Monday, February 12, 2018

Avoriaz - a week of skiing

We spent the first week of 2018 skiing in Avoriaz. It was a family vacation with our 2 kids (12 and 10) and we were, at the beginning of the week, ok skiers. Good on the blues, a bit apprehensive on the reds and scared on the blacks.
As a bit of background, we ski between 5 and 10 days a year, in the border region between Germany and Austria, i.e. Bregenzerwald, Montafon etc. My only other experience of a week of skiing was in Val d'Isere.

Ski Passes
I looked into getting ski passes early, i.e. before we got there, but the early bird discount was the same as the family discount that we would get if we bought tickets once we got there. It also turned out that the website only offered tickets that covered the whole ski area, i.e. Port Du Soleil. If the ski area of Avoriaz was enough for you (and it turned out to be just enough for us), then buying 2 day lift tickets every other day turned out to be the cheaper option. We also wanted the option of taking an day off in the middle.

Getting in to Avoriaz
Avoriaz lies at 1100 meters and it is a bit of a climb. We drove in on a day where there was snow and signs posted suggested chains in case of snow. There were cars with chains and without chains on the drive up.
We had reserved a parking spot in a garage in Avoriaz. I think that was the right decision as the other options were to park outside at Avoriaz or outside at Le Pordains, which required you to then take the Gondola up to Avoriaz. A lot of the cars in the parking lot looked completely snowed in. I am not sure how they got into their spots and getting out seemed to be a challenge, both dogging out of the parking spot and then digging out of the parking lot.
We noticed the roads a couple of days later, after a night of heavy snow, and they looked treacherous. I would have not attempted the drive without snow tires wthough people seemed to be making the journey without them.
We drove in, unloaded at a covered parking area and then parked in a garage for which we had reserved a spot. The parking lot was pretty full on the Saturday that we arrived. I would suggest a reservation.

Getting to and fro in Avoriaz
There are no cars allowed in Avoiraz and so getting all your stuff to your apartment involves either hiring a horse drawn carriage, hiring a huge snow transporter that looks like something from the dark side in Star Wars or getting a trolley on skis and pushing all your stuff to your destination. The cheapskate that I am, I opted for pushing. 

The apartment we were staying in was not too far from where we unloaded. Maybe a kilometer. But pushing that trolley was a royal pain in my you know what though we managed to transport everything in one go. I am not sure how we did it as it took us several trips to get everything back in the car on the way out. On our second trip to the car on the way out, we skipped the trolley the second time around as it was seriously heavy and seemed to be more of a hinderance that a help.
Getting to and from the lifts was another adventure. The bad part about being not too far from the unloading zone was that we were a bit far from the lifts. It was not too bad once we figured out the to and fro but again, the town is not made for skiing. It may have snow on the streets and no cars but the terrain is not ski friendly.

The weather while we were there was decent. There was one day where the entiriety of the ski area was closed due to terrible weather. The day after that, the rain was so bad that we had to quit after about 3 hours. We were soaked down to our skin. All in all though, we got 5 days of great skiing. The weather was sunny in parts and when overcast, the visibility was at least great. The wind was also terrible on some days, now that I think back on it, but I can't remember it affecting us too badly. 

When the weather is bad though, there is nothing else to do. There is a pool but it gets filled up quick when the weather is bad. Get in line before it opens!

The slopes were in pretty good shape, even considering the rain. On at least half the days, I was doing my last runs as snow was coming down, sometimes coming down in torrents. The runs were icy in spots but nothing we were too worried about.
It being Christmas vacation, there were a lot of people on the slopes and there were lines at the lifts but never crowds. 
The ski map showed a lot of blue runs but they were more akin to red runs that I had been on. There are a two fun parks with jumps and stuff that the kids loved, which  I was not a fan of (the runs were narrow and crowded with people) and then was an area with big ramps, in case you were interested in serious air (one lift went directly over the area which is the only reason I am aware of it)
I think Avoriaz is a great place for someone who is an ok skier but it may not be challenging enough for someone who is good. There were lots of beginners on some of the runs, and there are a few runs set up just for beginners. So it may suit them as well. I cannot judge that anymore. Learning is just difficult. 

Eating on the slopes
It just varies a lot. We ate once at Le Brocheaux and there was table service and the food was pretty good at a reasonable price. Another time we ate at Les Lindarets, where it was cafeteria style, the prices were insane and the food mediocre. I think the more off the beaten path the place is, the better the quality (just based on those 2 experiences) We had a couple of other meals but I cannot for the life of me remember where they were. 

Avoriaz in general
The bakery next to our place (Le Fournil de Cannelle) was awesome. There are a couple of grocery stores in town where we picjed up stuff for dinner most nights and were a good value. We ate out once as a family and the meal was forgettable. We were to blame as we just picked a place with an open table as we were hungry.
My wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary at Les Enfants Terribles and that was really awesome (though pricey)
We were there on New Year's Eve and ventured out to check out the celebrations. There was a DJ spinning records on the main drag and there was a setup for a huge party but due to the weather, there was only a crowd directly around where the DJ was setup. Still though, you gotta give them props for at least the effort. I think it would've been a good time.

I would 100% go to Avoriaz again. I would 100% recommend it for a family ski vacation to anyone. 

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