Morzine is ideal for short trips to the slopes. Perched on the Swiss frontier in the heart of one of the world's biggest skiing areas, Les Portes du Soleil, it is easy to get to: Geneva Airport is 75 kilometres/1h15.
Village resorts have a reputation for limited snow fields. The choice is usually between on the one hand folksy tradition and slightly inferior facilities or super-modern accommodation and amazing skiing. Morzine is the exception however, because the Portes du Soleil boasts 650 kilometres of ski runs and crosses over onto the Swiss side of the Alps.
The village was first mentioned in the court records in 1181. It was first developed as a ski destination in the 1920s but has managed to retain its charm whilst at the same time keeping up with the winter sports resort revolution. This is mainly because the commune boasts two contrasting but closely linked resorts: the original Morzine and Avoriaz - built from scratch on the Alpine pastures in the 60s. Today they increasingly match each other with Morzine tucked into a fold in the mountains and Avoriaz on top of a cliff at 1,800 metres. Architecturally they are opposites, the one still entirely made up of Savoyard chalets and the other all avant-garde, neo traditional blocks of flats. Morzine is hotel based whilst Avoriaz is rental. Morzine is focused round village life whilst Avoriaz is compact, peaceful and entirely car free - Avoriaz remains the only 100 percent pedestrian resort in France.
Morzine village. Courtesy of Flickr/Alan Merrion
Here's how to spend three perfect days on the slopes in Morzine . . .
You have only three days so you had better get going. Kick off with a curiously named but self explanatory 'Sunrise guiding' The principle is that early risers get the best of the mountain - as the lifts open for the pisteurs, you get the chance to cut the first line in the virgin powder after a new snowfall. You can do this on Saturdays and Sundays between 8.45 a.m and 10.45 a.m starting at the Nyon ski lift accompanied by an instructor from the Snow School and fortified by breakfast on the slopes.
After that take in the runs around Morzine and then go up to the Les Gets area with its comfortable rolling forest trails and traditional chalets. Don't miss the highest point La Chamossière at 2,002 metres with the resort's longest run of 1,750 metres. There is a single chairlift that links with two runs in particular (one black and one red) that shouldn't be missed and take you down either side of the mountain on quiet unspoilt slopes. Before youdescend, take a few moments to enjoy the 360° panorama of The Alps and Mont Blanc.
Finish off your first day with a 'Sunset lesson' against the background of the setting sun. When most skiers have called it a day you can polish up your technique with some personal tuition as the mountain light changes unforgettably from virgin white to a surreal pink. The classes are organised by instructors from the Snow School from Feb. 12 to March 9 (5-6 p.m) for groups of up to three with the same skills (€55 with a supplement of €15 for a fourth participant).
Skiing in Morzine. Courtesy of Flickr/Georgio
Take advantage of one of the biggest ski areas in the world and pay a visit to Switzerland. The Portes du Soleil links 12 resorts all on the same ski pass. Take the lift to Avoriaz and the pretty mountain village of Chatel. Have lunch in Switzerland and ski on perfect runs amongst the picture-book Swiss villages. Keep an eye on the time and consult your map of the ski trails which shows the closing times of the lifts and the shortest way to get back to the French side of the border, before treating yourself to a well earned vin chaud.
In the evening when the slopes are closed try something different with a run down from Le Pléney on a sledge accompanied by an instructor equipped with spot lights and finish off with a meal in a tepee.
If you're into Freestyle, try the Morzine snowpark. You get there on the Nyon ski lift which is set up exclusively to service the park. There is a 200-metre boardercross as well as a good quarter-pipe (with air bag) and a neat chill zone complete with the right music to match your jumps. It is a well maintained spot, intended for freestylers still honing their skills. The snowpark is linked directly by ski lifts to Avoriaz and Les Gets.
On your last afternoon chill out with a ride in a horse-drawn carriage round the village and take in the boutiques, the old chalets and the church. Then you can ease those aching muscles in the brand new water centre in the Palais des sports with its swimming pools, hammam and three saunas.
For a final dinner in traditional style, visit the newly opened L'Alpage restaurant in the centre of the village. In the basement there is a vaulted stone cellar where you can view the neighbouring cheese store with all the locally produced cheeses in process of ripening. The restaurant is the brain child of a Morzine cheese producer. Specialities include dishes based on home produced cheeses like the "Assiette de la fruitière" made up of four local varieties, Tomme de Morzine, Abondance, Reblochon and Nyon - a fruitière in this context is a place for cheese making and nothing to do with fruit.
For adepts of energetic après-ski activities, Morzine is well equipped. Two addresses in particular are recommended. The Bistrot Chez Roger in the rue Bourg open until 2 a.m where you will be offered hot bar snacks free with your drinks. Less intimate but more livlely is the Crépu on the route de Pléney, often heaving, sometimes with live DJs and also open 'til 2 a.m.