Portes du Soleil

You might remember that I talked about our brief skiing trip the other day up in the Portes du Soleil. It is a resort/region/area which is worth going into in more detail for all you extreme sports enthusiasts out there – whether winter or summer … or both!

But we’ll start with winter…

The region offers 650 km of marked runs and about 230 lifts in total, spread over 14 valleys and about 400 square miles. Snow dumps over the Portes du Soleil are common and snowmaking ensure that slopes are kept healthy during warmer periods.

We stayed in Chatel, France, (though in the past I have often stayed at Champéry in Switzerland) but there are 11 other resorts in this huge region which are all connected making one of the biggest ski areas in Europe – if not the world. Abondance, La Chapelle d’Abondance, Avoriaz, Les Gets, Montriond, Morzine, St. Jean d’Aulps, Champéry, Morgins, Torgon and Val d’Illiez-Les Crosets-Champoussins are the other linked resorts.

This region crosses between France and Switzerland and this video from jfperron73 happens to have been filmed in the resort we stay at – Chatel.


The Portes du Soleil has 9 snowparks dotted all over the network. With boxes, tables, walls, a big air superpipe, raised bends, freestyle airbags and rails, there’s plenty to keep all riders smiling.

AVORIAZ has the bulk of them with 5 parks for all styles, disciplines, levels and needs. Arare snowpark is a shoe-in for advanced riders, La Chapelle is for improving riders hungry for thrills, while rookie freestylers should head for Trashers snowpark or the new Kids Parkway. Superpipe hounds can find this sculpted beauty near the top of the Prodains cable car, whilst The Stash is a genuine Jack Burton conception with multiple trails featuring wooden modules in Lindarets forest. The track winds through the woods with all-natural wooden obstacles at regular intervals. Look out for the Flat Log, Rainbow, Step Up and Wall Ride. avoriaztv posted this video and it certainly looks fun.

This year Avoriaz is opening The Little Stash, exclusively for kids !

This looks really cool too – wouldn’t mind doing it myself! Thanks to avsegaga for posting it.

At Chatel, beginner and improver riders have the Super Châtel SmoothPark; experienced riders might be tempted by the 800m long Cornebois Happy Park slopestyle in Linga-Pré La Joux. Happy Park is recommended for crazy adrenaline kicks and is open only to expert riders. It is a paradise for intermediate and advanced riders with all kinds of boxes, ramps and drop-offs.

In Les Gets rookie, intermediate and hardcore riders hang out on the sunny slopes of Mont Chéry’s Freestyle District.

Les Crosets’ Superpark is a freestyler’s paradise for big air tricks where beginner riders can train up on the Micro Park.

And Champoussin offers Edge Park. This is best for beginner riders…

So much for the wide selection of snow parks – what else is there?

The Portes du Soleil is also a no-limits winter playground for powder-hounds. The unspoilt mountains are a fabulous challenge as long as they are treated with respect… enjoy them to the full – but with care too!

Avoriaz Snowcross gives skiers and snowboarders all the thrills and spills of freeriding on runs that are unbashed but safe. After fresh snowfall, riders in search of powder scoot over to Les Crozats, La Frontalière, Les Brocheaux and La Marmotte.

At Champéry, Cuboré is a favourite point of call for anyone in search of powder. From the top of the chair the only thing you have to do is choose your couloir… If Chavanette is an iconic run, the bits bordering it are also a favourite for fans of fresh powder turns. Anyone in search of fresh tracks will find all the untouched powder they’re looking for on the edge of the Grand Paradis slopes.

In Les Gets, both sides of the resort have plenty of powder for experienced skiers – for instance the Rosta sector (Chavannes side) or the more technical slopes of Les Planeys near the Snow Park, or Chéry Nord (Mont Chéry side). As an added bonus there’s a wonderful view of the Mont Blanc range…

The Nyon and Chamossière peaks in Morzine offer many an extreme skier a slection of wide untracked slope riding.

Les Crosets and Champoussin are pure joy for riders and there are many favourite spots: The Pointe de l’Au and its steep ‘n’ deep couloirs, La Combe de Bonnavau for beginner freeriders, the Pierre Plate couloir Tovassière way and the Aiguille des Champeys sector are just some of them.

Thanks to mokeystyley for posting this video.

What else?

If you’re first time skiers or going with young kids there’s plenty for you too.

La Chapelle d’Abondance offers the new 6-man Crêt Béni chairlift on the north face of Mont de Grange which leads to the plateau which is ideal for beginners. More experienced skiers can rejoin the resort far below at the bottom of the Cerf piste. All visitors should keep an eye out for the wild deer which roam the nature reserve on the slopes of the Abondance valley.

And Les Gets has a playful and educational discovery route for 5-12 year-olds – a playground for children with skis on. Pure fun, with red Indians and trappers to see, and bumps, woops and raised bends to tackle.

To finish off on the skiing on offer – though I fear I have to admit I have barely scraped the region – if you want to prolong the day, Linga, at Chatel, offers night skiing on Thursday evenings between 7.30 and 9.30 p.m. This is a different way to enjoy your favourite sport – ski to the sound of the latest pop hits! It is free for everyone.

So much for the skiing, but what else can you do in this area in winter?

Well, you can ice fish, you can ice dive (!!!), you can ice skate, you can snowshoe, you can ski jore (I think I have that right) and of course there are the high-altitude mountain activities.

Ice fishing is done on the Lac de Vonnes. All equipment is provided and anyone from the age of 6 (accompanied by parents!) can do it.

You don’t need to be an experienced diver to try ice diving – though I am sure it would help. However, whether you have dived before or not, you can take the plunge and experience some unforgettable thrills in complete safety, with underwater diving instructors who hold recognised qualifications. All equipment is provided and there is a heated changing room where you can leave your clothes! I have a feeling you might need it!!!

Ice skating is done on an artificial rink near the Lac de Vonnes in stunning countryside. If the ice conditions permit a natural rink is also open on the lake. Now that would be fun!

Snowshoeing, of course, you all know about and it is a ’sport’ that can take you off piste and on your own trails whenever you choose. However, the resorts of the Abondance Valley and Morgins (in Switzerland) have more than 80 kms of prepared and waymarked trails for exploring the winter countryside in all its beauty. The different trails, some of which cross the border between the two countries – France and Switzerland – have been designed to please everyone from a 1-hour ramble to an energetic hike lasting 4 – 5 hrs. You can also sign-up for a half-day or full-day trip with a resort professional.

And last but not least – ski joring. This is a different way of exploring the mountains in winter. Combine skiing with horse riding. Sounds fun.

The high-altitude mountain activities offer a whole range of high mountain activities including supervised off-piste trips, heli-skiing, ski touring, ice climbing, mountaineering, etc.

There is something for ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE… and remember, this is all in one huge linked region.

This is such a huge area that it is difficult to know where to stop – and I haven’t even begun to talk about what’s on offer when the snow melts. For starters it has some of the best mountain bike trails in the world… but more on that later.