Morzine…which images are conjured up in your mind’s eye when you hear the name? Perhaps flat, uninspiring runs that do little to challenge the hardcore skier? Maybe you’ve seen pictures of youths clad in fancy dress at the famous Basecamp electronic music and snowboarding festival?
Sure, the above are grounded in reality, but this beautiful Alpine village has a lot more to offer than you think. Here’s a list I’ve put together of all the reasons why we should give this slice of the Portes du Soleil a chance.
The Portes du Soleil area is huge
Ok, so the altitude with its highest point of 2466m means that there isn’t always an abundance of snow (although this is currently the snowiest season in over 30 years). But on a good day, the skiing in this area is truly something special.
Morzine is part of an enormous linked ski area stretching out across the French-Swiss border. The Portes du Soleil boasts an impressive 193 lifts and 10 terrain parks. If only it were located a bit higher, it would be contending for first place in the world’s greatest ski areas.
It’s certainly one of the largest in the world, along with the 3 Valleys and the Sella Ronda. In average snow years you might be safer to stay in Morzine’s higher neighbour, Avoriaz. But it’s easy to stay in the pretty village of Morzine and commute up there if you’d rather get the best of both worlds.
If you’re suddenly confronted with a cold and snowy winter, it’s a great last-minute booking or weekend destination. If you happen to time your holiday well and catch it when it’s nice and chilly (lucky you), you are guaranteed a memorable ski experience.
There’s absolutely something for everyone here, whether you’re an adrenaline junkie prepared to quiver at the top of the infamous Swiss Wall, or looking for an easy cruise on some long and sweeping blues. Be aware that the Swiss Wall is far more palatable with a sprinkling of fresh powder, and can sometimes turn into a thoroughly unenjoyable icy assault course!
Beginners will love the choice of decent nursery slopes and English-speaking ski schools, whilst experts will lap up the brilliant off-piste descents from Les Haut-Forts down to Les Prodains. Vallee de la Manche has a 10km itinerary, and there are also off-piste patrolled “snozones” like the one off Mosettes. And for those intermediates in between, there’s plenty to explore.
A six-day adult lift pass for the Portes du Soleil costs £241, or for just Morzine and Les Gets an adult lift pass costs £185. I booked my ski equipment with Intersport. Lift passes, ski hire, and lessons can also be booked through VIP.
There’s a life outside of skiing
Ski holiday machines with overbearing architecture and the atmosphere of a factory farm not your thing? Mine neither. Morzine is a real village. Yes, real. Forget purpose-built resorts – Morzine has its own spirit and soul, and is overflowing with Alpine charm.
My favourite thing about Morzine, that ranks it higher than the majority of destinations, is that it is a village year-round. I love the authenticity of the bustling market town, whatever the month. With its artisanal bakeries (check out La Bonbonniere) and huge choice of charming shops and bars, this valley village is brimming with ambience.
Unlike some resorts, Morzine attracts genuine skiers and boarders who are there for the skiing and to have a good time, rather than posh ski-to-lunch types splashing their money around. There are plenty of family-run businesses here, and in my experience some of the most welcoming locals out of any resort in the Alps.
It’s not pretentious in the slightest, and instead it is a genuine, and extremely humble mountain resort with a unique Morzinoise culture. Which is lucky, as chances are you’ll want to spend a lot of time in the village!
You can stay in a centrally-located chalet
There are loads of chalets to choose from in all price ranges. I recently stayed in VIP’s Club Alaska, which is in a brilliant location right on the high street opposite the tourist office. It’s a short walk with skis in the morning, but you’ve got everything the resort has to offer right on your doorstep.
The rooms are extremely quiet, with comfy beds and a morning wake-up tea or coffee if desired. The mountain-urban style interior includes a large lounge area to relax in. The food sensibly steers clear of overly fancy chalet cuisine and offers hearty eating, which the guests appreciate. There’s a sauna and hot tub for soaking aching muscles post-skiing. For a contemporary chalet experience in a brilliantly central location, have a look at this.
