Morzine is at the heart of the Portes du Soleil ski area. It is a huge ski area with 12 resorts and one ski pass, offering up around 400 miles of marked pistes (ski runs) and straddling the French-Swiss border – with views one way to Lake Geneva and the other, to Western Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc.
The sheer variety of terrain makes the area a winter sports paradise for all skiers and snowboarders, from beginner to expert and we have picked our favourite on-piste ski runs depending on four different levels – and we’re suggesting them on the premise of being based in Morzine, right in the heart of the Portes du Soleil area.
- The Pleney Cable Car starts on the very street of Morzine and whisks skiers up onto slopes above the steep ‘hill’. Fortunately when you reach the top, things mellow out and the set up here is ideal for first timers or tentative learners. Several green runs and baby slopes create a hangout for ski schools, families and L Plate skiers. At the end of the day, jump back in the cable car for the ride down again, easy.
- On the other side of town, directly opposite The Pleney, the south facing slopes of Super Morzine offer up the perfect place for improving your skills and increasing confidence levels. Firstly, take the Super Morzine Cable Car up from right in the centre of town. Then, ride the Zore Chairlift to access the blue graded pistes above the Prodains Valley. It’s possible to make your way all the way across to the purpose built resort of Avoriaz via three further chairlifts and then back again – all on green and blue runs (in other words, easy).
- Jump on the bus from Morzine to Les Prodains and take the cable car to Morzine and then ride up through to the top of town via the Tour Chairlift. Below you the Lindarets Valley between Avoriaz and the resort of Chatel provides a snowsure playground with terrain for all. It’s like a microcosm of a huge ski resort, all wrapped up in one little valley. It’s a great place to practice your skills with blue and red run options descending to one hub with at least half a dozen restaurants to take a well-earned break in.
- For a longer excursion then head from the Lindarets Valley up the long Mossettes Chairlift. Here, you’re right on the border of France and Switzerland and the views across to the Dents du Midi (the largest single mountain in the Alps) are incredible. It’s possible to ski down to the Swiss resort of Les Crosets on a blue or red run and play on the Swiss side of the area for the morning before heading back. You can avoid reds completely and stick to blues – then the descent back to Linderets starts on an easy red that turns into a blue. It’s long, but wide and not too steep even on the red section and really gives you the feel that you’ve travelled a long way, even if the skiing wasn’t too demanding.
- Head all the way across to the Chatel sector via Plaine Dranse and take Les Combes Chair up to Tete du Linga. The terrain here is some of the best in the whole Portes du Soleil area, including some good off-piste options in the right conditions. The red run from the top all the way down to the valley floor at Linga is a classic. It follows the natural terrain of the mountain and is north west facing and keeps the snow in good conditions.
- We’re back on the Pleney again but this time, instead of hanging out at the top, we’re going to ski directly underneath the cable car heading towards Morzine right below you. The lower section of this red graded run is known as The Stade and used for slalom training and races. It’s a perfect pitch that’s consistent for several hundred metres and right above the town – and après ski bars including Le Templin, so if you’re on good form, it’s the perfect opportunity to show off some skills to the party people, and then maybe join them after a couple of adrenaline fuelled runs.
- High above Avoriaz on Les Hauts Forts lies the start of the women’s world cup downhill run – the Coupe du Monde. It’s graded black, although it’s not that steep so in most parts, it feels like a red run. But there’s some narrow, exposed areas at the top and that part can get icy after high-winds, so it’s not for the faint hearted. But, once you’re in your flow this is one of the best pistes in the Alps, long, challenging and often pretty quiet, it takes you all the way down to Les Prodains, around 1,000 metres below the starting point. A real classic.
- Le Pas de Chavanette AKA, The Swiss Wall – well, we couldn’t not include this very famous run that even has its own Wikipedia page. Starting at the border high above Avoriaz, this steep black run really is a challenge for even the very best skiers, mostly because of the huge moguls and often icy start. As you head to towards the initial slope, it drops away sharply, giving the illusion that it’s almost a sheer drop – it isn’t, but still the first 50 or 60 metres are very steep and a fall here is not advisable, you probably won’t stop. Unless you are a very confident skier and can handle moguls the size of VW Beetles the best avoid this classic, but scary run.