The Col de la Joux Verte is a popular though steep circuit that climbs the road from Morzine to the ski station of Avoriaz some 800m on the cliffs above.
The climb starts straight out of the old town near the Mairie’s office by the bridge over the Dranse River negotiating a couple of roundabouts before rearing up out of town for a hairpin filled classic 14km ascent. The first half of the climb is characterised by classic alpine hairpins, ski chalets perched precariously above you on the next switchback. The ski lift Super Morzine bisects the switchbacks and ruefully reminds you of an easier way up the hill as it passes over head loaded with mountain bikers and walkers. The chalets give way to meadows and assorted cows, goats and their bells approaching the Zore hamlet at the half way point. From here the gradient slackens but only slightly and the road straightens and traverses the cliffs above the village of Prodains at the head of the Vallee des Ardoisieres. The angular wood clad architecture of Avoriaz lies ahead but it is difficult for any rider to accelerate to the target destination, particularly if they have tried a little too hard lower down the road.
Legendary French rider Bernard Hinault holds the record time up this climb of 33 minutes, recorded during the 1979 edition of the race. Various other big names from Tour de France history have recorded times up the climb and you can compare your time with the greats of cycle road racing. The tourist information office in the centre of town provides cards which can be stamped at the start of the climb in the little blue box on the wall by the line painted in the road and again at the very top by Avoriaz tourist information near the road barrier. You can then get yourself a certificate from the Morzine tourist information with your time printed up for posterity!
The annual race up the Joux Verte usually produces a winning time a few minutes under the 40 minute mark. This will have been typically performed by a national standard elite amateur racer. A fit high standard club racer/rider will do well to come in around 50 minutes, the same rider taking an hour at a more comfortable pace. Not so fit or fast riders can cruise to the top in 60-75 minutes.
The descent is fast, as always, particularly on the top straighter sections before getting into the hard braking hairpins from the half way point onwards. These are usually delimited by a low concrete wall to prevent cars going over the edge and landing on the road below. Don’t let that put you off, a rider will typically be doing 20 mph max around these 180 degree bends so in reality very little chance for things to go too far wrong.
An alternative to coming straight back down the same road into Morzine is to take a right turn after about 1km of descending and head down through the goat village better known as Les Linderets and onwards past the stunning view of Lac Montriond. The road through the former is packed with goats and the tourists who come to see them but there is ample chance to slow down to walking pace in advance. Either side of the village the decent is excellent covering the full range of descending obstacles, lots of hairpins and fast corners and straight steep sections producing thrilling top speeds. Some of the corners are blind and not being a part of the Tour de France means you will meet oncoming cars – don’t get too carried away.
The reverse route is much harder as the climb up to Linderets offers a much steeper gradient.
Distance - 32km
Time - 1-2hrs
Vertical Gain - 860m
Highest Point - Avoriaz 1800m
Find where to hire a bike in Morzine.