Champery is one of the oldest, and prettiest, Swiss ski resorts. Part of the large but low lying Portes du Soleil ski area, it appeals to skiers who value charm and character above ski-in, ski-out convenience.
Nestled at the base of the Dents du Midi and close to the equally scenic Dents Blanches, Champery is more famous for its "chocolate box" looks than its pistes. One reason for this is that there are no ski slopes within easy walking distance: instead skiers commute to and from the skiing at Planachaux, via either Champery's iconic cable car or the fast chairlift at Grand Paradis which is a short free bus ride away. Whilst this is slightly inconvenient (and expensive for first time skiers who have to buy a lift pass just to access nursery slopes) it helps preserve an attractive, relaxed, village-like ambience which is very different from that of a purpose-built ski resort.
At Planachaux skiers and boarders will find a small ski area, with something for everyone from near beginners to experts who can test themselves on the infamous Swiss Wall. And there's more of the same on the other side of the Croix de Culet at Les Crosets, a tiny modern resort clustered around a crossroads in the lift system that's easily reached from Champery, on blue or red pistes.
The combined Champery-Les Crosets ski area will keep most skiers busy for a couple of days, but it's just a small fraction of the huge Portes du Soleil ski domain. From the top lifts at Champery, you can ski into Avoriaz in France and then onto Morzine, Chatel or Les Gets. Alternatively you can stick to the Swiss-side and meander northwards through Champoussin to Morgins. In total, there are nearly 200 lifts and 300 pistes, and that should be more than enough for anyone.
Champery's apres-ski scene is mostly hotel-based and tends to be quiet rather than raucous. There are several excellent restaurants and a few late night clubs and bars. Champery also offers a wider range of activities for non-skiers than most ski resorts and is relatively easy to get into and out of by car or train.
Although Champery's skiing is high by Portes du Soleil standards, it's all below 2300m and much of it faces South East. Therefore it's not snowsure, so booking an early or late season ski holiday well in advance is risky.
+ A pretty resort in a scenic setting
+ Part of the huge Portes du Soleil area
+ Easy to reach / "Weekend-able"
- Too low to be snowsure
- No runs back to the resort
- Poor choice for absolute beginners.
Champery is not a ski-in ski-out resort. The pistes are above it at Planachaux and to reach them it's necessary to ride the Telepherique cable car up from the village in the morning or take a bus to the Grand Paradis fast Chairlift.
Apart from the two red runs descending to the bottom of the Grand Paradis chair, the local slopes are above the treeline and mostly between 2000m and 2300m. They tend to face East or South East so are at their best mid-morning.
Some of Champery's blue pistes are actually quite steep, most notably the ones beside the Ripaille Drag Liift. Beginners and nervous intermediates who want a gentle start should initially stick to the area around the Planachaux, Louis and L'Echereuse lifts.
Those actively seeking out the toughest challenges should warm up on the short and sweet red run beside the Marcheuson drag lift. Then if they are brave enough, advanced skiers can head for the Swiss Wall under the Chavanette chair. This is a steep and usually heavily mogulled run, marked as an ungroomed itinerary on the map. If you lose your nerve when you're at the top, you can ride the lift down.
Much gentler, much longer and much more beautiful, is the Grand Paradis red run which curves around the Pointe de Rapaille red run and descends all the way down to the bottom of the Grand Paradis lift. It's a lovely and popular way to end the day but it's even nicer in the morning when you may well have it all to yourself. There are also various off-piste variants that a guide can show you.
Les Crosets is reached from Champery either directly from the Champery-Croix de Culet cable car (red or blue routes down), or via the Pauvre Conche lift at L'Echereuse which accesses a blue piste. Again, just like in Champery, the blue runs here are steeper than in other resorts. For intermediate level skiers and above, that makes them more fun, but beginners might need some help.
From Les Crosets, lifts span outwards in a semi circle. At their top you either return to Les Crosets on North-East, East and South-East facing red or blue pistes, or you cross over the respective ridge and ski onto Planachaux, Ardent (a small valley, technically part of Morzine but with lifts connecting it to Chatel and Avoriaz), Champoussin or Morgins. Experts who want something more challenging than a red will probably want to explore between the pistes, on both sides of these ridges. There are some steep couloirs (and even steeper cliffs, so watch out) but they are not always skiable so hiring a guide is recommended.
