Morzine, France - A Comprehensive Resort Guide
Morzine, situated in the heart of the Portes du Soleil, is a beautiful French town equipped with everything you need to make your skiing holiday a success.
Portes du Soleil is a renowned winter sports destination in the Alps, and Morzine is included in the 13 resorts encompassed between Mont Blanc in France and Lake Geneva in Switzerland. With its neighbours including Avoriaz and Les Gets, Morzine is known for its intermediate terrain making it well suited to less experienced skiers and ideal for families. During the winter season the trio operate as linked ski centres.
The Terrain and Information
At a glance:
- Name: Morzine
- Location: Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, South-eastern France
- Accessibility: Accessible by car/minibus from Geneva airport. Trains can be caught to nearby stations and then a transfer by bus to Morzine.
- Season: Mid December to mid April
- Elevation range: 1000m
- Trails: Intermediate: 46%, Advanced: 42%, Expert: 12%
- Pistes: 110km
- Terrain parks: Six. Larger Portes du Soleil area has 30 overall.
- Longest run: 3km
- Lifts: Gondolas/bubble. Variety of chairlifts ranging from six people down to three. Surface lifts.
- Lift prices: Generally €43 to €80 per day depending on how many days you intend to ski.
- Vertical drop: 4,810feet (1466m)
- Other activities: During the summer activities can include hiking, trekking and mountain biking.
- Adjacent resorts: Avoriaz and Les Gets
- Accommodation options: Chalets, hotels, apartments, cabins.
- Strong points: Ideal for beginners/learners due to the nature of the surrounding slopes and ideal for families. Provides easy access to the all encompassing ski area of Portes du Soleil, meaning skiers of any ability will be able to have a good time. Is linked in winter with neighbouring Avoriaz and Les Gets.
- Weak points: Due to the relatively low altitude of 1000m, snowfall may be a limiting factor and snow can quickly turn to rain. Existing snow may melt quicker due to higher temperatures. A resort with large proportion of families/children may not appeal to some.
- Resort rating: Slopes: 4/5, Accommodation: 4/5 Eating: 4/5 Apres: 3/5, Value for money: 4/5.
- Skiing rating: Beginners: 5/5, Intermediates: 5/5, Experts: 4/5, Family friendly: 5/5
The Portes du Soleil expanse in the Alps consistently records some of the deepest snow depths and highest snowfalls in Europe. With Morzine itself being situated at a lower altitude of 1000m it does have the potential to receive less snowfall than other parts such as nearby Avoriaz.
However, with the majority of the slopes being on softer pasture land, it only requires about 10cm of snow for the slopes to open. Combine this with the fact that a lot of the slopes leading into Morzine are now covered by high quality snow cannons, skiing here can still be very much enjoyable.
Morzine consists of three main areas; Le Pleney, Nyon and Chamossiere/Charniaz.
Le Pleney offers a variety of runs accessible from the very first lift, with the bubble providing immediate access to one green, five blue, four red and one black run. Despite containing a beginners zone ideal for those learning, the most enjoyable runs in this area are most likely the intermediate ones. These runs are wide and lined with trees with a great feature of these pistes being that all end up in the same place, which will come in handy if you are still mapping out the area.
The Pointe de Nyon is the highpoint of the Morzine ski domain at 2019m and on a clear day this peak offers views over to the Hauts Forts and the ridge-line marking the border with Switzerland. Dropping from the Pointe de Nyon, the red Aigle Rouge is initially a switchback run similar to an Alpine mountain pass and for the more experienced, there is the option to shortcut the switchback via steep off-piste drops rejoining the piste lower down. Alternatively for beginners, the Nyon plateau has a number of wide open blue runs which graduate to slightly more demanding blues in that they are narrower. Nyon is also good for off-piste skiing and is quieter than other areas, the setback being there aren't that many pistes options.
The Chamossiere and Charniaz areas are formed by the twin peaks of Chamossiere and Ranfoilly. These areas have been a favourite of those looking for off-piste for years. With the only two pistes here being rather steep and challenging, it is recommended that beginners and intermediates avoid this area.
Almost half of the 125 runs in the three areas are blue or green and slightly less than half again are red runs, so Morzine is more aimed toward the intermediate skier.
Morzine is the ideal spot for beginners. With one green piste at the bottom of Le Pleney and another at the top, there is sure to be something for total beginners and advancing ones alike. The TS du Belvedere chairlift takes eager skiers from the Pleney to the top of a green run, meaning those fresh out of ski school are able to work on their new techniques. For those seeking to move onto the blue runs, Pistes B, C and D all head down to the bottom of the Pleney telecabine with piste B being the longest and most leisurely route down; no steep sections here mean that learners can take things at their own pace.
The skiers at the upper limit of the beginner category can head for Pistes C and G, which have a slightly steeper gradient. The Super Morzine telecabine and Express Zore bring people to two blue runs; Tetras and Zore. It is worth noting that the last section of Zore can be quite steep and bumpy with Tetras offering a more consistent gradient down.
