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Avoriaz: 50 years old but still breaking the rules

Posted on 24 April 2017

If one decade from the 20th century stands out for its enduring legacy – for all the right reasons – it has to be the 1960s. Even skiing benefitted from the social revolution that was the swinging 60s, when the sport began to hit the mass market and nearly half of the world’s estimated 5,500 ski areas were born. Celebrating its 50th birthday this season, Avoriaz is probably the best example of the many purpose-built resorts that sprang up in France in the 1960s.

Architecture

Far from being over the hill, Avoriaz has managed to change with the times, while maintaining its avant-garde 60s spirit. Perched on a sloping shelf above a dramatic high cliff, architects have embraced its natural surroundings in the intervening years to create buildings with bold lines and sharp angles that blend in with the landscape – an interesting change from the chocolate box cliché synonymous with many European ski resorts. In 2003 this unique approach to alpine architecture led the Minister of Culture to name Avoriaz as one of the “great heritage achievements of the 20th century”.

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Traffic free

If you head to Avoriaz by car you won’t be able to get any closer than the semi-subterranean car park about half a mile away, where a caterpillar-tracked bus will be waiting to shuttle you into town. You might even choose to travel this final leg of the journey by horse-drawn sleigh, for a more authentic experience. This unwavering “no cars” principle generates a friendly and peaceful alpine vibe. It all works rather well because the central shops and bars are within 500 metres of all accommodation and you can ski from close to your door.

Skiing

In terms of the all-important skiing, Avoriaz is located on the main lift circuit of the Portes du Soleil, with links to Châtel to the north and to Champéry in Switzerland to the east. It is linked by gondola – but not by piste – to Morzine to the west, which shares a separate area of slopes with Les Gets. An altitude of 1800 metres ensures deep and plentiful snow late into the season. Another advantage of the village being so high on the mountainside are the stunning views of the Dents Blanches and the Dents du Midi on a clear sunny day.

If you’re looking for an alpine retreat somewhere that breaks the traditional ski resort mould by refusing to conform, while still guaranteeing first-class, snow-sure skiing, then Avoriaz and its startling design could by the place for you.

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