Criss-crossing the border
PUBLISHED: 17:54 20 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:31 20 February 2013
Can't decide between skiing in Switzerland or France? You don't have to, says Conrad Sutcliffe
Cant decide between skiing in Switzerland or France? You dont have to, says Conrad Sutcliffe
I NEVER need much of an excuse to make tracks to the Portes du Soleil, so when the chance to go on safari there came up I said yes in a hurry.
The Portes du Soleil 12 towns and villages straddling the border between Switzerland and France has been a firm favourite of mine ever since a trip to Les Gets early in my ski career.
I have been back since, to Chatel and Morzine, and now feel my winter isnt complete without a few days enjoying the tree-lined runs and sunny runs which give the area its name.
Something for everyone
You can find difficult slopes if you want them the heavily mogulled Swiss Wall is famed all over the world but truth be told this is intermediate territory at its finest.
Blues to cruise, red expressways and 26 blacks there is something for everyone in one of the largest linked ski areas in the world.
More than 250 pisted runs can be found in the 650km of skiing all on the Portes du Soleil lift pass. True, you have to get out of your bindings and either walk or catch a bus from time to time, but this is a seriously good ski and boarding area.
Although I subscribe to the two-planks-are-better-than-one school of thought, the Portes du Soleil area is a magnet for the snowboarding brigade, who can be found in their droves around Morzine and Avoriaz.
When you factor in the convenience of a ski holiday in the Portes du Soleil, its the closest super-league resort by road from this country or by transfer from Geneva airport, its not rocket science to work out why 40 per cent of the 110,000 beds in the area are filled by British skiers during the peak season.
A ski safari
The organisers of a ski safari for the British press corps didnt have to ask twice if I wanted to join in a three-day assault on the slopes.
Our itinerary was a gruelling mixture of hard skiing 70 kilometres on day one and some serious eating in top-class restaurants. When I saw that our first excursion was to a brewery, it was a done deal. Count me in I emailed back with almost indecent haste.
We weaved our way from Les Gets to Chatel, then over the Swiss border into Champery before skiing off to Avoriaz then Morzine for our final stop over.
Every morning we packed our bags before breakfast, skied off in the direction of the next horizon and found our luggage waiting at the next hotel that night.
After checking in at the Hotel Bellevue in Les Gets, it was off to the Irish Pub over the road to see Colin the brewer in action and sample his beer. Great pitchers of pale ale were brought out and quickly consumed by the thirsty press corps, all in the name of research, you understand. The best advice I can give is try it for yourself if ever in Les Gets.
After a hearty meal at La Fruitire des Perrires not cheap, but they kept it coming until you could not eat another mouthful it was relatively early-ish to bed for the following days excursion.
A real French village
For the first ski day of the season it was hard going covering the 70km from Les Gets to Chatel. The bulk of it was done before a late lunch, taken at LEtable just over the Swiss side at Les Crosets.
There was just enough time for a stroll around Chatel a real French village rather than one manufactured purely for the ski trade before sitting down for dinner at La Table dAntoine.
The large ginger cat sitting on the bar think Bagpuss and you will be on the right lines was something of a shock and would no doubt have given a health inspector a hissy fit!
I suspect the cat knew what he was doing. This restaurant has a seriously good fish menu. Judging from the size of the cat, customers have been kind enough to leave him a morsel or two.
Back to Switzerland
Day two took us back into Switzerland - via a very long lunch and wine-tasting and an evening never to be forgotten in Champery.
Overnight we were billeted in The Lodge, an apartment block housing the swishest suite of rooms I have ever stayed in. Rather than go through it room by room I will save time by saying it can cost up to 6,000 a week to stay there. You get a lot for that money, trust me, including a personal shopper to bring up bread and fruit juice in the morning.
There are not that many Michelin starred restaurants in the Portes du Soleil, but Champery has one. It is called C21 for 21st Century cuisine and the food was superb if you like that sort of thing.
Being a trencherman at heart, I would prefer three substantial courses rather than nine items from the taster menu. A melon cube with a chocolate drop on top of it is not my idea of suitable food for a hungry skier. Freeze dried fois gras that fizzes on the tongue is another acquired taste I must have missed out on.
A trip round the kitchen after supper left me a little cold as the demonstration we were given owed little to love of food and more to clever dickery. It looked like a laboratory, not a kitchen, and the coloured jars of food flavouring reminded my of a school chemistry lesson. Each to their own. The gourmands in our group loved it, especially the massive prawn tails which I mistook for lobsters!
A perfect day
Day three was a gentle ski down from Champery through Avoriaz and on to Morzine for our last long lunch.
The sun was beating down, the slopes were bashed to perfection and it was one of those on-piste days you do not want to end.
We broke for a coffee in Avoriaz, and watched the horse-drawn sleighs glide up and down the car-free streets, before setting off to Morzine on the last lap of our trip.
You cant buy a Portes du Soleil safari as no operators do one, although Cosima Zinck in the tourist office would love to hear from anyone interested in having a go.
You can put your own itinerary together though, which I will be doing again this season. As I said at the start, I dont need much excuse to visit the Portes du Soleil.
Web site www.portesdusoleil.com
Slope stats Pistes 650km; ski runs 266; ski lifts 194.
Lift pass 209
WHERE TO STAY:
Hotel Bellevue www.hotel-bellevue74.com
Hotel Mont Cherry www.hotelmontcherry.com
Alpen Sports Hotel
Hotel Tremplin www.hotel-le-tremplin.com
Hotel Macchi www.hotelmacchi.com
The Lodge www.miggins.ch
Hotel Suisse firstname.lastname@example.org
La Bergerie www.hotel-bergerie.com
Le Sporting www.lesporting-morzine.com
WHERE TO EAT:
Les GetsLes Fruitiere des Perrieres www.fruitiere-lesgets.com
ChatelLa Table dAntoine www.table-antoine.com
Champery C21 www.centrechampery.ch
WHO GOES THERE:
Crystal Ski www.crystalski.co.uk (Morzine, Avoriaz, Les Gets)
First choice www.firstchoice-ski.co.uk (Morzine, Avoriaz, Les Gets)
Alpine Tracks www.alpinetracks.com (Morzine)
Erna Low www.ernalow.co.uk (Champery)