It is also worth noting that neighbouring Les Gets has a free ski zone for beginners which can be accessed from the top of the Chavanne chair lift and nearby green pistes. In the same area there is also a family snow park named Le Grand Cry where children can try out small jumps and tunnels whilst at the same time having the opportunity to partake in other family friendly activities.
As with beginners, Morzine is a great option for the intermediate skier. Le Pleney contains some great green, blue and red ones which, as previously mentioned, all lead back to the same place at the bottom of the slope. The red runs that lead off from the Pleney are similar to the blues and greens in that they keep their width however they are slightly steeper. Pistes A, H and V all start in a similar spot and then make their way down to the bottom of the Pleney.
Piste A offers a great view of Morzine on a clear day and is slightly steeper on its top section, better suited for the intermediate skier. All these reds mentioned contain steep sections and be sure to lookout on the lower section of Le Pleney, where the runs converge, for the slalom competition area.
On the whole, Morzine doesn’t have quite as much variety and challenging terrains for expert skiers as some of the nearby resorts elswhere in Portes du Soleil. Having said this, Morzine does have a few advanced areas that will let the experienced skier pick up some speed and work their technique also. The easiest to reach are the Pleney home runs that are served by the Pleney Bubble, they run from the top of the plateau to the base of the pistes. Pistes A and J, which are situated directly under the chairlift TS D’Atray, are the fastest and steepest ways to get down the Pleney.
If you are at the Point de Nyon, make your way down the Aigle Rouge to the Plateau du Nyon continuing down toward the Chamois red run. If one of these trips is not enough for you, then be sure to make your way back to the Point via the chairlift TS Pre Favre. Alternatively, continue down the Chamois and Retour des Nantes into Morzine and the base of the telecabin.
Chamossiere has a couple of fairly steep runs off it and is usually overlooked by tourists to the area. The red Arbis run is one of the best around and is quite bumpy on its top half, making it more of a black run for that particular section. Les Gets has two black runs, Yeti and Myrtilles, which will always offer up some moguls on its steeper gradients.
The lift system and passes
During winter in Morzine the lifts normally start to open from the second week of December onwards and the number of lifts opening will increase with snow coverage. Five main gondolas/bubbles connect Morzine to the greater Portes du Soleil ski area and these consist of the Super Morzine, Pleney, Lindarets, Prodains and Ardent gondola.
There are also 19 separate chairlifts that carry skiers to where they need to go, however, with Morzine being so idyllic for families expect the weekends and school holidays such as half term to bring longer queues and increased waiting times.
Ski passes can be bought for the entire Portes du Soleil area or if you would prefer to stay within the Morzine-Les Gets reach, then these are also available. The two aforementioned types of ticket are typically the most popular and an adult purchasing six days of skiing in the Portes du Soleil area would expect to be paying around €285. A six day pass for the Morzine-Les Gets area cost around €210. It is worth noting that children under the age of five go free and there is a junior and senior discount.
Morzine, like almost all other ski resorts offers a wide variety of accommodation. These include luxury and budget hotels, chalets, apartments and guest houses.
If it is in your budget, then opt for a hotel that is as close to the Le Pleney bubble as possible; that way you will be able to skip the queues and get on the slopes before most others.
A hotel right in the centre of Morzine and you will be looking at least €250 per night. If there is a group of you skiing then a chalet may be more suitable for you and prices for these will vary, depending on your group size and location. Ski in/ski out hotels are available but are only located near the centre of Morzine where access to lifts is feasible, guests looking to stay here will expect to pay more than accommodation located further out.
For those looking to stay somewhere which has less of a ‘town like’ feel to it, the smaller village of Montriond lies just over the river from Morzine. Choosing to stay here will be cheaper but does require you to catch a bus to access the main lifts to the slopes, so it is important to factor this in when making a decision.
All in all, Morzine is considered a very good value for money resort and how much it costs is really up to the individual. This is because one can choose how many resorts they want to ski in i.e. just Morzine-Les Gets or the wider Portes du Soleil area.
As Morzine is the largest town in the Portes du Soleil area, it eliminates the need for pricey travel costs such as paying for bus tickets to get to other areas. Direct links with Les Gets and Avoriaz means skiers just need the correct lift pass and they are free to come and go as they please. Certain lift passes also provide access to a free bus service that is active all day throughout Morzine; so you are able to go straight from your door to the bubbles that will carry you to the slopes.
Food and accommodation prices follow a similar pattern to the choice of ski passes; it depends where you choose to go that will effect the price. Hotels near the centre of town will be expensive and if you prefer to travel on a budget, self catered apartments will undoubtedly be a better choice for you. Carrefour is the largest supermarket in Morzine, located on the road to St Jean d’Aulps and will be cheaper than independent food retailers.
If you are looking to check your children into ski school or do some learning yourself, then expect to pay fairly standard ski school costs. Depending on what company you book with and whether or not you would like lessons in the afternoon/morning, a five day ski school can cost anywhere between €200-€350. Lessons are of course available in English.
