Portes du Soleil
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|Portes du Soleil|
|Location||France and Switzerland|
|Nearest city||Monthey and Aigle|
|Top elevation||2,466 m (8,091 ft)|
|Base elevation||1,000 m (3,300 ft)|
|Skiable area||650 km (400 mi) of runs|
|Snowfall||8.7 m (29 ft) (average 1998–2008)|
Les Portes du Soleil (literally "The Doors of the Sun") is a major skisports destination in the Alps, encompassing thirteen resorts between Mont Blanc in France and Lake Geneva in Switzerland. With more than 650 km of marked pistes (claimed by the lift companies; an independent expert measured about 426 km ) and about 200 lifts in total, spread over 14 valleys and about 1,036 square kilometres (400 sq mi), Portes du Soleil ranks among the two largest ski areas in the world (the other being Les Trois Vallées). Almost all of the pistes are connected by lifts – a few marginal towns can be reached only by the free bus services in the area. The highest point of skiing is 2400 m and the lowest is 900 m. As with many other Alpine ski resorts, the lower slopes of the Portes du Soleil have snow-making facilities to extend the skiable season by keeping the lower slopes open during the warmer months.
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As one of the largest ski areas in the world, Portes du Solei offers ski runs of all kinds and difficulties, ranging from shallow beginner slopes ("blue slopes") to some of the most challenging downhill slopes ("black slopes") in the Alps. Due to the size of the area, it takes several days to traverse all different resorts. There is a main circuit through most of the Swiss and some of the French resorts (Chatel-Morgins-Champoussin-Les Crosets/Champery-Avoriaz-Chatel)that can be skied in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions. Apart from a short walk in Morgins, the circuit can be skied without removing one's skis or board. There are places on the circuit (especially in Morgins) where one might experience sparse snow or even have to go down by chairlift late in the season. However, the circuit will by no means cover the entire ski area. Notably, the Torgon/Abondance area and the Morzine/Les Gets area are not included in the circuit. Both are large areas in themselves - the Morzine/Les Gets area in itself having around 150 km of marked runs.
There are thirteen resorts in the Portes du Soleil area, of which seven are French and five are Swiss. Most of the resorts have grown around traditional valley villages - only Avoriaz and the very small Les Crosets and Torgon were purposely built during the mid-sixties. Morzine and Chatel are the largest of the traditional towns in the area. As a whole the skiing is relatively low in altitude compared to most French destinations. The highest skiing is just below 2,500 m (8,200 ft) and the lowest is approximately 900 m (3,000 ft). However, the area is heavily influenced by the microclimate between Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc, which generates very substantial snowfall between November and April making it possible to keep the area open to skiing typically from early December until mid to late April. Some of the lower stations close around April 1 or earlier depending on snow conditions though.
The most modern skiing and accommodation of the Portes du Soleil is the resort of Avoriaz with more than 18.000 beds in 2017. Avoriaz is among the largest purpose-built ski destinations in the world. Avoriaz features purpose-built wood-clad buildings reaching 15 stories and a car-free policy. Avoriaz has extensive offerings for snowboarders and freestyle skiers – 3 major fun parks, border cross, snow cross zones and more. Avoriaz is a hub for a number of summer-activities as well: mountain biking, golf, paragliding, climbing and hiking. There are restaurants and bards around the area, some also open during the summer.
Morzine is the largest town in the Portes du Soleil area. It is a traditional market town and the town from which the idea of a large connected ski area stems. Morzine has been one of the leading ski destinations in Europe for 80 years, with a large choice of hotels and apartments in Morzine and on the surrounding mountainsides. There are bus services for the Prodains cablecar, the Ardent gondola and the Nyon cablecar, while cablecars to Supermorzine (Avoriaz) and to Pleney can be walked to from the town centre. At an altitude of just 950 meters, Morzine offers predominantly easy to medium skiing. Morzine is the most northern of the French Alpine resorts and benefits from the regional microclimate between Mont Blanc and Lake Geneva.
Châtel is a village on the border with Switzerland. The village stretches from Lac de Vonnes (near the border) down to centre. There are 2 main ski areas in the village, Super Châtel is reached by cabincar or chairlift from the centre of town and from here links by lift are made to the Swiss towns of Torgon and Morgins. During the 2014-2015 season new lifts were opened linking Super Chatel with the Linga / Pré La Joux area. This area forms the link between Chatel and Avoriaz and while it is dominated by intermediate and difficult slopes, it is possible to ski all the way to Avoriaz on beginner slopes. Above Pré la Joux lies the small mountain village of Plaine Dranse in which almost all the houses are turned into restaurants. There is also a small church built into the rock. The resort of Chatel lies at 1200 m and the highest point of skiing is about 2200 m.
Les Gets is an alpine village situated on the Col des Gets between Morzine and Taninges at an altitude of 1172m with a year round population of around 1,300 people. The resort is popular among families with many gentle runs at the top of the Chavannes gondola. The ski area in Les Gets ranges from an altitude of 950m to 2000m and is serviced by many modern lifts.
Morgins forms part of the Swiss section of Portes du Soleil and is not as crowded as the larger resorts in France. The skiing is linked to Chatel on one side of the village and to Champoussin to the other side. As one of the lower resorts with shallow runs, Morgins is among the first to close connections to other areas when the snow melts in spring. The skiing in Morgins is comparatively easy, many of the lifts are draglifts.
Les Crosets is a very small resort in the Portes Du Soleil located in Switzerland. It can be reached by ski from Morgins and Avoriaz. It allows views of the Dents Du Midi and has a large funpark. A famous steep black itinerary piste nicknamed The Swiss Wall (a steep mogul run) can be reached from Les Crosets. There are two top stations connecting to Avoriaz – Pointe de Mossette and Chavanette. Les Crosets is built above the village of Champery. The two stations are connected by the Champéry-Plancachaux cable car. There are no pistes connecting Les Crosets to Champery. Skiiers have to either go down by cablecar or ski down to Grand Paradis and continue by car or shuttle bus.
Champery is a Swiss village situated at an altitude of approximately 1050 meters, nestled at the base of the Dents du Midi and the Dents Blanches, at the end of the Vallée d’Illiez. It is a 150 years old village which was among the initiating towns when the Portes du Soleil skiarea was established in the late Sixties. There are no pistes leading all the way down to Champery due in part to the fact that the mountainside above the town is heavily exposed to snow. The Champéry – Planachaux cable-car (125 passengers) and the 6-seater chairlift in Grand-Paradis are fast connections into the Portes du Soleil system.
- Montriond (France)
- Abondance (France)
- La Chapelle-d'Abondance (France)
- Saint-Jean-d'Aulps (France)
- Val d'Illiez (Switzerland),
- Champoussin (Switzerland)
- Torgon (Switzerland)
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Portes du Soleil.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Portes du Soleil.|
- "Le Domaine Sauvage". Portes du Soleil. Archived from the original on 1 October 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
- "Winter 2008 press kit" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 December 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2009.
- "The world's ten biggest ski areas". Snow Magazine. 18 December 2013. Retrieved 11 July 2016.
- Tourisme, Savoie Mont Blanc. "La capacité d'accueil touristique en Savoie Mont Blanc - Espace pro - Savoie Mont Blanc - Savoie (73) - Haute-Savoie (74) : Alpes, France". pro.savoie-mont-blanc.com (in French). Retrieved 2018-03-26.