SkiBike Tour 2014-15 - Châtel

Posted: Thursday, 26 March 2015 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

We had passed the ski lifts of Châtel en route for our morning assessment at Champery, so it would have been nothing short of churlish not to have stopped on the way back for an afternoon ride.

Châtel has been SnowScoot friendly for a long time now, I recall that World Cup type competitions have been held here. More recently it has opened up to skibikes too, for both of us this would be our first opportunity to see how the theory would translate into practice.

We used the brand new chairlifts at Vonnes as our entry point into the system, which serve the sole function of connecting the two halves of the resort, which was formerly linked by a free shuttle bus service. We hastily donned our kit once more and jumped on to see what delights Châtel would have to offer the skibiker. 

Châtel - brand new chairlifts at Vonnes

Our first run was a short forest trail leading into the resort, a complete slush-fest of a ride and although  low inclined, the challenge was to switch trajectories Tron style and avoid the; rocks, mud and sundry debris scattered about. To avoid the slushiness we headed higher, which meant taking a gamble by heading into, but unfortunately, not above the clouds.

Châtel - To avoid the slushiness we headed higher

The pistes were much better at altitude, but it was a challenge seeing them, so there was a fair bit of fumbling from one piste marker to the next. Slowly we worked our way around the best part of one half of Châtel, over a period of a few hours.
The infrastructure was superb, with a cornucopia of lovely new detachable type chair lifts, serving a broad variety of runs. It was hard to tell in the murk, but there appeared to be a lot of nice looking off-piste in the mix, although today wasn't the right moment to investigate.

 Châtel - Nice looking off-piste, but not the right moment to investigate

I had never visited Châtel before, the Portes du Soleil domain maps give the impression that Châtel is quite a small area with just a few lifts. But I was pleasantly surprised to see just how big an area it is, to compare it with Morzine would be a fair comparison. Much like Morzine, the architecture is totally based around the super chalet template, making for a harmonious blend of architecture, with not a single hideous 70s concrete bunker in sight.
Chatting with the proprietor of a local restaurant, he surprised me by saying that the majority of his clients are from the Alsace region of Eastern France. With an annual "Vignette" for the Swiss Motorways costing the same as a single trip on the French motorways; they make the entire trip using Swiss infrastructure and can be here from Mulhouse in the same time as it would take Thierry from St Jean de Sixt!

Châtel - We had no trouble using any of the infrastructure with our skibikes

We had no trouble using any of the infrastructure with our skibikes, given the broad choice of runs, I would have no hesitation recommending Châtel as a place to skibike. With skibike friendly Avoriaz and Super-Morzine adjacent and the possibility of nearby Champery opening up too, plus decent modern infrastructure and a good balance of runs, what's not to like?