiss Wall, both of which are only a lift or two away from the centre of Avoriaz. And when snow falls on the Portes Du Soleil, it tends to fall heaviest, and stay in good condition longest, on Avoriaz's relatively high and mostly North-facing slopes.
There are plenty of ski rental shops but prices are quite high if you simply walk into the nearest shop when you arrive. Some hotels and tour operators have recommended shops, but they rarely offer the best value even when they offer a token discount.
SKISET has 10 outlets in Avoriaz, so one should be very close to your accommodation, and it will give discounts of up to 50% if you book online here.
ALPINRESORTS.com also works with several shops in the resort and can get you discounts of up to 60% if you book online in advance here.
+ Local slopes suit all standards
+ Good lift connections to the rest of the huge Portes Du Soleil area
+ Ski-in, ski-out convenience
+ Family-friendly (car free, good facilities)
+ The resort itself has a good snow record
+ Tree-lined skiing nearby when visibility is poor
- Mostly short runs
- When the Portes Du Soleil lacks snow, Avoriaz gets crowded
- More expensive than other Portes Du Soleil resorts
- Modern architecture divides opinions
- Avoriaz's top lift reaches 2,466m - and that's only high by Portes Du Soleil standards.
The area can be divided into three sectors: Les Hauts Forts, principally reds and blacks and the highest skiing in the area, Chavannette, the sunniest and generally most popular sector and the Lindarets valley which separates Avoriaz from Chatel. The one drawback is that the ski area can become congested during busy periods, although Avoriaz has invested heavily in high capacity, high speed lifts at the bottlenecks to reduce this. It's also generally possible to avoid the worst crowds by taking alternative routes: use the Cubore chair and the drag lift on the other side to access Switzerland, use the chairs rather than the cable car to ascend from Prodains, and the Brochaux chair rather than the main Lindarets lift back from the valley.
There is good terrain within the Avoriaz area for advanced & off-piste skiers, intermediates and beginners, but advanced and intermediates will want to go over the ridge to explore Champery & les Crosets, or down the mountain and into Morzine and across to Les Gets and the wider Portes du Soleil.
First week skiers have a bigger area than you'd normally expect. Starting out on the Avoriaz plateau, as you gain confidence you can progress onto the wide sweeping blues of Super Morzine, Arare or down into the Lindarets valley. There are so many options that even a group of mixed experience should be able to arrange meeting points that will generally suit everyone.
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Once you're comfortable skiing reds and blues, the whole area really opens up. There are virtually limitless choices as to how you plan your day and you can explore the skiing for weeks without ever skiing the same runs twice. Particularly good choices are Super Morzine, the runs to Lindarets or over into Chatel and the Linga valley (you will need a Portes du Soleil lift pass). Ultimately though, the area is about scale so why not try one of the "circuits" - well marked day long ski safaris taking you through the whole system.
Advanced skiers benefit from the size of the area as there's great red and black skiing in every corner of the Portes du Soleil. Around Avoriaz head for the steeps of les Hauts Forts, where the bumps on Machon are steeper for a shorter distance than the infamous Wall. As well as the official runs look out for the off-piste. If you trverse across the Les Crozats de la Chaux, you can descend through the trees to Les Prodains. But be careful, it's steep and there can be avalanches,
Then its time for the Swiss Wall itself, which is just over the border in Champery. It's one of the steepest and bumpiest runs in Europe and deserving of multiple descents. It's effectively a bowl with South East, East and North East facing parts so if you traverse at the top, you can get very different experiences from different routes. If the snow is good you can keep going off-piste, heading slightly to the right until you join the long Grand Paradis red run, which is very enjoyable in its own right.
If you enjoy bumps, the former drag lift track up from Les Lindarets is now a long bumps run with a near perfect gradient. Watch out though, as once you're halfway down there's no alternative but to continue.
Then its time for more off-piste. A guide can show you the descent fron the Fornet chairlift in Avoriaz to L'Erigne. It needs good snow though.
The Les Crosets ski area in Switzerland which is part of the Portes du Soleil easily accesible from Avoriaz's lifts, is basically one big semi-circular bowl, with plenty of between-the-pistes freeriding potential for advanced skiers if they both know what they are doing and can see what they are doing. There are some good steep couloirs but take care (or better still, take a guide) because there are rocks, cliffs and hidden gullies here as well. When it's time to leave the area, there is a good, North-facing ungroomed route (sometimes shown on maps as a black piste) from Pointe de l'Au which joins the long blue from Col des Portes du Soleil, down to Morgins.
Further afield, the Tete de Linga and Cornebois area in Pre la Joux (part of Chatel), the Pointe de Nyon and Chamossiere in the Morzine sector, and the North face of Mont Chery on the far side of Les Gets , are all good fun, and you can get to them and back from Avoriaz within a day..
Avoriaz actively encourages new skool snowsports. Three Snowparks and the Snowcross zone mean that boarders and free riders will feel very welcomed. Out of the park most of the lifts are chairs making life very easy.
Avoriaz, in common with much of the Portes de Soleil, has a well deserved reputation for great mountain dining. The Lindarets valley has an entire village of good restaurants although the Terrasse merits attention for an excellent non-Savoyarde menu while the Cremaillere simply offers a great menu du jour each day.
The Station itself is so central to the skiing that it's quite normal to eat in the village and again it's difficult to go wrong. Otherwise there are mountain restaurants sprinkled liberally through the entire skiable area.
Click on the links for more information on the mountain restaurants serving other Portes du Soleil ski resorts of Les Gets and Morzine.
With its wood clad buildings and mimetic architecture blending with the surrounding rocky cliffs Avoriaz has a unique atmosphere which is exploited by the annual SciFi and fantasy film festival. Also unique is the ability to get around much of the village through a network of tunnels and lifts to avoid the elements. Once outdoors there are a few streets but the layout is quite simple. Bars, restaurants and shops look out onto the thoroughfares with the majority in the main square. Almost all of Avoriaz's accommodation is conveniently located by the side of a piste.
In Avoriaz, many of the restaurants used at lunchtime will be equally frequented at night. For a more special and international experience, the Hotel Les Dromonts has a less formal brasserie and an impressive restaurant that offers upmarket evening dining. La Table du Marché and La Réserve both have extensive menus and winelists; however if you're after something more casual and not quite so pricey Les Fontaines Blanches Le Crépy, Le Douchka and La Cabane are all recommended.
There are quite a few bars in Avoriaz. The Place has live music and is always packed with people preparing to hit the town after a day on the slopes. The Tavillion and Globetrotters bars are more relaxed and not so animated. If you're after a trendy bar to hang out in try Shooters. The best nightclub is Le Choucas frequented by locals and tourists alike.