A guide to Morzine
Morzine is a pretty Alpine town situated close to the border with Switzerland, linked to neighbouring Avoriaz & Les Gets and the enormous Portes du Soleil ski area. Morzine and its surrounding villages are packed with lots of chalets and apartments with a mix of traditional and more modern design, offering plenty of Alpine charm for the thousands of visitors that come here every year. It's not only a great place to come skiers and snowboarders of every level of ability, it's also a hot-spot for cyclists, trail runners, hikers and mountain bikers during the summer months.
Morzine is the largest settlement of Les Portes du Soleil, and is home to approximately 3000 residents. Although it is situated at a relatively low 900 metres, a network of lifts reaches the panoramic Chamossière at 1800 metres. And Avoriaz, at 2100 metres, is accessible using the lift system, or is a 20 minute car ride away. Free shuttles now connect the centre of Morzine with all the lift systems.
The Portes du Soleil is renowned for being the largest international ski area in Europe, spanning both France and Switzerland and encompassing the eight French resorts of Abondance, Avoriaz, La Chapelle d’Abondance, Châtel, Les Gets, Montriond, Avoriaz, St Jean d’Aulps and the six Swiss resorts of Champéry, Champoussin, Les Crosets, Morgins, Torgon and Val d’Illiez.
The region encompasses the best of the Alps from quiet little hamlets to bustling resorts, picturesque rusticana to lively nightlife and extreme sports. Above Morzine, and linked by ski lifts, Avoriaz is probably the most distinctive of the Portes du Soleil ski stations, due to its futuristic design and dramatic cliff top location.
The Portes du Soleil region vies for the title "largest ski area in Europe," with 212 interconnected lifts servicing a mind-boggling 650 km of runs sprawling across 12 areas, eight in France and four in Switzerland. There are 273 marked ski runs as well as 216 km of cross-country trails. The Portes du Soleil region therefore offers a variety of skiing terrain to suit all abilities.
Circuits (taking approximately 2h 30 min) organised according to ski levels have been designed to give skiers access to the various areas. Itineraries (blue, red or black runs) are marked by a specific mountain animal such as a bear, white rabbit, jackdaw, ibex or reindeer!
Beginners are well served in both Châtel and Champery. In Châtel, a chair lift at Pre La Joux gives easy access to a high altitude beginner’s slope. In Champery, access is via the cable car from the centre of the village. In Avoriaz alone there are 150km of lift served runs and 45km of cross country trails, as well as two fantastic snow parks. Avoriaz also has the best snow conditions in the Portes du Soleil, due to its high altitude. Read more about the Morzine, Les Gets and the Portes du Soleil ski areas.
Food is a great part of life in the French Alps, and with all those outdoor pursuits to try you can rest assured it is all very hearty! Local specialities are often cheese or cream based (sometimes both…), featuring local meats, potatoes and green salad. The food in the Alps is often accused of being unadventurous and ‘lardy’ but there are plenty of delicious regional dishes besides the good old fondue. The emphasis is very much on fresh local produce and so cured and seasoned meats will have come from cattle grazed on Alpine pastures, the local cheeses of Abondance and Beaufort will be prevalent and although there isn’t a coastline in sight there is still a regional fish dish! The féra is caught in nearby Lake Geneva and is a popular dish served in many restaurants, alongside other lake fish such as Omble Chevalier (char), truite (trout), brochet (pike) and perche (perch).
Where is Morzine?
Morzine sits in the Haute Savoie region of France just over an hour from Geneva airport, making it one of the easiest resorts to reach from the UK, in around an hour. The centre of Morzine is the Tourist Office and from here it's a short walk to the lifts on either side of the valley that will take you up to either Morzine and Les Gets or Avoriaz and the further Portes du Soleil.
As Morzine is still a town rather than a resort it is possible to drive around but for those without their own transport there is a free bus system that starts and finishes at the foot of Le Pleney but accesses the Prodians, Super Morzine and Ardent lift stations.
The nearest and most convenient airport to Morzine is Geneva, situated 100 kms (around 1 1/4hrs) away. From here, you have a number of different methods of transport to choose from to get you up to resort including transfers, buses and trains. If you can’t get a flight to Geneva, the next best options are Chambery (1.5hrs), Lyon (2.5hrs) and Grenoble (3hrs) all of which are serviced by a number of the major airlines.
