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It’s one thing hitting the slopes with experienced skiers, but taking your non-skiing girlfriend and her non-skiing daughter for their first taste of the sport could be the end of a beautiful relationship if you get it wrong. Michael Wolstenholme looks for the right answers in Morzine
descent pleney vers morzine c ot morzine matthieu vitre
Neither my girlfriend nor her daughter had ever put on a pair of skis or ski boots before this trip. All they knew is that I love skiing and wanted them to experience this wonderful sport for themselves.  My endless raving finally wore them down!

Family friendly Morzine

We chose Morzine in the French Alps as it’s a Famille Plus resort (see feature here), which means it’s especially good for families in search of a warm welcome.

It’s more of a town than a village, which makes sense for families and learners who maybe don’t want to spend all day skiing. It has an ice rink, swimming pool and lots of shops and restaurants. Keen to avoid too much DIY at meal times, we booked a fully catered chalet with Mountain Moments just after Easter.

On arrival at Chalet Marie (a converted nunnery) just outside Morzine in Montriond, the greeting was warm and friendly and the only ground rules were to relax and treat it like your own home.

We had a family suite on the top floor with a fabulous view across the valley to Morzine. It was a decent size with a communal living area, a fridge, a kettle, two bedrooms and a bathroom. Once we were unpacked and settled in my girlfriend (Letang) opted for a nap while Chloe and I set off to squeeze in an extra half-day skiing.

Our chalet hosts drove us to the Pleney lift which goes to the main beginners’ area and we hopped on the gondola. My excited nine-year-old companion could not believe that this was how people got up mountains. Fresh eyes. Lovely.

Having done a season as an instructor in Austria three years earlier, I managed to dredge up enough on how to teach a complete novice. Two hours later Chloe was stopping and even turning a bit - the girl’s a natural.

Morzine ski area

The beginners’ sector in the Pleney area is pretty good. There’s a magic carpet belt lift up from the Pleney gondola which is ideal for teaching novices. There are also a couple of chairlifts just below with easy runs down to them.  At the top, the run takes you back down towards the beginners’ area and is mainly flat but has just enough of a slope so complete novices can go down it without fear of getting out of control.

That evening we sat down with some other guests in the lounge and enjoyed a lovely meal with a good choice of wine.  An hour or so later a few more guests had arrived and before we knew it there were piano singalongs, card tricks and games by the fire.

Chloe and Letang had been booked into ski school for the week through the Ecole de Ski Francais (ESF), Chloe in a kids group and Letang an adult class. Fortunately both enjoyed their lessons from the start. A relief for me, too. It’s no fun being on holiday with someone who doesn’t take to skiing.

The week fell into a daily rhythm of morning classes for them, leaving me free to explore at my own pace. We’d meet for lunch, then spend the afternoons together, with me offering them a few tips, and them mostly not paying any attention!

I needed those mornings: Morzine sits on one edge of the vast Portes du Soleil ski domain –The Morzine-Les Gets area alone has 64 pistes covered by 49 lifts with a top height of 2,100m – and it would have been criminal not to have made the most of it. So while the girls were learning the basics, I took off, though always with one eye on the clock...

Highlights of these expeditions included the Chamossiere and Nyon sectors which were mainly reds and blacks and fairly high, accessed via a new express lift! The Arbis red was a special delight: steep, winding and quick.  

Further afield in Les Gets and Avoriaz

Les Gets is another great area to ski. It has a couple of bowls which are served by plenty of pistes (blue and red).  One run which was awesome for a bit of fast morning carving was the Meleze, which takes you to the far left of Les Gets village.

Mont Chery on  the other side of Les Gets is made up almost exclusively of red and black runs and is well worth a couple of hours of exploration. Getting back to Morzine is easy enough, via the Choucas blue, a lovely tree-lined run.

Learning to ski can get a bit intense, so I’d booked a sledging session for Chloe and me for one early evening.  At the briefing we were told that we would be taking a blue run back down to the bottom and warned: ‘You will fall out the sledge.’ 

After the first couple of runs we both seemed to master it – just don’t suddenly dig in the left or right brake and you won’t flip.  It’s well worth doing and guarantees huge smiles at the end!

I’d saved a trip to Avoriaz for the end of the week and although the conditions were pretty miserable that day – heavy rain and warmer temperatures – it didn’t disappoint. Indeed, for more accomplished skiers there is plenty on offer with lifts up to the Fornet area (2,200m) and the infamous Swiss Wall.

Normally, I would have gladly taken on the wall but there really weren’t many people about to rescue me should I lose an edge, a ski or a limb! 

I’m reliably informed that the Swiss Wall is even scarier that it first appears.  After the initial 50metre, 40degree narrow pass it widens out and there is the easier (but still difficult) left hand side or straight down the middle negotiating 1km of massive moguls and a 331m vertical drop!  

Part of skiing is getting out and seeing other close by resorts on your lift pass so I wanted Letang and Chloe to experience a change of scene. Chloe had come on so much that she skied with me along a hard blue from Avoriaz all the way back down to the bottom of Ardant – very impressive!

Morzine is a great place for a family ski holiday and deserves its Famille Plus status. We had some magical mountain moments, and, what’s more, I’ve converted two more people into loving this wonderful sport, which is what it’s all about!

Morzine resort guide here

Mountain Moments offers tailor-made Winter and Summer holidays in Morzine in Chalet Ste Marie which sleeps up to 24. Prices start from £465pp per week and include breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner.