I kept checking my watch as the transfer van rounded the last of the hairpin bends from the valley floor up to the French ski resort of Avoriaz. Had it really only been 90 minutes since we left Geneva airport? As a seasoned veteran of much longer transfers, this fast and hassle free start to the holiday made life so much easier, especially with our three and six year old in tow.
Avoriaz ski resort sits in a dramatic setting on a cliff top plateau at a snow-sure altitude of 1800 metres looking down the valley towards its nearest neighbour Morzine. The resort was conceived in the mid 1960s by French Olympic skier Jean Vuarnet with backing from wealthy playboy Gerard Bremont. For a while, the cutting edge architecture and infamous nightlife saw Avoriaz styled as the ‘St Tropez de Neige’. Happily, the jet set has long disappeared and Avoriaz has settled into life as a family friendly high-altitude resort at the heart of the huge Portes du Soleil ski area.
At first, the avant-garde design might seem alien to skiers more used to the chocolate box charm of resorts which started out life as local farming villages. Don’t expect narrow winding streets lined with charming traditional stone and timber chalets. Avoriaz is much more about function than form. However don’t let that put you off. I loved the architecture and also fell for the overall feel of the resort, which had a layout designed to make the guest experience as simple and as easy as possible.
The ski-in/ski-out convenience of the resort made Avoriaz a real winner and amenities like ski hire shops, supermarkets and restaurants never seemed more than a few steps away. The car-free snow covered streets meant not having to worry about traffic and the kids loved the horse and sleigh taxis available to either flag down or phone in advance (+33 4 50 74 01 55).
A successful family ski holiday means different things to different people but I’ve put together some tips and pointers that might help you get the most from your Avoriaz ski holiday.
Transfers vs. Car Hire
A transfer gets my vote. Avoriaz ski resort is only around an hour and half from Geneva airport so a transfer doesn’t cost as much as a longer journey to areas like the far flung Tarantaise. You might also find a transfer is much more convenient than hiring a car as you’ll be met at Geneva as soon as leave the baggage area and can get on your way with no delay. We booked our transfer with Ski-Lifts and everything worked superbly well.
Arriving in Avoriaz
You’ll be dropped at the Avoriaz resort reception and unloading hall for every residence except L’Amara (which has its own underground car park and transfer drop off point). From the unloading hall, piste bashers converted into tank-like taxis or horses and sleighs will take you to the residence you’ve booked.
The first thing we did when we arrived was pick up our rental equipment. We rented our skis and boots with Skiset who’ve got eight rental locations throughout the resort. We were staying at L’Amara which had two very smart Skiset rental shops on site which made picking up and dropping off our rental equipment very easy. You can pre-book your Skiset ski hire for Avoriaz by clicking here.
Our children (3 & 6) had lessons at the Village des Enfants ski school (run by French ski racer Annie Famose) which is located right in the centre of the resort. They look after children from 3 years old all the way up to 16. There’s a snow garden area and magic carpet for the younger kids and two tows for the older children accessing more beginner’s terrain, the main ski area and lifts. Village des Enfants has its own building with a reception area and play room which is a big plus on days when the weather is poor and the younger children can be taken inside to warm up.
We also booked a daily two hour afternoon ski lesson for our 6 year old at the Avoriaz Alpine Ski School (May to Dec +44 1237 451099 Dec to April +33 450 38 34 9) which is British run and offers an exceptionally good standard of teaching with English speaking instructors. They have an incredibly handy office and meeting point right on the slopes, just above the Yeti bar and restaurant. It’s worth noting that during busy times they book up early, especially for group lessons.
Avoriaz has one hotel with the rest of the resort accommodation in apartments that I think are the perfect choice for a family ski holiday. Our apartment allowed us more space than a hotel and meant we could choose to either eat-in or go out depending on how we felt. There was a huge choice of apartments in Avoriaz which ranged from basic two stars like the Residence Les Portes du Soleil to the four star luxury of the resort’s newest development Residence L’Amara, where we stayed. This had its own pool and Deep Nature Spa plus a bar, three restaurants on site and two ski shops. In addition the resort’s owners have added the great new 3 star Residence Les Crozats by the centre of the village. All of the apartments in Avoriaz have the benefit of being ski-in/ski-out, which is a huge bonus when skiing with children.
You can check out our great range of ski accommodation in Avoriaz here.
Supermarkets & Shops
There are three supermarkets in Avoriaz (two Sherpas and one Carrefour) which are stocked with the usual produce and drinks you’d expect in a resort with a big focus on self catering. Whilst they were slightly more expensive than a supermarket in the UK, I felt they were noticeably cheaper than the supermarkets in a number of other French ski resorts we’ve visited. There’s a pharmacy in the centre of town, a couple of banks (one with a ski-up ATM so no need to clip out!), gift shops, boutiques, boulangeries and a tabac. If you’re staying at L’Amara you can pre-order bread, croissants and pastries to pick up from reception each morning which was a nice touch.
