Skiing in Morzine and Avoriaz, France

Skiing in Morzine and Avoriaz, France
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Skiing in Morzine, gliding down the snow-covered hills of the Vallée de la Manche in the Savoie Mont Blanc region of France, we couldn’t hear a thing except the crunching of show under our feet. Visiting this popular French ski resort is one of those ski holidays where you find peace whatever level you are.

Skiing in Morzine, France

From black runs to red runs to nursery slopes, there is something for the beginner, the intermediate skiers and the advanced skiers in Morzine ski resort. There is even the infamous Swiss Wall, Le Pas de Chavanette, thought to be one of the most difficult slopes in the world, in the Portes du Soleil circuit. If you are a demon skier, you can reach this from Avoriaz, which sits above Morzine, or the neighboring Swiss resorts of Les Crosets and Champery.

Skiing in Morzine, France - La Bergerie View

How to get to Morzine and Avoriaz

Less than an hour and a half from Geneva airport, Morzine village can be reached by taxi, bus, or private transfer. We left Heathrow at 7:00am and were in Morzine by 11:00. You can grab your skis and be on the slopes by 12:00 and ready to eat tartiflette with a view of the Alps.

Skiing in Morzine, France - town with view

I learned very quickly why, although there may be a slew of other ski resorts that might be just as convenient, everyone who knew I was off to Morzine, got that envious look in their eyes. It truly is a special place. There is a sense of warmth you receive from all who greet you, as if this is the beginning of a long relationship, even as a first timer. Morziners just assume you will return.  

Why wouldn’t they? The combination of renaissance Morzine and modern Avoriaz hovering in the French Alps above, the diverse selection of restaurants, the charming, homey hotels, and, of course, the great skiing and winter sports accessible just footsteps away from the centre of town are all indicators of why it’s such a great place to keep coming back.

Skiing in Morzine, France - Skiing with Madeline

Skiing in Morzine

The first stop for any skier is to stop off at the tourist office in the centre of Morzine and grab yourself a piste map of the 650k of pistes and find out the current snow reports and snow conditions. You local lift pass or lift ticket will get you access to all the ski lifts and ski runs on the local slopes. It will also give you access to the free bus.

There are equipment rentals all over Morzine village and town center so you can find everything you need with in a minute walk.

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am not the best skier, having begun way too late in life. When you are battling the fear of heights and death by falling over a cliff, technique goes out the window and it’s tough to progress. That has been my excuse until skiing in Morzine.

Don’t get me wrong; you can still find many fantastic red and black runs, but for someone who is not as confident shushing at speeds over 5 mph, Morzine is the ski resort of your dreams.

The Blue runs are perfect for the tentative skier! They are wide without worrying you are going to lose control and fall down a ravine. Even the narrower runs are tree-lined and picturesque, making the whole experience joyful, instead of stressed induced.

There are even blue runs back to the village, so you can feel you are like any other seasoned skier, visiting both the ski resorts of Les Gets and Morzine without ever leaving a blue slope!

Of course, you can always sign up for ski lessons!

Skiing in Morzine, France - Night Sledging

Night Sledging in Morzine (USA: Sledding)

If skiing in Morzine is really not your thing or you want to try something different, there are so many other ways to enjoy the snow, some more heart-stopping that others. Night sledging (or sledding as we Americans say) is pretty high on the thrill scale.

Heading down the same blue runs you may have thought were easy on skis can seem a bit hairier when you are heading down feet first on a small bit of plastic. After you master the breaks, you can glide down at your own speed and experience sunset over Savoie Mont Blanc, something you usually can’t do on skis or a snowboard since the lifts shut after 4pm.

Indiana Adventures hosts these evenings, and it’s a mixed bag of families, millenials and couples. After a short safety chat, a few millennials took it to the extreme and never looked back, convinced it was an Olympic sport. No need to worry; we were always accompanied by three guides  – one in front, one in the middle and one bringing up the rear – plus a emergency services person at all times.

It was a blast, and now that I know how it’s done, I would do it again the next time. If the snow blowers are on, be prepared to get your hair matted! You end right at the bottom of the Pleney cable car, where a Vin Chaud at LeTremplin can warm you up again.

Skiing in Morzine, France - Snowshoeing with Guides

Snowshoeing in Morzine

Skiing has its place, but the reason I keep returning to Savoie Mont Blanc is the snowshoeing. Not only is it an insane workout, similar to running on a beach in summer, snowshoeing can a great choice and as vigorous or super easy as you want it to be, depending on how you feel that day. Also let’s not forget the panoramic views you can experience, seeing untouched snow cover for miles!

Feeling like modern day explorers, you shimmy under snow-covered branches, step over fallen trees, and  follow animal tracks – deer, rabbits, and other woodland creatures that hide themselves when they hear the crunch of your footsteps.

