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Morzine is one of 14 resorts in the massive Portes du Soleil ski area, which spans the Franco-Swiss border. With 52 hotels and 41 bars and restaurants, it’s a concentration of ski holiday facilities, but still manages to pull off that authentic mountain village feel. When it comes to the slopes, Morzine is a fine destination for beginners and intermediate skiers, with an abundance of gentle pistes. It’s also a good place from which to explore the Porte du Soleil’s many off piste options if you’re feeling adventurous. Lifts often lead directly up to these areas, which mean less hiking and more skiing. Freestylers, however, may want to skip Morzine and head to neighbouring Avoriaz, since Morzine’s park doesn’t offer anything exceptional.
Morzine is just one of 14 resorts in the massive Portes du Soleil ski area. All in all, the domain offers 650 kilometres of pistes served by 195 lifts and 694 snow guns stretching across the French-Swiss border. If it all sounds mind-boggling, don't fret-Morzine has managed to maintain its mountain village feel, with wood chalets, slate roofs, and old stone buildings.
Morzine is sandwiched between Les Gets and Avoriaz. If you don't think you'll cover all 278 pistes of the Portes du Soleil Pass, you can opt for a Morzine-Les Gets Pass, which is good for 64 runs or an Avoriaz pass for 49 pistes.
These two passes are good for skiers up to advanced beginning level, or for anyone who just wants a gentle, relaxing ski holiday. Plus, many of the Morzine-Les Gets pistes run through forested areas, making for a pleasant backdrop to a quiet ski day. As for Avoriaz, the pistes are higher up, so the snow quality is better longer.
If you're intermediate and up, a Portes du Soleil Pass will be worth the money. It opens the way to 106 blue runs, 100 red runs, and 20 challenging black runs, including the Hauts Forts at Avoriaz and the Swiss Wall at Les Crosets.
Morzine offers a good starting base for off piste skiing, since the Nyon and Chamossière lifts run to the top of the mountain and can get you away from the groomed areas without having to climb on foot. Nyon has a good choice of itineraries between the groomers, so you can choose depending on how adventurous you feel. Just be careful not to go through the trees leading to the Vallée de la Manche - on the other side is a drop off.
An alternative choice is the Pointe d'Angolon, on the left of the Chamossière lift. The arrival point offers a fantastic view of the Mont Blanc before skiing on the ridge to the Col d'Angolon. Just be careful, because this area is prone to snowslides when there is a lot of fresh powder. You can then ski down into the bowl and come out at the lift to ride back up and do it all again. Because it is so accessible, the area can get tracked out, but since it is so spread out, you should be able to do a few runs while the snow is still ideal.
In terms of challenging pistes, Morzine offers nine black runs and 29 red runs, some of which could actually be considered black if they didn't run right into the village. Pistes A, F, and R are pretty steep for red runs, but at the same time wide enough for making large turns.
The red Aigle Rouge is a sharp switchback slope but for an exciting variation, you can short cut the switchbacks by taking a steep off-piste drop that runs back to the piste afterwards. You can also choose to take the AIgle Noi, a bumpy black, or the red Combe, both of which run down to the Pointe lift.
Groomers and Family
With five green and 23 blue runs, Morzine is an ideal destination for beginners and lower-level intermediate skiers. Since easy slopes tend to be near the base village, natural snow conditions can be variable, but the resort makes up for this with a thorough network of snow guns.
On the Pleney side, you'll find a special beginner area, with wide tree-lined slopes where you can learn to ski in a pretty setting. This also runs into some gentle and easy enough blue runs that can be done after a few tries on the greens.
However, this area gets very crowded during the school holiday times, sometimes, with up to a 10 minute wait for some of the magic carpets. As soon as you progress beyond an absolute beginner level, it's a good idea to try the blue runs, which tend to disperse the crowds a bit better.
Piste B, C, and D are all good options, none of which are steep or tricky. Piste B is the longest and thus, the gentlest while Piste C has just enough slope to challenging advancing beginners.
Another option is the Proclou area, on the Super Morzine side of the resort. It is the largest and widest zone where you can learn to ski and is the base camp for the Avoriaz Ski School. But like the Pleney area, it gets crowded during peak weeks, so come here to build your confidence, then fan out to the less crowded runs.
Morzine is Avoriaz's next door neighbour, and as such is pretty light on park and pipe opportunities. If you are looking for some serious park time, you really should head over to Avoriaz, where you'll find different parks, including The Stash, which was designed by Burton and all features ecological modules.
Avoriaz groups its park and pipe areas collectively into the Avoriaz Snowzone, made up of five parks, a really big superpipe (120 metres long and six metres high), and two boardercrosses. All in all, these are some of the best and most varied area for freestylers of all levels and even kids, thanks to the Lil'Stash park.
The Chappelle park is good for practicing jumps, since they come in threes, meaning more jump for your queue time. It also has progressively difficult beginner to intermediate modules, you can ride at your level.
The Arare snowpark is for more advanced freestylers, with big modules and skiers rotating, flipping, and spinning in every direction. You'll want to build up speed to clear the modules, so this one is not for the faint of heart or lower intermediate levels. But they can always watch the spectacle put on by the other skiers and boarders.
