Why I love living in Chatel by Chris Keeping
BY - Tim Latimer, 22 August 2019, ARTICLES
BY - Tim Latimer, 22 August 2019, ARTICLES
Read first hand why Chris chooses to make Chatel his home.
Chris Keeping works at the luxury ski chalet Chaletneuf du Tenne in the French ski resort of Châtel and makes the resort his home year after year. But what’s so special about this lesser known ski resort that keeps him coming back each season. Well, we asked him and this is what he had to say….
I left it late but being the obedient type I complied.
I’d never heard of the ski resort of Châtel in the Portes du Soleil ski area in France, but after a brief chat with a stranger in a random pub in Brighton one evening, I had a list of names to contact for work and accommodation and two days later was called back by the first name on the list.
The plan was to work in the local bar, L’Avalanche for the season, tick a box of being a seasonnaire for a few months and then head back and get one of those much talked about ‘proper jobs’.
It didn’t happen.
Within seven days of being in Châtel I had met more friends here than I had in seven years in Brighton. There was a tab system at L’Avalanche which was for the use of regulars and residents. I therefore had to ask every person I met what their name was which inadvertently introduced myself to them all straight away. I seemed to fit in well and felt right at home. La famille Châtel had welcomed me to their bosom with open arms.
My first day’s snowboarding was a messy affair. I sneaked out to get my riding legs back before having to prove to my new friends that I could actually stand up on a snowboard. My first foray into snowboarding was being taken up to the top of La Bochard (3850m) in Argentière and told to ride down. It was a red run and looked like glass. It was like standing up on a bar of soap in the shower. As the boys expected, by the time I got back down to the bottom I had all but figured it out. Harsh way to learn but effective.
I was just parking up on the Chaux De Roseés chairlift in Châtel when my boss and his friend sidled up along side.
I managed to flaunt some level of snowboarding prowess to my new found peers on the one blue run we did before we swung into the round bar at Chez Crépy. Plaine Dranse is an old farming community half way up the Pré La Joux ski area where numerous bars and restaurants are to be enjoyed. Crépy is an outdoor glass bar with stunning views over the highest mountain in La Val D’Abondance, Mont De Grange and always lively.
We then headed to the cutest little mountain grotto you’ve ever seen for lunch. Chez Babeth is a beautiful old cabin painstakingly decorated for Christmas all year round and where I had my first French Tartiflette. It was a cracking introduction to life in Châtel.
Within a couple of weeks I had decided to pack up my life in the UK and moved to Châtel permanently. It was a seamless transition and within days I felt like we had a new home.
Since then life here has been fantastic. I never tire of the views and the laid back lifestyle Châtel offers the visitor and resident.
The skiing here is excellent and thanks to the recent installation of state of the art snow cannons and when the snow gods aren’t playing ball, such innovative ideas as gathering the November snow and packing the pistes in preparation for the winter, Châtel can boast some of the best skiing in the Portes Du Soleil.
Another addition to the valley have been the impressive Portes du Soleil and Gabelou chairlifts. From the Petit Chatel area I can now walk out of my door and hop on the Petit Chatel/Barbossine Chairlift and then, after one of the best blue runs in the valley and a couple of short button lifts, I can then get all the way to the other end of the village and begin an epic journey out to Avoriaz, Morzine, Les Gets one way and Champery, Champoussin and Les Crosets the other. It’s a link that was conceived a few years ago and now the reality is here it affords the visitor the ability to ski anywhere in the Portes du Soleil from anywhere in the sleepy farming village of Châtel.
There is an awesome snow park at Super Châtel for those wishing to improve their aerial acrobatics and tricks with a new glass round bar at the bottom outside the Portes Du Soleil chairlift and eponymous restaurant.
This village has a little bit of everything for the visitor. From numerous restaurants serving traditional Savoie cuisine to snack bars offering burgers and pizzas. There are two cinemas showing a number of English movies throughout the season and even a cool bowling alley with frequent live music.
Châtel sits at the top end of La Val D’Abondance which is only an hour and a half from Geneva giving the village the accolade of being one of the quicker ski resorts to access from the airport. The road meanders up the valley from Thonon Les Bains through an agonisingly pretty road and climbs up through Abondance and La Chapelle D’Abondance, both individual ski resorts open most of the season, snow permitting. Châtel is also the nearest French ski resort to drive to from the UK, Belgium and Holland making it very popular with the northern Europeans.
The farming community in Val D’Abondance has created its own cheese too; Abondance has been produced here for over 800 years. It is a unique hard fromage aged for over 100 days with a fruity, creamy taste texture and certainly a staple in these parts.
Châtel is in a fortunate south facing position and gathers hours of sunshine throughout winter and especially in summer. You’re never short of a spectacular view here but the thing that makes Châtel special isn’t the snow, the nightlife or the accessibility, it’s the feeling you get when you’re here. Over the years I have had numerous friends and family come to visit and they always say there is something special about Châtel that they can’t put their finger on. They have been to St Anton, Verbier, Chamonix and beyond but tell me that Châtel, with its 400 year old farmhouses, its own cuisine, friendly, laid back residents, access to over 650kms of carefully manicured pistes and even its own cheese makes it a little more welcoming and friendly than its better known counterparts. These guests of mine now return every year!
I haven’t managed to fathom exactly what it is that Châtel brings to the table but having tried to leave this beautiful village several times in order to pursue careers elsewhere, there is something that calls me back year after year and I have since manufactured a career that allows me to work from here all year round. I am proud to call Châtel a second home and envisage doing so for many years to come.
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