I spent six days in Avoriaz with my family last summer and despite the weather not playing ball we certainly had one. Car free, child friendly and with lots of activities suitable for the whole family – oops, I have given away the ending of this review of Avoriaz multi activity family holiday in Portes Du Soleil already.
Portes Du Soleil is well known as one of the most extensive MTB playgrounds in the world. But it is also great for hiking, trekking, canyoning, rafting, paragliding, horse riding, via ferrata, rock climbing and much more. Centrally located in the Portes Du Soleil, Avoriaz the ideal destination for a multi activity family holiday.
There are over 650 km of MTB trails criss crossing Portes Du Soleil, including; 50 downhill tracks, freeride areas, five jump parks, cross country trails, 4-cross routes, huge amounts of single track and an 80km enduro circuit. They are linked together by 20 bike friendly lifts, and trails cater for all levels or rider.
Being car free it is safe and easy to ride through the Avoriaz village, and very quickly you can be riding decent trails, either by taking the TSD chairlift from near the lake or riding back to the village entrance. I spent two days riding in the area and if biking is your thing I recommend you read my detailed review of Avoriaz mountain biking in Portes Du Soliel.
But to summarise it is epic! From the sculptured and flowing downhill tracks of Super Morzine, to the more natural single track of Lindarets there are awesome trails just a few minutes from Avoriaz. Going further afield the bike parks in Les Gets and Morzine are regularly used for downhill races and will challenge the best riders, but there are also plenty of trails for all levels.
I didn’t have time to do it but you can pop across the border into Switzerland to enjoy Bike Park Suisse which covers the resorts of Les Crosets, Champery and Champoussin and there are a range of trails in Chatel. With so many trails to choose from you could ride in PDS for a week and never cover the same route twice. The trails all come with spectacular views, fresh air and plenty of dirt!
When you hire a bike it is well worth also getting a guide or instructor for the day, you will progress as a rider and they will take you to the best trails for your ability and style of riding. I can strongly recommend Ecole MCF in Avoriaz, they provide an excellent guiding and instruction service, and were happy to change the brake setup from European (back brake right) to British (back brake left) which probably saved me from a nasty accident.
With over 40 walks and hikes on its doorstep, Avoriaz caters well for those wanting to explore the mountains on foot. In Portes du Soleil there are over 800km of marked walking trails to explore, ranging from short and easy strolls to multi-day treks.
With two days of persistent and fairly heavy rain we didn’t get out for as much hiking as we had hoped. However we made it up the mountain once as a family for a walk from Avoriaz towards Super Morzine and then up onto the Avoriaz ridge for some lovely views. With a three year old dragging his feet, and an under one year old on my back, we were not able to do anything too strenuous but the kids clearly loved in the mountains.
We also made it out for an adult only hike while the boys were in childcare. We hiked up onto the Avoriaz ridge and followed the signposts for Cascade des Brochaux, which is a lovely waterfall near the Mossettes chairlift. We then took the chair up to Pointe des Mossettes. At 2277m is the highest lift accessible point in Portes Du Soleil and drops you off across the border in Switzerland.
Views are apparently incredible but the cloud came in and we were walking through drizzle towards Lac Vert. I have seen pictures and it is a pretty alpine lake, but the weather didn’t really do it justice. There was then a short uphill section to Col de Chesery where you cross back into France and head down toward Lindarets.
We stopped in the Lindarets village for a gorgeous meal at the Restaurant Le Chaudron. The village has hundreds of goats roaming free who are happy to pose for pictures, or share your lunch. The kids would have loved it although may have found the goats a bit intimidating. After a huge meal we took the Lindarets lift back to the ridge above Avoriaz and pretty much rolled down the hill back into town.
Being in the mountain there are plenty of adventurous activities to keep the family busy. Unfortunately it was one of the wettest Augusts in memory, and after spending two days spent hiking and two more biking meant we did not have time to try anything else.
In order to make this review of Avoriaz multi activity family holiday in Portes Du Soleil as useful as possible I have included a summary of the main activities below:
Via Ferrata is using steps, bridges, ladders and handrails to climb a rock face. With a harness to attach yourself to the features it is considered a safe way to explore difficult to reach areas. There are numerous via ferrata routes in the Portes du Soleil and although it is freely accessible it is recommended to go with a mountain guide, this can be arranged at the tourist office.
The Saix du Tour via ferrata route starts just minutes from the centre of Avoriaz. It is a signposted itinerary taking you up the side of the mountain and rewarding you with magnificent views over Avoriaz.
Being in the mountains there is of course rock climbing available. Beginners and families (kids from 6 up) can learn the ropes close to Avoriaz on easy single-pitch sport climbing routes. Experienced climbers will find plenty of multi-pitch and trad climbing to keep them entertained. in the wider area.
Descend a canyon by sliding down waterways, jumping into pools and abseiling down waterfalls. Canyoning may sound pretty extreme but it is a relatively safe activity. Available to anyone over eight, who can swim, it is a refreshing way to enjoy the mountain – particularly good in bad weather as you are already wet.
Avoriaz has the highest waterpark in Europe – aptly named Aquariaz. It is a fantastic place to spend some time – particularly during bad weather. We spend an afternoon in Aquariaz, most of which was spent in very entertaining kids section with slides, water guns, fountains we had to drag our eldest away. The main pool was very good with a river, some jacuzzi areas and a rope swing at the deepend.
