It’s the unique microclimate.
It’s physics that ensures that some of the Portes du Soleil’s relatively low-altitude resorts can claim some of the best snow records in Europe - physics and a touch of geography.
The Portes du Soleil sits between Lake Geneva and the giant Mont Blanc. It’s these two natural wonders that create a very specific weather system – a snow-making one – that gives resorts within the Portes du Soleil, such as Avoriaz and Chatel* an average annual snowfall more impressive than Zermatt*.
Snow is a result of evaporation followed by precipitation - water evaporating from the seas, rivers and lakes, then rising up into the earth’s atmosphere where it gets cold and turns back into water falling as rain or snow. This process takes place on Lake Geneva.
- Cold winds are constantly blown across the surface of Lake Geneva, picking up moisture and speed as they cross.
When this wet air suddenly hits the mountains it is forced high up into the freezing cold atmosphere.
- The result is precipitation, or rather, snow, lots of it, falling first onto Chatel, and then the rest of the Portes du Soleil.
- This sees some of the Portes du Soleil ski resorts opening as early as November each year and staying open well past the end of April.
This Geneva-Mont Blanc lake-mountain weather system also creates very consistent snowfall due to consistent winds. Snow depth is maintained and often, increases throughout the season, with depths sometimes reaching peaks as late as March.
A small snow depth is all that is needed
The pistes also need very little snow to become skiable, with up to 80% of some of the pistes actually pasture or vegetation, therefore needing as little as 20cm of snow to make the terrain beautifully skiable for us all. Rocky high altitude resorts don't have this ability and require much deeper snow depth just to cover the dangerous terrain.
Avoriaz - is the snowiest resort in France
At the heart of the Portes du Soleil sit our favorite, Avoriaz, with an average snowfall of 7.5m. Avoriaz is at resort level the snowiest ski resort in France which is quite an accolade to hold. Its record is partly explained by the resort's height, but also its almost complete exposure to snow storms moving in, and the special Lake Geneva microclimate.