Counting down the days until you can travel safely again? Me too. When the time comes, I’ll be booking a summer escape to Morzine in the French Alps, after falling in love with the area during a summer stay at luxury chalet, Chilly Powder. Here’s why you should make it your European go-to for everything cycling, hiking, running, MTB and adventure…
Like many of you, I’ve been wistfully daydreaming of simpler times when the world was easily accessible and the only masks required on holiday came with a snorkel, so I’m introducing a new series to Lessons in Badassery alongside my usual interviews – adventure travel! After months of homeschooling, I’m longing for the clean air and grounding peace of the mountains, so a write-up is a nice way for me to relive our Morzine experience whilst sharing our new favourite adventure destination with you.
So why Morzine?
Close to the Swiss border and part of the Haute-Savoie region in the French Alps, Morzine is best known for being a winter sports destination. But come spring and summer, its lush alpine pastures make it a veritable playground for adventure seekers, offering everything from mountain biking and canyoning to via ferrata, hiking, trail running and paragliding. Although we stayed in Morzine for seven days and packed each one full, we barely scratched the surface of activities on offer.
Easy Portes du Soleil lift connections
Outdoor activities aside, one of the great things about Morzine is its connection to the Portes du Soleil lift system and the almost endless exploring opportunities this affords you. Having access to 24 connected lifts and 12 villages/resorts allows you the flexibility to catch a lift up/down/across the resorts should your legs feel weary. Although being so well connected sounds expensive, it’s actually a bargain €2 a day for the pedestrian Multi-Pass, which takes you far and wide whilst also giving you free access to 60 other activities.
Getting to Morzine is pretty simple too. We flew to Geneva and hired a car for the 90-ish-minute drive to Chilly Powder. We usually drive to France via the Eurotunnel, so this is also an option too if you’d rather not fly.
Where to Stay in Morzine: Chilly Powder, Morzine
For our visit in July 2019, my husband Andy and I stayed at Chilly Powder’s 16-room au Coin du Feu chalet hotel as part of a press trip and fell in love with its friendly, luxe vibe and the smiling staff members who are always on hand to share insider hiking/cycling/running routes. If the Chilly Powder name sounds familiar, it’s because its charming owner and endurance sports lover, Francesca Eyre, is a two-time Lessons in Badassery interviewee.
A few kilometres out of the centre of Morzine, au Coin du Feu is situated in Les Prodains towards the top of a long sweeping dead-end road surrounded by green pastures, forest hikes and peaks. An utterly peaceful location, it’s the perfect base for an active week, with hikes up to Avoriaz, with all its connected MTB routes and hiking/running trails, on its doorstep. Or, if you want to save your legs, a meander 100m to the top of the road allows you to catch the Prodains Express cable car up.
Chilly Powder is a catered chalet and after filling up on a big buffet and hot breakfast each day, we headed out hiking or cycling until late afternoon, returning just in time to snaffle the afternoon tea-style snacks. We then chilled on the sunny veranda (we never made it in the hot tub) or relaxed in the mezzanine library with a book. Our lovely room (the ‘Wedding Suite’ with four-poster bed!) included a bath – ideal for soaking post-ride muscles.
Chilly Powder is renowned for its great food and atmosphere, where guests dine together around a huge table. The evening starts at 7.45pm with canapes followed by a delicious 5-course meal with wine at 8pm – literally heaven after a satisfying day grabbing some elevation.
What to do in and around Morzine?
There’s only so much you can do in seven days, but here are some highlights.
Test your fitness hiking up Pointe de Nantaux
With a summit at 2110m, Pointe de Nantaux is home to the KMV de Nantaux vertical kilometre race which follows an incredibly steep route that accumulates over 1000m of elevation in just 2.2km (the course record is a lung-busting 33 minutes). We took the ‘gentler’ yet still relentless route reached from Essert-Pierre and clocked up almost 4,000ft of climb in 2.4 miles. By the time we reached the summit, sweaty and jelly-legged, and marvelled at the spectacular views (which include the beautiful turquoise Lac du Montriond), it suddenly dawned on us that we’d have to descend the often-40% decline on trashed quads. 2.4 miles never felt so long!
To sum up, this is a fantastic, challenging hike which you’re likely to feel in your legs for a few days. Tips: Hiking poles are a lifesaver; don’t set off at midday; beware of the false summit!
MTB (or e-bike) the many kickass trails
Morzine-Avoriaz sits in the Portes du Soleil, the world’s biggest mountain bike area, and offers 600km of stunning MTB trails with 20+ lifts linking the 12 resorts/villages (FUN FACT: Downhill pro, Tahnée Seagrave grew-up riding the trails here). With around 25 specialist MTB schools and hire shops, some of which offer delivery, you can happily leave your own bike at home and travel light.
