Portes du Soleil Ski Area Overview
With 650km of slopes and 197 lifts in 12 diverse resorts stretching from Lake Geneva in Switzerland to Mont Blanc in France, Portes du Soleil (‘Gates of the Sun’) is a seriously impressive ski area.
Resorts include Morzine, Avoriaz, Les Gets, Châtel and Champery and there’s an astounding selection of well-groomed pistes to suit skiers of all abilities here, as well as outstanding off-piste areas for advanced adventurous souls, and a super selection of snow parks for snowboarders ready to carve up the slopes and sharpen their skills and tricks.
Just an hour and a half from Geneva, you’ll also enjoy awesome Alpine hospitality here whether you’re a solo snow sports enthusiast, active couple, fit family or group of pleasure-seeking pals. As well as bars, boutiques, cafes and clubs, the varied resorts here are characterised by distinct modern architecture, chalet-style traditional charm, car-free convenience and doorstep skiing, but the Portes du Soleil stamp of quality provides peace of mind that you’ll have a fantastic time wherever you choose to lay your head.
Set 1800m high on a south-facing plateau overlooking the Morzine Valley, Avoriaz blends modern aesthetics with traditional Alpine charm ̶ for instance, in this car-free resort you’ll see an authentic horse-drawn sleigh sliding nonchalantly past a striking contemporary building and both somehow fit fantastically. There’s super skiing for all aptitudes in Avoriaz but it’s also seventh heaven for snowboarders.
Meanwhile, Morzine is a traditional Alpine town in the Haut Chablais mountains and although its 1000m resort altitude is lower than some of its neighbours, it’s still reasonably snow-sure throughout the season and well-connected to diverse pistes across the wider Portes du Soleil area. The après-ski is lively and includes the popular Rock the Pistes music festival each March, but if you prefer quiet evenings cuddling by the fireside with your significant other in your cosy chalet-style accommodation, the choice is yours.
Les Gets is another great Portes du Soleil ski resort with plenty of exciting red and blue runs where intermediates and new skiers can improve their skills amidst sublime scenery and it also has the Famille Plus Montagne accreditation for child-friendly skiing, facilities and accommodation.
Châtel is another family-friendly choice which mixes chocolate-box chalet architecture and a laid-back ambience with plenty of wholesome fun, while Champery on the Swiss side of Portes du Soleil is a lovely rustic mountain village which sits in the shadow of the dramatic Dents du Midi ridge.
These are just a handful of the ski resorts on offer in Portes du Soleil, but they perfectly exemplify the fact that a special experience for every type of skier and snowboarder awaits here!
Skiing in Portes du Soleil
The first seeds for a two-nation ski area here were sown in 1956, when the first cross-border link was built between Super Châtel and Morgins by Pierre Béteille, meaning you could ski from France to Switzerland with relative ease. Then in 1964 at the Lausanne Exhibition, the ‘Haute Route des Familles’ project proposed a unified, substantive multi-resort ski area and the name was changed to ‘Ported du Soleil’ after the col at Les Crosets. When the Avoriaz-Champery link opened in 1969 the first cross-border ski pass was sold, the first official Portes du Soleil ski pass was on sale by 1976 and it’s since gone from strength to strength, even operating a summer season when activities like mountain biking come to prominence.
With a network of 650km of marked pistes and 197 lifts set across 1036km and 14 valleys, Portes du Soleil vies with the Three Valleys for the title of the world’s larges ski area. Here’s some more information on what to expect when you ski here:
• Avoriaz has a resort altitude of 1800m, a summit height of 2466m and ample shaded north-facing runs which retain their snow well for the duration of the season. There are 76km of pistes, 17 chair lifts, 14 drag lifts and two chair lifts in this resort alone. If you’re an advanced skier in Avoriaz looking for a challenge, try the Pas De Chavanette (also known as The Swiss Wall), a white-knuckle ungroomed run which usually has massive moguls after a fresh dump of pow. Head straight downwards into a natural halfpipe for the most vertiginous route and at the bottom you can get back to Avoriaz by hopping on the Chavanette chairlift.
• Novice skiers at Morzine love the plentiful cruisy blue and green runs which help them build their confidence, and there’s a magic carpet at the Morzine Pléney Telecabine which whisks beginners back up to the top on their own feet rather than negotiating ski lifts. When you’re ready to step things up a bit, the Chamoissière and Nyon areas have plenty of red and black runs which are an enjoyable challenge and the red Arbis run on the Nyon side of the mountain has some cracking angled corners.
