La Chavanette

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Le Pas de Chavanette Chavanette2007.JPG
Le Pas de Chavanette

Le Pas de Chavanette, also known as the "Mur Suisse" or "Swiss Wall", is a particularly steep and difficult piste in the Portes du Soleil ski area, on the border between France and Switzerland. It can be reached from the French resort of Avoriaz and from the Swiss towns of Les Crosets and Champéry. Effectively, one starts the run standing on the Swiss-French border, plunging down the Swiss side of the mountain towards Les Crosets.

Portes du Soleil ski area in the French Alps

Les Portes du Soleil is a major skisports destination in the Alps, encompassing thirteen resorts between Mont Blanc in France and Lake Geneva in Switzerland. With more than 650 km of marked pistes and about 200 lifts in total, spread over 14 valleys and about 1,036 square kilometres (400 sq mi), Portes du Soleil ranks among the two largest ski areas in the world. Almost all of the pistes are connected by lifts – a few marginal towns can be reached only by the free bus services in the area. The highest point of skiing is 2400 m and the lowest is 900 m. As with many other Alpine ski resorts, the lower slopes of the Portes du Soleil have snow-making facilities to extend the skiable season by keeping the lower slopes open during the warmer months.

France Republic with majority of territory in Europe and numerous oversea territories around the world

France, officially the French Republic, is a sovereign state whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.02 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Switzerland federal republic in Central Europe

Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a sovereign state situated in the confluence of western, central, and southern Europe. It is a federal republic composed of 26 cantons, with federal authorities seated in Bern. Switzerland is a landlocked country bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. It is geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning a total area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi), and land area of 39,997 km2 (15,443 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8.5 million is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are located, among them the two global cities and economic centres of Zürich and Geneva.



The slope is classified in the Swiss/French difficulty rating as orange, which means that it is rated as too difficult to fit in the standard classification of green (very easy), blue (easy), red (intermediate) and black (difficult). It has a length of 1 kilometre and a vertical drop of 331 metres, starting at 2,151 metres above sea level.

Slope layout

The rocky passage on Le Pas de Chavanette Chavanettepass.JPG
The rocky passage on Le Pas de Chavanette

The slope has moguls throughout. It starts in a narrow pass on the mountain top with an inclication of 40 degrees. [1] In winters with heavy snowfall, the moguls at the top can grow to enormous dimensions — the size of a small car — because of the heavy turns people take to compensate for the inclination and narrow slope.

Grade (slope) tangent of the angle of a surface to the horizontal

The grade of a physical feature, landform or constructed line refers to the tangent of the angle of that surface to the horizontal. It is a special case of the slope, where zero indicates horizontality. A larger number indicates higher or steeper degree of "tilt". Often slope is calculated as a ratio of "rise" to "run", or as a fraction in which run is the horizontal distance and rise is the vertical distance.

After the initial 50 metres, the slope widens to the left, allowing skiers and boarders to traverse to a less steep area and make their descent by curving around the more steep and dangerous path directly down the slope.

The direct path goes into a pass between two rocky areas on the right hand side of the slope, about halfway down, which at its narrowest is about ten metres wide. This gives the skier or boarder an impression of being in a very steep half pipe with moguls.

After this passage, the slope eases out with fewer moguls, and narrows as the easier left-hand path merges with the direct path. The last two hundred metres are a flat run directly towards the chair lift back up the mountain, or the easier runs towards Les Crosets and Champéry.

How to ski/board it

The initial 50 metres have to be skied or boarded by everyone taking Le Pas de Chavanette. Especially without fresh snow, the slope gets icy quickly, turning the area between moguls into ice sheets. Not making a turn in these situations means that you miss the next mogul, and pick up too much speed to make the next one after that, starting off a tumble that ends a couple of hundred metres down the slope, while hitting a few dozen icy bumps in the course.

After this initial stretch, the choice can be made, up until the rocky passage in the direct path, to escape to the less steep left hand side of the slope, where a stumble is less dangerous. The direct path down Le Pas de Chavanette, to the right hand side and down the rocky passage, should only be taken by very experienced skiers and riders who know how to handle moguls, as it is effectively a continuation of the first 50 metres.

As the slope eases out, it is easier to negotiate the moguls and make a single run down to the end, although the inclination and bumps still call for significant dexterity and physical strength.

Wearing protective gear like a helmet and a back protector is highly recommended.

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  1. Map of the slope with isopleths, France: IGN, retrieved 14 January 2013

Coordinates: 46°10′32.71″N6°48′22.58″E / 46.1757528°N 6.8062722°E / 46.1757528; 6.8062722

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