Due to my non-existent technical MTB skills and our already packed schedule, we skipped mountain biking this time around. However, there are plenty of beginner-friendly trails and dedicated MTB signposting, plus Blue, Red, Black and Green designated slopes, which can be accessed via the Pleny and Super Morzine bubbles. A 6-day MTB pass costs around €112 – head to the Morzine tourist office for route maps galore. The team at Chilly Powder can also arrange a lesson with an instructor for beginners looking to find their feet.
Bag some Cols on a road bike
If, like me, ascending Cols is more your thing than throwing yourself downhill on a mountain bike, Morzine, which has hosted 22 stages of the Tour de France, has much to offer with beautiful lush Alpine vistas to balance the brutal ascents. We hired our road bikes in Morzine online in advance very easily and just packed our shoes and helmets.
There are 25 mountain passes and climbs within 50km of Morzine, giving you plenty to choose from. Here are the ones we ‘enjoyed’:
Col de Joux Plane – 1700m summit
Generally considered the toughest climb in the area, the Col de Joux Plane can be reached from both Samoëns (the hardest option) and Morzine. We opted for the Morzine route, which kicks off with a 10% gradient at 0.5 miles and ramps to 17% momentarily before the first mile is out. It’s a 10.8km climb reaching 1700m at the summit where a glorious view of snow-capped Mont Blanc awaits. Being a cycling sadist, Andy descended down into Samoëns and then climbed back to the Joux Plane summit just for fun whilst I enjoyed an ice-cold Coke at the summit cafe. Ahhhh.
Col de Joux Verte – 1760m summit
A picturesque and fairly shaded climb, the Joux Verte route is a 13km ride up from Montriond, passing the beautiful lake and rising steadily through the forest until you reach some 9/10% switchbacks. Eventually, you’ll pass through Les Lindarets, the ‘goat village’, which you may smell before you see! Take a goat selfie before you head up and onwards. Continue past the Joux Verte summit sign and head on up into Avoriaz for extra elevation, then either return the same way (dip in Lac de Montriond optional) or descend the parallel Col d’Avoriaz route.
Again, you can find a free cycling pocket guide at the Morzine Tourist office. Other nearby Cols to consider include Col de la Ramaz (1619m) and Col du Corbier (1230m). Or, if you’re after EXTREME VERT, why not loop the Joux Verte, Joux Plane and La Ramaz together as my husband did for a 67-mile ride with 10,000+ft of climbing?
Brave the 100kph Fantasticable zip line at Châtel
Horizontal valley-to-valley zip line your thing? The Fantasticable at the top of the Chaux Fleurie chair lift in Châtel is a two-stage zip line that covers over 3km at speeds of up to 100kph. Unlike most zip lines, however, you’re suspended horizontally in a safety harness, head-first, facing the opposite valley, dangling 240m above the Plaine-Dranse hamlet below. We took a tandem zip line ride and although I was terrified as we were being harnessed in, once you’re whizzing through the air, it actually feels quite tame. And the view across the valley is immense!
Go paragliding and see Morzine from above
While I headed on an awesome hike from Chilly Powder’s backdoor, staff booked Andy a tandem paragliding session with L’ecole de Parapente. After being shuttled from Morzine up to the Super-Morzine site at 1600m (following a safety briefing) and harnessed up, thankfully there was no cliff jumping, just a gentle take off from a gradual grassy slope. Paragliding isn’t a high-adrenaline experience (unless you want it to be; Andy’s instructor asked if he wanted to do some tricks), and instead, it feels like a gentle glide as you take in the expansive views of Morzine and the surrounding Portes du Soleil.
What about kids?
Ours were on a separate holiday with their grandparents and cousins, but Morzine has plenty to offer for kids, including the open-air swimming pool in Morzine central, local high rope activities and a summer toboggan run. The Lac de Montriond offers pony rides, inflatables and swimming fun, and the many chair lifts in and around Morzine help tired legs get around. Chilly Powder offers a crèche and babysitting services and you’re guaranteed ‘adult only’ time for the evening meals; kids eat at 5pm and adults separately at 8pm.
With so much to do in Morzine all-year-round, we plan to be back again for another summer visit as soon as we can safely travel – fingers and toes crossed.
Chilly Powder operates year-round, offering active summer holidays for individuals, groups and families looking to experience the stunning Portes du Soleil region. Summer prices start from £595 per week based on two adults sharing a standard bedroom, or £1,660 for two adults and two children sharing a standard family bedroom. Prices based on a half-board basis with wine included in the evening meals. Self-catered chalets and winter ski holidays are also available.
Chilly Powder is offering a 100% credit note for all new bookings, should a booking have to be cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions in place during dates of a scheduled trip. To learn more about the guest guarantee or to make a booking, contact Chilly Powder on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7289 6958 or visit www.chillypowder.com.