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My guide to skiing in Les Portes du Soleil

Written by Fiona

March 25 2016

My most recent skiing holiday was a five-day trip to Les Portes du Soleil area of the Alps.

This holiday was for ladies only. My good friend Ellen mentioned last year that she had not been skiing for a while – a decade, to be exact – so I decided to remedy that. We also joined two more friends, Ali and Gill, for our five-day get-away in March.

We had all left behind our families and spent each day – including Mother’s Day and International Women’s Day – rejoicing about the delicious freedom. All we needed to think about each day was the skiing, views, food and drink – rather than the children, partners, work and domestic chores (including everyone’s food and drink!).

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We also enjoyed plenty of chatting time. On chairlifts, in the gondolas, over coffee, lunch and evening meals we talked about life, families, love, work, the past and the future. It all felt so amazingly refreshing.

We were very fortunate with the weather. After what many have reported to be a generally poor – or hit-and-miss – skiing season in the Alps, the week prior to our holiday brought lots and lots of snow. While we were in the Morzine/Avoriaz resorts even more snow fell and the days were mostly bright, sunshiny and non-windy.

I can say for sure that these were the best skiing conditions I have experienced in Europe for many years. I reckon the God of Mums was looking after us during our break with such amazing conditions.

Anyway, the trip was fabulous – and there was a lot that I found out about Les Porte du Soleil skiing area.

A guide to skiing in Les Porte du Soleil

(or 27 things you might like to know…)

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1 Les Portes du Soleil has a total of 14 holiday resorts in one area of the Alps, between Mont Blanc in France and Lake Geneva in Switzerland. 

2 The Portes du Soleil is claimed as the “largest linked international ski area”.

3 Morzine, Les Gets and Avoriaz are great ski resort bases if you are travelling from Geneva. They are easy to reach and offer lots of skiing in their own localities, as well as via links to other bases.

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4 I think that Portes du Soliel roughly translates as the doors to the sun. Well, as it happens, it did open up lots of sunshine for us!

5 One area lift pass covers two countries, the 14 holiday resorts, 650km of pistes, 204 ski lifts, seven snowparks, three halfpipes, four boarder cross, four snow cross and hundreds of kilometres for off-piste skiing.

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6 The 650km of pisted runs include 286 runs, of which 28 are black, 108 are red, 111 are blue and 39 are green. There are also 385 km of snowshoes trails.

7 It’s possible to buy cheaper, localised lift passes, too. This is a good idea if you have arrived half way through a ski day or you are leaving mid-afternoon to catch a flight. For example, the Morzine lift pass has more than enough skiing for several days in a row.

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8 The skiing area ranges from a height of 950m to 2450m.

9 Download a useful Porte du Soliel app for your smartphone. It helps to show you where you are and whereto go next.

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10 The piste maps and signs in Les Portes du Soleil focus more on directing you towards the lifts than the names of the pistes. I found this quite confusing when compared to other ski areas that mostly name the ski runs, rather than the ski lift at the bottom of the runs. We did get used to it but I am not sure it is the best system.

11 Avoriaz offers two-countries-in-one-day skiing, with easy access by chairlift to Switzerland from France. Ellen and I enjoyed a glorious bluebird day of skiing blues, reds and blacks on the Swiss and French sides of the Portes du Soleil.

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12 Morzine offers very easy access to some great skiing areas, including:

Morzine central slopes: Several long and winding blue and red runs. These are best when there are less skiers and definitely not at the end of the day when lots of beginners make skiing at speedy quite dangerous.

Mont Chéry: Very quiet slopes, lovely blue runs, flattering red runs, a tricky black run but fairly slow chairlifts.

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Les Gets bowl: A superb choice of blues, reds and black runs all in one beautiful and high mountain bowl. The lifts are more modern and the café and restaurant at the top of Rosta are perfect for a snack/lunch stop. The black-graded Yeti comes highly recommended if you love moguls, as I do!

Nyon and Chamossiere: Superb red runs, a testing black but a couple of slow and flat blue runs. I amused myself with skiing off the sides of various pistes, while my friends stuck to the groomed slopes.