Champery is also a gateway into the wider Portes du Soleil area. including Avoriaz which is just over the Pas du Chavanette from Champery and often has the best snow. Advanced skiers will also relish it excellent black runs above Les Prodains.
The Swiss side has less variety to it - it's almost entirely composed of shortish blue runes above the tree line which are perfect for less confident intermediates.
Avoriaz is the first stop on the clockwise Portes du Soleil circuit which takes in Ardent, Pre la Joux and Linga (part of Chatel's ski area), Chatel itself, Morgins and Champoussin, before returning to Les Crosets and Champery. It's hard work completing it in a day, but certainly possible, and good fun for strong fit skiers.
The anticlockwise Portes du Soleil circuit is better for weaker intermediates because you can skip out all of Champoussin (instead take the lovely long blue run from the Col des Portes du Soleil all the way to Morgins) and all of Avoriaz (take the Mossettes lift from Ardent to Les Crosets). You also avoid the steep reds coming down from Tete de Linga, which are a highlight for more confident skiers. Advanced skiers doing the anticlockwise circuit who actually want tougher challenges should make a couple of small detours to include the ungroomed itinerary from Pointe de l'Au and the red and black runs from the top of Comebois.
Most of the Morzine-Les Gets ski area is on a spur away from the main Portes du Soleil circuit, but it can all be reached from Champery or Les Crosets and returned from before the lifts close. As long as they keep an eye on the time, intermediates can just wander around, sampling the nearly endless array of short red and blue runs. Many of the pistes are tree-lined which makes a welcome change from the open bowls of Champery and Les Crosets.
Advanced skiers who want steeper slopes should head towards the Pointe de Nyon, Chamossier and the North face of Mont Chery on the far side of Les Gets.
At the start and end of the day it’s necessary to ride either the main Champery-Croix de Culet cable car (often referred to simply as 'The Telepherique') or the fast chair at Grand Paradis, which is reached from the village via the free ski bus service.
The Telepherique is an emblem of the whole resort but it's getting quite elderly. It departs every 30 minutes or so (more departures at peak periods, fewer in the middle of the day) and carries 120 people. If it's more than five minutes' walk away from your accommodation, you're probably better off taking the chair lift instead.
Queues around the Swiss side are rare but you might encounter more people around Avoriaz, especially if snow cover in the other Portes du Soleil resort is poor, in which case people crowd into Avoriaz which often has the best snow.
Currently there are discounts for families, children, youths/students and seniors but no discounted lift passes for beginners who don't belong to those categories. This is one of the reason why Champery is not a great resort for first-time skiers who want to spend most of their time on nursery slopes.
There used to be a Champery-Les Crosets local area pass but this has been replaced by one that extends to Champoussin and Morgins as well, about 35 lifts in total. This is commonly known as the Swiss-only Portes du Soleil pass, depite it not covering Torgon.
It's mostly sold on a day or part-day basis and costs about 20% less than the corresponding pass covering the French and Swiss areas. Given that it only covers about a fifth of the total area, it really only appeals to beginners and people planning to spend very little time on the slopes.
Full up to date information on prices, specail offers, discounts and conditions is available at https://www.skipass-pds-ch.ch/en/
There are plenty of blue runs in the Champery-Les Crosets area. Some are a little steeper than others, but this gives a bit of variety and scope for improvement for novices who want to progress. The gentlest area is around the the Planachaux, Louis and L'Echereuse lifts.
When you're ready to start making longer journeys, the Swiss side of the Portes du Soleil is almost entirely composed of blue pistes. The long blue runs to the bottom of Sepaya in Champoussin is a good initial destination.
The next step must be the even longer (and slightly steeper, at least in places) blue run from Pointe de Mosette over the Col des Portes du Soleil and all the way to Morgins. If you accomplish that without incident, by the end of the week you might be ready for the lovely long Grand Paradis red at Champery. This is a red run and rightly so but its steepest section is at the start, so you can look at it and if you don't like it, retreat and ski the blue runs beside the Ripaille drag lift.
There are also plenty of blue runs in Avoriaz and throughout the French side of the Portes du Soleil. But beginners should be very wary of trying to cover too much ground too quickly. The Portes du Soleil is a vast area and you need technical ability and strength to reach its furthest extremities and return in a day. Keep something back for your next trip.
