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Domain: Portes du Soleil
Website : Morzine Website, Morzine-Avoriaz Website, Portes du Soleil Website
Date: 11th February - 18th February 2006
Our holiday: Just me this time, last minute deal for half-term (a late 18th birthday present). I'm a competent skier who'll ski virtually anything on-piste. Due to my (previous) dislike of off-piste and desire to do some racing, I decided to sign up for the ESF's 'competition course' which was very good - moguls, racing and off-piste all covered.
Basics : One of the shortest transfers around at only 1.5 hours, although, due to holiday traffic this became more like 2 hours on the way in, and on the way back, holiday traffic and huge amounts of snow conspired to make it more like 2.25 hours (still very good).
Lift system : Much as it (sort of) pains me to say it, I'd have to say that its pants! I say that it pains me to say it, and that's because I didn't have to use a drag-lift all week! So good right? No! Plenty of chair-lifts, but they are virtually all bum-numbingly slow with only a limited number of detachables to make up. However, the system is well set out and linking between areas of the resort is the proverbial piece of cake. Also, surprisingly for half-term week there were few queues worth mentioning, although trying to get up the mountain in the first place took a lot of patience, with the queue for the main (Pleney) bubble being awful. Overall, quite poor, but being well laid out is its saving grace. There is also a bubble giving easy access to Avoriaz (which you can also reach by bus), from whence you can easily drop into Switzerland or Chatel (worth a visit).
The terrain : Well, firstly let's point out that Morzine is in the Portes du Soleil, the largest, linked skiing area in the world - so it's got virtually anything you might want. In Morzine alone there is a good selection of simple blues, exciting reds and varied blacks. There are some good mogul-fields that I was introduced to by the ESF instructor as part of the competition course, and I got a little hooked! There are also a couple of good steeps to be had, one starting virtually from the Pleney lift. The reds are quite varied and can be challenging. The blues became slightly crowded and a bit icy by the afternoon (when I started using them to get to the chalet). Perhaps the best run I found was on the Les Gets side of the area, which was a fantastic red called Meleze which was fantastic fun to bomb down without stopping (three times in a row!) - everyone stayed over to the left of the wide run, leaving the right side open for a few of us to hurtle down! Plenty to do just in the Morzine/Les Gets area, but almost infinite possibilities if you want to explore Avoriaz and beyond. (I'd avoid the Swiss side though, in Morgins there was more snow in the cafe than on the runs!).
The snow : Snow was pretty good all week. Lovely conditions at the beginning of the week after the sprinking of snow the week before, however the heavily used blue down at the bottom got a bit icy late in the day. From Wednesday onwards it was a virtually non-stop snow-storm (it rained a bit at resort level though, but everything higher was snow). Almost no-one ventured out on the Thursday, leaving the runs up at the top as good imitations of off-piste! Inches of untouched powder on usually busy runs. All of the snow made it a little more intersting ( ) and a little bit hard going. However, the off-piste, which our host told us was good at the time anyway, entered the realms of fantasy (provided you were willing to risk the avalanches!). Even on some off-piste close to the main runs which the instructor showed us, we were constantly in shin deep powder (at one point I hit a pile that went up to my waist!).
Off-piste : Having now seen the light, courtesy of some fantastic snow and an ESF instructor, I can now comment on the off-piste - due to the snow late in the week, it became superb, and throughout the Portes du Soleil there is plenty of it. To be honest, there isn't all that much in Morzine/Les Gets themselves, being mostly tree-lined, but some sections, particularly higher up were pretty good, and easily accessible.
The resort : A nice small town. Not a village, but a living town, so even if there is little snow, you can find something to be doing. Not an 'alpine charm' resort, but certainly quite easy on the eye for the most part. Most of the shops and restaurants are in the main centre, but there are a few bars (including the Dixie Bar - worth a visit, I watched the rugby there, meeting a fellow rugby referee as it happens!) which are also together, but just a short walk away from the rest. There is plenty going on near to the bottom of the Pleney lift, and there are a couple of 'supermarkets' if you need something.
Food : Staying in a chalet, I didn't eat all that much out. For lunch on my first day's skiing I ate at Les Mouilles at the top of the chairlift which departs from next to the Pleney bubble. Not the best food, reasonable enough though, slow service (and I was there before it got particularly busy). The price was pretty good though for a slope side restaurant in France! About â‚¬12 for sausages, chips and a can of diet coke. From then on however (as in everyday!) I ate at the Burger Place at the bottom of the Pleney lift just on the edge of the main centre. This was on our chalet host's recommendation (a very good one at that). A cheeseburger, chips and diet coke came to â‚¬8.70; a double-cheeseburger, chips and diet coke was about â‚¬10 and a royal-burger, chips and diet coke was about â‚¬9. The burgers were lovely, the service very good and the price very reasonable. Opposite the burger place was a creperie stall which did quick, cheap and tasty crepes served by a friendly woman (I presume the proprietor). I had these crepes as well on a couple of days... On the chalet host's day off I joined some others from the chalet for a pizza which was very nice, and again well priced for a ski resort (again about â‚¬10), however they insisted on paying (thankyou Greg/Tim if you're !).
Accommodation : Last minute deal booked through Ski-Oasis for the Crystal's Chalet Coralie. Basic is probably the best way to put it, but that somehow does it a dis-service. It was comfortable and warm, and there were balconies aplenty. It was a 'shared facilities' chalet, but there were more than enough to prevent queuing fot the shower! (Oh yes, and there was a sauna). Thanks to Rob, our host who was forever giving great advice and generally being useful. Good food too. The location was fairly good too, a short walk to the Pleney lift (and very little further for the lift to Avoriaz), and you could ski virtually back to the door, with a snow covered 'slope' dropping down from the blue used as a return route, directly opposite the chalet.
Costs: Pretty good actually. A 'full' lunch for under â‚¬10, if you eat lighter, you could get a top-of-the-range crepe for under â‚¬5. A good pizza dinner could be got for under â‚¬15 including drink, and I suspect little more for something more substantial. A pint came in at â‚¬5 in the Dixie Bar, and that was about the norm around the resort. Other things came in at good prices too (memorabilia etc.). Definitely a good value resort - at least as far as ski resorts go anyway! For the holiday itself, I paid the measly sum of Â£480 (for half-term week!), but as I say, it was a last minute deal, for the same details, booked well in advance (half-term, single room), it would have been just under Â£900 - not so great value. The lift pass is fairly good value given the massive 650kms it covers and the ski school wasn't too bad either.
Conclusion: Overall, a great resort. Some fantastic skiing, good apres-ski activities (not just drinking), excellent value if you desperatly want France and a good feel.
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