• Expert skiers in Portes du Soleil love the steep black runs that descend from the back of Mont Cherry in Les Gets which are usually quiet and worth the trek, while the best off-piste in the Châtel area is usually found in the Pre-la-Joux and Linga areas. If you’re a confident skier yearning for a really pulsating ride, try to super-steep and mega long Barbossine run located on the way from Super Châtel to Torgon.
• Novice skiers appreciate the Chavannes nursery slopes above Les Gets and there are four free lifts here which save you shelling out for a pass until you’re ready for fresh challenges elsewhere in the area. However, beginners should be slightly wary of Champery because many of the runs here are significantly trickier than their rating suggests and even the ski lessons are held on steep, remote runs.
• Another exciting option for off-piste skiers in Morzine is hiring a guide and hunting for fresh powder around Piste A and Piste R under the Pléney lift.
Snowboarding in Portes du Soleil
Are you a snowboarder looking for gnarly action, you’ll absolutely adore Portes du Soleil, where there are no less than seven freestyle parks, four free airbags and all manner of kickers, jibs, railings and tables. Here’s the lowdown on Portes du Soleil hotspots for riders: • Avoriaz is the heart and soul of snowboarding in Europe as it pioneered the sport by opening the first area dedicated to the sport and it’s snow parks, powdery bowls and sweeping runs have since become famous worldwide. La Chapelle Snowpark suits riders of all aptitudes, it’s easily accessible from the Teleski de la Chapelle lift and boasts four lines littered with kickers.
• Le Snowpark d’Arare near Avoriaz is better for intermediate and advanced riders ̶ they can test their mettle against its wild rails, boxes and red and black kickers, plus there’s a big air bag where you can practice your jumps without worrying about wiping out on uncertain terrain. Your runs are also recorded here, so if you pull off a particularly wicked move you can share it on your social media later and show off to pals! There’s also an Olympic standard Superpipe here and even if you’re not quite ready to try it for yourself, watching pros and advanced amateurs pull off rollicking runs always makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
• The Stash at Avoriaz is an imaginative eco-snowpark set in a sylvan glade in Lindarets ̶ the creative vision of snowboarding legend Jake Burton, its forest location is studded with cool wooden obstacles and hidden routes, while there’s a wooden cabin in the middle of the complex where you can chill out for a while and carve your name in the wood while you take in some inspirational environmental messaging.
• Advanced riders in Morzine should head up to Mont Cherry where runs like the red Combe and black Aigle Noir are challenging yet rewarding, while the gentler Proclou and Seraussix blue runs are ideal for intermediates.
• There’s a small snowpark at the Nyon sector of the Morzine/Pléney slopes and although it can get busy with beginners taking ski school lessons, its attractions include a decent boardercross area. As you can see, if snowboarding is your passion, it doesn’t get much better than Portes du Soleil!
Snow Conditions in Portes du Soleil
Resorts in Portes du Soleil are located at a huge variety of altitudes and many are meteorological enclaves which are superbly snow-sure, while those which struggle late in the season or have more south facing slopes are well connected to the rest of the ski area. Furthermore, a huge arsenal of snow cannons means that pistes are maintained in tip-top condition even on the rare occasions when mother nature doesn’t quite deliver the goods. Here’s some more useful information on snow conditions in Portes du Soleil: • A lofty summit of 2466m and an outstanding average 8m snowfall per season means Avoriaz is the most snow reliable resort in Portes du Soleil and one of the best across the entire Alps. You’ll find fresh powder at the top of Arare and Les Hauts Forts and because this sector is shaded for the duration of the season, it’s not unusual for it to be perfectly skiable straight through to late April, long after the time when many rival resorts have packed up for the season.
• The latest seasonal snowfall stats for Avoriaz reveal a total snowfall of 592cm, 43 snowfall days, a 50 cm largest snowfall, maximum base depth of 225cm, 135cm average base depth, 440cm maximum summit depth and average summit depth of 252cm.
• Don’t let Morzine’s relatively low 1000m resort altitude fool you, because on many metrics it can compete with much higher resorts. For instance, the average snow depth on the higher slopes here can compete with the likes of Val d’Isère and because many of its pistes are based on pastureland instead of rock, they require minimal snowfall to open.
• Morzine’s most recent seasonal snowfall figures show a total snowfall of 258cm, 20 snowfall days, a 25 cm largest snowfall, average base depth of 78cm, 120cm maximum base depth, average summit depth of 153cm and 295cm maximum summit depth.
