Morzine for Advanced Skiers and Snowboarders
In previous blogs we have talked about how staying in Morzine is great for families and beginners. But what about those of you that are beyond snow ploughing and the falling leaf? Well, Morzine is for advanced skiers and snowboarders too.
Us Brits love Morzine, and it is easy to see why. It is located in the heart of the Portes du Soleil, which is 13 resorts connected by 650km of piste straddling the French/Swiss border. It is about an 1 hour 20 minutes from Geneva airport, so it is really easy to get to. This means that if you are the type of person that can drop everything when the powder comes, Morzine is ideal for that emergency snow fix.
Morzine is probably better known as a family resort, but with all this terrain, there is a huge amount for advanced skiers and snowboarders to enjoy. So grab a piste map and have a look through this blog to to get a good idea on where to go.
I don’t want to sound like some kind of internet snow nanny, but you really need to be safe. Whether you are on piste or off-piste, you need to ski or board within your capabilities and knowledge, as both have their own dangers.
Off-piste is anywhere outside of the marked areas. So going beyond the piste markers means you are off-piste and in an unsecured area without avalanche control. Here you need to take responsibility for your own safety. Just because you are “just off the side” it doesn’t mean you are safe, it is still an unsecured area.
Every winter we like to go on courses to refresh our knowledge of off-piste safety. The only way you are going to know about this stuff is from the experts. On recent courses with Keith and Mark from Avoriaz Alpine Ski School we have learned about:
– Slope angle
– Avalanche danger
– Recent avalanche activity
– Terrain traps
– Islands of safety
– Human factors
– Route Planning
These courses are actually really good fun. The instructors will show you some great secret powder runs, while teaching you how to be safe. This includes helping you to make educated decisions and the techniques for finding and rescuing buried people.
If you have time, or come back to Morzine each winter, It is good to mix it up a bit by trying different schools. This gives you a broader knowledge base, as different instructors have different experiences and techniques. Get in touch with one of the schools below before you arrive in Morzine. We have personal experience with all of them. They are all highly qualified and very experienced.
Remember those days when your hire equipment was cheap, battered, with blunt edges and no wax? Well those days are gone. Our recommended supplier for hire equipment, Doorstep Skis have an excellent range of well maintained Performance skis and snowboards.
Whether you are a park rat, like bombing groomers or hitting the backcountry, Doorstep have a great choice of high end skis and snowboards for you.
For a great blast on the Morzine side of the valley head to the Aigle Rouge run from the Pointe de Nyon. You can pick up quite a lot of speed on this narrow and twisty red run. Adding the mogul rich Aigle noir run to this route brings you to the Plateau de Nyon. Alternatively, you continue on the red theme with La combe, which brings you to the same place.
The most accessible advanced runs in Morzine are serviced by the Pleney bubble and the Atray chair lift. There is a black (Olympique) and a couple of reds (Hermine and Abeille) which you can keep lapping to see how fast you can get.
If skiing all day isn’t enough for you, the Le Stade section is floodlit on Thursday nights for night skiing. This is when the piste is very icy and fast, so you might want to visit Coq and Bull to get your edges sharpened first.
When there has been a good snowfall in Morzine there are some really accessible off-piste runs to be had too. Get up early had head for the Fys and Atray lifts. Ducking in and out of the trees on the edges of the red runs is great fun. All you need to do is follow the lifts from top to bottom.
Once those areas are tracked out, go to Nyon or Chamossière. These are the highest peaks on the Pleney side of the valley. We like to take advantage of the bits in between the pisted runs. Cutting the corners off in the right conditions can result in some great powder turns. Just don’t head through the trees on your right unless you have a parachute!
Heading left and traversing away from the first turn of the Aigle rouge piste takes you to a weather station. From here you can get all the way down to the Chamossière valley. You really need to be aware of the conditions here, as it is very prone to avalanches. There are a few gas cannons used for avalanche control up there too, so be careful.
Les Gets has some great pistes for advanced skiers and snowboarders. The Chavannes bowl on the main side of the valley has a couple of good blacks, the Yeti and Myrtilles. These are serviced by the La Rosta and the Grains D’Or chairlifts. These steep runs are good fun, especially after an overnight snowfall. They tend to get very moguly later in the day, but this just adds to a fun technical run, especially for skiers.
For a proper long charge, head to the Mélèzes red run to the bottom of the Perrières Express lift. It is a long wide run where you can get some great speed up. There are a few rollers on the way down that you can get some nice air off if it isn’t too busy. You can also take a detour through the trees either side, but pay attention to the big orange signs. If you come across a sign that says “Danger”, do not go past it, as there is a river at the bottom of a very inviting looking pocket of powder. So just head back to the piste.
The Chevannes bowl also has lots of off piste runs visible from the lifts. These are all located between the blue and red runs. You can easily find some runs through the trees too. They all lead back to a piste somewhere, so it is pretty easy to navigate your way through and not get lost.
Mont Chéry is the mountain opposite the main area where the Chevannes lift is in Les Gets. It tends to be a bit quieter than most places, possibly because is takes a bit longer to get there and it is a less obvious place to go. There are not a huge amount of runs, but they are very good for the more advanced skier and snowboarder.
The back side of Mont Chéry has two routes, a red and a black. They are in the shade for most of the day, so they get very icy. The black (Chéry Nord) gets lots of moguls and is a real workout! However there is an excellent restaurant at the bottom, La Chanterelle. It is best to book in advance and pre-order your food.
Mont Chéry Off-Piste
The area around the Chéry Nord piste has some great off-piste to explore too. After a good snow fall, there is always great powder through the trees and to the side of the pistes.
