Travel

A French ski trip that’s just eight hours door to door from Glasgow

EVERYBODY needs something to look forward to. For reasons which are plain, we have all missed out on things over the past 18 months we would once have considered part of the furniture. Perhaps in the grand scheme of all that’s been sacrificed, a ski holiday certainly doesn’t rank highly in order of importance.

However, as we begin to emerge from the turmoil of the pandemic, the opportunity to look ahead to the return of pleasures previously taken for granted provides a glimmer of optimism that life is beginning to return to ‘normal’.

I was lucky to get away for one such trip in January last year – when coronavirus was something happening in distant lands and my greatest concern amounted to how much progress I’d be able to make on my parallel turns (how different things would be just a few weeks later).

The destination on this occasion was Morzine in the French Alps, a new resort for me and one I had never previously considered, a status it will never again have following seven days of fun on and off the stunning slopes of Portes Du Soleil.

Here are five reasons why Morzine should now be a staple of your skiing calendar for the foreseeable future.

The Convenience

Morzine is situated in the Haute-Savoie department of France, and lies in a valley at the centre of Portes du Soleil, a sprawling ski area stretching the border between France and southwestern Switzerland. I normally do my skiing further south in Val D’Isere, a more challenging resort (probably too challenging for me) with an equally daunting three-and-a-half hour coach journey from the same airport – Geneva. For that reason, getting from Glasgow to our first-class accommodation, Chilly Powder Hotel Au Coin De Feu (more on that later) in under eight hours door-to-door is a real treat. A Chilly Powder representative collected us from the airport and delivered us with the minimum of fuss – even briefing us on the resort on the way. I could get used it.

The Resort

Despite sitting at relatively low altitude (1001m) compared to some other resorts, there is plenty of snow at ground level and of course where it matters – up the mountain. Morzine is beautiful by day and night, with a fantastic array of bars, shops and restaurants to keep you occupied on and off the slopes. We arrived amid snow fall on a Sunday evening, looking up at the cable car linking Morzine with Avoriaz with a great sense of anticipation. Les Portes du Soleil is widely regarded as the largest connected ski area in the world, with more than 650km of runs across 13 resorts, so every day is a new adventure. You can easily ski between areas, and there are free bus services to connect you to other cable cars down the hill. Eating and drinking up the hill is well catered for, with family-friendly and high-end restaurant options in plentiful supply. Thankfully, and entirely necessarily, the Chilly Powder team were able to let us know where to start – and finish – each day. There’s also loads to do when you’re not skiing, including snow shoeing, ice skating and horse-drawn sleigh riding. The night sledding (down real ski slopes) is an absolute must and not for the faint-hearted.

The Accommodation

There is no shortage of places to stay across Morzine, but our incredible home for the week is Chilly Powder, Hotel Au Coin De Feu, and I wouldn’t consider staying anywhere else. Founded in mid 1990s, by Francesca Eyre and her husband Paul, Chilly Powder is perfectly situated a few minutes’ walk from Les Prodains cable car to Avoriaz, and strikes a perfect balance of suitability for all types of trip – from couples getaways, to serious skiers/boarders and, of course, families. We stayed in a top floor room in a private lodge overlooking the beautiful main chalet. It was set up for self-catering (although we weren’t) and had a comfortable and luxurious feeling without being overbearing. Chilly Powder is brilliantly and beautifully equipped and had all the facilities you would need – or want – including a staffed bar, dining room (for a super breakfast and stunning and very social three-course dinner each evening (except one when staff have the night off), games room and library, and of course the essential outdoor hot tubs to unwind after a great day’s skiing. There’s even a yurt for on-site massage. You can ski straight down to the lodge from Avoriaz (and it doesn’t get old).

The Skiing

Avoriaz, just a short walk and cable car away, was where we started most days (although we often ended elsewhere), with slopes to suit all abilities with some taking you across the Swiss border. For the advanced skier there are 105 red runs and 32 black runs, extensive off piste, the World Cup downhill run, and for the bold there is the famous (or infamous) ‘Swiss Wall’ descent dropping from France into Switzerland (don’t worry, it looks equally impressive from the chairlift). There was plenty to keep my friend Liz – an expert skier – happy, while I was quite content ticking off as many of the 131 blues as possible.

While you will always find favoured runs in any resort, you can happily ski from area to area and never need to do the same run twice (although I’m sure you will.). The novelty of cross-border skiing doesn’t wear off.

Avoriaz is also home to the Avoriaz Alpine Ski School, where I spent an afternoon under the expert tutelage of fellow Scot Ian McKellar, again arranged by Chilly Powder. It was time very well spent.

The Hospitality

The team at Chilly Powder really do think of everything and can arrange as much or as little as you need transfers to passes, equipment hire, lessons, and even restaurant bookings if you want to sample what else Morzine has to offer (although it’s difficult to tear yourself away). They also offer outstanding childcare for families – including creche, ski school and dedicated mealtimes for children.

Chilly Powder operates all year round, so it’s perfect whether you’re looking to hit the ski slopes or hop on your mountain bike. There are extensive winter holiday packages on offer for individuals, groups and families with winter prices starting from £850 per week based on two adults sharing a standard bedroom or £2,300 per week for two adults and two children sharing a standard family room. Prices based on a half board basis with wine included in evening meals.

Mindful of the ever-changing travel situation, Chilly Powder is also 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.

Find out more by visiting Chilly Powder website at www.chillypowder.com.

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