Powder in the Portes du Soleil

31st January 2012, by Chris Gill

Morzine's Pleney slopes on Tuesday 31 January

Morzine's Pleney slopes on Tuesday 31 January

Superb … the snow gods delivered again last night and all through today. We’ve had about 30-40cm fresh powder, if not a bit more up top. As I retire to the warmth of the hotel Stella in Les Gets, it’s still snowing. What a way to end January.

Tuesday’s plan was to head over to Avoriaz, starting with some play time in Morzine’s Pleney sector – where the lower treelined red and blue slopes gave good visibility, as well as light, squeaky powder. The pistes here are oddly named as letters of the alphabet; we followed ‘F’ and ‘H’ for example. As the oldest slopes in the ski area they never adopted the more modern conventional naming as in the other sectors, but in good snow conditions they provide fabulous sheltered cruising below 1500m. And this morning they were almost deserted.

Then it was up to Avoriaz, via Les Prodains and its cable car. A quick tour of the steeper local pistes and a peak at the big new apartment blocks was all we could manage before lunch (at the pleasant Chalet d’Avoriaz) and the slow trek back to Morzine-Les Gets. Visibility wasn’t great and urged us not to linger too far from ‘home’. We took the series of gentle blue runs that follow a broad ridge to the Super Morzine gondola; this is a popular area for progressing novices, but was also fabulous in the fresh powder – well, for skiers at least: snowboarders found it hard work on the flatter sections.

Back in Les Gets there was time for a few laps of the Chavannes slopes, before the weather deteriorated again forcing a slightly earlier finish. But even in poor weather conditions, the wide slopes here are a great place for novices and children. The mid-mountain development provides several choices of hut to retreat to as well; great for a hot-choc stop. With so much new snow, the resorts of the Portes du Soleil are going to be in fine shape for a good while yet, which is welcome news as the peak weeks approach.

Wow – that’ some snow in Avoriaz

For a final evening out, we headed for the Tourbillon restaurant, just a few strides from the hotel. A house speciality of smoked salmon filet with green lentils slipped down nicely, as did the gorgeous chocolate mousse. This place came highly recommended to us, and I would second that. You pay a bit more for the main meals, but they are very good. For night owls in Les Gets, there are now night buses to help you get around the village. It’s a new idea this winter, and costs just two euro. The tourism people think it will be popular, as will heading out to Morzine for the new pool – on a day like today, many folk were looking for alternative attractions to occupy a snowy afternoon.

There are plenty of huts to hole up in

As for the hotel Stella, I am enjoying a welcoming place that is run by one of the five main landowners in the village. I might not see the place in its present form again: their big plan is to build a MGM residence on the site, which means that the hotel will become apartments. Perhaps not next winter, but after that …

I depart the Portes du Soleil tomorrow, after three good days and snowfall that I have not seen at this altitude for some years. If you are thinking of coming out but are concerned by its height, don’t be. Even if February turns out a drier month, there is sufficient snow here to last a long while yet.

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