|Portes du Soleil|
|Location||France and Switzerland|
|Nearest city||Monthey and Aigle|
|Coordinates|| / 46.193676; 6.773329 / 46.193676; 6.773329|
|Top elevation||2,466 m (8,091 ft)|
|Base elevation||1,000 m (3,300 ft)|
|Skiable area||650 km (400 mi) of runs|
|Snowfall||8.7 m (29 ft) (average 1998–2008)|
Les Portes du Soleil (Literally "The Doors of the Sun" but translated as "The Gateway to the Sun") is a major skisports destination in the Alps, encompassing thirteen resorts between Mont Blanc in France and Lake Geneva in Switzerland. With more than 650 km of marked pistes (claimed by the lift companies; an independent expert measured about 426 km ) and about 200 lifts in total, spread over 14 valleys and about 1,036 square kilometres (400 sq mi), Portes du Soleil ranks among the two largest ski areas in the world (the other being Les Trois Vallées). Almost all of the pistes are connected by lifts – a few marginal towns can be reached only by the free bus services in the area. The highest point of skiing is 2400 m and the lowest is 900 m. As with many other Alpine ski resorts, the lower slopes of the Portes du Soleil have snow-making facilities to extend the skiable season by keeping the lower slopes open during the warmer months.
Portes du Soleil is the name of the 1,950-meter-high pass connecting Morgins to Les Crosets.
Portes du Soleil is among the largest ski areas in the world and it takes some time to get hold of the main pistemap. All resorts have detailed maps of their respective parts of the system. There is a main circuit through most of the Swiss and some of the French resorts (Chatel-Morgins-Champoussin-Les Crosets/Champery-Avoriaz-Chatel)that can be skied in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions. The average skier or boarder will spend most of a day doing the circuit. Apart from a short walk in Morgins, the circuit can be skied without removing one's skis or board. There are places on the circuit (especially in Morgins) where one might experience sparse snow or even have to go down by chairlift late in the season. Finally it should be noted that skiing the ciruit counterclockwise means having to either ski the famous La Chavanette also known as "Le Mur" or suffer the humiliation of taking the chairlift down. If you're not up to the wall, there is an alternative route to Les Crosets via Les Lindarets and Point de Mossette. Doing the circuit means that one will have to leave out numerous tempting and testing options and bypass the two major areas not on the main circuit. One is the Torgon/Abondance area which is connected by lift to Chatel and the other is the Morzine/Les Gets area which is linked by lift to Avoriaz. Both are large and testing areas in themselves - the Morzine/Les Gets area in itself having around 150 km of marked runs.
There are thirteen resorts in the Portes du Soleil area, of which seven are French and five are Swiss. Most of the resorts have grown around traditional valley villages - only Avoriaz and the very small Les Crosets and Torgon were purposely built during the mid-sixties. Morzine and Chatel are the largest of the traditional towns in the area. As a whole the skiing is relatively low in altitude compared to most French destinations. The highest skiing is just below 2,500 m (8,200 ft) and the lowest is approximately 900 m (3,000 ft). However, the area is heavily influenced by the microclimate between Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc, which generates very substantial snowfall between November and April making it possible to keep the area open to skiing typically from early December until mid to late April. Some of the lower stations close around April 1 or earlier depending on snow conditions though.
The most modern skiing and accommodation of the Portes du Soleil is the resort of Avoriaz with more than 14.000 beds and projected expansions for the 2012 season. Avoriaz is among the largest purpose-built ski destinations in the world. In spite of building reaching 15 stories Avoriaz is unusually attractive amongst purpose-built ski resorts, featuring wood-clad buildings of a distinctive character and a car-free policy. Avoriaz is the self-proclaimed capital of snowboarding and has extensive offerings for snowboarders and freestyle skiers – 3 major fun parks, border cross, snow cross zones and more. Avoriaz is a hub for a number of summer-activities as well: mountain biking, golf, paragliding, climbing and hiking to name a few. The valley of Lindaret with its impressive waterfall and extensive routes for walking or biking. There is a large number of restaurants around the area – also open in the summer.