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13 A car is useful for getting between the resorts but not at all necessary. There are brilliant bus links and cable cars (bus travel is free). One day I travelled solo from Les Gets, to Morzine base, then by bus to Prodains, where I caught a cable car to Avoriaz and managed to get the last chairlift, “Tours”, up, to then descend back to Ardent, where I was meeting a bus to reach the chalet. It was a great adventure, although I was a bit worried I’d miss that last lift.

14 Not all black runs are the same. While the Yeti in Les Gets was off-pistey, mogulled and quite hard going (I took Gill down this and she confessed to having her heart in her mouth), another black that I mistakenly led Ellen to on the Swiss side of Avoriaz was groomed and mostly fine except for one or two short but sharply steep sections. (Ellen survived it with a smile on her face.)  I didn’t even take a look at the famously icy and steep black-graded “The Wall”. Next time I might brave it, though! If there had been ice the black runs would have been a whole other ball game.

15 There are numerous ski hire outlets but I would recommend the service and quality of the hire from Bluebird Ski Rental. Both Ellen and I enjoyed our Dynastar Cham 87s on piste and off-piste. Ellen wasn’t so keen on the colour (pink) although I loved them. I love bright pink simply because it says: “Obviously girlie” and I am not. It’s an ironic thing.

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16 For Scottish skiers, it’s relatively simple to reach Les Portes du Soleil. EasyJet provides the cheapest flights from Edinburgh to Geneva and then it’s less than a 90-minute transfer by bus to the biggest resort of Morzine. We chose to make the most of five days by arriving late on Friday and leaving on the last flight home on Wednesday.

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17 Efficient airport transfers were provided by out SkiidyGonzales and Mountain Drop Offs.

18 It’s a good idea to book accommodation early because this ski area is popular. The larger resort of Morzine was recommended by Ali as a good base, so I started a search for accommodation here. It seems that many people were also doing this and while Ali and Gill had booked early, at their favourite Hotel L’igloo, we had more difficulty when I looked for a hotel in January. Even though our trip was in school term time and outside of most European half-term breaks, good quality chalet and hotel rooms were still quite hard to come by.

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19 Luckily AirB&B came to the rescue with two nights in a room (a double bed and a fantastic bunk bed room) at a wonderful AirB&B chalet in La Côte-d’Arbroz, close to the village of Montriond, near Morzine. The other three nights were courtesy of FlexiSki: The Retreat.

Airb&b chalet.

Airb&b chalet.

20 Staying in a local AirB&B with helpful hosts means you find out about the best places to ski. Apparently there is some great backcountry ski touring to be found in the Mont Chéry area (I will try this next time).

View form the Airb&b chalet.

View form the Airb&b chalet.

21 Staying in a catered chalet means you get to meet lovely people. Ellen and I enjoyed meeting three couples in our chalet. It was fun to chat about life, work and where we had skied each day.

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22 Five full days of skiing feels just about perfect. We did not feel compelled to be on the slopes every morning as the lifts open (except on the last day) yet we still skied until we were tired and ready for a Vin Chaud each afternoon.

23 Although Ellen had not skied for a decade she quickly remembered how and she was a brilliant skiing holiday friend. It seems that skiing is like riding a bike; you don’t forget the skills.

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24 Having enjoyed almost three weeks of skiing this season before arriving in Morzine I found I could cope with any slope that I fancied (although, I admit, didn’t get near to The Wall). This is a great feeling. I have only been skiing a couple of years (after snowboarding for a decade) and while it hasn’t always been easy my progress is far quicker than I ever imagined it would be when I ditched the board for the skis on oe very icy Christmas ski break in the Alps. Perhaps skiing is easier than snowboarding or maybe I had a headstart because I could already snowboard?

Gill on the Yeti!

Gill on the Yeti!

25 For an easy escape and access to a short skiing break, Les Portes du Soleil has a lot to offer al levels of skier and snowboarder.

26 There are tons and tons of great places both on the mountain and in the resorts to eat. I enjoyed them all but I am pleased I don’t need to consume quite so much ham and cheese now I’m home again.

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27 I am fairly sure I have visited somewhere in Les Portes du Soleil before but I can’t recall where and when so this trip felt quite new to me. (If anyone can remember going to the area with me in the past 15 years please do remind me where!)

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