Elevation Luxury Self Catered Ski Chalets’ guest blogger Robyn Dobson gives us some great advice on conquering of the toughest pistes in the Alps…..
It holds a serious reputation in the Portes du Soleil. And with moguls the size of a small car, the Swiss Wall is a force not to be reckoned with!
Le Pas de Chavanette is an incredibly steep and tricky piste bordering France and Switzerland, otherwise known to the locals as Le Mur Suisse (the Swiss Wall), and has its own classification as an Orange run, purely due to the 331 metres of vertical drop along it’s kilometre long piste.
But as long as you know what you’re doing, it’s just another of the many terrifyingly terrific routes of the Portes du Soleil!
Making your way from Morzine centre to the slopes of Avoriaz, you need to find yourself in the Arare bowl – either by taking the A bus to the Prodains lift and up, or following the cat-track from the top of SuperM and dropping right into Avoriaz. Here you have a choice: you can take the Lac-Intrets chairlift up to the very top of the Arare, heading right to follow the blue piste Bleue du Lac down where it meets the blue Aller de Chavanette piste, or you can simply take the Stade chairlift itself to where this run starts. For boarders especially, the longer route may be easier as the beginning of the Aller de Chavanette piste is very flat and needs a good run-up to get you over to the descent. The name of the piste literally translates to “to go to Chavanette” and takes you along a very narrow but gentle run, through a small tunnel and out into the Fornet bowl.
If you’re looking for some decent practice on moguls before you tackle the Swiss Wall itself, head up the Fornet chairlift: it offers two fantastic runs that are non-pisted pistes, the red SnowCross Pschott or the blue SnowCross Marmotte. Great runs to have a play on, you can practice the sharp twists and turns, and high-level control to tackle the moguls that skiiers have already carved into the pistes.
Dropping down to the bottom of both runs, you find yourself again at the bottom of the Fornet chairlift, which neighbours the Chavanette chairlift. Take the Chavanette chairlift all the way to the top and follow the clearly marked signs to the Swiss Wall.
The O’Padcha restaurant is a great place to stop for a drink or bite to eat, either for some dutch courage before you make the descent or some celebratory cheers after you take the chairlift back up. Depositing your skis at the steps, you can carefully creep over to the top of the wall for the magnificent views of Switzerland. It’s great fun for the kids, as the restaurant itself sits on the very border between France and Switzerland and has a red line running through the middle of its terrace, meaning you can choose which country you want to sit and eat in for the afternoon. Their techno music playing loudly over the speakers has the reputation for really getting you in the mood for the descent!
If you plan to make the daring plunge, make sure that you have the full Portes du Soleil pass to get back up the Chavanette chairlift on the other side. It’s advised to tackle the piste earlier on in the day, with the opportunity for more powder and slightly less overwhelming moguls: the later in the day you leave it, the icier the conditions become. They say that “it’s all in your head”: if you have a good to decent ability, then you are more than capable of taking on the Swiss Wall, just take your time on the route and use this great Top Tip from one of our locals: traverse to the left at the top of the Wall, as this avoids the most cut-out drop ins and gives access to slightly less harrowing moguls. The top of the route is incredibly steep (hence the name) and quite narrow, but thankfully widens out further to the bottom as the gradient begins to lessen.
Be sure to take a photo at the bottom to commemorate your success..
For those who would rather experience the magnificencent full view of the Swiss Wall from the bottom without having to dare the moguls themselves, you can take the Chavanette chairlift down the wall, watching in comfort as others tackle the reputed drop.