Before winter sports transformed the area into Avoriaz, the area was called ‘Avorea’ and consisted of little more than a cluster of alpine chalets and high-altitude pastures.
Farmers from the lower village of Morzine would bring their cattle up the mountain to graze during the summer months.
The harsh winter weather would then drive them back down to the more sheltered land. Only the bravest of skiers would hike up through the deep snow to take advantage of the untouched slopes.
In 1960, Jean Vuarnet became a local hero when he won the men’s downhill skiing at the winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California.
On his return, he was made the director in charge of transforming Avoriaz into a ski resort.
Together with friends and business partners Gerard Bremont and Jacques Labro Vuarnet, he made plans to set up an infrastructure that would create interest in the resort.
The plans came up against much criticism – the idea of creating traffic free resort seemed absurd when in the 1960s owning a car seemed so essential.
However, this decision is what gives Avoriaz a unique selling point now.
The idea that you can ski from shop to shop and get about by pony trap or sledge is what gives the resort much of its charm.
By 1961, the Nyon cable car and the Avoriaz cable car were completed, shortly followed by the Prodains cable car.
Jacques Labro built the first hotel in the 1963 season, welcoming the first guests to resort. The architects took the design of this hotel as the template on which the rest of the building work was to follow.
The buildings, therefore, took a more contemporary direction, as opposed to the ‘chocolate box’ themed resorts that were accepted as standard.
The buildings were mainly built from wood and slate and are surprisingly in keeping with the natural surroundings as the lines cleverly mimic the contours of the mountains.
Many of the designers that have contributed to their design have won prestigious awards for their innovation.