Morzine is the largest town in the Portes du Soleil area. It is a traditional market town and the town from which the idea of a large connected ski area stems. Morzine has been one of the leading ski destinations in Europe for 80 years and the traditions of the town are still obvious. There is a very large choice of hotels and apartments in Morzine and on the surrounding mountainsides. There is quite a long walk for one of the lift stations if you live on the outskirts of the resort. There is a free bus service for the Prodains cablecar, the Ardent Cabincar and the Nyon cablecar. The Cablecars to Supermorzine (Avoriaz) and to Pleney are only a short walk from the town centre. Morzine is at an altitude of just 950 meters and bordered by woods allowing skiing in poor weather conditions. The peaks of Nyon and Chamossiere are both above the forest limit though. The immediate terrain and especially the Plenye Plateau offers predominantly easy to medium skiing, which has led to the resort being especially popular with families and school parties. However more challenging slopes can be found at Avoriaz via the Prodains lifts which are only five minutes away on the local bus service. Morzine is the most northern of the French Alpine resorts and benefits from the regional microclimate between Mont Blanc and Lac Leman.
Châtel is a typical Savoyard village on the border with Switzerland. The village stretches from Lac de Vonnes (near the border) down to centre. There are 2 main ski areas in the village, Super Châtel is reached by cabincar or chaiflift from the centre of town and from here links by lift are made to the Swiss towns of Torgon and Morgins. The base station of the larger and more challenging Linga/Pre La Joux area is reached by shuttle bus. This area forms the link between Chatel and Avoriaz and while it is dominated by red and black slopes and tremendous offpiste it is possible to ski all the way to Avoriaz on easy blue slopes but where once you needed to negotiate some difficult red slopes to return a new blue run has been in place since 2011/12 season that gives an alternative return for those less confident on red runs. Above Pre la Joux lies the small mountain village of Plaine Dranse in which almost all the houses are turned into restaurants – about 15 in all with Chez Babette and Le Marmottes being the most high-end among them, both in height and price. There is also a small church built into the rock at Plaine Dranse. The resort of Chatel lies at 1200 m and the highest point of skiing is about 2200 m, but many of the lower slopes are north facing and do retain the snow throughout the season, ending normally in late April.
Also part of the Portes du Soleil, but located in Switzerland, Morgins has kept some of its traditional charm and is not as crowded as the larger resorts in France. The resort is not a large skyscraping hotel type of place. Rather a mix of small traditional chalets owned by local Swiss families and several chalet operators. The village has a ski torchlight descent each Wednesday during the winter which is open to all. The skiing is linked to Chatel on one side of the village and to Champoussin to the other side. In case of sparse snow this is where problems first occur: It is quite often necessary to go down by chairlift if you arrive from Chatel. The connection is also typically the first to close down altogether since the upper lifts are draglifts thus making it impossible to bring people down if the snowcover is lacking. The skiing in Morgins is comparatively easy.
Les Crosets is a very small resort in the Portes Du Soleil located in Switzerland. It is easily reached by skis from Morgins and Avoriaz. It allows views of the Dents Du Midi and has a large funpark. The famous Swiss wall (an orange mogul run) can be reached from Les Crosets. There are two top stations connecting to Avoriaz – Pointe de Mossette and Chavanette. Les Crosets is built above the village of Champery. The two stations are connected by the Champéry-Plancachaux cable car. There are no pistes connecting Les Crosets to Champery. One has to either go down by cablecar or ski down to Grand Paradis and continue by car or shuttle bus.
Champery is a Swiss village situated at an altitude of approximately 1050 meters, nestled at the base of the Dents du Midi and the Dents Blanches, at the end of the Vallée d’Illiez. It is a 150 years old village with a substantial role in developing the skiing tourism in Switzerland. It was also among the initiating towns when the Portes du Soleil skiarea was established in the late sixties. There are no pistes leading all the way down to Champery due in part to the fact that the mountainside above the town is heavily exposed to snow. The Champéry – Planachaux cable-car (125 passengers) and the new 6-seater chairlift in Grand-Paradis are easy and fast connections into the vast system though.
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Portes du Soleil.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Portes du Soleil.|