'My new favourite resort': Indulge in a little luxury in Morzine
Jon Secrett finds himself spoiled in a fully catered chalet
Saturday 22 January 2011
Everyone has their favourite ski resort. It's the one where they know the terrain well, the one where they know a good restaurant, the one with (or without) an oompah band to accompany their après ski. As a snowboarder, I particularly like to know where the flat bits are that might slow me down or, worse still, stop me completely. Equally, choosing my holiday has always been something of a formality, largely due to cost: a self-catered chalet is my usual accommodation. I'd never been to Morzine, so it could hardly be my favourite place to ski, but a luxury fully catered chalet? I decided it was time to try something new.
Morzine is one of the more northerly resorts in the French Alps, and within easy reach of Europe's winter-sports hub, Geneva. Just 80 minutes after leaving the airport, the transfer bus was pulling up outside The Loft, my home for the week. It's run by the husband-and-wife team Jon and Sam Dredge of More Mountain, an independent chalet company specialising in what they call "non pretentious" luxury chalet holidays in Morzine.
They cater especially well for the snowboarding fraternity, organising several camps each year, including the end-of-season "Slushy Social" and a men-only freestyle camp aimed at blokes who want to improve their technique.
The Loft occupies the top two floors of a traditional Savoyard farmhouse, now transformed into a place of slick luxury. There's a games and a chill-out area on one level with a large flat-screen television, DVD and satellite, heated floors throughout, an iMac computer and WiFi running the sound system. The views from the balcony over the pretty town and soaring mountains are stunning.
My chalet hosts, Andy and Sarah, wasted no time inviting me to relax on the sumptuous leather sofas, where I drank champagne and ate canapés. Then it was on to the first gourmet meal of the week, washed down with wine and homemade toffee vodka.
It didn't take long before I was mentally redrafting my list of favourite ski resorts. The task became easier as I learned how splendidly connected everything is, thanks to an extensive network of lifts. The Super Morzine and Pleney ski lifts are just a short walk in snowboard boots from the chalet or an even shorter ride in the complimentary chalet pick-up and drop-off service. A fuzzy head dictated the latter option, using the chalet's private shuttle: an ex-military go anywhere and do anything Land Rover Defender called "The Baron".
As the lift rose through low cloud, I was greeted by clear blue skies – and the realisation that Morzine is but a small cog in a very big wheel. It is situated at the heart of the Portes du Soleil region. This is one of the largest ski areas on the planet, comprising 12 linked resorts on either side of the French-Swiss border, with 650km of piste and endless off-piste opportunities. And for snowboarders, Portes du Soleil is about as good as it gets: there are few drag lifts, a scarcity of "cat tracks" and few tough traverses to speak of. All of which means less time spent out of your bindings.
Terrain-park fans are also looked after with a 120m long, six metre-high superpipe and no fewer than nine snow parks, including the Stash, sponsored by Burton. Located above Morzine in the snow-sure resort of Avoriaz, the park is at the heart of a big expanse of ungroomed snow. What sets this park apart is that it has been built with the environment in mind and grown organically using only natural occurring obstacles: snow, logs, trees, tree trunks and rocks. It felt like I was riding a natural fall line.
Later on, I set about covering some ground. Everywhere I looked there was a glorious opportunity for fun: open powder bowls and tree-lined forest runs vied for my attention. And I never got lost. All guests at The Loft have the use of long-range walkie-talkies and Garmin GPS devices. Both quickly became essential daily kit. The GPS was perfect for tracking and reviewing my path across the mountain – and for seeing who among my fellow snowboarders could record the top speed (89.8km/h, since you ask).
Back at The Loft, Andy and Sarah continued to take care of everything with effortless efficiency. Both knew the snowboarding side of Morzine well, from shortcuts on the mountains through to shops where you can get a "dinged" snowboard repaired.
So my favourite ski resort and ski holiday type has now changed – and the reasons are simple.
The GPS record proves conclusively that the slow parts of Morzine and Porte du Soleil are few and far between. Similarly, through fine wine and excellent food, my knowledgeable hosts demonstrated equally clearly the pitiful limits of my previous experiences with self-catering chalets.
And finally, the absurd luxury of the Loft itself has probably spoilt me forever. Snowboarders, beware.
* The writer travelled to Geneva with easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyJet.com).
* More Mountain Holidays (00 33 68 60 21 805; moremountain.com) offers one week's fully catered accommodation at The Loft, including return transfers from £449 per person, based on eight people sharing.
* Ski Set ( skiset.com) offers six days' snowboard hire in Morzine starting from €107.10.
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