Not that its winter sports are a new addition. French and British enthusiasts, along with those from many other countries, were coming to Morzine over a hundred years ago, though their activities were more sedate than today — skating on the frozen lakes and practicing ski manoeuvres across the snow-covered meadows.
There’s been a cable car from Morzine up the mountains since 1934, but the town’s turning-point came in 1960 when it raised the funds to send Jean Vuarnet, an emerging local skier, to the Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, California. He won a gold for downhill, and his reward was to be invited to create Avoriaz, a high-altitude ski station, as well as developing the links with nearby resorts, both in France and Switzerland, that now form the Portes du Soleil.
Sadly, most people remember Vuarnet nowadays more for his brand of sunglasses than for his medal or his achievements at home. He didn’t just put Morzine on the map, though: he made it the centre of the whole 650km ski area.
Morzine is the ideal base for exploring the Portes du Soleil, and is perfect for school groups and families alike. It’s easily accessible, only 75 minutes from Geneva Airport and a comfortable coach journey from the UK for school groups looking for a more cost-effective option.
The one drawback is its low altitude. There isn’t always snow in the resort itself, especially at the beginning and end of the season, which means that it may not be possible to ski all the way down.
Although there are slopes to challenge the experts, Morzine is strongest in the beginner and intermediate range. There’s plenty to do away from the slopes, too, so there’s no problem going with friends or family who are less enthusiastic about skiing. In the resort itself, there are plenty of shops to tempt non-skiers, or you can enjoy a substantial swimming pool and a world-standard ice rink. Not to mention the excellent après-ski.
And, whatever you’re doing, in the mountains or down in the town, you’re always surrounded by the stunning scenery that drew those Edwardian ladies and gentlemen here all that time ago.