Slow suisides of ski resorts
A bad paradox of the Swiss ski resorts threatens to kill then slowly. The lack of visitors worsens the services, the infrastructure suffers, the worth of the property investments decreases.
Champery is an excellent place to compare the situation in France and Switzerland. Reachable by two ski lifts and three slopes is Avoriaz, a base for jet-set highlife for people who spend their summer in Cannes. The town, sloper, off-pistes and restaurants pubble with life. Don’t know the hotel prices, but dining is much cheaper than in Champery. So, I lunch in France but ski in Switzerland.
At the gates of a skiing paradice
The Geneva Airport is a real “Stargate SG-1” of skiing. You may still remember the latter TV series of the wonderman MacGyver. The easest way to reach the endless ski slopes and off-pistes of Porte de Soleil is to hop on a train, enjoy the scenery of Lake Geneva till Aigle, where a mountain train is already waiting and end up at the Champery railway station. The 100-person telecabine is ready to take off for the slopes.
This wonder of personal logistics is possible only if one has put on the skiing outfit on the train and agreed with the driver of the hotel van to fetch the rest of one’s luggage at the railway station. When travelling in a larger group of people it’s an idea to choose on person to move our luggage to the hotel. A free dinner should be his reward… with drinks of course… and desert…
Almost enough for the first day
A beautiful and easy slope takes us to the little village of Les Crosets, that is a perfect base even for a whole day. Six ski lifts and eight prepared slopes plus a wide area of off-pistes between them are quite sufficient for the first day. Four restaurants take tare of one’s nourishment.
After three days of heavy snowfall we had no reason to leave Les Crosets for a while. The valley is like a bowl and all it’s sides are skiable. As free-ride is so trendy today, half of the slopes were left un-prepared. So, there was lots of power to everyone to get his/her outfit white. White Doctor ski factory provided us for free with skis wider than our smiles to surf the clouds on the ground.
To wider horizons
We left Les Crosets taking the ski lift to Pointe de Mossettes and skied some five kilometres along a beautiful road through the woods to Morgins. No slowing turns needed, neither pushes for more speed. So quiet and peaceful, only a random cry of a crow, the winding road brought us to a small cluster of cottages and a ski lift. From there we returned to Les Crosets, through five lift lines and five slopes of Chamoussin.
The next day we had the same foreplay or prelude, if you like, but went on north-east to Chatel and Torgon. Their ski map, quite a labyrinth, should be examined carefully to find the way back to Morgins and from there to Les Crosets and Champery.
We could have continued our expedition to Abondane in France, but that would have meant crossing two valleys on foot. It would have been just a few ten meters, but getting stuck in a ski lift queue back there could have meant a 30-kilometre walk back home. Not nice with boots on.
Attentive with the ski map and watch!
Portes de Soleil is such a labyrinth, that in the afternoon it’s wise to stay close to the familiar slopes, and go in time to the Champery telecabine. The alternative could a cold night on the mountains or a taxi drive of tens of kilometres, if one succeeds in finding a taxi. E.g Avoriaz is only 7 km from Champery on skis, but 70 km along the road.
If one comes too late to the upper station of the telecabin, one can, if the snow condition is Good, ski down to the west-most suburb of Champery and hope that the last bus hasn’t left. If it has, it’s only a two-kilometre was downtown.
In spite of the train to Champery, transportation in Porte de Soleil is based on private cars.
However, the French villages are connected with a bus line, but it doesn’t come to the Swiss side of the border.
Second quick visit to France
The next day I took the Pointe de Mossettes ski lift again, this time alone, and turned to Avoriaz in France. It’s easy to reach by two different routes, moderate and easy. Coming back is very easy, too. However, after the relatively empty slopes in Switzerland, skiing among hundreds of other skiers wasn’t as pleasant. The sloped still in good condition, but there were simply too many people of different skills. So I headed for the three black pistes behind Avoriaz, below the Les Hauts Forts mountain peak. An excellent choice it was and later I rewarded myself with an onion soup. Not as delicious as the one in Les Halles in Paris tens of years ago, but that memory is very nostalgic. I was a very hungry hitchhiker at the time.
I could have continued my expedition to Morzine and Les Gets the slopes there are profiled for families with children, so I left back for Switzerland, and there I stayed the rest of the week.
At a huge but almost secret corner of Cirque de Soleil
- SSHHHH! said a policeman to people coming out from Le Pub in Verbier.
- You mustn’t disturb sleeping people.
It’s all coming back to me from behind fifteen years when we walk slowly towards our hotel through the beautiful centre of Champery. It’s as quiet as in a graveyard.
We are the only people outside. Not one restaurant is open.
There are hundreds of family houses and small blocks of flats in Alpine style, but only ten hotels. The private houses and apartment are un-occupied most of the time. The Swiss don’t give the property for rent. Here it’s unnecessary to muzzle us. Most of the hotel guests are in the disco of the Palladium sports hotel in the valley.
Some twenty years ago the director the Verbier tourist office complained that even though new houses were erecter in the town, the number of beds decreases.
- What we need here is a 4–5 star hotel for the wealthy Swiss to stay at.
Today there is one five star and two four star hotels in Verbier, but none in Champery. Is it too late to start building?
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