Review: Champery and the Regions Dents du Midi

Champery in the Swiss Valais region is part of the cross-border Portes du Soleil ski area, which means that it has direct access to almost 600km of pistes spread across 307 runs and twelve resorts. A traditional picture box perfect Swiss resort, this venerable little 150-year-old town is quieter and quainter than most of the French resorts – and pistes – which dominate the Portes du Soleil. If the town is cute, the backdrop to the skiing is the stunning seven peaks of the Dents Du Midi mountain range, which is also the name for the collection of four Swiss resorts which sit in the peaks’ shadow.


Champery is at the end of the valley, but through neighbouring Les Crosets you can easily access Avoriaz, the most snowsure resort in the whole Portes du Soleil area. Morzine and Les Gets are also at the other end of the valley, and Chatel is just along the border.

Despite the village being ancient in skiing terms, they are expert at moving people around – this starts with the great little Disney-style train which chugs around Champery picking up skiers and depositing them at the gondola, a system which we loved, and things then pick up pace with the 125-person Champéry–Planachaux cable car whisking you up to 2000 feet in just five minutes, while the six-seater chairlift in Grand-Paradis provides rapid access into the Portes du Soleil system. For decent and energetic skiers, a pass for the whole Portes du Soleil area is a must.

However, skiing in Champery is not just about how quickly you can get out of Champery! The town’s ski area has 21 runs, of which just three are blacks, seven are red and the remaining 11 are blues, with the beautiful Grand Paradis run the highlight of the ski area. The Swiss ski pass not only covers Champery but also the other three resorts in the area, Les Crosets, Champoussin and Morgins. Together they comprise 100kms of runs and 37 ski lifts, and if you’re a beginner, big luncher or unadventurous intermediate, this may just about suffice for the week.

The one caveat to that characterisation of Champery as an easy-riding family resort is La Chavanette, or the Swiss Wall, a beast of a black slope that is accessible from Champery, Les Crosets and Avoriaz. With a gradient of 76% it’s the steepest run in the world, is studded with massive moguls from start to finish, and has a rocky 10-metre wide couloir style section midway down. A kilometre long, it has a drop of 331 metres and is rated orange as it’s too difficult to fit into the standard classification of green-blue-red-black.

If the conditions are good, there’s also some decent off-piste skiing to be had, mainly above the Ripaille/Grand Paradis run before it drops down into the forest.

Ski passes for the Portes du Soleil cost E58 per day (E43 for a child) if bought on the internet, and E324 for six days (E243 for children). Ski passes for the Swiss side cost CHF 70 (

Getting there

Getting to Champery is gloriously easy – from Geneva Airport it’s 2hr 30min to Champery train station, with an easy change at Aigle onto the picturesque AOMC mountain railway that is neatly timetabled to connect – you don’t even have to change platforms. The return rail journey costs roughly £90. If you want to drive, it’s 1hr 20mins from Geneva.

Accommodation, food and night life

We stayed at the Hotel Suisse (, a lovely little hotel right in the centre of this rustic little town’s narrow streets and returned each afternoon to a roaring woodburning stove and a memorable selection of cakes. It also boasted a great little bar, that was quiet one minute and rammed full of noisy (and very unSwisslike) locals the next.

For food, we ate at the Cafe du Nord (é-du-nord), a lovely traditional restaurant, and At’Home (, which provided more of a gourmet experience. On the slopes, try the wonderful Gîte Alpage La Chaux (

As for the nightlife, we were there in midweek and despite its self-proclaimed reputation for vibrant apres-ski, most of the bars closed at 10pm and by far the liveliest nightspot we found was in our own hotel, the Hotel Suisse. Locals, however, swear by Le Bar des Guides on the main drag ( and R.E.D dance club, with its massive terrace (

Things to do

We had bad weather on one of our days there so we made full use of the outstanding facilities at the Palladium, a multi-activity sports centre that boasts two ice rinks, swimming pools and a truly fantastic cafe-restaurant. What had started out as a bad day turned into a memorable one as we learned to curl – a bunch of people from Scotland getting their first taste of curling in Switzerland, and loving it!