You are alone with your guides and don’t need to avoid the speedy snowboarders or impatient red-run headed skiers who swerve around you to get to the next thing. The only harm you can do to yourself is by slipping and falling in the deep snow – which can also be kind of fun too!

Skiing in Morzine, France - Tremplin
Le Tremplin, at the foot of the Le Pleney Gondola – great for people watching!

Eating in Morzine

Eating and drinking are all part of the fun of a weekend skiing in Morzine. The question is not where to eat, but how much cheese are you prepared to consume. Don’t worry, there are lots of other choices for the lactose-intolerant, with most restaurants using local produce!

Morzine has a thriving local community so there is more than just Savoyard restaurants in town. Meat eaters and vegans alike have loads of options.

⭐ Best Bit – Don’t miss the recipe for tartiflette – one of the area’s cheesy specialties below!

Skiing in Morzine, France - Onion Soup, Tremplin

Le Tremplin

If you are an onion soup eater, start your weekend at Le Tremplin, located directly at the bottom of Le Pleney Gondola. Sit yourself directly under one of the heaters outside and watch the skiers race down the mountain and and hop right back up the gondola. You’ll want to eat up, strap on your skis and join them.

The Onion Soup might stop you though  – don’t expect the “traditional” rubbery cheese stuck to the top of your onion soup. The Morzine way is to enjoy the soup on its own with bread and cheese on the side. Their local cheese is way too good to just melt on the top of soup. Saying that, it’s more than acceptable to plunk both the cheese and the bread into the soup and let it melt anyway!

Skiing in Morzine, France - Fondue, La Grange

La Grange

If you are looking for fondue and all the other Savoie specialities, I think La Grange is a great choice. Their own version of fondue is made special by adding in ceps that add a distinctive woodsy saveur to it.  Make sure you request a sip of their homemade spiced rum before you leave – Christmas in a glass.

On the mountain, Le Vaffieu is the place to go. Easy to get to whatever your level; you can even walk there! If you don’t want tartiflette, have their homemade vegetable soup (with cheese and bread on the side, of course). Come hungry as the portions are gigantic!

Bec Jaune

Bec Jaune is for those who have had enough of vin chaud and fondue and want a beer and items made from actual green vegetables. (More on their beer later!) A salad at La Dez’Alps in town could also make you believe, after three days, that food exists without a cheese option.

Their burger was one of the best I’ve had in Savoie Mont Blanc, thanks to the seeded bun, definitely not your normal bun-of-the-mill!

Skiing in Morzine - La Chamade - Cheese Room

La Chamade

For a more refined evening, La Chamade takes local ingredients and puts a modern twist on them.  Local lake fishes, foraged mushroom filled amuse-bouches, lamb stew – a much more sophisticated menu for those who are ready for a change. You will be tempted by the divine aroma of the cheese fondue as it passes, so save room for their cheese course.

Do not expect the usual table-side cart. La Chamade takes it to another level and built an entire room dedicated to cheese – from around the corner and around the world.

Skiing in Morzine, France - Cheese Room 1, La Chamade-my plate

I stuck to only local ones and had my choices of dozens. I wish I had time to return to sample all the other ones I missed!

Drinking in Morzine

I am not forgetting bars in Morzine – vin chaud, shots, spiked hot chocolate are everywhere. Bec Jaune and two cocktail bars are changing the drinking landscape. To find out more about these, you’ll have head to A Lush Life Manual’s Bar Guide to Morzine!

Skiing in Morzine, France - La Bergerie

Staying in Morzine

Two of the guardians of Morzine are Eric and Caroline Marullaz-Monné, owners of La Bergerie. Caroline’s family has been welcoming visitors to La Bergerie, their hotel right in town. Eric’s look of astonishment when I asked where the lockers were for our ski stuff told me everything. It’s just not the kind of place where you would need lockers.

This is a family – one where return guests outnumber the new, where you grab your own room key after Eric and Caroline have gone to bed, and where the breakfast is a feast of homemade jams and honeys.

Skiing in Morzine, France - La Bergerie by the fireplace

Although technically they have no restaurant, they will even make dinner for your children if requested. Nothing you could wish for won’t be provided, if it is in their power.

Still, there is very little that would make your experience any better – roaring fires, huge terry towels and robes, down pillows, and views to die for.

What makes it feel so special is Eric and Caroline’s assumption that once through the door you are part of their family. Don’t miss sampling Eric’s fabulous Swiss wine collection!

⭐ Best Bit – You can book Le Bergerie here at Booking.com

Avoriaz Ski Resort

I’ve left Avoriaz for last even though you can ski both Morzine and Avoriaz in the same day. If your definition of a ski resort is somewhere where you can get away from it all, then head right up the mountain to Avoriaz and stay there.

