Morzine is at the heart of the Portes du Soleil, a vast ski area with statistics to dwarf other resorts. There are 650km of groomed runs – the largest linked ski area in the world – taking in 12 traditional towns and villages across both France and Switzerland.
The unique selling point of the Portes du Soleil is the on-snow experience. Pistes of every orientation from high altitude powder bowls to beautiful winding tree-lined runs down into the villages; not to mention the limitless off-piste. There’s something for every ability from those learning for the very first time, through to the seasoned skier looking for the ultimate challenge. No two days are the same here, in fact, no two weeks are!
Morzine is a bustling Alpine town, full of character and atmosphere. The old streets in the village centre are still largely made up of traditional wooden chalets set against a dramatic mountain backdrop. There’s a real Savoyard charm to life here which is missing from so many ‘purpose built’ resorts.
There’s something for everyone in the town, with a wide variety of shops and boutiques from delicatessens to designer brands. There’s also a cinema showing the latest releases and a sumptuous new pool and spa complex featuring several indoor pools, hammams and saunas – all with the most fantastic views. You’ll also find a large arena, home to the Morzine-Avoriaz Penguins, a professional ice hockey team playing in France’s Elite League; it’s well worth watching a game if they’re at home whilst you’re in town.
● 650km of pistes – the largest ski area in the world
● 285 slopes: 32 black, 100 red, 122 blue, 31 green
● 8m+ snowfall every season – the most in France
● 11 snowparks and border/ski-cross courses
● Endless off-piste terrain
NIGHT SKIING, SLEDDING AND PEOPLE WATCHING
During winter, Morzine opens The Stade – the piste that runs directly into Morzine town once a week allowing skiers and snowboarders to re-start their ski day at 7pm until around 10pm. If you don’t fancy a ski yourself take a table at Le Tremplin and partake in the French pastime of people watching. You might spot a Parisian skiing in their jeans or witness the sledding madness that happens when the lifts finally close and families, children, and teenagers alike all run up the mountain to slide back down on whatever they have to hand.
SPA SWIM DAY
All the BC chalets have their own Bamford Spa for guests to enjoy but if you fancy trying something a little different there are local options available. You could go really local and head to the swimming pool, which has its own wellness centre with Hammams, Saunas, a relaxation area and Jacuzzi. It is inexpensive with the added bonus of picking up a bit of French from the locals and the 25 metres swimming pool (50 metres in summer) is perfect for those looking to rack up the laps.
Wednesday is market day in Morzine where you can wander amongst the locals buying fresh produce for their weekly shop. Aside from regionally-grown vegetables and meat there is also an abundance of local produce on offer from Savoie cheeses and traditionally cured meats, to wild mushrooms, jams, wines and digestifs. Italian produce is sometimes available from across the border, as is a welcome vin chaud to keep you warm during your winter wandering.
Le Vaffieu is a traditional Savoyard style chalet-restaurant located walking or skiing distance from the top of the Pleney cable car. This sunny mountain restaurant is a favourite for locals and tourists alike. The delicious regional fare is perfect after a morning skiing, as is the fine red wine. Their ‘croûte’ is the best on the mountain but if cheese is not your thing then their lamb cutlets are amazing as is the seabass.
Chez Nannon is the mountain refuge we think we want to hike to, but probably never will. Thankfully this Morzine mountain restaurant is accessible from the Ravarettes or the Troncs Express chairlifts so just requires you to gently slide. As you approach the quaint wooden structure (that can be partially hidden on a truly snowy day) you will be greeted with the scent of bubbling pans of melted Reblochon cheese, a plume of smoke dancing up from the chalet chimney and an open fire oven on the terrace. Book ahead to ensure you are not disappointed.
Behind the otherwise unassuming façade of the three-star Hotel Le Samoyède in the village centre, you’ll find L’Atelier, one of the finest dining experiences in the region. In a class of its own L’Atelier was the brainchild of local chef Alexandre Baud-Pachon who, after working in top restaurants in Geneva and Courchevel, came home in 2004 to set up on his own. The restaurant offers a fabulous fine-dining experience and is popular with people in the know (it would be easy to pass through Morzine and remain unaware of this luxurious dining experience).
Morzine’s incredibly popular microbrewery bar that’s more Shoreditch-chic than mountain-cliché. With mismatched furniture and a menu of Asian-fusion pub grub it is the perfect post-piste destination or a great choice for a relaxed night out. Let yourself be led by the knowledgeable too cool for school staff who will happily talk you through the different craft beers on tap, (all brewed on-site) the organic wines and the ever-changing cocktail of the day.
THE CHAUDANNE CAVES
The Chaudanne restaurant first opened its doors in 1979 and remains the popular choice for locals and tourists alike. In 2010 the owners Thierry & Veronica completely renovated the building. The cellar bar downstairs is the perfect wine cave with a vaulted stone ceiling, thousands of bottles of wine and a sommelier on hand. People cluster on soft cream leather sofas around chunky wooden tables enjoying a delicious tapas menu, but we say take a seat at the bar. On quieter nights the sommelier is always happy to talk wine and may even offer you a few recommended tasters.
On a ski holiday, finding and connecting with the authentic local population can be near on impossible. Which is why we take our coffee and aperitifs in the Tyrolia at the bottom end of the Rue du Bourg, opposite the Mairie. French owned, run and frequented, have a morning espresso on one of the tables overlooking the river, or a lunchtime galopan (the French version of half a half pint) with the plat du jour. This is the place where people are watched, news is shared and French gossip is made. They also make an incredible house burger.
You could conceivably arrive in resort empty-handed and kit yourself out in-shop. From thermals and socks, to outerwear and goggles, to evening wear and street shoes – Slopestyle is a cornucopia of mountain style and street fashion with big brands for on and off the mountain. Their sister store, The Woods, on the opposite side of the street stocks more technical brands such as Patagonia and AK. You can also hire snowboard equipment from here, wrigglet boards for under 5s, and book snowboard lessons with Mint Snowboard School, who has an office in the corner in a little wooden hut. Both shops are also great for gift purchases. Open winter and summer.
If you are looking for a shopping fix that is not mountain or ski related, Rouge Chili is your destination. It offers an authentic French shopping experience and is genuinely the shop of choice for the glamorous French local population who you will occasionally spot enjoying a coffee or aperitif around town. Located at the top of the Rue du Bourg it is open year round offering womenswear and menswear as well as great accessories and shoes.
L’Alpage is the perfect end-of-holiday stop off to buy presents for loved ones and stock up on supplies for your own kitchen. It is filled with local produce from dried meats, jams, preserves and digestifs, to locally made cheeses and wines. Much of the cheese is made in-house in the fromagerie underneath the shop, where you can also enjoy free weekly tours to watch the cheese making process. A glass floor allows you to view some of the ageing cheeses, and a wine stores offers a selection of different regional wines.