Our arrival in Morzine coincides with the tail-end of heavy snowfalls, and low temperatures, a desirable combination in most ski areas, and particularly here, since the village sits at a relatively modest altitude. In the past our timing has been less than ideal here, but today we find Morzine – the entire valley, in fact – looking postcard-perfect. We can’t resist the lure of the gondola lift which provides rapid access to SuperMorzine, gateway to the vast amount of terrain around Avoriaz and beyond, so that’s where we begin. For now the further terrain on offer on the opposite side of the valley can wait for another day.
The SuperMorzine gondola is tucked away in a side-street across from the Tourist Office, and gives ever more impressive bird’s-eye views of the village and the valley on the rapid haul up the mountain. At the top is a large restaurant, but we continue onwards, transferring to the Zore chairlift before things become too crowded with the morning’s skiers. The high-speed four-seater drops us at 1754m, with an option to take the Baron draglift for a choice of Blue pistes back down. We ski onward, however, to ride the relatively short Séraussaix chair, then the longer and more powerful Proclou high-speed four-seater offering fine views across the la Chapelle snowpark to high-rise Avoriaz perched on its dramatic escarpment. It sounds a lot more more arduous than it is, and in a just few minutes we’re at a useful 1873m, from which it’s finally time to do some meaningful skiing on the memorable run down to Les Lindarets, a living, working mountain hamlet and a key navigation point, since it’s blessed with no fewer than six lifts.
From Morzine into Switzerland…
Our next lift, the near-horizontal Léchère chair gives us one of the most magical rides we can remember and one of the slowest. But amid scenery like this we’re in no hurry, even as the border with Switzerland slow-zooms ever closer. The drop-off point at Les Brochaux is a snowy bowl and a lively spot, thanks to a couple of large and well-patronized mountain restaurants. After hanging in the chill breeze on the lifts the prospect of coffee on a sun terrace while watching the world ski by is irresistible, so we take a break before hopping on Mossettes. The high-speed four-seater chairlift’s loading area still has border control signs, which warning us to arm ourselves with passports, appropriate currency, etc. We hop aboard and are whisked rapidly to the 2262m summit, where we get great the panoramic views we’ve been expecting.
The scenery in all directions is dazzling, in fact, and from here it takes just a few minutes to drop in on the Portes du Soleil’s Swiss sectors around Les Crosets, Champéry, Champousin and Morgins. We plan to do just that a couple of days later, after having skied not from Morzine but from from Châtel, as we recount in our Resort Review dedicated to this stylish village.
Not that today we’re in any mood to turn around and ski straight back down. Having come this far we at least want the satisfaction of knowing we’ve actually skied across the border, so we cruise along a rather flat ridge until we reach a left-hand turn onto the slightly steeper drop to just above Les Crosets, where the six-seater Grand Conche high-speed chairlift gleams slightly incongruously among classic cuckoo-clock-style chalets. The run down is graded blue, but we later see on the piste map a more direct red alternative which would have brought us to the same spot. Aware that we’ll soon be returning, we ride the lift back up to the 2130m ridge and begin to work our way back to Morzine, via a different route and taking in the fresh set of views afforded by heading in the opposite direction. It’s an enjoyable return journey, made even more so by the kind of snow conditions we’d hardly dared hope to find.
Meanwhile, closer to Morzine
Day Two produces more fine weather, but it isn’t due to last, so we turn our attentions to what lies across the valley. In 2013 the Pleney high-speed gondola lift took over from the both its outmoded predecessor and the historic cable-car which opened up the sector back in 1936. The result is dramatically improved access to Morzine’s home terrain, which is linked with that of Les Gets. On the way up there are worthwhile overviews of some of the facilities on offer close to the village, including the Stade slalom piste and, further to our left, a gentle and accessible debutant area served by a couple of draglifts.
At the top we ski down to the Belvedère chairlift for a relaxed haul up to 1548m, passing the Pingouins Parc children’s area, while taking in the impressive surrounding scenery. The feel over here is very different from that of SuperMorzine, thanks to the presence of a substantial natural boundary ahead, in the form of the 2090m Pointe d’Angolon. From here it’s possible to join the Charniaz Express lift and drop neatly into the Les Gets sector, somewhere we’ve already had the pleasure of getting to know, so instead we press onward, cruising between attractively-forested areas on the Blue-graded Granges piste before gaining a bit more altitude on the Têtes chairlift, which drops us at around 1650m.
The short but sweet Red-graded Blanchots piste fires us onto our next lift, the Chamossière Express six-seater. At the top we’re around the 2000m mark, with Mont-Blanc (4810m) looming over the ridge to our right, while closer at hand to our left is the 2090m Pointe d-Aiglon, whose slopes are officially designated as a free-ride zone. We peel off right on Arbis for a Red-graded drop past the Col de Joux Plane and onto Choucas, a Blue piste which plunges between more forest to bring us to the departure point of several lifts. This time we climb aboard the six-seater Troncs Express, which serves the slopes of the Pointe de Nyon (2019m) sector. It’s a speedy and therefore brief ride, dropping us at 1598m for a choice of two feeds onto the Raverettes Blue piste for a connection with our final high-altitude haul, the Pointe chairlift. It’s a long haul up to the 1950m mark, taking in a snowpark and an intermediate station serving a lengthy slalom piste.
At the top there’s another panoramic viewpoint, which diverts us for a few moments before our attentions turn to the Red-graded Aigle Rouge piste – a memorable descent through a series of twists and turns, some of them tight, before easing again for the liaison with our old friend the Raverettes Blue piste. From here it’s all downhill, or virtually; after a Red-graded run down Chamois we emerge from the trees and find ourselves confronted unexpectedly with a passerelle (a snow-covered footbridge) across a deep gorge. Once across we join the fast-rising numbers of other skiers heading back to Morzine village on the Retour des Nantes. Minutes later we’re back at the front de neige again, snapping out of our bindings with the satisfaction that we’ve not only covered a lot of mileage but also accumulated a very respectable vertical drop figure. The bottom line, then, is that while the attractions across the valley are real enough, there’s still a lot to enjoy closer to home over here – and Les Gets awaits.
Feature by Roger Moss, © 2018