Head straight up there from the Super Morzine Gondola. High atop the mountain above Morzine, Avoriaz sits blending in with its surroundings. Blink and you could almost miss it. If it’s a cloudy day, the resort is hidden away as if it doesn’t even exist.

There’s magic realism at play here in a place where there no cars, denizens dancing in the streets and the only way in and out is either by gondola, skis or horse drawn carriage. One day in Avoriaz, and I was bewitched.

Easy to forget that it emerged out of the imagination of ski legend Jean Vuarnet, also of the sunglasses fame. Pre-Vuarnet, shepherds watched over their flock by day during the long summer hours before heading back down the mountain to Morzine.

Skiing in Morzine, France - Avoriaz Ski Resort, sculpture

Vuarnet had other ideas. Having grown up in Morzine, he was a child of the slopes and returned to town with a gold metal in tow from the 1960’s Olympics. Looking up, he thought, “let’s put a ski resort up there,” and it was done.

He wanted this resort to be different from the others – we know it now as “sustainable.”  Heating was to be fuel-free, no cars were allowed, and, most importantly, the architecture itself would blend in with its landscape.

Skiing in Morzine, France - skiing Avoriaz

Skiing in Avoriaz is a dream, from the green baby slopes to the near impossible black Swiss wall, to cross-country to ski-touring and the views are outstanding, especially on a day as sunny as ours.

Skiing in Morzine, France - Avoriaz Ski Resort, Ferme

On your way back down the mountain from the top of Avoriaz, stop off one of the blue runs to buy cheese from the local farm, La Ferme de Seraussaix, that sits next to the slope. It’s open both summer and winter = offering respite – and cheese – to all who pass.

Skiing in Morzine, France - Avoriaz Ski Resort with Sleigh

There is only one road in for visitors with luggage, and that road ends in a car park outside of town. Leave your car there and then load up your bags into the taxis waiting outside. By taxi, I meant horse-drawn sleighs.

Skiing in Morzine, France - Avoriaz Ski Resort, hotel

Head to your chalet, apartment or the Hôtel des Dromonts. As of now, there is only one hotel in town, and what a hotel is it! Opened in 1967, the edifice is actually not level, but you can’t tell until you get indoors. The floors are all on different levels and it’s all a bit Willy Wonka. The interiors reflect its swinging 60’s beginnings and couldn’t be more on trend.

Skiing in Morzine, France - Avoriaz Ski Resort - Hotel interiors

It was all quiet for a few years, until the film festival came to town. From Steven Spielberg to Luc Besson, all most famous directors and their entourages descended on Avoriaz and with them, their fans. Since the 1970’s, Avoriaz has been loved by skiers and snow-bunnies alike. They have tarted it up since the 60’s, but kept its original decor, added a Pure Altitude spa, and now it’s hipper than hip.

⭐ Best Bit – You can book Hôtel des Dromonts here at Booking.com

Skiing in Morzine, France - Avoriaz Ski Resort - La Cabane

Lunch was spent outside at La Cabane – one of the many of the restaurants that line the slopes – listening to live singers crank out American songs with their French accents.  I only wish that former resident Johnny Halladay were alive to join in.

As I the sun got lower, and I put on my Vuarnets, I toasted to Jean and the town he built above Morzine. If you blink, you might miss it.

More French Ski resorts not to miss

Skiing in Morzine and Avoriaz may be fantastic, but don’t miss out on trying one of these other great Savoie ski resorts!

Make a Bit of Morzine at Home

Tartiflette © Office de Tourisme du Val d'Arly M. Studio

Tartiflette

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

If you can’t wait to ski in Savoie Mont Blanc, try making a tartiflette at home! The Tartiflette is a classic and all the ingredient are available almost everywhere! Photo is by Office de Tourisme du Val d'Arly M. Studio!

Ingredients

  • 1kg of potatoes, peeled
  • 250g of lardons (bacon)
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 100ml white wine
  • 200ml of double cream
  • 1 whole Reblochon cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Cook the potatoes in a saucepan of salted boiling water for 5-10 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Drain and set aside to cool slightly
  4. Fry the bacon, shallots and garlic for 4-5 minutes. Add the white wine.
  5. Slice the potatoes thinly and layer into an ovenproof gratin dish with the bacon mixture.
  6. Pour over the double cream.
  7. Season with salt and black pepper.
  8. Layer the Reblochon slices on top.
  9. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling.

Best Bits Info for Skiing in Morzine & Avoriaz

Avoriaz

  • La Cabane: 100 Place Centrale

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Skiing in Morzine & Avoriaz - pinterest

NB: I was the guest of the Savoie-Mont-Blanc Tourism Board and Morzine-Avoriaz Tourism I can’t thank them enough for introducing me to the area. My opinions are always my own.



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