Avoriaz is one of the world's leading ski-in/ski-out resorts, located in the middle of the extensive Portes du Soleil ski domain, at a snow-sure altitude high in the Northern French Alps.
One of the world's leading mountain resorts and a longstanding pioneer of ski-in/ski-out accessibility, impressively perched in a commanding position atop sheer cliffs high above Morzine on the French side of the extensive Franco-Swiss 'Portes du Soleil' linked ski area in the Northern French Alps.
The resort was founded in the mid 1960s under the direction of famous French Olympic ski champion and sunglasses entrepreneur Jean Vuarnet, setting an award-winning benchmark for purpose-built ski resort planning and design, with bold urban-scale architecture and a car-free skier-/pedestrian-centric layout. Up close, the massive angular-shaped apartment blocks look austere and incongruous to their beautiful Alpine setting, yet when viewed from a distance these cleverly designed cedarwood-clad buildings blend remarkably well into the rocky bands of cliffs and crags of the surrounding mountainsides; it definitely elicits a love-it or hate-it response from its visitors, but the continuing growth and popularity of Avoriaz are certainly testament to its success.
Many visitors may find that the slopes of the four local 'Grand Avoriaz' sectors are more than adequate for a week's holiday, because there's a good mix of parks, powderfields, and pistes to suit all ability levels, all lift-served directly from the village. As the central resort in the vast Portes du Soleil ski domain, Avoriaz is also arguably the most convenient base from which to explore the surrounding cross-border collection of linked resorts, perfect for keen intermediates and advanced visitors.
Beginners start off on the wide and often sun-drenched plateau at the entrance to the resort, close to the well-constructed and well-maintained La Chapelle snowpark which is filled with an excellent range of modules aimed at novice through to confident intermediate-level freestyle enthusiasts; more advanced freestylers can shred the superpipe which is situated over on the other side of the village, plus there are two further specialist terrain parks (including the Burton Stash, featuring all-wood modules) to be discovered in the resort's other core sectors.
A great selection of cruising blues and red runs funnel into Avoriaz from the surrounding ridges, served by a good network of chairlifts and ski-tows which fan out from the resort, providing links towards the nearest piste-linked resorts, including the Swiss villages of Les Crosets and Champoussin; the former reachable via the infamous super-steep 'Swiss Wall' descent off the Chavanette ridge, as well as by other less intimidating routes. On the French side, links to Ardent and the Linga ski sector are quite straightforward, and there's an easy blue run all the way down to the Super Morzine area just above Avoriaz's sister resort Morzine, for onward gondola link towards Les Gets. From 2014, a new cable-car link will connect Avoriaz and Morzine directly, via Prodains.
Off the slopes and apres ski
Although Avoriaz is very much a high-altitude resort purpose-built for skiers and snowboarders, it's really quite a sizeable little town, with all the municipal amenities and facilities one would expect to find in a community of its size; so there's plenty to keep non-skiers occupied too, whilst the unique ski-through design of the resort means that all visitors get to experience the thrill of being in the midst of this stunning high Alpine setting together.
The resort hosts several annual international cultural festivals and, during high season, a daily programme of events. There are a number of supermarkets, shopping arcades, spas and beauty clinics, a fabulous tropical-themed aquatic-leisure centre, a cinema, tenpin bowling, plus dozens of restaurants and bars.
Apres ski is very lively, although venues are somewhat scattered around the various quarters of the resort village, key apres-ski spots include Shooters, Yeti and, for live music, The Place; the cinema and bowling alley are also popular with visitors and locals alike in the evenings, plus there's a nightclub, called Le Yak, which pushes on for a couple of hours past the general 2am closing time of most of the other bars.
Adventure activities accessible from the resort include snowmobiling, dog-sled mushing, mountain biking, under-ice lake scuba, and even freefall parachuting from a helicopter; less adrenaline-fuelled alternatives include sledging (floodlit for evening sessions) and ice skating.