Portes du Soleil – Is it the Best Linked Ski Area in Europe?

James | December 23rd, 2020
Dents du Midi snow covered mountains at the portes du soleil
Photo by Blue Hour Art

Les Portes du Soleil literally means ‘Gateway to the Sun’ and is one of the most popular ski areas across the Alps. 

The region encompasses 13 interlinked resorts which span the French/Swiss border. They sit between Mont Blanc in France and Lake Geneva in Switzerland. The Portes du Soleil covers over 650km of pistes making it one of the largest ski areas in the world. 

The resorts in France are: Morzine, Avoriaz, Les Gets, Saint Jean d’Aulps, Montriond, Chatel, Abondance and La Chapelle d’Abondance.

The resorts in Switzerland are: Les Crosets, Morgins, Champery, Torgon and Champoussin.

So, when did it all start?  

1934 – The first cable car in the Portes du Soleil was built. This was in the beautiful village of Morzine and carried 25 people to the top of the Pleney mountain.

1939 – The 18 seater Champery – Planchaux cable car was built in Champery. This was the first cable car in French speaking Switzerland and only the third of its kind across the whole of Switzerland.

1952 – A gondola is built on Super Morzine with 94, 2 seater open air cabins. The lift opened in 1953 but was only operated until 1964 when a fire destroyed it.

1958 –  The  ‘Follieuse’ chairlift in Morgins was built. This lift took skiers to the Savolaire plateau. This meant that skiers were able to enjoy the view of the spectacular Dents du Midi mountain range.

1960 – Access to the Nyon Plateau made possible when a 35 seater cable car was installed in Morzine.

1963 – Prodains cable car first opened. Each cabin could take 80 people up to Avoriaz.

1965 – The ‘Portes du Soleil’ name was officially given to the ski area. The name originates from the mountain pass above the resort of Les Crosets.

1973 – Skiing starts in the Grande Terche area after a chairlift is installed in St Jean d’Aulps.

1976 – First Portes du Soleil lift pass was used. The resort of Champoussin was also founded.

1981 – The connection between Avoriaz and Chatel is made with the Construction of the ‘Chaux Fleurie’ and ‘Rochassons’ chairlifts.

1987 – Morzine and Avoriaz linked. The gondola was built from Morzine and then you took two chairlifts and two ski lifts to Avoriaz.

1993 – Europe’s first detachable 6 seater chairlift is built in Avoriaz. This was the ‘Tour’ chairlift.

1999 – Portes du Soleil is one of the first ski areas in the world to use hands-free lift pass recognition turnstiles.

2008 – The first eight seater chairlift in French speaking Switzerland came into play. Even now, this lift in Les Croset is one of the most efficient ski lifts in the Portes du Soleil, with a capacity of 4,000 people per hour.

2013 – 3S Prodains cable car is introduced. This was 50 years after the original Prodains cable car was first launched.

2015 – Portes du Soleil celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Where Should You Base Yourself?

I would like to draw you towards Morzine as this is where I have been based for the last 30 years. Morzine is a stunning village in the Haute Savoie region sitting in the heart of the Portes du Soleil and is somewhere I feel extremely luck to call home.

Morzine is a year round resort. This means unlike many other ski resorts where the shutters come down at the end of April until the following December, Morzine has a buzzing vibe throughout the year. The local businesses, restaurants and shops are open most of the year and thrive in the summer as well as the winter months.

What Is the Skiing Like?

The skiing in Morzine is fantastic and you can also ski over the mountain to Les Gets which offers yet more excellent skiing. If you are feeling a little more adventurous you can access Avoriaz via the Super Morzine bubble in the centre of the village.

Another route up to Avoriaz is via the Prodain cable car which is up the road and takes just 4 minutes to arrive in Avoriaz. You will then have access to the rest of the Portes du Soleil. From Avoriaz you can then head across the border into the Swiss resorts.

Many of our guests have been returning to Morzine for over 30 years and always find the skiing just as exciting if not more exciting than the year before. 

It is because the Portes du Soleil is so vast that it is well suited to skiers of all abilities. Whether you are a beginner tackling the mountain for the first time or an experienced back country skier, you will find this region hits the spot every time. There are also fantastic snow parks dotted across the resorts for the adrenaline junkies!

skier and fresh snow in Avoriaz at the portes du soleil
Photo by Avoriaz Alpine Ski School

What if You Do Not Ski?

Plenty of our guests are also non skiers and just love being in the mountains. The beauty of Morzine is there are plenty of other activities for you to do as well as skiing. These range from snow shoeing, husky sledding and ice skating as well as some fantastic and spectacular walks. The walks can take you through forests, along rivers, underneath waterfalls and around beautiful lakes. 

It is also possible to head up the mountain for lunch in one of the many quality restaurants on offer. This means if some of your party are skiers and some are not you can all meet up for a delicious lunch on the mountain to share your experiences of the day.

How to Get Here

If you are flying, you will likely land at Geneva airport and the journey up from Geneva to Morzine is just 75 minutes. If you prefer to drive, the journey time from within a large part of Europe is under 10 hours.

If you are travelling by train there are train stations in Cluses and Thonon-les-bains which are both about a 40 minute drive away. We can easily arrange to collect you from either train station.

Returning to the Portes du Soleil or will it be your first time?

If you would like to experience Morzine for the first time or are longing to return, why not get in touch. Come and join us at The Farmhouse where we will pamper and look after you during your stay. We hope to hear from you soon.

Share this article

The Farmhouse Blog

VIEW ALL POSTS