A seven-night stay at Club Alaska in Morzine is priced from £879pp and includes return flights from Gatwick to Geneva, coach transfers, chalet half-board catering, beer and house wine. Regional travel is also available. The chalet sleeps 14-16 people and can be booked by the room. Prices are based on two people sharing a double room. For bookings visit VIP Ski.
Book a personal ski instructor
Sure, we’ve all been there – booking an overpriced instructor or guide with no idea who they are or how good they’ll be. But there’s something fantastic about Maison Sport. Set up by two brothers and a friend in 2016, the company takes a fresh approach to the whole ski school process. It’s an online platform that links customers and instructors, without taking a large commission. This benefits you, saving on average 15% on lesson costs.
On the website, you can search for an instructor based on skill set, experience, languages spoken, and general suitability for you. Unlike a regular ski school, this company do it a little differently to ensure a personalised and as beneficial as possible lesson. Reading real reviews about individual instructors, you can have peace of mind that you’ve picked the right guy as your session approaches.
My instructor in Morzine was the excellent Nick Robinson and, when it came to the end of the lesson, there was even an aftercare service. Instructors provide feedback on their students, recording the technical improvements they have made or exercises worked on. You’ll be left with a memory aid for your next ski trip, meaning you can build on it with future instructors.
I reckon this makes a massive difference. Whether you’re a nervous intermediate looking for some reassurance on the slopes, an advanced skier hoping to hone your carving skills, or an expert seeking fresh tracks with a qualified guide, you can find the ideal match and even chat to them before to make sure you get maximum snow time when it comes to your lesson.
Lessons with Nick Robinson are priced from 80€ per hour; lessons with other instructors start from 60€ per hour – all through Maison Sport. For more information and tips, see our post 9 Reasons Why You Should Book a Ski Instructor for Your Next Ski Trip.
Try some delicious food
You’ll find some pretty good food in Morzine, both up the mountain and on the high street. If you’re a bit of a foodie, check out the Savoyard specialities: totally rich but delicious if you’re a cheese fan. L’Alpage is a barn-style local fromagerie with a wood-burning fire and a glass floor that looks onto the cheese store. Down in the village, La Grange is a nice spot if you’re searching for regional delicacies, and L’Etale is perfect if you’d rather a steak or a pizza.
La Chaudanne is also worth checking out, for affordable burgers Satellite café is your place, and be sure to visit Beanies for delicious pizza paired with some live music. Head down to Bec Jaune for locally-sourced food with fresh ingredients, catering for vegans and vegetarians (rare for the Alps) as well as meat-eaters. Their homemade ice cream is also a must-try.
If you’re staying in a chalet, you probably won’t want to gorge on heavy food at lunchtime, but if you do, there are loads of high-quality mountain restaurants. La Paika and Le Vaffieu are popular lunching spots. Chez Nannon is a beautiful Alpine hut. For more on healthy eating in the Alps see our post on Ski Nutrition and How to Eat Well Skiing.
The fun continues after dark
Morzine may not be renowned for its steep skiing, but it has a brilliant reputation for apres-ski. And unlike other party resorts, it’s not stupidly priced. Up the slopes, check out Infernos. Down in the village, head to Beanies for their espresso martinis and great live music. Robinsons bar is a charming family-run business with a buzzing apres scene – be sure to try the famous Mutzig beer (but beware of its strength).
If you’re looking for a relaxed evening, enjoy wine and complimentary tapas at Coup de Coeur, or the Wine Bar at the Chaudanne restaurant. Drop into the Dixie Bar in the centre for a lively Irish bar ambience. Bec Jaune is a hipster brewery with an awesome selection of locally brewed beers.
It’s easy to get to
So Morzine’s won your heart with its groovy bars, yummy food, cool chalets and innovative ski instruction…but isn’t getting there going to be a bore? Nope. Possibly the best thing of all is the easy transfer. It’s just 1 hour and 45 minutes from Geneva, and there is a wide choice of airlines that fly there, as well as plenty of transfer companies that will whizz you up the winding roads at a price that won’t break the bank. Alternatively, book with a tour operator like chalet specialist VIP Ski who will organise the whole thing for you.