In contrast to its appeal to near novices, Champery can not be recommended for absolute beginners. Even getting to the slopes is tricky for first timers. At the top of the Telepherique it’s necessary to descend a short but quite steep and narrow path to the pistes. And it's also expensive for absolute beginners, because you will have to buy a lift pass of some sorts. You would be better off in other resorts with free village-level nursery slopes.
Very occasional skiers might like to know that there is Swiss-side-only reduced price Porets du Soleil lift pass, sold by the day or part day. The discount is about 20% but as the main Portes du Soleil pass gets cheaper the more you use it, regular skiers will probably find it chaeper cheaper sticking to a multi-day pass.
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The network of red and blue pistes in the Swiss Portes du Soleil alone covers 100km. Add in the French side and you have hundreds of blue and red pistes all well graded and signed for the intermediate skier. There are virtually limitless choices.
But intermediate skiers based in Champery don't have to travel far to find great runs. The South-facing, then East-facing, Grand Paradis red is a deservedly popular way to end the day but it's even better mid-morning when you will have it all to yourself. And remember that the blue runs in Champery and Les Crosets are slightly more challenging than in many other resorts, which makes them more enjoyable for intermediates.
When you're ready to start exploring further, from the Telepherique, ski down to the Mossettes Suisse and ride it to the top. Ski down to Les Lindarets and then ride the Chaux Fleune. From here work your way down to Linga on the outskirts of Chatel. Riding the lifts and skiing back to Les Lindarets will put you at the bottom of Lindarets chair lift which will take you into Avoriaz for lunch. A morning in a paragraph and still there's the whole Portes du Soleil to explore.
Ultimately, the area is about size so why not try one of the "circuits" - well marked day long ski safaris taking you around the whole system. For stronger intermediates we prefer the clockwise circuit because it includes the red runs down from the Linga, whilst for weaker intermediates the anticlockwise one has the glorious long blue run from Col des Portes du Soleil down to Morgins.
Before you attempt the Swiss Wall you will need a warm up. The small but quite steep bowl around the Mancheuson drag near the top of the cable car from Champery is a good place to start. Usually there is some good 'beside-the-piste' skiing' here as well as the short and sweet red run.
Then it's onto the Swiss Wall itself. Its French name is Le Pas de Chavanette which is a clue to it's whereabouts in this vast area. From the Telepherique, keep left and work across to Ripaille 1&2. From here, the Chavanette chair will take you to the wall. As you ride the lift up, try to work out the best route down. As you view it from the lift, the left side is the most North facing, so is the best protected from the freeze-thaw cycle that transforms snow into ice, but sometimes the big moguls need a bit of sun on them to soften them up, in which case you should head off to the right from the lift (skiers' left once you're on The Wall). And if it's all too complicated or you just lose your nerve at the top, you can take the lift down again. You won't be the only one in the queue.
There are also off-piste routes from Chavanette that join the Grand Paradis red run. Some require a brief trudge uphill. They are wonderful after recent snow but predominantly face South so quickly turn to crud.
The whole of the Les Crosets ski area 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 itinerary (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.
If you enjoy bumps, the drag lift track up from Les Lindarets is now a long run with a near perfect gradient. Watch out though, as once you're halfway down, there's no alternative but to continue.
But the Portes du Soleil is so much more than bumps. There are black and red pistes in abundance and plenty of off-piste. The obvious playgrounds for experts are the Les Hauts Forts sector in Avoriaz, 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. All are within reach of Champery.
As always, it's best to get a guide for off piste skiing. The Portes du Soleil is not without avalanche risk (read the signs) and a ski guide will also help you get far more out your off piste skiing experience.
The largest is the Superpark underneath the TSD Crosets lift which has a wide variety of kickers, jibs and rails - http://www.superpark.ch. The layout changes from year to year and the Freeride Company provides training in the park.
Other terrain parks in the Portes du Soleil worth a visit are the 600m park at Morgins, the 300m park at Champoussin which has two lines and the new 500m long SnowPark Freeridezone at Torgon.
The mountain restaurants in Portes du Soleil get busy so it's usually a good idea to reseve in advance and plan your days route accordingly.
But there are plenty of self service establishments and you won't go hungry.
A trip from Champery to Avoriaz is always a pleasant day and the choice in the main street of this space age resort is extensive. Try the small but excellent Salle de Manger perhaps.
