Set in the beautiful Alpine landscape of France’s Vallée d’Abondance, a valley which follows the river Dranse through stunning mountainous scenery, Châtel is a resort which could have been designed for cross country skiing.
The long valley creates the perfect flat terrain for exploration on Nordic skis and the resort certainly makes the most of its natural advantages with a network of 40km of tracks spreading out from the resort.
Part of the Portes du Soleil ski area, the Nordic tracks at Châtel link with those of neighbouring resorts Abondance and La Chapelle Abondance. The result is an extensive network of tracks suitable for a range of different levels, making it the perfect place to try cross country for the first time.
Those who are new to the sport will enjoy the range of easy tracks including 2.8km of green routes, 9.6km of blue, and 11.4km of reds. And for those who really want to push themselves, there’s the notorious Noire du Moulaz, a 1.9km black level route.
Largely undiscovered by the Brits, this remains a reassuringly French resort in which many of the hotels and restaurants are family owned and many of the buildings along the valley are still being used as farms and to house cattle. Exploring the area on Nordic skis gives a unique insight into the traditional Alpine culture of this beautiful area.
More About Cross Country Skiing
Cross country is a style of Nordic skiing which is done predominantly over flat ground. Skiers use long, narrow skis with bindings which only hold the toe so that they are easier to move along flat surfaces.
The boots used for the sport are more like hiking boots which fit into the skis at the toes so that they are comfortable over some of the long distances achieved in the sport.
There are two different techniques in cross country skiing; walking-style, in which the skier keeps the skis parallel and moves them backwards and forwards, and skating-style, in which the skis are pushed out at an angle.
Nordic Tracks in Châtel
Most of the routes around the resort will take you either along the river or around the picturesque Lake Vonnes and include a combination of pretty wooded countryside or the dramatic slopes of Linga.
Châtel is the perfect starting point for exploring the Nordic routes of the Vallée d’Abondance thanks to its position at the top of the valley.
Cross country skiers can make their way from the resort down to La Chapelle D’Abondance where the Nordic Ski Visitor’s Centre is located. The Visitor’s Centre is the starting point for many of the valley’s trails and is a great meeting place as well as having a ‘Nordic Park’ area in which novices can practice skiing techniques on a range of challenging surfaces.
A word of warning, Châtel is quite a low altitude resort and can be prone to rain later in the season so for the best experience book a winter rather than a spring trip.
Try Your Hand at Biathlon at Châtel
If you find that you’ve truly caught the cross country skiing bug then why not take it a stage further and try the Olympic sport of Biathlon which combines skiing with rifle target shooting. The sport is all about pushing yourself as hard as you can on the Nordic track and then steadying your breathing and focusing your concentration for the shooting event.
The centre for Biathlon in the Vallée d’Abondance is the Nordic Visitor’s Centre in La Chapelle and lessons can be booked through the Ecole du Ski Français at La Chapelle.
How to Get to Châtel
Getting to Châtel is easy with regular flights to both Bern and Geneva Airport available on a range of premium airlines. The quickest and easiest way to get from Geneva (1 hour 20 mins) or Berne (1 hour 40 mins) to Châtel is by airport transfer with Shuttle Direct.
Book online before you set off and a private luxury car will be waiting for you when you arrive to take you directly to your accommodation. Just don’t forget to let them know if you will be bringing any winter sports equipment with you.
Where to Stay:
Hôtel Belalp – The quaint three-star Hôtel Belalp offers lots of pine panelling and Alpine charm as well as a restaurant with a vast panoramic window so you can enjoy mountain views while you dine. Soothe tired muscles in the wellness centre with its hot tub and hammam.
Résidence Néméa Le Grand Ermitage – Enjoy the privacy of your own self-catering apartment at the Résidence Néméa Le Grand Ermitage while enjoying the shared facilities of a sauna, hot tub and hammam. All apartments have a balcony as well as a fully equipped kitchenette.
Macchi Hotels-Chalets de Tradition – The four-star Macchi Hotels-Chalets de Tradition exudes French Alpine style with wooden floors, beaten metal fireplaces and cosy snugs to nestle in after a hard day on the Nordic trails. Book in for a treatment in the Eastern-inspired wellness centre or swim in the heated indoor pool before re-emerging refreshed and rejuvenated for a gourmet dinner and a drink in the cosy bar.
About Shuttle Direct:
Shuttle Direct is one of the leading providers of airport transfers to destinations in and around Europe and North Africa. Choose from either a private car service or a group transfer to take you from the airport to anywhere you want to go. For added luxury book a luxe car using the online booking service and relax knowing that a driver will be at the airport to pick you up and whisk you off in comfort to your Alpine accommodation.