Skiing the Portes du Soleil circuit

21st January 2020, by Dave Watts

Editor Gill (centre) at the heart of the Portes du Soleil, flanked by son Alex (right) and nephew Nick (left)

Editor Gill (centre) at the heart of the Portes du Soleil, flanked by son Alex (right) and nephew Nick (left)

During last week’s stay in Les Carroz, Editor Gill (who was staying with some of his family) and I enjoyed a day out in the Portes du Soleil. Our starting and finishing point, Morzine was a mere 45-minutes drive away.

Not much snow at resort level in Châtel but the slopes above were fine

The snow on the French side, up to Avoriaz and down towards Châtel was good and the lifts were fast and efficient. But once we took the relatively new (six years old) chairlift link to the Super-Châtel slopes, things deteriorated. To get from there to the Swiss resort of Morgins involved five successive draglifts, a ride down in a chairlift due to lack of snow on the lower slopes and a hair-raising icy and bumpy path across town to the chairlift up the other side. That was followed by a couple of slow chairs to progress further on the Swiss side.

The first of five successive draglifts need to reach Switzerland from Super-Châtel

We’ve always said that the south-east facing aspect of many of the Swiss Portes du Soleil slopes, combined with a lack of sufficient snowmaking, means that the snow on the Swiss slide is often inferior to that on the French side.

This time that was very noticeable, with thin cover and brown snow patches looming large. But there was some good snow to be enjoyed along the way on more northerly-facing slopes.

Lunch at our favourite restaurant, Chez Coquoz above Champéry, was excellent, despite surprisingly slow service and not surprising high Swiss prices.

Editor Gill and I creamed down the infamous ‘Swiss Wall’ run in our youth

After that we headed back to France via the slow Chavanette chair, which gives a great view of people struggling down the monster moguls of what is now an intinérary run. In the old days it was a black piste and editor Gill and I creamed down it in our youth. We offered today’s youth (in the form of Gill’s son Alex and nephew Nick) the chance to emulate us but they turned it down.

So we headed back to Morzine arriving approximately six hours after we started. A great day, despite some tricky conditions.

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