Freeriding, terrain parks and pistes
Freeriders could find it hard to get the most from Chatel, but if you take a real close look and don't mind a bit of a walk in or out, you may just find some truly great off-piste runs. There are some easy pitch tree runs from Tour de Don towards Barbossine. From the top of Col-des-Portes, you can take a long (sometimes tricky) route down the Morgins Valley into Morgins village, and if you're up for a walk, try Pointe de Chesery and head down to Les Lindarets.
If you're looking for something not too advanced with no walk out issues, Pré la Joux has a few things to offer. From the top of the Chaux des Rosées lift, drop off the blue just after you pass the black and start traversing skiers right. It's fairly short, but you'll find yourself in a quiet, wide chute. Good enough for some nice turns, it runs out onto the black and you can spot most of it from the lift up. You can drop off the black again for some more pow before returning to the lift.
From the top of Des Rochassons, duck under a rope on skiers left to access a face leading down to Les Lindarets. Make sure you know what you're doing.
The black runs in Pré la Joux are steep, if that's your thing.
Freestylers are in for a treat as Chatel has two parks to offer. The Smooth Park, located in Super Chatel is targeted at beginner to intermediate freestylers. Serviced by a dedicated button, it's got a good variety of features including rails, boxes, beginner and intermediate kickers and a hip. It's a fairly long, sequential park so a run through can mean 6 or 7 hits. As well as a handy restaurant at the bottom, you can also buy a special 'smooth park' pass covering the park only, for either a full- or half-day. Handy.
The Happy park is situated in Pré la Joux and is designed for expert shredders. Due to the amount of snow required for the huge kickers, you might find it not built early in the season, even toward the end of January. Both parks are covered on the www.smoothpark.com website, although the Smooth Park seems to get more attention. At last, Chatel is trying to rival its more prestigious neighbour, Avoriaz.
If you're into natural hits, it's worth checking out the terrain under the Combes lift between Pré la Joux and Linga. There are quite a few hits, mostly little drops and cliffs, with a range of sizes to suit all. It's also worth pointing out that Avoriaz's 'Stash' is only two lifts away from the Pré la Joux base.
Carvers will enjoy Chatel with its groomed intermediate piste and access to the miles of Portes du Soleil. You can get off on trying to get as much done before racing the lifts home.Pré la Joux
offers some great terrain for those who like challenging pistes. The reds running off the Rochassons and Plaine-Dranse chairs are fairly long with fast, steep sections; be aware that they're likely to be mogul'ly in the afternoons. The black, Les Renards is tough for sure, but it's probably more appealing to skiers, unless there's been a fresh dump. Le Linga is another good red; running from the top of Tete du Linga all the way to Linga's base, it's as long as you'd like with a nice mixture of gradients. Carve away.
If you're looking for a glimpse of Lac Leman, Chatel provides two opportunities. You can see the lake from the top of the Morclan in the Super Châtel area, or on the top of Rochasson, which is in Pré la Joux.
Beginners will find Chatel ok. The drawbacks are not the runs as there are plenty of blues and greens, although some are a bit flat which leads to a bit of hopping. Instead, the main problem is the drag lifts up high; there're loads of them and the runs down into the resort are often overcrowded. Having said that, it's possible to board from near the top all the way into the resort on a blue, snow permitting.
The base area of Pré la Joux has an ESF meeting point for its beginner slopes, which are serviced by drag lifts. You may well find this area nice and quiet. In addition, the bottom section of Les Rochassons, despite being marked as a red, is perfect for those starting to link turns due to its length and gradient. It can be lapped using the four-man Pierre Longue chairlift; better than a drag, as long as you're comfortable negotiating a short, blue-level section at the top.READ NEXT: Village life, accommodation & nightlife