Photo credit: © JF-Vuarand / Châtel Tourisme
Chatel has such good connections to the other Portes du Soleil ski resorts, it’s easy to overlook the quality of its own slopes. Closest to the village is the Super Chatel sector, shared with the neighbouring Swiss resorts of Torgon and Morgins. This consists mostly of gentle blue runs suitable for beginners and intermediates who like easy cruising pistes, but with a few challenging blacks. Chatel’s other ski sector, Linga-Pre la Joux, has some green and blue pistes but the reds are noticeably steeper here and there are good off-piste opportunities too (guide recommended). There is also a third small, isolated and often deserted ski area just 5.5 kms down the road at Chapelle d’Abondance which is easily reached by bus for those who like gentle, uncrowded, tree-lined blue and red runs.
The Linga sector is the start of the anti-clockwise Portes du Soleil circuit. Keep skiing on it, and you go to Avoriaz, then (if you resist the temptation to veer off towards Morzine and Les Gets) you move onto Champery, Les Crosets, Champoussin, Morgins and back to Chatel. If you want to do the circuit the other way around you start at Super Chatel and head towards Morgins. Although both circuits can be completed in a day, there is a lot of skiing off to the sides and alternative routes to explore so repeat visits are recommended. The combined ski area is one of the largest in the world, and whilst there are sections that will test even experts (most notably the Swiss Wall between Avoiaz and Champery), the basic circuits are accessible to intermediate skiers.
For beginners, both Super Chatel and Linga have nursery slopes. There are plenty of ski instructors and ski schools to choose from. Ultimate-Ski partner CheckYeti lets you compare lessons and prices and book online.
When you're not on the slopes, Chatel is an attractive place to stay. Surrounded by mountains and set among working farms, the village has an authentic core. Although it grows bigger every year, the newer developments on its edges or in outlying suburbs like Vonnes, Petit Chatel or Villapeyron have mostly been built sensitively. (Some can be pretty luxurious too: the 4 star CGH Les Chalets d'Angele residence offers spacious apartments with access to an indoor swimming pool, kids room, sauna, hammam and concierge service.) And overall Chatel is good value and a fun place to spend time in. Its main clientele is French families so it's not a raucous resort, but there are enough bars and restaurants to keep most people entertained.
Getting to Chatel is relatively easy - it's about 1 hour 45 minutes drive from Geneva Airport. GVA Transfers do private, door to door transfers for individuals and groups of any size.
But Chatel is not perfect and its weakness is its altitude. The resort is located at only 1200m and almost all the skiing here and throughout the Portes du Soleil is below 2000m. That's just not high enough to be snowsure. Mid-season there is rarely a problem but holidays in December and April are much riskier, unless you're booking last minute and know there is plenty of snow.
Chatel Ski & Snowboard Hire
There is a resonable choice of ski equipment rental shops - SKISET has four including one at Villapeyron and one at Petit Chatel, and they give discounts of up to 50% if you book online via this link. ALPINRESORTS.com also works with several ski hire shopes in and and around Chatel and they can secure ski hire discounts of up to 60% if you book here.
Chatel Pros & Cons
+ Good local slopes for all standards
+ Part of the vast Portes du Soleil ski area
+ Good links with other resorts
+ Attractive French mountain village
+ Good value
- Too low to be snowsure.