Avoiding the crowds in the Portes du Soleil ski area

6th February 2018, by Dave Watts

The slopes around Avoriaz and the Linga/Plaine Dranse sector of Châtel were unpleasantly crowded

The slopes around Avoriaz and the Linga/Plaine Dranse sector of Châtel were unpleasantly crowded

Mr Gill and I have just spent three days exploring the Portes du Soleil, a big ski area that spans the French/Swiss border.

The main resorts are Châtel, Avoriaz , Morzine, and Les Gets in France and Champéry in Switzerland.

Saturday and Sunday saw huge numbers of day visitors arriving in vast car parks in the Linga and Pré-la-Joux sectors of Châtel, the resort we were staying in. Not surprisingly that resulted in unacceptably crowded slopes there and in Avoriaz, where lots of people headed.

And because of the crowds, the slopes here were hard and unpleasant due to the huge amount of traffic.

The slopes in Switzerland and the Super-Morzine area between Avoriaz and Morzine were delightfully quiet

So on Saturday we headed off round the clockwise PdS circuit. We started at Pré-la-Joux and tried the new chairlift link from Linga to Super-Châtel that opened in 2014/15, replacing the bus that you previously had to take between the two sectors – a great improvement.

When we arrived in Super-Châtel, we were relieved to find much quieter slopes and better snow. And after we crossed the border into Switzerland the slopes in the Morgins and Champoussin were delightfully deserted, with even better packed powder snow.

On Sunday, we headed over to the Morzine/Les Gets ski area. To reach the gondola that you have to ride down to Morzine, you ski over the Super-Morzine sector of slopes from Avoriaz. These too were delightfully deserted and had good powdery snow; this area seems very underused and its gentle slopes are ideal for boosting the confidence of early and timid intermediates.

To get from the bottom of the gondola to Morzine’s own slopes means a schlep across town or a ride on the free road ‘train’ that runs every 15 minutes.

A free ‘train’ ferries skiers between the Morzine ski area and the gondola towards the Avoriaz slopes

In Morzine the highlight was the Charmossiière sector, now thankfully served by a high-speed chair. From the top, there is a vast Freeride bowl that is marked but not explained on the piste map. It was marked as ‘open’ at the bottom of the lift, so we guess it is closed if avalanche danger is high and may be avalanche controlled.

The freeride zone at the top of Charmossiière is a vast off-piste bowl

There’s also a lovely, consistently steep red run down from Charmossiière – the only problem was the crowd of people on it.

In Châtel we stayed in an apartment in the 4-star Chalets des Angele residence, booked through Peak Retreats, an excellent company that specialises in first-class accommodation in unspoilt, traditional mountain villages. Les Chalets des Angele was very comfortable and well furnished and the spa on the ground floor had a big pool with great mountain views, two saunas, a steam room, two hot tubs and a gym (all free to use). It is one of 32 luxury residences run by CGH in the French Alps.

The pool at the Chalets des Angele residence we stayed in

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