Travel: From Portes to 60 in the Alps

The Fantasticable zip line at Chatel

The Fantasticable zip line at Chatel - Credit: Contributed

Cutting through the Alpine air and whizzing down the mountain, I picked up speed – 40, 50, 60mph. 

It was by far the quickest I had gone all week, and one by one, I passed my fellow skiers and snowboarders.

Then, with the finish line in sight, I overtook the final pair before the breaks kicked in.

At this point, I should point out that I wasn’t on my skis, or indeed on terra firma.

I had just ridden Fantasticable – a zip line which sets off above the French hamlet of Plaine-Dranse and zooms harnessed daredevils down to the bottom.

The trip to France and Switzerland was my first winter sports holiday in three years, so, as far my ski skills were more than a little rusty.

Nevertheless, I still managed to get around the pistes okay, and spent time doing a whole host of other winter activities in some of the Alps' most spectacular resorts.

Most Read

Portes du Soleil is one of the largest ski areas in Europe with 300 slopes and 197 lifts. 

It is home to 12 linked resorts: Avoriaz, Morzine, Montriond, Les Gets, St Jean d'Aulps, Abondance, La Chapelle d'Abondance and Châtel in France, and Champéry, Torgon, Morgins, and Les Crosets-Val d'Illiez-Champoussin in Switzerland.

After flying into Geneva, my first destination was the French town of Les Gets.

The Chamois d'Or bar at Les Gets

The Chamois d'Or bar at Les Gets - Credit: Caro Blackwell

Les Gets centre

Les Gets centre - Credit: L Bureau Les Gets Tourisme

I spent the night in boutique hotel Chamois d’Or, enjoying a tasty late supper in its stunning new Indian restaurant Baaji.

The next morning, I picked up my skis, poles and boots from Berthet Sports, before hitting the slopes with Chrys from Les Gets’ tourist board.

Once I’d rediscovered my ski legs, we escaped between the fir trees to enjoy the pristine pistes on the Mon Chéry side of the town and views of the legendary Mont Blanc range.

Lunch on the mountain was a delicious baked Camembert at Le Vaffieu, before Chrys handed over the reins to Laury from Avoriaz tourism.

Considered by many to be the home of snowboarding in the Alps, and my room for the night was at the spectacular Hotel Mil8, adjacent to the Aquariaz tropical-themed waterpark.

The pool at Hotel MIL8

The pool at Hotel MIL8 - Credit: Creuzet Karin

After relaxing in the wellness area, I dined at Le Soir a la carte restaurant, and from there, I headed to a couple of the town’s bars – Le Tavaillon and The Place.

The next day, I skied with Laury into Switzerland, and eventually we arrived in the Region Dents du Midi where I met up with Gabriel from the Champéry tourist office.

After a toasted cheese lunch at Café Le Nord, I checked into the Boutique Hotel Beau-Séjour & Spa, a charming century-old hotel, now run by the Kleinknecht Zurkirchen family, with breathtaking views of the Dents-du-Midi, the region’s emblematic mountain.

Inside the spa at Hotel Beau-Séjour Champéry

Inside the spa at Hotel Beau-Séjour Champéry - Credit: Contributed

Dinner that night was an incredibly succulent fillet steak, followed by Swiss chocolate pudding. 

On my penultimate day in Portes du Soleil, I tried two winter activities for the first time.

First up, Gabriel and I headed to the Sports Center Palladium De Champéry for a game of curling, with Gaston, a 60-year veteran of the town’s curling club.

Lil Stach, Avoriaz

Lil Stach, Avoriaz - Credit: Loic Bouchet

The last Swiss stop on the road to France, and the gateway to the Val d’Abondance, is Morgins

Here, I joined Patrick, a ski instructor, for an arduous two-hour hike and 600m climb around the ski touring tracks of Rando Parc.

After my exertions, I needed a place to rest my weary head, and Chez Jan La Pension in Morgins was just the ticket.

My room was incredibly comfortable with a king sized bed and views of the chocolate box Swiss town and the mountain I had I just conquered.

For dinner, I enjoyed a scallops and a crusted pork loin at Restaurant Le Divins a couple of blocks away.

Avoriaz 1800

Avoriaz 1800 - Credit: Pascal Gombert

Champery village

Champery village - Credit: Jean-Baptiste Bieuville

Before flying back to the UK, I still had time for another day of adventure on the slopes as local ski instructor Bernard took me for a tour of the Châtel region.

Post-lunch, we found our way to Fantasticable, above the hamlet of Plaine-Dranse, and after a week of trying to find my ski legs again, it was good to finally reach some decent speeds, albeit above the slopes, rather than on them.

Whether it’s snaking down blue or red runs, pushing stones on the ice, hiking up a mountain or flying down a zip line, my week in Portes du Soileil was full of excitement, with a fair bit of relaxation thrown in.

If the Olympics has made you crave for a winter holiday, or inspired you to try skiing or snowboarding for the first time, make this French-Swiss paradise your first Portes of call. 

Take the trip

For more information about the Portes du Soleil area in France and Switzerland go to en.portesdusoleil.com or call +33(0)450 733831

A single Portes du Soleil Ski pass provides access to the whole region. Adult passes cost €55.50 per day and €42 a day for children aged 5-15 (under fives ski for free). Six-day passes cost €278 for adults, and €208 for children. 

Richard Jones stayed in four hotels during his trip – Chamois d'Or Hotel & Spa in Les Gets (chamois-dor-hotel.les-gets.hotels-fr.net), Hotel Mil8 in Avoriaz (hotelmil8.com), Boutique Hotel Beau-Séjour & Spa in Champéry (beausejour.ch), and Chez Jan La Pension de Morgins in Morgins (chezjan.com)

Return flights to Geneva are available from many major UK airports with easyJet from £32pp. See easyjet.com