Lifts & Terrain

http://www.powderhounds.com/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/images/Europe/France/PortesduSoleil/liftsterrain/01.JPG

Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Portes du Soleil Resorts

French

Avoriaz
Châtel
Les Gets
Morzine

Swiss

Champery-Les Crosets
Champoussin
Morgins
Torgon

    Portes du Soleil Ski Trail Map
  • Portes du Soleil Ski Trail Map
  • Vertical (m)
    950m – 2,277m (1,327m)
  • Average Snow Fall
    8m
  • Lifts (195)
    13 Gondolas
    78 Chairlifts
  • Opening Date & Times
    December to mid-April
    8:30am to 4:30pm
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 600km (incl. routes)
    Longest run – 11km
    Advanced - 12%
    Intermediate - 35%
    Beginner - 53%
  • Lift Pass Price
    Day Ticket 20/21
    Portes du Soleil Lift Pass
    Adult - €55.50 to 59 (64CHF)
    Child - €42 to 44 (48CHF)
    Child u/5yr – Free

    Local Resorts Lift Pass
    Adult - €25 to 44
    Child - €18.60 to 34
    Child u/5yr – Free
    French Portes du Soleil Ski Trail Map
  • French Portes du Soleil Ski Trail Map
     Swiss Portes du Soleil Ski Trail Map
  • Swiss Portes du Soleil Ski Trail Map

Portes du Soleil Skiing & Snowboarding

The raw statistics in the Portes du Soleil (a.k.a Doors of the Sun) are impressive. Over 600km of ski trails (incl. routes)(some state 650km but who really knows or cares - the difference is negligible), nearly 200 ski lifts, high average winter snowfall of 8m (up high!) and a longest run of 11km (plus several more between 8 & 10km long). There is much to explore. The ski area will impress, depress, enthral, excite & bemuse all at once. Any way one looks at it, the lift pass price for all this terrain is astoundingly good, and the overall ski experience is exceptional. Skiing & snowboarding here is all about the sum of its parts, not staying in the local sectors.

See here for the entire Portes du Soleil ski trail map.

There are 10 resorts interlinked by ski lift, piste trail & lift pass. Five of these are in France, with 4 making up the bulk of the ski terrain - Avoriaz, Châtel, Les Gets, Morzine, & La Chapelle d'Abondance (only part interconnected to Torgon).

See here for the French Portes du Soleil ski trail map.

Five resorts are in Switzerland, generally facing east so are delightfully sun soaked in the morning. They include Champéry - Les Crosets (often classed as two resorts!), Champoussin, Morgins & tiny (but sensational) Torgon.

See here for the Swiss Portes du Soleil ski trail map.

A further 2 French ski resorts are part of the Portes du Soleil lift pass but NOT ski lift or piste trail interlinked with the 10 other areas – Abondance (close to Châtel & La Chapelle d’Abondance) & St-Jean d'Aulps (close to Morzine). Glad we have cleared all that up!

The terrain diversity at Portes du Soleil is wonderful. The landscape covers all aspects, but less south-facing (which is a good thing). All ski & snowboard abilities have boundless options with the probable exception of those that prefer their sliding to be extreme (head to Chamonix or La Grave instead!). Tree skiing is available too, but it can be quite snow dependent. The northern part of the resort is quieter than the southern end. Some areas are heavily trafficked & piste trails can consequently suffer, particularly in the French resorts of Avoriaz, parts of Châtel & Morzine. Untracked powder is easy to find, days after the last storm, in the ‘forgotten’ sectors of Torgon, Morgins, Champoussin & the Barbossine sector of Châtel.

Snowboarding Portes du Soleil is a relatively straight forward enterprise. If surface tows are a problem for you, then avoid the northern sector, as several important connections are on single button tows. Avoriaz has the most (& best) terrain features & parks if that is important to you. The longest trails in the region are generally well enough pitched to avoid too much snowboard-trail-walking!

Note that the region’s ski trail maps only give the vaguest hint of the terrain possibilities. Exploration is the key here to make the most of the off-piste.

Ski Lifts

Any place with nearly 200 ski lifts is going to have a fair diversity of age, style & quality. Portes du Soleil is no different. The simple rule of thumb is that the southern French sector of Avoriaz, Morzine, Les Gets & the Linga/Pré-la-Joux zone of Châtel has the best lifts. The southern Swiss sector of Champery, Les Crosets & Champoussin is next. The northern sector (both French & Swiss) has the poorest quality lifts, but not surprisingly, also the least amount of people & the cheapest local lift pass prices. Hence, we prefer the northern resorts of Morgins, Chatel & Torgon.