Buvette des Clavets
+41 (0)24 479 30 65
Buvette Chez Lise
+41 (0)78 638 61 33
+41 (0)24 479 36 43
Cantine des Rives
+41 (0)24 479 11 71
Cantine sur Coux
+41 (0)24 479 10 44
+41 (0)24 479 12 55
+41 (0)24 479 23 34
+41 (0)79 436 32 48
+41 (0)79 691 07 00
Refuge Le Marcheuson
+41 (0)24 479 22 40
Hôtel Plein Ciel
+41 (0)24 479 28 38
+41 (0)24 479 15 48
Tourism in Champery dates from 1857 and the Swiss Ski School in Champery was founded in 1932 making it one of the older ski resorts in Switzerland. Development has been pretty much continuous but, with one extraordinary exception, has been in complete sympathy with the architectural heritage. The non-profit Fondation du Patrimoine Champerolain, founded in 1933, works hard to maintain not only architectural heritage but also the cultural history. And the result is a ski resort that's pleasant to wander around looking at the old and beautifully maintained wooden chalets. Ther are plenty of bars, restaurants, hotels and shops too but they also blend in seamlessly.
Champery is not big; everything is within a 10 to 15 minute walk, apart from the Grand Paradis chairlift which is well served by the free ski bus service. So park the car, if you have one, and stroll around. A good place to start is the fountain at the bottom of the village where the purity of the water is recorded for posterity in granite. If you take in the beauty of the clock tower, you might notice the clock strikes the hour five minutes early. Not quite the legendary Swiss time keeping accuracy! (Perhaps it's the French influence.)
There are plenty of ski and board hire options, but the Skiset outlet is handily placed, between the Hotel Chateauform and the Hotel Suisse, has a good range , and gives generous discounts if you book online in advance here.
As you come off the Telepherique, the Le Gueullhi and Le Jonquille just over the road are convenient for the day's debrief on the huge distances you've covered. Just up the hill past the car park, Mitchell's, with it's four TV screens broadcasting in four languages and it's modern décor is another après ski spot.
But it's later when Champery comes into it's own. The ubiquitous pizza is, of course, easy to find but the restaurants in Champery generally have seen the arrival of younger go-ahead chefs in recent years and c21 on the main street boasts a Michelin star.
Auberge Le Paradis
Tél. 024 479 11 67
Café-Restaurant Le Nord
Tél. 024 479 11 26
Restaurant L'Atelier Gourmand
Tél. 024 479 11 26
Café-Restaurant Le Gueullhi
Tél. 024 479 35 55
Café-Restaurant Le Vieux Chalet
Tél. 024 479 19 74
Café-Restaurant Le National
Tél. 024 479 11 30
Tél. 024 479 15 12
Café-restaurant Le Pub
Tél. 024 479 15 32
Cantine des Rives
Tél. 024 479 11 71
Café-Restaurant Le Mitchell's
Tél. 024 479 20 10
Restaurant Le Centre, c21
Tél. 024 479 15 50
Crêperie Chez Martine
Tél. 024 479 14 56
Café-Restaurant Le Farinet
Tél. 024 479 20 98
Restaurant Le Toupin
Tél. 024 479 15 48
Restaurant Le Chaudron
Tél. 024 479 21 52
Restaurant Chez Coquoz
Tél. 024 479 12 55
Restaurant La Croix-de-Culet
Tél. 024 479 23 34
Tél. 024 479 36 43
Restaurant Le Plein Ciel
Tél. 024 479 28 38
The ultra modern Palladium (a National Centre for Ice Sports) not only hosts major ice sports events but is also open for public use. It has a gym, indoor and outdoor pools, ice skating, curling, a climbing wall and, in the summer, tennis courts. As a convention centre, it also has a hotel and restaurant as part of the complex.
Palladium de Champéry
Tel : +41 (0) 24 479 05 05
Cross-country skiing, winter walks, paragliding and snowshoeing are all available in Champery. While there's no dog sledding based in the resort, the The Grand Odyssée is a spectacular dog-sled race which passes through Champéry and well worth watching.
The thermal baths of Val d'Illiez are a short trip away from Champery and a great way to relax after a day on the pistes in the Portes du Soleil. Open all year round, the outdoor thermal pools are a visual spectacular; especially when there's snow on the ground.
Les Bains Thermaux de Val'D'Illiez
Tel : +41 (0) 24 476 80 40
But there is really too much happening in Champery to cover here. When you're going, visit the website - www.champery.ch - and check out what's on; there will almost certainly be something.
By the way, in summer, Champery is a perfect base for mountain bikers.