Key resort in the Swiss sector of the world's largest international lift-linked ski area (the Franco-Swiss Portes du Soleil). Skiing is reached by cable car from this large village with a mostly hotel-based après-ski scene.
The Portes du Soleil is a vast and remarkable ski area that truly offers something fort every level of skier or boarder. Most exciting for some perhaps is the thrill of skiing across an international border, as well as the enjoyable feeling of skiing from one resort to the next - a very rare combination. The difference between the resorts is also very marked with giant modern car-free and space-age Avoriaz a short trip from pretty, traditional Champéry, 110 years its senior. You can imagine that these 13 different resorts, linked together by 650km (403) miles of runs and more than 200 ski lifts and spread over 400 square kilometres offer a vast choice of snow slopes, from easy beginner trails to the infamous 'Wall' black mogul field, jokingly called a "brown run" due to its deservedly infamous reputation. This run pitches at up to fifty degrees over its one kilometre length as it descends 400 vertical metres. In addition to the pitch, moguls can reach two metres (seven feet) high. An annual race down the slope has seen the fastest descent record set at 20 seconds by extreme skier Dominique Perret. Dominique also likes cliff jumping and set a record for jumping 38 metres off a nearby rocky overhang in the Pas de Chavanette. In addition to the marked piste there are hundreds of kilometres/miles of off piste freeride terrain to explore with a local guide. Heliskiing is another possibility (banned by law in France). There is a huge choice of runs for 'normal' skiers who have about 220 blue or red category runs to enjoy. Amongst these the descent through the They Valley to Morgins is a 'must ski.' This 7.5km (4.5 mile) run was only created for the 2003-4 season and takes you down through peaceful and beautiful scenery from the top of Les Mossettes or the Pointe de l'Au, arriving in the centre of Torgon. An en route stop at the little Cantine de Tovassière is also recommended for some local specialities. If you don't get enough skiing in the day you can try night skiing on Wednesday evenings through to 10pm (and Saturday to 7pm). The local restaurants get in to the spirit by offering special meals and added entertainment for night skiers.
Champéry's initimate atmosphere and family-friendly facilities make it a good choice for families. Children will enjoy the swimming pool and ice rink as well as some of the events on the resorts weekly activity programme. This includes everything from an introduction to curling (age 10 and up) to a one hour wander around the village trying to solve the puzzle of the "enchanted piste." This is an official non-ski daycare/kindergarten Jack Frosts for babies and kids, proposing activities. Otherwise a list of baby sitters is available from the tourist office. On the slopes the Swiss Ski School operates a ski kindergarten / mini club for children aged between three and seven years. A special Micropark opened for the 2006-7 as part of the Superpark above the resort. This is filled with fun terrain features children will love.
There are more than a dozen places to eat in Champéry, predominantly offering quality cuisine at high value prices. Mitchell's Bar has an excellent menu and their desserts are legendary. On the slopes the useful 'Pass Gourmet' Guide recommends a selection of charming and romantic mountain eateries across the Portes du Soleil and local specialities to enjoy there. The most significant of the dozens of mountain restaurants is the Coquoz above the village, founded in 1950 which has over 200 wines to try (ask for a tasting tray) and attracts French skiers over the border to try everything from delicious fondues to home made Gentian ice cream.
The main apres-ski bar is Mitchell's which has modern decor and large comfy settees to relax in. If the weather's good there's a terrace with spectacular views - it can be very busy in high season. Another good choice is Cafe du Centre which has an enviable collection of wines and inventive Tapas. The feeling of relaxation these provide may be enhanced by the fact that the building has been fully feng shuied. It is centrally located within one of the oldest buildings in the village, with a small balcony from which the mayor used to address the villagers in days gone by. It's as good idea to visit the tourist office where the staff introduce activities available in the village and the diverse choice of weekly evening options which continues all season. Options include an introduction to curling, a fun game of traditional Eisstock (a cross between curling and petanque), darts matches, night skiing, snowshoeing, farm visits, pony trekking and even scuba diving lessons in the swimming pool at the Palladium.
Boarders have a huge choice of terrain to enjoy in the Portes du Soleil, most of it served by fast modern chair, gondola and cable car lifts that are easy to ride. The region offers seven snowparks, three half pipes and four boardercross courses. The parks include an 'environment friendly' parek near Avoriaz which is created without the snowmaking and heavy machinery required to build most snow features at conventional terrain parks. There are four 'local' parks for Champéry's guests on the Swiss side of the Portes du Soleil. The largest is the Superpark at Les Crosets above the village itself. This has a wide selection of terrain features. A special section for children was recently added. There are other terrain parks at Morgins (600m long) and Champoussin (300m long with two lines) and the new 500m long SnowPark Freeridezone at Torgon.