Lift Passes

As one can imagine, with all these ski resorts there are a bucketload of ski lift pass options. The simplest (but not the cheapest) is to just get a Portes du Soleil pass. The only catch is that one needs to start every day in the country it was purchased in! That is a needlessly painful requirement, but c’est la vie!

Local resort passes are available & are over €15/day cheaper than the full Portes pass on the French side. The variation can be greater or less on the Swiss side, depending on where one starts - Torgon is the cheapest. The only catch is knowing where the lift pass boundaries are, particularly if taking cross-border jaunts in the off-piste where it is easy to go from Avoriaz France all the way to Morgins Switzerland in one run. It will suck getting back if the only pass you have is valid in Avoriaz!

As well as standalone lift passes like at Avoriaz, there are a multitude of pass options linking smaller resorts together, including:

  • Swiss CLCF Champery-Les Crosets-Champoussin-Foilleuse/Morgins combo.
  • French Morzine-Les Gets combo.
  • Swiss-French Espace Liberté pass valid in Torgon-the Corbeau sector of Morgins-all of Châtel & La Chapelle d’Abondance.
  • Torgon-La Chapelle d’Abondance (the super-cheapy lift pass).

There are probably others as well, so if you are confused, that’s ok because you are not alone! Due to the magnitude of the region, it may behove one to first buy local passes for a few days, then branch out with a full Portes du Soleil pass once you have your ski legs. If in Morzine or Les Gets, check out the super-cheap Saturday (Samedi) & weekend lift pass prices valid in the local sector. Also, if in Les Gets or Torgon, part of the

Note also that many (if not most) of the ski pass options are significantly cheaper if bought online.

The basic rule that the Swiss ski resorts are less crowded than the French ones may guide your lift pass choice!

Snow & Weather

Despite its relatively low elevation, snowfall in the region is higher than average. Avoriaz receives around 8m annually, and it can be assumed the higher elevations of the surrounding resorts get similar amounts. Cold winter storms from the north-west are the bringers of the best snow. Most terrain is either north & east aspect in the Swiss sector, and north & west aspect in the French, avoiding the worst of the sunny south-aspects.

All the ski resorts have excellent snow-making facilities which are heavily relied upon at the lower elevations near the bases of Chatel, Les Gets, Morgins, Morzine & Torgon.

Ski Resorts of the Portes du Soleil

The major ski resorts of the Portes du Soleil are summarised below. Click on the links to get more detailed information on each area.

Avoriaz Ski Resort

The best known of the French sector & perhaps the entire region, Avoriaz is one of the most popular resorts in the region. Its high elevation village & funky architecture coupled with the region’s highest average snowfall make it overly fashionable with the masses. Superbly placed to link into Châtel, Champery-Les Crosets & Morzine; Avoriaz has some superb terrain for all abilities, long valley trails, & quick access to wonderful freeride powder options on both sides of the border.

Champery - Les Crosets Ski Resort

With the region's best public transport access by train direct to the cable car, two fantastic villages in contrasting locations, a super-long valley trail, the steepest advanced slope, great value local lift pass & direct connections to Avoriaz & Champoussin, there is alot to like about the Champery - Les Crosets combination. Gorgeous high alpine terrain facing the spectacular Dents du Midi gets the morning sun & brings a smile to everyone that skis there. The busiest of the Swiss sector resorts simply by virtue of its proximity to Avoriaz & ease of access by train.

Champoussin Ski Resort

A small cog in a huge wheel, Champoussin in the Swiss sector is one of our favourite ski resorts in the Portes du Soleil. A small alpine resort style village with a few wonderful mountain huts, the terrain is all above treeline, facing east & north & tends to be skied more by traffic passing through to other locations. With mostly passing trade, it is one of our ‘go to’ areas to find some fresh powder well after a storm. Hang out and explore all its nooks & crannies (there is a whole lot more than the trail map indicates) then plunge down into the valley on the western side of the range from the Pointe de L’Au to link back into Morgins.