With a launch site in the Super Morzine area – just below Avoriaz – you can book a tandem paragliding experience or learn to fly for yourself. Views are of course spectacular as you descend 600m into Morzine.
Just 20km from Avoriaz you can kayak, raft or hydrospeed down the Drance river, a tributary of the mighty Rhone. From June to August the glacial melt waters mean the whitewater rapids reach a Class V in some places. However there are many lower grade rapids suitable for families and complete beginners. Rafting is suitable for kids from eight upwards.
Our three year old son was taken horse riding while being entertained at the Children’s Village in Avoriaz. It was little more than a pony trek through town but he loved it and still talks about it a year later. There are day rides available with the Parc des Dereches equestrian centre. Suitable for all levels of rider, exploring the Portes du Soleil on horseback would be a special experience.
Avoriaz is set up for families with a different activity on almost every corner. There is a kids adventure trail, trampolines, bungee trampolines, crazy golf, tennis courts, football pitch, giant outdoor games and an adventure playground. There are even training features to get kids on bikes practicing the skills they need for mountain biking.
There is a stage in the centre of town which hosts activities and events every day. Although things run throughout the day much of the entertainment is in the late afternoon between finishing activities for the day and having dinner. They have modern bands, traditional music, dance groups, exercise classes, petanque tournaments and local produce market.
Because our children are young, to fully enjoy our Avoriaz multi activity family holiday in Portes Du Soleil we decided to put the boys in childcare for a few days. It is always tough leaving your child with a stranger, particularly in a foreign country, but we found them to be very professional and despite not having perfect English it was clear they often looked after British children.
My three year old went to excellent Children’s Village (suitable for 3+). The ethos of the Children’s Village is that the kids will have as much fun in the outdoors as possible. Activities are age appropriate, for the three to five year olds this included horse riding, picnics, circus school, fencing, judo, climbing and much more. I was very impressed with the service, and although a little worried at first our son clearly had a brilliant time.
My youngest, who at the time was just under a year old, spent a couple of days in the Petits Loups nursery. Although too young to do any of the exciting activities his brother enjoyed he was happy in the Petits Loups. Within a couple of minutes of arriving we felt assured that he would be well looked after. Security and child safety was very high, probably more so than at a British nursery.
If you intend to take put your children into childcare in France it is important that you take certificates showing they have had all their inoculations. We took their red NHS health record books which seemed fine. Also be aware that most nurseries do not provide food for infants, so you need to provide a packed lunch.
As with most ski resorts, come the summer not everything is open. This means the choice of bars and restaurants are reduced but there was more than enough for us – but then we ate in most evenings and the boys were in bed by 8pm.
Avoriaz does not have Morzine’s vibe, instead it has a much more relaxed feel and the town never felt busy. Coupled with the car free nature of the resort this meant we felt safe to let our eldest play in the street with other kids and for our youngest to toddle around.
If is worth noting that although Avoriaz is car free you leave your car at the entrance to the resort and take a shuttle to your accommodation. This would have not been a problem except that we arrived in the middle of the night with two sleeping boys. After they had been transferred from vehicle to vehicle and then into the apartment they were convinced it was the morning and were a pickle to get back to sleep.
To get to Avoriaz you can fly into Geneva and either hire a car or arrange a transfer, it is about an hour away. Alternatively you can get the Eurostar from London to Geneva (Via Lille) which is a very easy journey and far less stressful than flying with young kids.
We decided to drive over, so caught the DFDS Seaways ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe. From there is was an eight hour drive to Avoriaz, although we some traffic around Paris which added an hour. I have written an article about driving a Kia Carens across France, and how it worked out for a family holiday.
No review Avoriaz multi activity family holiday in Portes Du Soleil would be complete without talking about the accommodation. We stayed in the Pierre & Vacance Atria Crozats self catering apartments. Set up the hill in the new Crozats district of Avoriaz it has exceptional panoramic views of the town and surrounding mountains.
The apartments are new and everything about them feels modern, making them nice place to spend time in. They have put a lot of thought into making them child friendly, storage is all out of reach, there’s open space to play in and minimal mischief the kids can get up to.
We had a two bed apartment – one double room and a room with bunk beds – the bedrooms were on the small side but comfy. However the space saved in the bedrooms has been put into the living area which has two large sofas with ample floor space between them, a well equipped kitchen and a dining area. Perfect for a family.
From the Atria Crozats you can access the town via two covered walkways, which have a combination of escalators for the uphill and stairs for the downhill. However the walkways are not pushchair friendly so we normally walked the long route around the winding street with the kids. Pierre Vacance offer a lot of different accommodation in Avoriaz, to find out more visit: www.pierreetvacances.com
The activities in Avoriaz are adventurous, varied and suitable for a range of ages. Combined with the wider area there is an exceptional amount of things to do, meaning an Avoriaz multi activity family holiday in Portes du soleil would suit any family looking for a quiet and relaxing location for an active holiday.
To conclude my review of Avoriaz multi activity family holiday in Portes du soleil, I will repeat what I said in the opening paragraph; ‘Car free, child friendly and with lots of activities suitable for the whole family.’ What more could you want? To find out more and book accommodation and activities please visit the tourist board website: www.avoriaz.com