Some of the villages of The Portes Du Soleil are not typical purpose built ski resorts. A number of them have a history dating back hundreds of years. Chatel is one such village.
The First Arrivals
At the end of the fifth century a Burgundian tribe settled in the Abondance valley, being driven there by the Huns. As allies to Rome, the Burgundians had been allowed to settle in modern Savoie and fought with the Romans against Attila at the Battle of Chalons in 451 AD. The tribe was predominantly Catholic and they brought their religion and way of life to the valley They survived by breeding sheep, spinning wool and cultivating flax and hemp. These industries meant that it was necessary to clear the heavily forested land around their settlement.
The Augustinian Monks
In 516 AD The King of Burgundy, Saint Sigismund, placed the valley under the control of the Augustinian monks from the Saint Maurice abbey in the Valais region. They attempted to settle there but ran into a few problems. The first priory they attempted to build, six hundred metres from the hamlet of Abondance, was destroyed in a landslide. They then set up another priory, but this was not central enough for the population. A priory was then built in Abondance and in 1140 was renamed an Abbey, demonstrating its increased importance and influence. As the influence of the church spread to Chapelle and then to Chatel itself the church gifted land to the local populace so that they could provide for themselves.
In 1422 a chapel was built for the hamlets of Chastel, Mollie and Lessert, so that the inhabitants would not have to travel to the church in La Chapelle-díAbondance. In 1590 a dispute arose between Chatel and La Chapelle regarding the grazing rights for cattle in the area. Chatel also complained that the harsh winters combined with the distance to La Chapelle-díAbondance made the church inaccessible for some members of the congregation. Therefore on 2nd July 1645 Chatel was named as a parish, and obtained independence in 1728.
In 1860, along with the rest of Savoie, Chatel was united with France. The town was relatively poor at the time, with inhabitants attempting to make a living from logging, slate mining, farming and, due to the proximity of the Swiss border, smuggling. The town began looking to tourism, and the burgeoning spa holiday industry, and the first hotel was built in 1880.