Also see: How to Get to Morzine
History & Culture in Morzine
Morzine was originally a small farming and mining town, the first lift to be installed here was the Pleney cable car in 1934 and since then the town has grown into a full on resort with all the trappings you'd expect whilst still retaining it's traditional French charm.
The town lies on two sides of the Dranse river that flows through the bottom of the valley, the sides of which are adorned with traditionally styled wooden chalets with slate roofs. There are very few buildings over four floors in Morzine and as this helps the town keep it's heart without becoming a concrete covered resort.
Also see: History of Morzine
Events in Morzine
There are so many things to do and see in Morzine & neighbouring Les Gets in both summer and winter it's hard to list them all. Highlights in summer include Crankworx and the Pass'potes du Soleil (two large mountainbiking events) and lots of music festivals and piste side parties in the winter.
Where to Stay in Morzine
As well as staying in central Morzine, you also have the option of a number of neighbouring villages, including Les Gets, Avoriaz, St Jean d'Aulps and Montriond. Morzine centre is the most lively with great access to the slopes but you'll find it relatively easy to get to and from the other villages by bus or ski lifts.
Also see: Where to Stay in Morzine
Chalets in Morzine
Morzine has seen an increase in the number of luxury chalets popping up in recent years, but there is still a wide selection of properties on offer to suit all tastes and budgets. Choose self catering, fully catered or opt to hire in a private chef for a few days.. the choice is yours!
Apartments in Morzine
The choice of apartments in Morzine is vast, catering for every size of group and requirement. Some are tucked away in quieter parts of the village whilst others are right in the centre of all the hustle and bustle.
Hotels in Morzine
There are some excellent Hotels in Morzine like The Farmhouse but most of the accommodation is in self contained, independent chalets. In many cases these are run by families who fell in love with Morzine and never wanted to leave and they offer excellent facilities and service at very competitive rates.
Things to Do in Morzine
In the summer, Morzine offers mountain bikers some of the world’s best mountain biking terrain, boasting up to 380kms of marked trails with varying degrees of technical skill required. With such variety on offer, Morzine has been proud to be a venue for the Tour de France and host to Mountain biking championships. Just a few of the other options on offer include: paragliding, golfing, fishing, canyoning and tennis.
In the winter, the Portes du Soleil area links together up to 14 resorts spanning across two countries, France and Switzerland. There is enough variety across the skiing domain to entertain both strong skiers and snowboarders during the week. Runs descending from Pointe de Nyon, and Chamossiere are challenging and the black runs from Mont Chéry are not for the faint hearted.
In addition to pisted runs and off piste routes, there are snowparks throughout the Portes du Soleil including the Burton sponsored "Stash" and one of the best half pipes in France. If you don’t ski yet still want to be active try snowshoeing or take a ice dive into the chilly Lake Montriand.
Restaurants in Morzine
There are all manner of restaurants and cafés to choose from in Morzine, from teh traditional Savoyarde tartiflette and fondue restaurants, to fine dining and at the opposite end of the spectrum - creperies, pizzas and takeaways.
Of course no French town would be complete without a bakery and there are several in Morzine, the most popular being the Bonboniere de Tavernier. Here you'll find artisanal chocolates and excellent French pastries and cakes. Morzine also has some good shops, most of them are here to service the skiers and snowboarders but there are some shops offering shoes, jewelry and clothing as well as gifts and souvenirs.
Nightlife in Morzine
The town also has some great bars and restaurants. Bar Robbinson or Robbo's as it's locally known is a tiny French café bar with a legendarily strong beer; Mutzig. It's a must for any visitor and always popular with the locals. For live sport the Dixie Bar just next door has several huge screens and is always packed during the Six Nations Rugby and big Football matches.
For a more civilised affair try the Beanies for cocktails, the Coup de Couer wine bar on the high street or the hipster Micro Brewery the Bec Juane at the top of town.
Between these bars and the late night venues like Opera and Cafe Chaud Morzine has a great apres ski and night life but if fine food rather than beer and music is your idea of a night out then you will not be disappointed with Le Grange, Chaumade or Ferme de Frutiere. Up near the tourist office The Cavern, Crepu and Tibetan Café are always popular especially on a Tuesday night when the Chalet staff have their night off.