Morzine, in the Northern French Alps is a front-runner for title of principal resort in the vast 650km Portes du Soleil ski area that straddles the Franco-Swiss border. It offers plenty of off-slope amenities - in summer and winter - lively nightlife, and extensive ski terrain. An excellent resort choice for keen intermediates, mixed-ability groups and families.
An attractive, if sprawling, market village in the Aulps Valley, just 30km south of Geneva, it's the largest resort base in the Portes du Soleil ski domain. Indeed, it was Morzine that kick-started the Portes du Soleil project in the 1960s with the construction of the purpose-built ski resort of Avoriaz on its high pastures to the east, close to the Swiss border.
The link to Avoriaz is provided by the Super Morzine gondola based near the centre of Morzine, followed by a further two piste-linked ski lifts; a reconstructed cable-car station at nearby Prodains also provides a more direct link; there are, however, still no home-run pistes from Avoriaz to the centre of Morzine proper. You either have to download on the Super Morzine bubble, or ski down the (excellent) pistes beneath the Prodains cable car and catch a bus.
There are two sides to the story of Morzine though, with another local ski hill at Le Pleney on its opposite south-western flank that features pistes that run right to the edge of town. Le Pleney has onwards links to Morzine's most challenging slopes on the dramatic-looking peaks of the Pointe de Nyon and Chamossiere, and is linked with the neighbouring resort of Les Gets, together offering a very respectable range of runs suitable for all ability levels; perfect for mixed-ability groups and families.
Morzine - Ski Map & Pistes:
With links into one of the largest ski circuits in the world, Morzine offers plenty to please most skiers and snowboarders, especially intermediates. The ski areas of the core Portes du Soleil circuit are accessible via nearby Avoriaz and Ardent, both quickly reachable from the village; whilst the more local Morzine-Les Gets linked ski area is often much quieter and features many tree-lined slopes that provide shelter and good visibility on days when the weather closes in.
The only downside to skiing in Morzine is that its altitude does mean some of its slopes suffer when the freeze point is much further up the mountain. But that's what Avoriaz is there for. This purpose-built high-altitude resort draws all the crowds when its lower neighbour is suffering a lack of good snow. However, an extensive network of snow canons ensures that skiing Morzine is never a chore.
Beginners are well catered for here, on the pretty wooded slopes next to the Le Pleney base area, as well as at the spacious beginners' zones up at Avoriaz.
Freestyle ski enthusiasts and snowboarders should head for the various snowparks of Avoriaz; mileage-hungry intermediates likewise are best served on that side of the domain.
Advanced-level visitors can choose either to head directly to the challenging Nyon-Chamossiere sector on the dramatic upper slopes overlooking the southern end of the town, or to explore the steep blacks on the gnarly Hauts Forts sector above Avoriaz; the notorious Swiss Wall run off the Chavanette ridge above Avoriaz into Switzerland should also be a must-do on any self-respecting expert's been-there-done-that list.
Morzine - Off-Piste, Backcountry & Ski Touring:
The Nyon and Chamossière sectors, the highest points of the Morzine area are the best bet for powder enthusiasts. You get lift access, avoiding the need to hike for hours, with a dedicated Freeride Zone in between the two peaks. The Arbis red from Chamossière offers several off piste options on either side as does the black Creux run.
That said, Avoriaz probably offers the biggest and best terrain off-piste terrain and this high altitude playground, and is well worth the trek up from Morzine.
Morzine - Restaurants, Bars & The Town:
Morzine is quite a large village, more of a small town really, with plenty of amenities and attractions to entertain its guests. Its handsome central streets are filled with a good range of shops, cafés, restaurants and bars, with something to suit all tastes and budgets.
Horse-drawn carriage tours are a romantic way to view the village at street level, and helicopter sightseeing flights are available to give a more exciting perspective. Other adventurous activities available locally include tandem paragliding, snowmobiling, Segway tours and snowshoe treks; less strenuous activities are also well covered, Morzine has an indoor swimming pool complex with saunas and steam rooms, two ice rinks (one indoor, one outdoor) and two cinemas.
Après ski is particularly lively around the base area of the Pleney slopes just after the lifts close, Le Tremplin is the key venue here. Later on in the evenings the buzz spreads to a number of popular spots in the village, with big-screen sports, live music sessions, DJs and occasional theme nights animating the atmosphere in well-established venues such as the Dixie and the Cavern; there are also two nightclubs - L'Opera and Le Paradis - open until around 4am. The latter is particularly legendary, featuring (at least the last time Snow visited) a light-up dancefloor of the kind not seen outside mainland Europe since the 1970s.
Morzine - Ski Hire:
There are plenty of options for ski hire in Morzine, including the familiar chain names such as Skimium, Intersport which has three stores here, and Skiset, plus some good independents, such as Star Ski and Gravier Ski Shop.
Morzine - Ski School: