The Portes du Soleil Circuit
During your visit to Morzine this winter you may want to take on the Portes du Soleil Circuit. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, the Portes du Soleil straddles the French – Swiss border. It has 650km of groomed runs linking 12 different resorts, making it the largest ski area in the world.
If you want to see more of the area and cover some distance this winter, the Portes du Soleil Circuit is a great day out.
What is The Circuit ?
The circuit takes you on a huge loop around the Portes du Soleil. It doesn’t take you through every resort, but includes Morzine, Chatel, Avoriaz and some of the Swiss resorts. The route takes in the best views of the Portes du Soleil and the quieter slopes of Switzerland. If you are visiting Morzine on a peak week and want to get away from the crowds, the Portes du Soleil Circuit is ideal.
Before you go, there are a few things to consider:
Check the weather
If you do this on a bad weather day you will miss the best views of the Portes du Soleil and risk getting stuck in Switzerland or Chatel if high winds close the chairlifts.
Ability of your group
Everyone in your group needs to be comfortable with blue and red runs with varying conditions. A moderate skier or snowboarder will be on their feet for around six hours on the Portes du Soleil Circuit (this doesn’t include a lunch stop). Therefore it may be a struggle for small children. If you feel that you need some help, why not book a ski or snowboard lesson?
There are a few button lifts and T-Bars on the route and not everyone likes them. But you need to do them at some point anywhere in the alps, so this is an ideal opportunity to get some practice in.
Leaving with plenty of time means you will enjoy it more and maybe have time to stop for lunch. Also, first lifts means that you will get that fresh early morning corduroy!
Make sure you have the full area lift pass, or you will have to buy a one in Chatel to continue or get back to Morzine.
There are a few semi flat sections. Snowboarders will need to keep their speed up to avoid scooting. However with the distance you travel on the circuit, in the grand scheme of the day it is not a massive problem.
The Start of the Route
As long as you head for the Chaux Fleurie chairlift in the Linderets bowl, you can do the Portes du Soleil Circuit from Super Morzine, Prodains or Ardent. Once at the top of Chaux Fleurie head over to the next valley, known as the Plaine Dranse. From here, take the Chaux des Rosèes lift and head for the Les Combes chairlift.
From the top of Les Combes, there is a blue and red run to Chatel known as Linga. The red is great fun and ideal for practicing those short turns or carves. It is wide and steep and you can get some serious speed before it turns into a blue. As with most pistes the snow is best at the sides, but it can be quite icy as it doesn’t get the sun until later. The blue from the top goes around the outside of the steeper section making it a more sedate experience.
Keep heading to the right, aiming for the Gabelou chairlift which takes you up and over the mountain. From here you get on the first lift you see called the Portes Du Soleil, which takes you to the Super Chatel area.
Here is your first drag lift. The Coq drag lift takes you a short distance up the mountain, allowing easy access to the Morclan chairlift.
Torgon is the furthest from Morzine as you can get using the lift system. It is very quiet with no crowds and has some pretty spectacular views but there are a lot of drag lifts. This is when you start heading back towards Morzine via Morgins.
The way to Morgins from Torgon consists of a few short runs between drag lifts. Just follow the signs at the top and bottom of each lift. Morgins is a small picturesque village with some really nice blue and red runs, which are worth trying out if you have time. You will need to take a short walk to the Foilleuse chairlift to continue the Portes du Soleil curuit. The top of the chairlift has the most amazing view of the Dents du Midi, so make sure you take your camera. From here, head to the Bochasses chairlift for access to Champoussin.
Champoussin and Les Crosets
From the top of the Bochasses lift, take the blue run to the Aiguille de Champeys chairlift. The red run at the top leads to Pointe de l’Au, giving you access to Les Crosets.
From Les Crosets you have a choice depending on time and your legs. If you feel it is time to head back to Morzine you can take the Swiss side of the Mossettes lift and go back to Linderets. The top of this run is quite flat, so keep your speed up while you can.
If you want to carry on you can follow the signs to Avoriaz via the Grande Conche chairlift. Catching the Cuboré lift takes you to the Fornet area of Avoriaz. One last charge on a red that turns in to a blue brings you to the Tour chairlift in Avoriaz. The blue section has quite a shallow gradient, so keep that speed up!
After completing the Portes du Soleil Circuit head back to your chalet for afternoon tea and and to raid the honesty bar.
By Tom Fortune