It’s hard to say whether the Trois Vallées resorts of Courchevel, Méribel, Les Menuires and Val Thorens or the vast “Gateway To The Sun’ network of 14 resorts spread far and wide across the French-Swiss border comprise the biggest ski region in the world. Either way the message is clear: there’s an awful of skiing to be had – around 400km! Car-free Avoriaz, at 1800m the highest of the region’s resorts , with its “space-age” architecture and strong snowboarding culture (along with its “chocolate-box” Savoyard neighbour Morzine), is regarded as effectively the “capital” of the Portes du Soleil. It’s ideally positioned as a base to explore the region in all directions. Morzine has 49 lifts which link with Les Gets on the local lift pass. Other French resorts include La Chapelle d’Abondance, Abondance, Les Gets, and Châtel. You’ll see the mighty Mont Blanc on the horizon from many locations. People often ask if you need a passport to cross the Swiss border to get to such resorts as Champéry, Champoussin, Morgins and Torgon. Technically the answer is yes, but the chances of being stopped and asked to “show your papers” is just about zero! There’s lots of easy skiing spread across this vast arena, but the link that some skiers and boarders might need to worry slightly about is Le Pas de Chavanette – AKA the Swiss Wall (Mur Suisse) - between Avoriaz and Planachaux. The descent, which starts right on the French-Swiss border – is uncomfortably steep and almost always heavily mogulled, especially near the top where the bumps can become huge. The good news is that you can “download” on the Chavanette chairlift instead of skiing down. This means a weaker skier can take the chair, while a stronger companion can ski down. Sometimes, depending on conditions, by veering off to the left at the top of the run, there’s a long powder field. So if you prefer powder to bumps, this might be the way to go. Either way wearing protective gear like a helmet and a back protector is recommended.
Morzine is the unofficial ‘capital’ and gateway to the massive ‘Portes du Soleil’ ski region, which covers 12 resorts in France and Switzerland, with a huge variety of skiing to suit all abilities in an enormous region totalling 400km of pistes.More information
Although it was purpose-built in the 1960s, Avoriaz still has an exciting space-age feel. The highest, and – with neighbouring Morzine - the most high-profile ski station in the huge Portes du Soleil region, the world’s largest international linked ski area, it has an excellent snow record.More information