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The Portes Du Soleil Circuit

Skiing from Morzine all the way round the Portes Du Soleil

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With over 650 km of pistes, the Portes Du Soleil is a huge ski area. Here is a guide to seeing as much as possible in just one day.

The Portes Du Soleil ski area crosses the borders between France and Switzerland and includes twelve linked resorts. It is technically possible to visit all of these in one day, but the route that is normally known as The Circuit does not usually include the Pleney/Les Gets side, and certainly doesn't include a drive down to Grande Terche. This article details one route from Morzine round to Chatel and back to Avoriaz via Switzerland. 

It is possible to begin at Prodains, Ardent or Super Morzine. Ardent offers the quickest access, as it is necessary to get to the Chaux Fleurie lift in Lindarets. From Prodains it is easily accessed from the Tour chairlift and any of the runs down to Lindarets.

Coming down the other side of Chaux Fleurie into the Plaine Dranse area, take the Chaux des Rosses lift and ski down to Les Combes. These are wide open blue and red pistes with generally excellent snow and are usually not crowded. After the Combes chairlift there is a blue piste and a red piste heading down towards Chatel. In previous years it was necessary to head down to the bottom and get a bus into Chatel in order to continue. However, last year two new chairlifts opened to take skiers straight over to the Super Chatel area. Coming down the pistes, keep an eye out for a run that heads round to the right. This goes to the Gabelou chairlift. This lift goes up and over the mountain (it is used to go both ways and provide skiers from Chatel with access going the other way) and suddenly drops down on the other side. After this lift, the Portes Du Soleil chairlift is directly in front of it. This chair goes straight up to the Super Chatel ski area. Unfortunately, this leaves skiers slightly below the next chairlift that they need to get, so they must head up the Coqs drag lift and then ski down to the Morclan chairlift, located just below the top of the Super Chatel bubble. 

The Morclan chairlift has a sign on it warning that it is only for good skiers. Do not be put off by this, there is nothing overly challenging from the top. The sign is perhaps in place because the area it leads to is full of old draglifts.

From the top, follow the signs for Torgon heading up and over via the drag lifts. From here it is possible to head all the way down to Chapelle D'Abondance, although this does add quite a bit of time to the day and the snow lower down can be patchy.

Torgon is usually quite empty so is a great place for a quiet ski and a way to escape the crowds in busy periods. The fresh snow usually remains untracked for longer as well. 

There used to be a restaurant at the top called the Panoramique which offered superb views down to Lake Geneva. The restaurant appears to now be closed, although it is still possible to walk up to it and enjoy the view. This is one of the furthest points you can ski to from Morzine/Avoriaz. From here the journey back begins, although there is still a long way to go.

Signs on the pistes now point towards either Chatel or Morgins. Following the signs to  Morgins leads to a number of drag lifts with little skiing to be had between some of them, although there are some nice slopes on the way. The final drag lift can be confusing. The sign at the bottom says Morgins but at the top the only sign points to Chatel. At the top of the piste, there is a path that heads to the right. This is the way down to Morgins.

Towards the bottom of the run to Morgins the snow cover can be very bad. In fact, it is well worth checking beforehand that the slope will be open, as it is often closed late in the season. 

Morgins is a pretty little Swiss village (as long as you are facing away from the apartment buildings!) and worth stopping at for lunch, although if you would prefer to eat in the sunshine then it is better to wait till you get to the top of the next chairlift, where there is a selection of restaurants. In Morgins, walk across the road to the Foilleuse chairlift. From here ski down to the Bochasses chairlift. At the top of this chairlift there is a sign for Champoussin as well as the first sign heading back towards Avoriaz. 

There are excellent views of the magnificent Dents Du Midi from Torgon onward, but the skiing from Morgins to Les Crosets offers the best views. As with Torgon, these pistes are usually not too crowded.

Skiing straight down to Champoussin leads to the Aiguille Des Champeys chairlift. From the top of this lift a red piste leads down to the Pointe de L'Au. From the top of this chair, Les Crosets can be seen. 

Skiing down to Les Crosets, check what the time is and then decide what to do next. If it is getting late then simply head up the Swiss side of the Mossettes chair and simply ski back down to Lindarets. 

Alternatively, head up the Grand Conche chairlift and follow the signs for Avoriaz. After one more lift this will lead to the top of the Fornet ski area above Avoriaz. One more run brings skiers back to the Tour chairlift just below Avoriaz.

If people are looking for a way to see as much of the Portes du Soleil as possible, have a full days skiing, see some places off the beaten track and enjoy some breathtaking scenery then the circuit is a great way to do this. There are different variations on the route and this simply offers one possibility. Studying the piste map can suggest different routes.

This route takes about six hours for a skier of moderate experience, not including time for a lunch break. Always keep an eye on the time and be mindful of how far left there is to go, in order to avoid being stranded. Also, check that all the necessary pistes and lifts are open on the day, try to go on a day when the weather is nice, and most of all enjoy!

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