Châtel Ski Resort

Lovely Chatel is a fantastic ali-round ski area & our favourite in the French sector. Within the resort, Chatel’s ski & snowboard terrain is all north & west aspect, soaking in just enough afternoon sun to be pleasant, but not too much so as to turn the hill to mush. It can be divided into three distinct sectors, each with its strengths. Directly above town, Super-Chatel is accessed by the main gondola & is the perfect stomping ground for novices, beginners, families & non-skiing pedestrians. It has easy links to Morgins in Switzerland via the upper tows or an advanced run from the summit of Morclan. Beyond Morclan is the next sector, Barbossine, which is a fun-filled freeride zone for advanced sliders & better. Return access to the resort can be painful, but worth it. In the opposite direction, the third sector, Linga/Pré-la-Joux is joined to Super-Chatel by a long, traversing chair & has the best piste trails for intermediates & advanced skiers & boarders. Chatel is directly interlinked with Torgon, Morgins & Avoriaz, making it a useful base for exploration of the region.

Les Gets Ski Resort

At the extreme southern end of the French sector, Les Gets is the most family friendly ski area in the region. Mainly gentle ski & snowboard terrain emanates on either side of the valley where the very ‘Swiss-like’ village extends. Les Gets is directly lift & piste interlinked with Morzine. To get beyond that, one needs to traipse across town in Morzine to the Super-Morzine gondola or catch a bus toward Avoriaz. Les Gets is NOT the place to stay if wanting to explore the wider Portes Du Soleil.

Morgins Ski Resort

A tale of two quite different sectors, Morgins is one of the ‘forgotten’ Swiss ski areas. To the south of the village, the Foilleuse sector has far & away the better terrain, including some fun off-piste into a ‘remote’ valley below the Col de Portes du Soleil for long (8km+) returns to the village. The sector also has the Didier Défago piste, often touted as the best advanced trail in the region (its ok!).

To the north of town, the Corbeau sector is a confusing mix of pleasant beginner trails amongst forest leading to long, tiresome surface tow linkages with Torgon & Chatel. The return trail into Morgins is rated beginner, but we found it would sorely challenge many, if not all, beginners.

If staying in Morgins, it is important to know that the Corbeau & Foilleuse sectors are on different ‘local’ ski lift passes. Anyone wishing to ski both in the one day should have a full Portes pass.

The skiing & snowboarding terrain in the immediate Morgins area is best suited to beginners & intermediates. But this area is about more than just the local ski sectors. Interconnections in all directions as part of the Portes du Soleil make the resort good enough for all abilities. From Morgins, direct connections can be made to Chatel, Torgon & Champoussin, plus fun returns from Avoriaz via the Col de Portes du Soleil.

Morzine Ski Resort

The skiing & snowboarding terrain at Morzine is heavily intertwined with neighbouring Les Gets. So much so that the two share a local lift pass which covers their combined 120km of trails & 47 lifts. All powder hounds should file away the super-cheap weekend lift passes here too!

Essentially one wide alpine valley, Morzine includes north-aspect terrain, the region’s longest run at 11km, a skiable vertical of around 1,000m, a decent set of ski lifts & good number of on-piste trails for beginners & intermediates. Sadly, it includes an extremely low elevation base (for France), relatively low highest lifted point (for France) & a lack of advanced on-piste terrain. Its connection to Les Gets does nothing to improve that outcome. For advanced snow-sliders looking for adventure, the Chamossiere sector is the place. The signature run is the Les Creux and the steep off-piste close to it provides powder.

Morzine has reasonable connectivity to the rest of Portes du Soleil via the Super-Morzine gondola toward Avoriaz, or the bus connection to Ardent & hence up to Champery-Les Corsets or Chatel’s Linga/Pré-la-Joux sector.

Torgon Ski Resort & La Chapelle d’Abondance

At the extreme, & delightfully quiet, northern end of Portes, the Swiss ‘orphan’ of Torgon is a tiny pleasure palace of ski terrain in fresh snow. The cheapest local lift pass in the region, it is combined with the equally petite La Chapelle d’Abondance on the French side of the hill. The steep north-aspect terrain accessed by the Tronchey chair is, in our view, some of the best for freeride in the region. Not a whole lot for intermediates on the piste, progressing beginners will enjoy plopping around it. Even though Torgon connects to Chatel & Morgins, just like Les Gets at the opposite end, it is NOT the place to stay if wanting to explore the wider Portes Du Soleil.

Exploring Portes du Soleil

Whilst exploring the freeride terrain at Portes is not too difficult, the area is immense. Off-piste ski lessons &/or guiding may make all the difference to a stay at in the region – particularly if searching for fresh lines days after the last snowfall. For more information & booking, see our Portes du Soleil Ski Lessons & Guiding page.