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Ski Holidays | Lakes Holidays | City Breaks | Mountain Holidays
Portes du Soleil Ski Resort France & Switzerland
Portes du Soleil ski resort is the largest international skiing area in the world, straddling the border of France & Switzerland in a high snowfall region south of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman). Whilst it may not be the highest ski area in Europe, the Portes du Soleil (a.k.a. Doors of the Sun) combination of lift pass price, terrain & village diversity, extent of piste trails & backdrop of the spectacular Dents du Midi make the region a mandatory addition to the ‘places to slide before I lose control of my bowel function‘ list.
As to exactly how many ski resorts comprise Portes du Soleil is up for debate. Depends as to whether it only includes the lift interlinked resorts, the lift pass-linked areas or all the village/base areas. Some might say “who cares?” Well, we do! Read on to see our best effort at describing this amazing ski area.
Pros & Cons for Portes du Soleil Ski Resort
- Huge snow holiday destination with vast terrain & diversity straddling the French-Swiss border.
- High snowfall area, particularly in the upper alpine.
- Exceptionally good value lift pass for the entire resort, but also within local sectors – i.e. Morzine–Les Gets, Espace Liberté & the Swiss CLCF pass.
- Superb beginner & intermediate piste trails.
- Massive off-piste & freeride terrain options for everyone from beginner to expert.
- Untracked snow in the off-piste can be found several days after a snowfall.
- Close to Geneva & Montreux – quick & easy access via direct train (particularly to Champery), bus or car.
- ’Ski in’ accommodation available in several resort villages including (but not limited to) Les Crosets, Champoussin & Avoriaz.
- Variety of resort villages in splendid surrounds & for all tastes.
- Après ski is lively in the French sectors of the resort.
- Ski two countries but speak one language – French (the Swiss sector is in the French speaking part of Valais).
- Huge snow holiday destination with high numbers of visitors at peak periods.
- Relatively low top elevation & shortish skiable vertical of between 400-600m in the upper alpine.
- Major piste trails in Avoriaz & the adjacent Linga-Pre la Jouz sector of Châtel are prone to high skier traffic & the subsequent slope conditions that follow it.
- Several low-elevation resort base areas are being challenged by warming winter trend.
- Lifts in the northern sector are outdated – Torgon plus parts of Châtel & Morgins in particular (but several new chairlifts in Chatel are bucking the trend!).
- Accommodation in some of the resort villages books out very quickly.
- A high number of surface lifts in the Espace Liberté sector may challenge beginner snowboarders.
- Easy to get ‘lost’ – pay close attention to signage as people have been known to end the day stuck in the wrong country!
Pro or Con (depending on your perspective!)
- Ski lifts being modernised, particularly in the French sector.
- Such a huge, interlinked ski area that it can be hard to know where to stay & ski (a nice problem to have!).
- As per above, the size of the ski area may mean you don’t get to see or ski the whole resort (again not really a problem!).
- The character of the ski resort villages varies markedly, so choose wisely a village that suits your own tastes & needs.
Skiing & Snowboarding, Lifts & Terrain
The raw statistics are impressive. Over 600km of ski trails (incl. routes), 196 ski lifts, high average winter snowfall of 8m & a longest run of 11km. We explored much of it & were impressed, depressed, enthralled, excited & bemused all at once. Any way one looks at it, the lift pass price for all this terrain is astoundingly good.
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, Chatel, Les Gets, Morzine, & La Chapelle d’Abondance (only part interconnected to Torgon).
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 everyone is clear on that!
The terrain diversity at Portes du Soleil is wonderful. Terrain across all aspects & for all levels abounds. Tree skiing is available too. The northern part of the resort is quieter than the southern end. Some areas are heavily trafficked & piste trails can suffer as a consequence, but we found untracked lines days after the last storm, particularly in Torgon, Champoussin & the Barbossine sector of Châtel.
For more information on each area, see our Portes du Soleil Ski Resorts page.
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! What the…?
Local resort passes are available as well as combo passes linking 2 or three resorts. They are significantly cheaper than the Portes pass
The basic rule that the Swiss ski resorts are less crowded than the French ones may guide your ski location & lift pass choice!
For more information on lift passes, see our Portes du Soleil Ski Resort pages.
Where is Portes du Soleil France/Switzerland?
Straddling the mountains along the French-Swiss border just south of Lake Geneva, the Portes Du Soleil is both in the Valais & Haute Savoie! Regardless of where one is heading in the resort, the gateway airport is Geneva (GVA). The journey to some villages is more difficult than others, however each is easily within 2hr drive of the airport.
The French heart of the Portes du Soleil ski resort at Morzine is only 80km by road east of the Geneva (GVA) international airport. Transport options from the airport are abundant & transfer time is super quick. Direct buses, combinations of train (to either Cluses or Thonon-les-Bains) & bus or private transfer make more sense than car rental. Avoriaz & Les Gets are accessible from Morzine. Châtel is more difficult, but best accessed via Thonon-les-Bains.
On the Swiss side, the train is the recommended mode of travel. A fantastic local train goes directly to the cable car at Champery from the main Geneva-Montreux-Martigny-Brig line, with one change required at Aigle. At Powderhounds we love a train that goes straight to the ski lifts – such a wonderful way to journey to the snow. Morgins, Les Crosets & Champoussin are all accessible via buses from train stations on the Aigle-Champery line. Buses from Aigle train station also make the journey up to isolated Torgon.
Portes du Soleil Accommodation
As the Portes du Soleil ski resort comprises a dozen or so villages in two countries, the question of where to stay is vexed indeed. Hotels in the region are generally limited in number, but apartments & chalets are in abundance. If a village is not lift connected into the broader resort, a free navette (bus) will be available.
Of all the alpine villages, setting aside the architectural triumph of Avoriaz (simply due to its size & number of beds – i.e. humans), the tiny Champoussin & Les Crosets appear to be the picks. The village of Avoriaz is certainly a sight to behold. It may polarise opinion, but we found its location & design superb. If it had to be built, it was done the best it could be.
For value, Morgins & Torgon are the picks. Both are at the forgotten Swiss end of the resort. Torgon in a sunny disposition overlooking the Rhone river valley, Morgins more secluded in a forested valley.
Down in the valley on the French side, Chatel is gorgeous & worth a stay. Similarly on the Swiss side in the valley, Champery has the best public transport access in the resort & a fabulous backdrop of the Dents du Midi mountains
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