Morzine Ski Holidays
Morzine is a traditional Alpine ski town located in the Haute Savoie area of France, just one and a half hours’ drive from Geneva Airport. Despite its relatively low altitude, its proximity to the northern edge of the Alps and its direct access into the Portes du Soleil ski area – one of the world’s largest – ensures a reliable snow record combined with an amazing choice of options for all levels of skiers and snowboarders. The town itself is lively, with a huge choice of accommodation options, restaurants and bars that include everything from traditional Savoyard specialities to hipster style burger joints and microbreweries. Being located in the very heart of the huge Portes du Soleil winter sports playground Morzine provides fast access to the other resorts in the area including Les Gets on one side and Avoriaz the other. It’s possible to ski or snowboard into Switzerland on the same ski pass and covers huge mileage in just one day. As an all-around ski resort, Morzine is right up there with the best and because of the quick transfer times available, it’s ideal for shorter breaks too.
Approximate Transfer Time
Geneva - 1hr 45mins
Skiing in Morzine
Morzine is well placed as an entry point into the Portes du Soleil ski area which offers on and off-piste skiing and snowboarding for all levels. There’s good beginners slopes directly above the town on Le Pleney and good blue runs at Super Morzine, with multiple options for the more advanced to explore the wider region with a modern lift system that includes cable cars and high-speed chairlifts. Off-piste is fairly limited around Morzine itself but there’s plenty of opportunities in the well linked areas of Avoriaz and Chatel.
There’s three main lift exit points out of Morzine from the village – the Pleney cable car on the north side with the main ski school meeting place at the top and good nursery slopes for children and beginners. Pleney also has a real mix of ski runs of all grades, the long blue an option for beginners progressing from the nursery winds its way back into town – but there’s a red directly under the cable car that finishes with ‘The Stade’, a floodlit piste used for ski racing. Over on the other side of town, another gondola style cable car accesses the Super Morzine area, where a series of lifts opens up gentle blues and greens that stretch over towards Avoriaz. It tends to be quieter than some of the other ski areas and is perfect for beginners and intermediates working on technique. Skiing back into Morzine from this side isn’t possible, but simply jump on the cable car and you’re back in the centre of town in five minutes. The Nyon sector offers an interesting mix of blues, reds and blacks with a few off-piste opportunities too. There’s fantastic views across to Mont Blanc from the Pointe de Nyon on clear days – the area can be accessed either by skiing down from the Le Pleney side, or taking a bus to the Nyon cable car.
The Portes du Soleil (Gateway to the sun) is officially the second largest ski area in the world, with 13 resorts linking around 650 km’s of pistes using around 200 ski lifts. The ski area straddles both France and Switzerland, with one of the world’s steepest black runs (Chavanette AKA The Swiss Wall) offering just one of the many routes across the border – this one usually comes with VW Beetle sized moguls though. Fortunately, there’s plenty of options for skiers and snowboarders looking for a gentler ride, and the area is genuinely an intermediates dream. It’s very easy to avoid skiing the same slopes here during a week or even two weeks, with each separate resort offering something a little different from the other. Chatel (France) has some good advanced and off-piste terrain, Les Gets (France) is interesting and varied, with Mt Chery providing options for all levels, including some good off-piste on the north facing side. Avoriaz (France) is a high-altitude, purpose built resort that always holds good snow and is well-known for its terrain park, popular with freestyle skiers and snowboarders. Cross over into Switzerland and the majestic Dent du Midi (the largest single mountain in the Alps) comes into view. Four resorts – Champoussin, Morgins, Les Crosets and Champéry are all easily accessible from the Morzine-Avoriaz sector, with Torgon further afield, but worth an excursion for the views of Lake Geneva. During the 2015-16 winter, a new connection opened up between Super Chatel and Linga, making a full loop of the Portes du Soleil area possible without any bus connections. Some of the outlying villages such as La Chappelle d’Abondance, Abondance and St Jean d’Aulps all offer interesting day excursions but with the exception of St Jean (20 minutes by bus from Morzine), would be difficult to reach in a day from Morzine unless you had a vehicle.
Morzine Resort Overview
Morzine is an old farming settlement that has grown into the modern ski resort it is today, slowly and with care to preserve its charm and character, despite the huge growth in chalets over the past 15 years. There’s no high-rise or large modern looking buildings in Morzine, the traditional wooden chalets blending in with the new design houses and apartments. The town spreads along the upper parts of the river Manche that eventually spills out into Lake Geneva, with chalets, hotels and apartments fanning out on both side of the gentle slopes. Walking from the lower part of town (Church of Saint Marie Madelaine) right over to the upper edges on the northern side, can take over 20 minutes at a brisk pace. The two main streets – Route du Bourg and Route de la Plagne, are home to the majority of shops, although the streets spreading away around the central square and the Tourist Office are packed with restaurants and bars. The atmosphere in Morzine is relaxed and it doesn’t pretend to be a luxury resort – it’s more jeans and Gore-Tex than fur and fluffy handbags. There’s a real international feel and although plenty of French visitors stay in the town, there’s a large British ex-pat and seasonaire community which is reflected in the amount of British guests staying in the resort – there’s more independent British run chalets here than any other resort in the Alps too. Morzine is also very popular with the Dutch, as the resort is relatively easy to reach by car from The Netherlands, as it is from Calais, which makes it a popular family resort for Brits during the holiday seasons. Morzine is a fantastic all-round ski resort that appeals to a wide age group, from young to old.
