Les Portes du Soleil ski region – the complete guide
Portes du Soleil
Unfamiliar with Les Portes du Soleil ski region? If you’re planning a future holiday and want to ski in France, then read on for our handy guide to the area, including its pistes, circuits, lift passes and chalet options.
What is Les Portes du Soleil ski area?
Put simply, Les Portes du Soleil is a massive ski area between Mont Blanc in southeastern France and Switzerland’s Lake Geneva. Pioneered in the 1960s with help from local Olympics champion skier and sunglasses mogul Jean Vuarnet, it gradually grew in size. The numbers alone are impressive: 12 linked resorts (seven French, five Swiss), around 200 lifts, about 1,036 square kilometres of terrain and 650km of marked pistes. With most pistes connected by lifts, the area enables rangy loops (see our Circuit info below) plus, excitingly, the chance to ski two countries in one day.
It’s beautiful, too, with lots of magnificent forest to whoosh through, and diverse. Resorts extend from enchanting valley villages to timber-tastic Swiss towns and the futuristic settlement of Avoriaz – conceived by Vuarnet – where buildings have peculiar angles and pistes replace streets. Conveniently, Les Portes du Soleil is also the closest major ski area to Geneva Airport; and it only takes around an hour and 10 minutes to reach the ski resort of Morzine and an hour to reach Les Gets by private car transfer.
Skiing in the Portes du Soleil
From sedate, tree-lined slopes to World Cup downhills and backcountry, there’s everything here – perfect for mixed-ability groups of skiers or snowboarders. Morzine is best for beginners, while the connected Les Gets has a ski zone devoted to novices. Ideal for families, Super Morzine – a sunny plateau just above Morzine’s town – is a ‘ski tranquille’ area blending easy-peasy blue runs and some still-gentle greens. There are occasional reds, too, and more towards Avoriaz, where a huge superpipe, numerous off-piste areas and freestyle snowpark The Stash also await.
Extensive backcountry tempts elsewhere in the Portes du Soleil, while expert skiers may also want to take on The Wall (aka the Swiss Wall or Mur Suisse), a notorious mogul field so steep that you can’t see what’s coming ahead.
Portes du Soleil Circuit
Across France and Switzerland, the Portes du Soleil’s designated ski circuit connects most of the area’s resorts – although not the large Torgon/Abondance and Morzine-Les Gets areas. Aside from one brief walk, it can be completed without ever removing your skis or snowboard! On average, completion takes around 6-7 hours.
While the circuit is chiefly intermediate-friendly, make sure to go clockwise – e.g. Lindarets-Chatel-Morgins-Champoussin-Les Crosets-Avoriaz – to avoid having to descend The Wall. From Morzine or Les Gets, it’s possible to connect to the circuit (at Lindarets’ Chaux Fleurie lift) via Prodains, Super Morzine or, most quickly, Ardent.
Portes du Soleil ski map
This most common Portes du Soleil ski map outlines altitudes and coloured runs, although note that – in having Lake Geneva at the bottom – it is upside down geographically. Click on the image of the map for a downloadable version.
Portes du Soleil ski passes
Full Portes du Soleil ski passes cover the entire area, lifts and all. Available for up to 15 consecutive days, you can book these in advance through the Hunter Chalets concierge. Late-season April prices are usually discounted.
Equivalent regional passes, such as those for the Morzine, Les Gets or Avoriaz areas, cost up to 50% less. These are well worth considering if you think that you’ll be keeping within the local area (very possible in Morzine or Les Gets). Alternatively, buy one of these ski passes and just add on a one-day Portes du Soleil pass to explore further. Children under five can ski for free, while passes are discounted for those aged 5-19.
Week-long, reduced-price family passes are also available, as are ‘Youcanski’ packages, including passes and lessons, for adult beginners. Handily, Les Portes du Soleil lifts use a microchipped system, so your gloves can stay on.
Portes du Soleil webcams
Resorts or areas in the Portes du Soleil offer a range of webcams so that visitors can check current snow conditions. Many are aggregated by the specialist website Snoweye’s devoted page, or listed on official websites such as that of the Morzine-Avoriaz tourism office.
Click on the webcam below to see a live webcam at the top of Pleney in Morzine
Click on the image below to see a live webcam at the top of chamossiere in Morzine
What’s the snowfall like?
While the Portes du Soleil occupies lower-altitude terrain than other Swiss or French ski areas – the highest-accessible piste is Pointe de Mossettes at 2,260m – a microclimate generated by Mont Blanc causes a cumulative annual snowfall upwards of seven metres.
Factor in a regiment of around 750 snow cannons and close to 100 groomers, and even the lower slopes typically stay open between early December and late April. Being relatively low-lying is also a benefit in blizzards: skiing through these on tree-lined slopes yields more visibility than amid open, 3,000m bowls.
Where to stay? We think Morzine is a stand-out option for a luxury ski chalet holiday. Though it’s Les Portes du Soleil’s largest town, family-friendly Morzine remains a traditional market village at heart. Somehow, ingeniously, it manages to mix charming quaintness – think fairy lights and wooden chalets – with an increasingly stellar après-ski scene and both self-catered and catered luxury chalets. There are great boutiques to rummage and numerous alternative distractions: twilight snowshoeing, escape rooms, ice hockey matches and more.
It’s part of the wider Morzine-Les Gets ski area, offering 120 kilometres of pleasingly varied pistes.
Hunter Chalets offers luxury ski chalets and apartments in both Morzine and the smaller, also-family-friendly village of Les Gets. There is a choice of luxurious chalets for families or large groups, many with hot tubs, pool tables or even your own fully-stocked bar. Our fully catered chalets come complete with a complimentary concierge service, 24-hour resort driver service, private chef and chalet hosts.
You could stay at The Old Macaroni, where imaginative, film-themed bedrooms vie with a cinema room, hot tub and barrel sauna for your attention. We also offer a range of self-catering chalets in Morzine such as decadent Chalet Griffonner, whose master suite occupies an entire floor.
As for Lets Gets, the village stretches away from its dinky hub and impressive ice rink. Among our luxury chalets in Les Gets is Grande Corniche, twice declared France’s Best Ski Chalet, and complementing its outdoor pool, spa, snooker room, cinema and wine cellar with wondrous views. We also offer self-catered chalets in Les Gets if you prefer to be independent. These include Le Coin Perdu, a penthouse positioned above (and with direct access to) the Sources de Chéry day spa.
Where would you like to ski?
Information correct as time of publication on 9 December 2020