Morzine is one of the most popular snowboard destinations in Europe and has been for a while. Mancunian-turned-local Sue Garlick has lived, ridden and worked (as the boss of her own company, Aim Marketing) there since 2009, so we thought who better to ask about the gateway to the Portes du Soleil than her? Her are her handy hints if you ever find yourself over that way.
Morzine serves as the main access point for the massive, lift-linked Portes du Soleil ski area, with 650km of slopes. My personal favourite is the Prolay, a cruisy run that has a ton of jibs and hits off the side. My mates and I call it the “run of fun", and with good reason. It’s the kind of run you go on when nothing else is going right that day - you can always rely on it to make you feel better. Another wicked one is the long run underneath the Chaux Fleurie – there’s a ton of tracks that you can boost off into the pow (assuming there is pow). If it’s a long leg-burner you’re after, take the piste from the top of the Arare lift down to Prodain. This takes in the ‘home run’ back to resort and if you’re lucky you can get a few cheeky off-piste hits in while you’re at it.
There are a couple of flat bits to watch out for, including the Fornet to Avoriaz cat track. Unfortunately you have to take this is you want the powdery fun of Fornet though. There’s another flat bit around Les Lindarets which is almost impossible to clear even if you’re hooning it. When it’s super-busy the key is to get out of Avoriaz, and head for Switzerland, where stuff tends to be quieter. Only don’t, whatever you do, take the Swiss Wall run to get there. It’s a big dirty mogul field from hell. Oh, and be sure to check out the “snowball lift", the chair that runs through the centre of Avoriaz. Seasonnaires love it ‘cos it goes past a load of (usually open) apartment windows so there’s plenty of opportunity to pelt people!
There are two parks in Avoriaz, which everyone from Morzine rides. There’s the Chapelle Park (aka the ‘baby park’) accessed by the Lindarets Express, or the Proclou lift. Once you get there it has its own drag-lift. This has two lines of green kickers, small and extra small jumps, and then two bigger lines marked blue and red. There are also a variety of boxes, rails and bonks.
‘The big park (officially known as the Arare park) is accessed by Arare lift and the park button-tow. It has kickers ranging from blue to black, and a ton of bonks and more difficult rails. There’s also always a hip, which is awesome. The parks have improved tons in the last few years and the park shapers offer a good amount of variety. Towards the end of last season they built this huge quarterpipe in the Arare park with a bridge/castle to a kicker and a rail… you had to go under the bridge to hit the kicker. It was mental but pretty cool. Some people will moan that they’re not as big as American parks or whatever, but they’re great fun and they offer something for everyone.
Avoriaz also has a good-sized halfpipe which sits in the centre of town and is pretty well maintained. I love it! And there’s the ‘Burton Stash Park’ above Les Lindarets which has a whole load of monster wooden jibs and features tucked away in the trees.
As far as backcountry kicker spots go, there are tons, but the one’s you see the most are on Abricotine. That spot has been used in tons of snowboard films and photos. And then of course there’s the famous Avaoriaz gap – a massive cliff drop over the Fornet to Avoriaz cat track. But unless your name’s Romain de Marchi, Nico Droz or Gary Greenshields it’s probably best to steer clear of that.
In the whole Portes du Soleil there’s obviously a ton of powder, but my favourite local lines are off the Fornet. It’s open, and pretty mellow. There are obvious avalanche zones to avoid, but overall it’s pretty easy and there are lots of fun hits.
When the light is bad or when it’s dumping hard, the trees around the Stash park are pretty hard to beat – they’re nicely spaced and there’s loads of stuff to hit. But it gets tracked super quick so you have to get there early. If it’s proper gnar, high alpine stuff you’re after, the Pointe de Vorlaz couloir (better known as Pepsi Max) is the place. You would not want to go without all the right stuff and know how though. In an area this size, there is a lot of accessible terrain in this area so it’s kind of hard to pick just a few.
[part title="Local Heroes"]
There are a ton of amazing riders who live in Avoriaz full or part time. Frenchman Nico Droz is a local legend. His Absinthe parts back in the day included tons of Avoriaz shots and these days he’s always shooting and filming with his Homies crew around here. Morzine has always been something of a Mecca for British pros too. Andy Nudds, Dom Harington, Sean Tumultey, Billy Morgan and Nathan Onions and loads more all come back here year after year for some of the season. But I think if I had to pick one rider out as the best of the regular crew, it would have to be Mark Kent, for a variety of reasons. That guy can pretty much do anything with a snowboard strapped to his feet.
[part title="Where To Eat"]
If you’re feeling peckish on the piste, the best place to head is Changabangs, near the top of the Prodain lift. They do mean twister fries, loads of different burgers, chilli, nachos and a ton of other stuff. Down in town, my favourite place is Mammas on Rue du Bourg. It does amazing pizzas and wraps and stuff. I also love the Clin d’Oeil near Carrefour in the centre. They do food from the south west of France instead of the usual Savoyard fare, which makes a nice change. If you’re pissed up and desperate for a some post-pub munchies, your best bet is probably L’Etale on the main street linking Rue du Bourg to the Pleney. They serve pretty late.
[part title="Where To Drink"]
For après, there are few places in Avoriaz, or in the world for that matter, that rival Bar Robinsons, or Robbos as the seasonnaires call it. They serve a viciously strong lager called Mutzig which is only about 8 per cent but feels like much more. They’re only open between 4pm and 8pm, but by that time you’ll probably be hammered anyway so you won’t need any more, but if you do, Beanies cocktail bar is just a few doors up the road. The Happy Hours in Ardent is good too, and the Tremplin is great, especially on a Wednesday when they have live music and DJs. Another great place on a Wednesday is Rhodos, where you can play “toss the boss" - play dice with the barman and if you win your drinks are free! It’s where a lot of the French locals hang out. There’s also a new place on the Pleney road called the Aubergade – it’s a hotel but it’s got a super-nice bar and it does decently priced food. It’s a proper sun trap in the evenings too. Last but not least, the Bec Jaune - Morzine's own micro-brewery - deserves its own special mention.
Club wise, there’s l’Opera, which open til 5am. It’s super-cheesy and the drinks are expensive, but you always find yourself ending up in there anyway, even if you don’t want to. My tip would be Café Chaud on a Sunday. They started doing different music nights last year and they gave the décor a revamp so it’s no longer too dirty.
[part title="Events & Festivals"]
We get loads of comps passing through, like the Protest Rookie Fest, Peanut Butter Rail Jam, Playground Jam and tons of little local things put on by local stores or brands. There are also the monthly snowboard competitions in the Chapelle park and the slaloms and boardercross in the Arare park, which are fun not serious. There is also the Stash Gathering, and the end of season party at Chez Flo. The Cavern 24:7 video comp is awesome too – the edits that come out every March are hilarious. There’s also the Basscamp Festival which has been running for the last two years, with big name DJs playing venues around town, and the Rock the Pistes Festival, with French and international bands playing stages all over the Portes du Soleil – many of them next to the pistes themselves. That normally take place towards to end of March.