Bars and nightlife will only become costly if you frequent them often with beer averaging at around €5 per pint. Parking around the town can become a bit of an issue as its difficult to find, though most people would have been shuttled to the airport via a minibus transfer. Guests staying at hotels will also most likely have access to a hotel carpark.
Food, Apres ski and nightlife
Compared to other resorts such as St. Anton, Morzine may not boast as an extensive range of apres ski and nightlife, however, this is not to say it does not exist at all. The local beer ‘Mutzig’ is served at almost all of the bars and is a favourite amongst tourists, mainly due to the fact it can be up to 12% vol. in strength.
Apres can begin on the mountain, with a few bars being located near the top of the Pleney gondola that start to become popular at around mid-afternoon and it is easy enough to ski directly back down into Morzine should one over indulge on the Mutzig. There are also bars located near the Le Pleney gondola station at the foot of the slopes, a popular one being Le Tremplin which quickly becomes filled with thirsty skiers and snowboarders come late afternoon. The same goes for the Ardent telecabin with the Happy Hours Bar being located right near it, a bar that hosts a DJ on some nights should you wish to stay out later.
Down off the slopes in Morzine itself sees a good range of apres locations. One in particular is Robinsons, a local institution which over the years has become very popular. Be warned though, this spot only serves one beer on tap, the famed Mutzig, and its doors shut at 8pm meaning patrons must relocate or head on home. Aside from this, most bars stay open until around 2am and should you wish to continue the party, be sure to head on down to the only night club in Morzine; L’Opera.
In terms of food, you certainly won’t be going hungry as there is a great range of food options both on the mountain and off. Mountain restaurants offer everything from a quick sandwich or burger to a longer, French-styled lunch. In town, you are equally spoilt for choice. Try the L’Etale restaurant near the Pleney lift for a selection of pizzas and local dishes. If a gourmet dining experience is more your thing, then head to Chalet Philibert, known for having one of the best wine lists in town.
Ski schools and guides
There are a wide range of ski schools available with a large amount of them being British owned or run by English speaking instructors and they have to the ability to cater to all levels. New Generation Ski and Snowboard School and PDS Academy are amongst some of the most popular with the latter offering one on one tuition. Private ski guides are also available.
If you are into shopping then look no further as Morzine has plenty of great shops to spend your holiday money in or equally just to browse. There is fashion, souvenirs and of course ski and snowboard shops where you can buy all the latest gear; there is even a market every Wednesday.
If you’re looking for something else to relax you then be sure to check out the towns whole host of pools and spas. A swimming complex is located near the Super Morzine gondola and has three separate pools, three saunas and steam rooms with one of the pools being for kids; ideal for families. The central village square contains an ice skating rink should you wish to stay off the slopes but keep the winter themed sport going, this same rink is where the local ice hockey team plays weekly.
If you are wanting to stay on the slopes but off the skis then snowmobiling may be what you are looking for. You have the option of driving yourself or letting an experienced guide show you the beauty of the surrounding resort. Snowshoeing is also a great way to spend a half or full day on the mountain soaking up the scenery, though be warned, deep snow will make you quickly work up a sweat.
Being the largest town in the Portes du Soleil area, Morzine is a beautiful location that offers great value for money, and with links to neighbouring resorts it is a great place for skiers to enjoy a great holiday with access to additional resorts if required.
The skiing is definitely more suited to beginner/intermediate level and experts may look to head up to Avoriaz or one of of the other resorts to find their thrills, though there is no reason why they cannot use Morzine as a base. Families and those looking to develop their skills on the slopes will most likely benefit from Morzine the most and the reasonably priced ski lift passes will allow them to do so.
Accommodation and eating options are varied and wide and people looking to book will not have a problem finding what they seek, whether no expense is being spared or a more budgeted approach is being taken.
Apres ski in Morzine also provides great experiences but at the same time is not so overwhelming as to dampen the enjoyment had by families visiting the town. People prioritising the night life over the skiing may want to consider another resort.
- Beautiful ski resort located in south-eastern France.
- Perfect for families and/or beginner skiers.
- Lots of intermediate level piste to develop skills on.
- Centre point and largest town of Portes du Soleil ski area.
- Good accessibility to other resorts.
- Direct links with Les Gets and Avoriaz in winter with the possibility to include these two resorts when purchasing a lift pass.
- Wide range of accommodation that can cater to all needs.
- Good variety of food options.
- Good selection of alternative activities should you wish to take a break from the slopes.
- Resort is at a much lower altitude than some of its neighbours so snow coverage may be limited. Snow can also quickly turn to rain at this altitude in warmer months.
- Limited runs for expert skiers. To find these you may have to travel further up the mountain to head to adjacent resorts.
- Resort is popular with families, many of which may have young children. This may put some people off.
- Can get very busy on school holidays and weekends.
- Night life is not as extensive as some other resorts, which may be an issue for some.
Those staying on the outskirts of town will face longer commute times as they will need to catch a bus to access the lifts.
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