Champery, Switzerland Ski Resorts
Champery, Switzerland Ski HolidaysCredit: Wikipedia
Picturesque, idyllic, chocolate-box: some labels are bandied about far too freely when it concerns describing mountain retreats, but with Champery they all appear to merge well. The town manages to balance ease of access into the Portes du Soleil circuit having a relatively isolated location, and as such serves as a well developed but utterly unspoiled resort. It's far from perfect -relatively low altitude, no runs back into the resort and lacking good beginner slopes in the vicinity - but such gripes tend to be shadowed by the area's overwhelming charm.
For several, the on-mountain appeal of Champery boils down to three words: the Swiss Wall. Among the longest and steepest mogul runs in Europe, the run's notoriety is justified (plenty of people still come an absolute cropper on it, and it can make for painful viewing from the Chavanette chairlift), but seasoned riders won't have any problem with it.
The hills directly above Champery are best suited to intermediate riders - even the blues tend to be steeper than in neighbouring resorts, while a lot of the reds make for long and uniquely satisfying runs. This is so true on the awesome Ripaille, which winds its way for about 6km back to Grand Paradis, having a sensational scenery throughout. Also inspired are the red runs that fork and join back beneath the Mosettes chair. This portion is also a fantastic sun trap: the Col des Portes du Soleil, on which these reds practically reside, is the 'gateway to the sun' that initially inspired the naming of the whole area. These runs lead to Les Crosets, where the Pointe de I'Au chair leads to another epic and meandering trail that ends (finally) in Morgins.
There's not much here for expert skiers, although powderhounds will encounter plenty of off-piste action in heavy snow. A few of this can be found back on Ripaille: hike up from the lift, and stay above the track until you're directly above a series of powder fields (never attempt it if you don't know how to detect an avalanche risk, since the area can be unstable). For those after more intimidating angles in their off-piste, the face under the Chavanette chair provides steep thrills aplenty - although taking a tumble here can end in one long spin cycle home.
The best place for rapid restoration is Chez Coquoz, opened in 1950. There's something for all budgets, and the cellars hold 180 Valais wines for those in no hurry. Slightly less historic but no less homely is Le Toupin, a huge, squat shack in Planachaux with a functional and inexpensive range of local specialities. Chez Hermann, in Ripaille, knocks up a good selection of sandwiches and snacks, many bolstered by mean serac cheese.
The Superpark at Les Crosets is of a super high standard - both in terms of the shaping and the levels of competence called for from its riders. A better (and safer) place for
Novices is the Snowpark de la Chapelle, on the Avoriaz side. Be sure your pass will let you get back.
For adrenaline junkies, snow-kiting involves screaming around the mountains on a board or skis and clinging on for dear life to a kite! Far more family-oriented is a guided snowshoe tour in the picturesque hamlet of Barme, just west of Champery. There's also a sports centre having a heated pool and ice rink.