Morzine, France Ski Holiday Guide
Morzine, France Ski Resorts Review
Morzine might look like a sleepy Savoyarde ski resort village, but there's a lot going on under the surface. As opposed to Avoriaz, which towers overhead like some kind of space-age citadel, Morzine is a genuinely residential ski resort, and its multiple chalets and restaurants are usually family-owned and appropriately intimate as a result. Families tend to favor Morzine for several reasons: its ease of access from Geneva implies no patience-testing transfers need be endured, while skiing novices are well served by a huge number of less dramatic pistes and there are fantastic children's daycare facilities to keep little ones out of trouble. For those looking for action, many late bars line streets in the center.
Morzine does suffer from being set back from the circuit of ski resorts that comprise the Portes du Soleil region. A fine system of free shuttle buses bring riders to and from the gondolas that serve the region - including the cable car to Le Pleney and the gondola to Super Morzine - but a few of these (the direct link from outlying Les Prodains :o Avoriaz, most notably) are quite a trek, and no fun after a hard day's skiing. A far better alternative is to have a car and drive to and from the lifts: congestion has been eased by the installation of a new car park close to Le Pleney, and nearby Flaine is also an easily accessible option when the local snow is poor - which often is. Morzine's rather low altitude often results in bald patches, or even worse, rain.
Again, Morzine's location isn't best suited to making use of the wide-ranging terrain of the Portes du Soleil. Many riders opt to head first to Avoriaz, either via the cable-car from Les Prodains - a short drive or bus journey from the village - or a close-by chairlift accessing the network of slopes above it: from here the Combe du Machon chairlift opens a network of challenging black runs on the Hauts Forts face directing more advanced riders back towards Les Prodains. The Super Morzine gondola, which links central Morzine to various blue runs leading to Avoriaz, featuring a new six-man chairlift making this a faster, more enjoyable alternative to the buses.
Regarding skiing in Morzine itself, most people are most euphoric capitalising on the great pistes around Le Pleney, accessed by a gondola on the other side of town from the Super Morzine gondola. From here an array of laid-back blue and red runs hoist beginners and intermediates back to the town or to nearby Les Fys. Multiple chairs run from Les Fys to Pointe de Nyon (2,019m), accessing in turn some long red runs having spectacular views of the surrounding valley, as well as the other peak in the Nyon area, Chamossiere (2,002m). From here a series of interlinking blue and red runs lead (finally) back to the tip of Morzine.
On the other side of Le Pleney is the Chavannes region of neighboring Les Gets, also included in the local ski passes. The main peak here is Le Ranfolly (1,850m), featuring a huge variety of quality red runs accessed by a dependable network of chairs, and from which it's possible to ride the mountain the whole way back to Morzine. Meanwhile, La Rosta (1,665m), a peak on the opposite side of the valley, has some daunting black runs for thrill-seekers, including the Yeti.
One thing that Morzine doesn't possess a lot of is off-piste riding: for that, most individuals head to Avoriaz. There are a few hairy lines to be had in Les Gets during good snow, although the accompanying risk of avalanches implies they shouldn't be tried without a guide.
There are some nice idyllic ports of call on Morzine's pistes, though as always the prices rise together with altitude. The best of these is Chez Nannon, which matches an intimate ski chalet atmosphere and a decent outdoor terrace featuring some of the best reblochon potatoes in the Alps. Le Vaffieu is also a good choice, with friendly staff, while Les Mouilles is a new addition that aims to please with stacked portions of local specialties and ready snacks.
Most snowboarders head to the well-sculpted terrain ski parks in neighboring Avoriaz, though there's also a great series of rails and transitions of variable sizes (but consistent quality) at the excellent park on Mont Chery (1,850m). Because this is on the far side of Les Gets, it takes longer to access than the parks in Avoriaz, but is routinely more tranquil as a result. This is definitely worth the effort to get to.
A large number of winter holiday activities are open to non-skiers - another element supporting Morzine's family appeal. Full- or half-day snowshoe expeditions bring participants on animal trails through breathtaking surroundings. Morzine is regarded one of the European capitals of parapenting: this hair-raising sport can be tried out in tandem- with a professional, of course - at the well-established Ecole de Parapente. Local hot-air balloon flights are run by Cameleon Organisation, while the Indiana Pare is a fantastic adventure playground for kids aged six and over featuring gangways, bridges and Tirolean traverses. Enjoy bungee jumping from the Nyon gondola and ice-diving under Lake Montriomond (again by Cameleon). The Cinema Rex, meanwhile, shows English language movies, and sleigh rides leave on a regular basis from the tourist office.
Restaurants and Bars
Good food abounds at Morzine, and top of the list to recharge your batteries is at La Chamade, a gourmet place that is justifiably among the village's most popular spots. Gastronomic treats like rabbit with polenta, although there are a slew of cheaper options (including some fantastic pizzas) to fit smaller budgets. Even more upmarket is the fabled Chalet Philbert, where the head chef works culinary magic that does not come cheap, but which you won't forget. At the other end of the scale is L'Etale, a family-friendly pizzeria that serves quality food in comfortable environment, while a stone's throw up the road the Burger Place belts out fast food and full English breakfasts from a small wooden hut. La Flamme is conveniently set at the bottom of the Super Morzine gondola and serves great perch fillets from the local fish farm.
Morzine is a bustling hub of young skiers and boarders, and there's nowhere more suited to their cross-pollinating than the fittingly named Cavern Bar, which has nightly DJs, pints of Guinness and normally ends in people dancing on the tables. The Buddha Cafe just next door, is a less feverish affair, with the strange addition of Persian carpets and other ethnic trinkets for sale to more culturally minded drinkers. Beer flows freely at the Dixie Bar, another big favorite with the loud crowd hosting live bands, while Crepescule has a clean wooden interior and some pretty terraced seating for laid-back, fair-weather drinking.
Accommodations at Morzine
Le Coin du Feu is named after a four-sided fireplace that forms a popular spot for apres-ski relaxation in this perfectly charming chalet. It's also an excellent place for families, who can make use of the considerable group discount rates, make full use of the on-site creche and even bag a split-level room to give those parents peace and quiet and their children a place to call their own. All rooms are en-suite. Three-star La Bergerie is highly recommended, complete with a heated outdoor pool and sauna. Also worth finding is the Chalet Eira, a unique retreat that seamlessly melds its modern design with the rustic sensibility of its surroundings, and is situated right in the very center of Morzine. Lastly, David and Delphine offer a warm welcome at the wonderful Fleur des Neiges.
Chalet D'amo is situated 2km from the center of Morzine, a picturesque blend of old traditional village and modern ski resort. The chalet is surrounded by mountains and forests. It is a traditional three-storey alpine lodge that can accommodate up to 13 guests.
Les Portes Du Soleil has 11 apartments in a single building with a wooden façade. This is a pedestrian-only resort where parents and children can move around in a completely safe and healthy setting. Lift access is available.
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