Resort Profile: Champery

By adamrowden, 12 Dec '12 at 14:14

One of the oldest and today still one of the prettiest tourist resorts in Switzerland, Champery celebrates 150 years of tourism in 2007. Fortunately for its current guests, the resort has not expanded into a large town of high priced hotels and thousands of tourists, but instead has managed to retain its charm and character, making a stay here a pleasure in itself, even before you think about skiing.

Fortunately though, the skiing is remarkable. One of the few Swiss resorts on the giant cross-border Portes du Soleil ski pass, with 650km (403 miles) of runs, served by more than 200 lifts, it is directly lift linked in to what is one of the claimant to the coveted 'largest ski area in the world' title. Skiers are whisked up nearly 1000 vertical metres in just five minutes by the giant, red, iconic 125 passenger cable car, arriving at a snowsure 2000m.

The resort itself sites at 1050m beneath the spectacular Dents du Midi and Dents Blanches mountain peaks. Tourism in Champery, and the greater Chablais Region of which it is a part, kicked off in 1857 with the opening of the Hotel Dent-du-Midi.

This hotel opened as a response to growing tourism from Great Britain where rich people embarking on the then tradition 'Grand Tour' of Europe sought out quality accommodation in areas of spectacular beauty. The railway line followed 40 years later and one of the first cable cars in Switzerland opened here in 1939. Unfortunately the Grand Hotel Dent du Midi reached a state where repair costs weren't viable after 90 years and it was demolished in 1946.

Ever since the resort has maintained its traditional architecture and is famous for the sculptured wooden balconies and characteristic roof line (toits en sifflet) overlooking the main street. The balconies are of course bedecked with flowers in the summer. The village's historic bell tower is a key architectural asset. Today Champery is promoted as both one of the 14 resorts of the Portes du Soleil and as one of 14 villages (half different to the other 14, half the same) within a 35km (22 mile) area in the Chablais Region, at the entrance to the famous Swiss Valais region.

Champery is looking forward to its next 150 years with the opening of Switzerland's national ice centre here in 2004, the Palladium. There is also a vision of development for the Swiss Side of the Portes du Soleil in line with modern concerns for the environment and sustainable development - issues which have always been at the heart of the resort's plans. Changes to the lifts and runs have been outlined in consultation with environmental groups and many other interested parties through to 2020 and will see fewer lifts and fewer lift towers but with higher capacity chairlifts replacing old surface tows.

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