If you head for the Bouquetin black run and drop down the side, there are some great lines through the trees and open powder runs to be had. You can even ride all the way back to Les Gets while making tracks through farms and gardens.
There is an abundance of challenging runs in Avoriaz. For example you can head to the top of the Fornet and Les Choucas chairlifts, where there are a number of reds to choose from. I wouldn’t say they are particularly technical, but you can get some great speed up.
If you are in the mood for a long black run, the Grandes Combes lift is a good place to go. There are three black runs, two pisted and one un-pisted running all the way from the Arare area to the bottom of the Prodains lift. These are wide, long and fast early in the day and can get a bit choppy later on.
The Swiss Wall
Of course we can’t write a blog about advanced pistes in Avoriaz without mentioning the Swiss wall. Known locally as the Mur Suisse or Le Pas de Chavanette, this is a very steep un-pisted black run from Avoriaz in to Les Crosets in Switzerland. If you can get there before everyone else after a big dump of snow, you can have an amazing powder run. However the rest of the time it is a huge mogul field. The first 50 metres are the most technical, this is because it can get quite narrow between the Volkswagen sized moguls. This first section is about 40 degrees, but does get shallower as you descend. If you are with someone who doesn’t want to tackle “the wall”, they can ride the lift down and maybe take some arial photos of you.
Satellites is an area easily accessible from the Chaux Fleurie lift in Lindarets. As you get off the lift head for the trees opposite. You can either get on a cat track or hike up past the hut on your right. Both lead you to some really nice tree runs that link back down to the blue piste to Lindarets.
You may hear of a route back down to the Ardent carpark. DO NOT DO THIS WITHOUT A GUIDE! If you find the route down, all is well, however there are lots of cliffs and rocks. We know one person that needed to be helicoptered out and a ski instructor that won’t do it without a rope in case he needs to abseil down!
The Vallee de la Manche is one of my favourite places ever. I probably shouldn’t be broadcasting this, as I don’t want it to get tracked out for when I manage to get there, but I’m feeling generous. At the top of the Fornet lift in Avoriaz take a short walk up (there are usually foot prints and a lot of people taking pictures). This stunning area has a few snowboard film style lines to claim before getting to Lac Mines D’or. From here you ride down the road to the bus stop to take you back to Morzine. This bus only comes once an hour and stops for lunch, so you may have time for a celebratory beer. Alternatively you could book a guiding session with Freedom 2 Ski, who can also organise a helicopter to bring you back to Morzine in style (but the bus is free).
From the top of the Les Combes chair, you can have a great blast from the Tête de Linga to Chatel. This long red run is fairly steep and fast. It is in the shade for quite a lot of the day, meaning the snow can be quite hard packed and icy. However this does mean it stays pretty smooth, making it ideal for fast carving all the way down. As is the case with most pistes, the snow is softer at the sides and much better for holding that edge. When you get to the bottom, have a hot chocolate and do it again.
Snow Cross Zones
The Snow Cross zones are dedicated Free Ride areas around Avoriaz. Les Crozats, La Frontalière, Les Brochaux and La Marmotte are patrolled but unpisted areas, ideal to head to after a big dump of snow. The idea is for skiers and snowboarders to get the off-piste experience in a relatively safe environment. They are well worth a visit when the conditions are right, but I would still treat them with respect. This means taking avalanche kits and the knowledge on how to use them.
Touring and Splitboarding
We love a bit of splitboarding at More Mountain. As you can see from the above video, it is pretty rewarding. The Portes Du Soleil has lots of routes for those who like to go hunting for their powder. The Col de Cou and Chesery are just two examples. But to find more, either book a guide or check out the Chablais Toponeige book. This little book is packed full of great touring routes. It gives you the technical details, difficulty ratings and even some photos about the best lines.
But what if you want to spend some time in the air? Snowparks are located in quite a few places. Avoriaz is probably one of the best places in Europe for freestyle.
The Chapelle park – Located at the top of the Proclou chairlift, it has lots of jumps of varying difficulty and size. There are a few jib lines with rails, boxes and whatever they decide to introduce during a winter.
The Stash – Serviced by the Prolays chairlift, The Stash is a snow park full of wooden features through the forest above Lindarets. There are jumps, log slides and obstacles to have fun with through lots of different routes.
Halfpipe – Avoriaz has two half pipes. One is a super pipe and the other is a mini super pipe, both are huge! These are accessible from the Dromonts button lift or you can just drop in on the way back down to the Stade and Lac Intrets lifts.
No matter how good or advanced you are, you can always benefit from a lesson or two. Instructors will be able to get you doing things you have only ever dreamed of. They will build your confidence while giving you the necessary skills to hit those jumps or rails. Even a two hour lesson can help you achieve your goals with an instructor giving you things to practice during your stay.
Morzine has a great airbag to practice your jumps on. Behind the Piou Piou kiddies ski area the Easy 2 Ride air bag allows you to launch yourself off a big jump in relative safety. They also have a freestyle ski coach, X-games freestyle ski champion Xavier Bertoni to teach you too.
Snowboard camps are a great way to improve your skills. There are a lot of camps available in Morzine such as our SnowParking week. We try to fit a season in to a week, with amazing tuition from REAL Snowbaording. It is a great way to work on your Park, pipe, powder and jibbing skills. All this while staying in the fantastic chalet Robin.
So there you have it. Morzine isn’t just for kiddies and beginners. I’ve given a little insight in to what we have here, but to be honest I haven’t even scratched the surface. And to be fair, I’m not going to give away all of my secrets am I?
By Tom Fortune