Restaurants in Avoriaz
Avoriaz has a massive choice of different places to eat from simple crepe stalls up to more upscale fine dining restaurants. In the main most of the restaurants serve a choice of local Savoyarde fare or a choice of pizzas and pastas. We liked the Fontaines Blanche for traditional food and the Boule de Neige did great pizzas which the kids loved. Our favourite was the stylish Le Bistro which is right in the centre of town and is open for lunch and dinner serving serves a wide choice of food with a modern twist. I’d recommend planning ahead and try and book in advance to avoid a trudge round the resort looking for a table, especially if you’re arriving on a Saturday and don’t want to eat in your apartment.
If you’re staying at L’Amara there are three restaurants on site. Le Lodge has a bar and offers more casual dining and the other family we were with ordered take away pizzas one night which got the thumbs up. There’s also Le Grand Café which was smarter and offered lunch and dinner – they had a kids menu so it worked for families. There was also Le 66 which is described is the fine dining option in the L’Amara district but this wasn’t open when we visited.
Restaurants on the Slopes
The Portes du Soleil is a huge ski area and as you might expect there’s a pretty big choice of restaurants from the simple self service style to places with table service serving superb food. Perhaps the best find when we were there was the village of Les Lindarets which is located in the next valley over from Avoriaz near the top of the Ardent gondola and the Parchets blue run. Take Parchets and very quickly turn right and you can ski through the middle of the village which has a collection of charming mountain restaurants including La Cremaillaire (+33(0)4 50 74 11 68), La Ferme (+33(0)4 50 74 09 60) and La Terrace (33 (0) 450 741617) which as the name suggests has a superb terrace for al fresco dining on a sunny day
We’d read lots about Aquariaz before we went and still weren’t sure what to expect. What I thought might be a bit of a letdown was actually incredibly good fun and our six year old absolutely loved it. Aquariaz is located by the Village des Enfants in a central location and opens every day except Saturdays from 2pm to 8pm. It gets busy on bad weather days and holds 450 people at a time so when it’s full they operate a ‘one in, one out’ system but it’s worth the wait.
It’s sold as a tropical paradise in the mountains but it’s really just a giant kid’s water park with all sorts of features that kids will love. There’s a pretty scary half pipe you ride on a rubber ring, a climbing wall with rope swing, hot tubs, a river, water cannons, a flume and a kids water play area.
What’s not to love about the Avoriaz ski area and the Portes du Soleil? It’s ‘probably’ the largest linked ski area in the world and it certainly felt like it. As well as some superb skiing close to the Avoriaz ski resort, it was great to take off and ski over to Switzerland and Champery or staying in France, down towards Chatel. The lift system is modern and fast meaning it takes nothing like as long as you might think to reach the furthest points on the Swiss side. The ski terrain is mainly blues and reds with the odd black thrown in and with fresh snow there’s lots of opportunity to discover some off-piste for more experienced skiers.
If parks and pipes are your thing, there’s the Burton Stash natural terrain park as you head over towards Lindarets and the Lil’ Stash for beginners underneath the Proclou chairlift. Our eldest loved the small jumps at the Chapelle freestyle area where they had graded terrain suitable for little ones all the way up to experts.
Our family holiday to Avoriaz was taken in late March/early April and the snow was much better at higher elevations so we didn’t ski any further than Les Prodains on the way down to Morzine. Rather remarkably it snowed six days out of seven with only one sunny day which is pretty unusual for late season. In colder weather with better snow lower down it would have been fun to explore the Morzine side and over to Les Gets.
We stayed in Le Village at Arc 1950 in February 2012 and absolutely loved it, so it took a pretty big leap of faith to book our family holiday to Avoriaz for the first time this year. We weren’t disappointed and loved the Avoriaz ski resort so much that we’re already planning to go back next season.
It ticked all of the boxes that were important to us for a family holiday, especially with two young children. A short easy transfer, superb ski-in/ski-out accommodation, the Village des Enfants plus the British ski school, handy rental shops, supermarkets, shops and restaurants and an unusual but very welcome extra feature was the Aquariaz indoor water park.
So you’ve read the review, you love the sound of the resort and want to start planning your own family holiday to the Avoriaz. This is where we can help.
We have offer a great range of ski accommodation in Avoriaz, with prices to suit all budgets and requirements. To check out the accommodation available in this this amazing French ski resort, click here.
Have we missed anything here? Are there any other aspects of Avoriaz that are particularly family friendly? If so leave a comment below; we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Posted on Wednesday 10 Apr 2013