Restaurants & bars
There’s a lot of choice when it comes to eating out in Morzine, especially if you’re looking for traditional Savoyard cuisine or good pizza. La Rotonde is in the centre of town and serves a mix of traditional dishes and steaks – it’s good for a smarter night out. Another traditional favourite is La Ferme de la Fruitière, with high-quality traditional food, but served in a relaxed atmosphere. La Chaudanne, further along the Route de la Plagne, is the most upmarket but worth it for a special meal out. The British owned Bec Jaune is a microbrewery fast becoming the popular choice for locals with burgers and salads featuring on the menu and is found opposite La Rotunde. Another good burger option is the Ô Chalet and for a quick (but very good) take away pizza option, then Pizza Schuss is a great option. A cluster of bars are centred at the lower end of town close to the Town Hall – the Rhodos (good for bar food), The Dixie Bar (good for sports) and Bar Robinson, a slightly quirky venue with their very own beer, the famous Morzine Mützig (7%). Close by, the trendy Hideout Hostel serves cocktails and parties late into the night with Paradise Bar. Back in the town centre, the Haka Bar is a good option for relaxed beer drinking, with the Coup de Coeur great for its wine selection and coffee.
Morzine and the Portes du Soleil ski area has some of the most abundant choice of on-slope eateries in The Alps. On Le Pleney side, one of the highlights is Le Vaffieu (technically in Les Gets, but closer to Morzine) with its amazing views of Mont Blanc and French menu that’s not just the usual meat and cheese. Over towards Avoriaz and above the hamlet of Ardent, the Village des Chèvres (Goat Village) has several excellent restaurants with La Crémaillère being just one of the stand out options. If that’s not enough choice then just further up at Lindarets, another half a dozen or so cafés and restaurants await, although they tend to get very busy over the lunch period.
Whilst Morzine isn’t a full-on après ski resort, there’s a growing number of good options just off the slopes if you fancy a drink at the end of a day on the slopes – and let’s face it, most of us do. On Le Pleney side, Le Tremplin offers a large, buzzing, covered outdoor area with heaters and gets really popular around 4pm. The Haka has an après ski happy hour with a good atmosphere (grab a burger too), but one of the places to head to straight off the slopes is Happy Hours in Ardent, although don’t miss the last bus because you’ll need a taxi home, apart from Wednesday afternoon (Chalet staff day off) when a free bus is available following a DJ set. Morzine’s après ski is definitely gaining momentum and the scene is far more vibrant than it was 5 or 10 years ago.
There’s some good winter walking opportunities in Morzine, including the walk up the Vallee de la Manche, but for the more adventurous, the winter ice diving in Lac Montriond will send shivers down anyone’s spine. Snow Shoeing routes adorn the area but a guide is advised as many of the best routes are un-marked and can be in areas where avalanche activity is possible. There’s also night-time sledging during the week from the top of Pleney back down into town again, if you can’t get enough of the mountain during the day.
On those bad weather days or even after a day on the slopes, if you have a bit of energy left then there’s plenty of things you can do in Morzine. The cinema regularly shows films in English and the large sports complex includes an indoor pool and ice skating rink. There’s a good selection of shops in town, but don’t expect designer clothing boutiques. There’s some nice delicatessens with local produce though, including Savoie wine, cheese and dried meats.
Who is Morzine Suitable For?
Short Transfers/Ski Weekends
Geneva Airport is one of the major entry points into the Alps from the UK with several airlines flying multiple routes in and out through the winter. The transfer time to Morzine is approximately 1.5 hours – although it can take a little longer on busy Saturday’s during the winter. This makes it highly convenient and good value and therefore ideal for shorter trips during the winter season. Because the resort sits at just over 1,000 metres above sea level, there’s no major twisty mountain passes to negotiate on the way up or down either. The flexible nature of accommodation in Morzine also means it’s always top of the list for skiers and snowboarders looking for short breaks in the Alps.
Beginners are well catered for in Morzine and experts looking for those black run challenges or off-piste adventures won’t be disappointed. But perhaps the area is best suited to the intermediate skier or snowboarder, looking for an abundance of blue’s and red’s that appear to be infinite in their quantity. Only the 3 Valley’s beats the Portes du Soleil in terms of sheer ski mileage and now the link to Super Chatel is complete, intermediates can disappear for a whole day, knowing they will never ski the same run twice – unless they find a good one of course and then why not? There’s some classic descents in the Portes du Soleil for intermediates, including some long runs that will get the legs burning. Start at the top of Chavanette (alt. 2,151m) head towards Avoriaz (not the other way, that’s the Swiss Wall!) on the blue run. Make your way around Avoriaz and continue down to Les Prodains (alt. 1,200m). For a big day out on reds and blues only, start the day by heading up to Super Morzine and over to Avoriaz, head up to the Pointe du Mossettes and over into Les Crosets on the Swiss side. Then make your way to Morgins and up back across the border to Super Chatel. From here, work your way across to Plaine Dranse and into the Lindarets Valley, finishing at the Happy Hours bar in Ardent. You’ll need a drink after that!
There’s so many reasons why Morzine is the ideal place for group ski trips – easy to get to, lots of different options to suit all budgets, skiing and snowboarding for all ability levels, plenty of things going on for non-skiers, good (but not too wild) après ski and nightlife, huge choice of accommodation options and relaxed, friendly, atmosphere in town.
Morzine is a first and foremost, a traditional town before a ski resort. Because of this, there’s always something to do and for a mixed group where everyone wants something slightly different, Morzine offers a choice that’s hard to beat. The larger town and Alpine resort of Chamonix is one hours drive away and a good day excursion for groups too, especially for anyone looking to experience the Aiguille du Midi cable car on the side of Mont Blanc or ski the famous Vallee Blanche run, one of the world’s longest off-piste itinerary routes.
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