Stunning Avoriaz becomes car-free summer playground for all the family
- Credit: Archant
As we headed up to Avoriaz on windy mountain roads it suddenly came into view - perched high atop a cliff edge in the distance – and its stunning abstract architecture took my breath away.
This is no postcard picture perfect resort filled with wooden chalets like something out of Heidi - but it is astoundingly beautiful in its own right.
Each night from our 12th floor apartment in the Atria Crozats, I would gaze at its modernist, awe-inspiring irregular wooden tower blocks, which resemble the craggy mountains around.
Purpose built in the 60s and designed by three architects influenced by the iconic Le Corbusier, cars are banned from the fantastical resort which becomes a playground for children and adults alike in the summer months.
Youngsters are free to roam around safely knowing there is no traffic, and there is an array of activities to tempt like mountain biking, tennis, archery and petanque, all accessible within a few minutes walk.
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The Village des Enfants here is an incredible institution, appealing to all ages from three to 16.
My reluctant 13-year-old sons who protested they weren’t going to a ‘kids’ club’ succumbed to the idea after joining an initial meeting where they set the agenda with their peers.
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They were the ones asking to return for activities like walking through rivers, kayaking, accro-branche and an afternoon fighting with paint.
My daughter meanwhile joined in with activities like fencing, hunting for marmots and building shelters in the mountains every morning, and each afternoon - much to her absolute delight - she joined the pony club, where they learned how to look after the horses and ride them too, with an all day pony trek on the last day.
Prices are incredibly reasonable, with a six half-day pony course costing 151 Euro and six full days in the kids club at 161 Euro.
I decided to opt for a few private tennis lessons, again at an extremely competitive price, of just 40 Euro an hour.
And of course the mountain biking that Avoriaz is famous for, being part of the Portes du Soleil downhill mountain biking areas which is among the top in Europe and the largest by far in France.
Here you don’t only find the type of natural rocky tracks that are common to other resorts.
We were lucky enough to be taken out one day by an ex-professional snowboarder and avid cyclist, who is now employed by the lift company to design and build tracks like the ‘Tutti Frutti’, more like BMX dirt downhill runs.
Runs are much like ski runs, graded from green to black, and you can cycle down and get the lift back up with your bike.
Avoriaz is the resort where it all started for the now hugely successful French self-catering property giant Pierre et Vacances.
The founder Gerard Bremont funded building of the resort, the brainchild of Olympic ski champion Jean Vuarnet.
We stayed in one of Pierre et Vacances’ newer properties, the stylish 4* Residence Atria-Crozats in the Crozats district of the village, where we enjoyed a magnificent panoramic view from its 12th and top floor apartment.
The spacious two-bedroom flat which sleeps six is uber stylish, finished to a high spec with a grey palette, and makes a perfect base for a family holiday.
The reception opens in the afternoon and early evening, with a lounge area, ping pong and swing ball outside on the terrace, and a spa with sauna and steam room and a gym.
Here you can order in croissants and baguettes for morning delivery if you don’t fancy an early morning trip down to the centre of the village, although you are saved what could be a steep walk back up by two elevators, hidden inside wooden casing, which take out the hard work of that journey.
Everything is situated alongside the boulangerie – a stage which plays hosts to a round-the-clock summer entertainment programme, the tourist office where you can hire out equipment for petanque, tennis, and badminton.
Aquariaz is just a short walk away too, a water park with over 1500 tropical plants and 183 tropical trees with a climbing wall that the kids loved as well as a crazy flume.
In creating Avoriaz the designers wanted to come up with the most perfectly-designed mountain resort, embracing the modern but remaining in harmony with nature, and in my opinion it’s a contender for the most beautiful too.