Apres Ski in Portes du Soleil
From tasty snacks to haute cuisine and happy hour beers to grand cru champagne, the nightlife in Portes du Soleil suits every taste. Here are a few highlights:
• Fancy sampling craft beer brewed on site and soaking it up with succulent home-made burgers and artisan bar snacks? If you’re nodding your head in anticipation, you’ll love gastropub and micro-brewery Bec Jaune in Morzine.
• For something a little fancier in Morzine, L’Atelier in Hotel Le Samoyède serves spectacular nouvelle cuisine crafted by legendary local chef Alexandre Baud-Pachon.
• La Cachette in Avoriaz is an unfussy but comfortable wine bar that serves famous sharing boards featuring exotic ingredients like garlic prawns, smoked salmon and duck rillettes as well as the usual cheese and charcuterie.
• Le Yeti is handily located on the green piste near the top of the Plateau village chairlift and it’s the perfect place to sit on the terrace and enjoy a beer or vin chaud while tucking into tasty hot or cold baguettes, omelettes and tartiflette.
• If you need to liven up a night out in Avoriaz, head to Le Shooters where there are over 50 types of unusual shots, while you can dance the night away until the early hours at nightclub Le Yak.
• Dixie Bar in Morzine has three different bars based on British, Irish and Spanish themes so you can sample the delights of each as well as playing pool or enjoying big screen sports and at L’Opera nightclub you can bust a few moves on the dancefloor to everything from EDM to trance and Europop.
Facilities in Portes du Soleil
Every Portes du Soleil resort is refreshingly unique but they all deliver quality when it comes to customer service and the facilities are consistently fab throughout.
Ski hire in Portes du Soleil
You won’t struggle to find ski hire outlets in Portes du Soleil, but for a hassle-free option, why not let Erna Low source the best gear and deals for you and include it in your ski holiday package? If you want to arrange this convenient option, contact us for a chat.
Ski passes in Portes du Soleil
We can often find fantastic deals on ski passes for Portes du Soleil, including discounted deals for families and children. Ask us what’s on offer for your desired dates.
Spa and pool in Portes du Soleil
Snowsports are excellent exercise but to make sure you’re in top condition throughout your break you’ll need to squeeze in R&R sessions. Luckily there are several super spa and pool complexes here where you’ll recharge your batteries including the Altiform Fitness Centre in Avoriaz and Morzine’s Parc des Dérêches.
Shops in Portes du Soleil
If you’re self-catering, there are several well-stocked supermarkets for all your daily essentials across the ski area, but don’t miss Maison Tavernier in Avoriaz if you appreciate mouth-watering tarts and pastries, while Fusalp is the best place to pick up chic Alpine fashions.
Facilities for Children in Portes du Soleil
With a wide choice of on and off-slope activities for kids, Portes du Soleil is a fab fit for all types of families.
Ski schools in Portes du Soleil
ESF ski school operates all across Portes du Soleil, this famous Alpine establishment is the first choice for many families, and it accepts children aged three and upwards.
Children’s entertainment in Portes du Soleil
At Avoriaz, kids can enjoy laser quest, tag archery and snow scoots, while Morzine offers horse-drawn sleighrides, toboggan runs, teenage discos and cosy storytelling events at the local library.
Childcare in Portes du Soleil
In Avoriaz, the Avrizou nursery accepts children ages three months to five years old in a pristine facility operated by fully trained and regulated staff, while Morzine’s L’Outa nursery is equally professional and cares for children from three months to six years old.
Accommodation in Portes du Soleil
There’s a mind-blowing range of accommodation options across Portes du Soleil and many options here offer ski-in/ski-out convenience as well as luxury in-house facilities like gyms and spas. Here are couple of excellent examples:
• L’Aiglon de Morzine is centrally located in easy reach of the slopes and shops, it’s family and pet-friendly, has ample parking and its own spa and sauna facilities. Its charming chalet-style exterior is perfectly complemented by cosy and comfy suites.
• Electra accommodation in Avoriaz comprises charming apartments with all the mod cons and includes doorstep skiing, balcony views of the stunning surrounding scenery and escalator access to the resort centre, therefore shops, restaurants and the resort’s terrific Aquariaz water park are a short stroll away, making this a prime pick for families with teenagers.
As you can see, a Portes du Soleil ski holiday is a passport to fun and frolics for all types of visitors ̶ try it for yourself and we’re sure you’ll soon decide that one trip here is never enough!
Portes du Soleil Ski Area
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