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Châtel boasts one of the best snow records in Europe, but it isn’t the highest ski resort in the World – with the resort at 1250m and the skiing reaching about 2000m, rising to 2500m in neighboring Avoriaz. So if it’s not all about altitude, what factors influence the area’s fantastic snow record?
Châtel is situated between Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc, which creates a unique micro-climate. Basically cold winds pick up moisture as they travel over the relatively warm lake, they are then forced upwards as they hit the mountains and into the higher colder atmosphere. This can cause intense and specific regional snow fall directly over Châtel and the Portes du Soleil.
2. North facing slopes
The village of Châtel sits on the south facing side of the Morclan mountain enjoying all day sun, however the main ski areas at Linga and Pre la Joux have the majority of their slopes facing north and west, meaning they are well protected from the sun and hold their snow until the end of the season.
3. Grassy pastures
Châtel is a farming town with over 60 active farms in the valley making local cheese such as Abondance and Tomme. In the summer months the mountains are full of cows grazing on the grassy slopes all the way up to 2000 meters. And in the winter months this is a blessing because the pastures require less snow depth to turn them into ski pistes. A snow base of 10-20cm will suffice, compared to other resorts that have rocky mountains and require a compacted base of a meter or more to cover all the rocks.
4. Snow Cannons
Châtel has invested heavily in snow making facilities over the past decade installing 237 snow cannons over 21 pistes covering 75 hectares. This guarantees skiing from mid December until the end of April, even in the times when Mother Nature doesn’t provide.
How do snow canons work?
The machines are fully automatic, starting up whenever the temperature drops below -4 degrees. All of Châtel’s snowmaking facilities are completely natural using only water and cold air: no chemicals are used. Very simply the snow cannon fires water from a nearby reservoir into the air and it turns into snow when it hits the cold air. On average one cubic meter of water makes two cubic meters of snow.