Morzine itself does offer a 200-metre-long boardercross in the Nyonet area as well as a park accessible via the Nyon lift. Here, you'll find a few easy jumps and a rail or two, but nothing spectacular. It's good if you just want to test the park experience, but if you're looking for something special, head to Avoriaz.
A&D, on the rue de Bourg, opened in 2010 and since then has been a big success, notably due to the quality ingredients selected by owner Porl Denicolo. They serve full cooked breakfasts, complete with tea for around €9, which is about the best price you'll find for such hearty portions. Plus, in the evenings, they do a proper fish and chips for €8 if you miss the grub from back home.
For a quick coffee, head to Berits & Brown, with its comfy couches and selection of gourmet coffees. The coffee shop is in the back, where you can enjoy a fresh-ground cuppa, along with French- or Brit-inspired pastries if you need a little sugar in the morning.
La Pointe de Nyon sits right on the slopes and is accessible by taking the lift of the same name. The restaurant was recently reconstructed and re-opened in June 2011, with a spacious dining room and an outdoor dining area with a wide-open view of the surrounding slopes. As for food, you'll find a variety of salads, soups, pasta, and pizza, along with traditional Savoyard dishes and even a foie gras burger.
In the village, look for La Grange on the Chemin de la Coutettaz, where you'll find several different fondue varieties and local meat dishes, as well as surprising desserts like spice bread crème brulée. Everything is decorated in tasteful mountain style, with a cosy wooden interior and a flaming fireplace. The place is popular, so you may want to call ahead: +33(0)450.759.640.
L'Atelier, in the Hotel Le Samoyède, serves elegant dishes carefully dosed with spices as well as upscale terroir fare. Chef Alexandre Baud-Pachon has trained in several Michelin-starred restaurants in the region and came to Morzine in 2001 to open his own restaurant.
Fixed price menus start at €33 and may include specialties such as lobster and ginger ravioles, fera filet with truffle risotto, and Charolais beef with Beaufort polenta gratin. The menu changes with the seasons, ensuring impeccable freshness.
Le Mas de la Coutettaz, also known as the (more pronouncable) Farmhouse, is housed in Morzine's oldest building, a 1771 farmstead. Here, guests sit at convivial banquet-style tables in the traditionally decorated dining room, which used to be the cattle stable back in the old days.
Meals cost €40 per person and include at least four courses, with dishes like red onion and goat cheese tart, roast tarragon and mushroom chicken, and chocolate lava cake. After-dinner coffee is served in the bar, adding to the down-home atmosphere. Note: if you have children under 13 dining with you, mention it when you reserve, which you should do 24 hours in advance.
Le Clin d'œil, near the mayor's office on the Route du Plan, specializes in southwest French cuisine. Duck and foie gras dishes pepper the menu, which is a welcome change for the resort, but of course, the restaurant offers the regular Savoyard cheese dishes as well. Fixed menus run from €20 to €40.
Mamma's does low-key right, with a selection of freshly made pizzas, pasta and noodle dishes, and fish n'chips. They also do wraps, burgers, and salads, so pretty much everyone in your group will find something good, to enjoy on-site or to take away. Prices around €10.
Tibetan Café recently changed names from the Buddha Café, but the Asian-inspired atmosphere remains the same-lively and hip. Giant plasma screens show ski, board, and biking action, while fresh-off-the-piste guests lounge on comfy couches and nosh on tapas. The bar is open from 4 p.m to 2 a.m, but starts jumping around 9 p.m. You'll find the Tibetan Café between the tourist office and the Pleney.
Robinson Bar is an interesting après-ski choice for three reasons : no music, a single beer on tap, and an 8 p.m closing time. Not convinced? The only beer served is the locally-brewed Mutzig, of an unknown, but presumably powerful proof. Instead of thumping tunes, the owners prefer to let guests recount the day's slopeside exploits. And the bar closes early because otherwise, the Mutzig would do you in. Sounds intriguing, no? You'll find it at the end of the village, near the church and the mayor's office.
Morzine is such a popular destination with English-speaking skiers that it has its own English-language magazine, Yodel. It comes out every month and provides a good rundown of what's going on in the resort, alongside quality articles, interviews, and photos. Plus, it's put together by locals who live at Morzine year round, so they really know the place. It's been so successful that the small British publishing team has even launched Yodel Les Gets and Yodel Avoriaz. Check out their website for a list of places where you can pick up a copy.
Another good thing to know about is the YouCanSki programme, aimed at beginners. There's no point in paying for a pass that covers the entire ski area when you want to ski just a few easy slopes and this package offers beginners a cheaper choice. For 269 euros, you get six half-day lessons, gear hire, and a lift pass. Morzine is a prime choice in terms of slopes if you are just learning, and now there's a special package that lets you get the most out of the gentle terrain.
If you just want a few lessons, try the Mint Snowboard School or the British Alpine Ski School, both of which specialize in English-language lessons and have consistently positive reviews.
Place Baraty - BP 23
Phone: +33 (0)4 50 74 72 72