A first visit to the Portes du Soleil

23rd January 2014, by Abi Butcher

Pretty Portes du Soleil: skiing empty pistes back to Châtel

Pretty Portes du Soleil: skiing empty pistes back to Châtel

This week, I skied for the very first time in the Portes du Soleil. Only days before, my friend (an avid WTSS reader and big Courchevel fan) Suzi had been asking for recommendations for ski weekend destinations and when I suggested the Portes du Soleil she replied: “I’ve heard it’s a bit naff?”

My answer, after a day’s skiing from Châtel over to Avoriaz to try out The Stash is an unequivocal: “NO”. After a busy weekend in Courmayeur, when I skied a little more off-piste than I intended, it was something of a relief to find the snow falling when I arrived in Châtel on Monday, which gave a lovely fresh covering to the quiet pistes when we hit the slopes on Tuesday.

Taking the gondola from Linga, we had a quick burn down the Linga black (always good for the first run of the day) and up the L’Echo Alpin. As the chair reached the Tête de Linga, we plunged into the cloud, and so would follow the rest of the day — occasionally we would suffer zero visibility, followed by a beautiful glimpse of wooded valleys and pretty mountainsides as we made our way over to Plaine Dranse.

I’ve skied the Three Valleys, Paradiski, the Grand Massiff and the Espace Killy, and my one day here more than compared. I love skiing in the trees and the pistes were quiet (though not as quiet as Italy), with cruisey, longish runs that were perfectly groomed. With a slightly achey knee, this is just what I needed. But if you did want more, there are 650km of pistes in the 13 resorts that make up the area, including Morzine, Les Gets and Chapelle d’Abondance, offering plenty of skiing — and I gather the off-piste is pretty good, too.

Cheers! Hot chocolate with Baileys at Plaine Danse

Skiing with my brother and his girlfriend, we had taken the precaution of equipping ourselves with a flask of hot chocolate laced with Baileys, which seemed very sensible given the cold that the cloud was inflicting on us. After a brief stop at Plaine Danse, we worked our way up to Les Lindarets, then Avoriaz, to try out The Stash which last week was named the most exhilarating ski run in the world.

Not currently one for jumping in snow parks (I’m hoping here to claw back a few brownie points from my physio after my couloir exploits with Freeride World Tour champ Drew Tabke in Courmayeur), I couldn’t enjoy it to the max, but if you enjoy a snow park, The Stash clearly provides plenty of fun. But even then, I’m not sure I’d agree it is the most exhilarating ski run in the world…

The start of The Stash in Avoriaz: the world’s most exhilarating ski run?

The pistes were busier in Avoriaz, and with my knee tiring after a serious morning’s motoring, we slowly made our way back towards Châtel, which emerged prettily from the mist at lower altitudes. Desperate for a hot meal, we stopped for lunch in the fabulous La Ferme des Pistes, out of which a tree is growing, before calling it a day.

Après-ski took the form of several happy hour vins chaud in the newly refurbished Tunnel — now called Nazca Bar — decked out in fancy faux-suede chairs with Daft Punk playing in the background.

My verdict, Suzi? The Portes du Soleil is far from naff, in fact it has changed my view of skiing in France for the better and only 1.5 hours’ drive from Geneva would make an excellent weekend destination. I guess all it needs now is a Folie Douce

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