Snowboarding: Board room

The Portes du Soleil has long been a favourite with British pro snowboarders. This rolling playground straddles Switzerland and France and boasts 650km of runs, 202 lifts and 14 villages – from Avoriaz's futuristic eyrie, to the haybarns of Champoussin, and Morzine, the largest hub. Six British 'locals' give us the lowdown...
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The Independent Travel

Inside Information

The Pro: Jenny Jones

This year Bristol's finest took a podium place at pretty much every notable snowboarding event around the globe. Jenny can be found in the Portes du Soleil parks whenever she has space in her hectic winter schedule.



The Shop Owners: GP Bellini and Amy Cooke

Stalwarts of the British community in Morzine, GP and Amy have 15 seasons in the area between them. They opened Slopestyle snowboard shop (00 33 4 50 79 07 81, www.slopestyleshop.com) in 2002.



The Camp Director: Gilly Seagrave

With fellow English riders Emma Rogers and Sonia Shaw, Gilly runs Our Camp: freestyle snowboard camps for ladies (www.ourcamp.co.uk). She has spent the past five winters riding and teaching in the Portes du Soleil.



The Artist: Jono Wood

A Morzine resident for over six years, Jono manages to combine parallel careers as an artist and professional snowboarder. His work has been exhibited across the globe (www.jonowood.com), and is used by snow, skate and surf brands.



The Coach: Hamish McKnight

Having done his time as a pro, the Edinburgh native is now Freestyle Coach of the British Snowboarding Team (www.snowsportgb.com), who are based in La Chapelle. This will be his fourth season in the Portes du Soleil.



The Chalet Boss: Jon Comber

Jon originally worked for Chalet Snowboard (CSB; 020-8133 4180, www.chaletsnowboard.co.uk; from £299 for seven days' half-board) as a guide. CSB was the first British company to cater to the snowboard market. Jon took over in 2004.

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Why the Portes du Soleil?

Jenny: Great terrain, a well-maintained park and pipe, and a location that makes it the perfect base for travelling. It's also a high-altitude resort – unfortunately, you've got to think about that these days. Morzine has an English influence, but still feels French; it's not too rowdy and has a family atmosphere.

Hamish: Avoriaz has the one of the best parks in Europe; comparable parks in Switzerland and Austria are too expensive and are more likely to be icy. We're close to Geneva, and in the centre of the European competition circuit. La Chapelle is less expensive than Morzine.

Gilly: Avoriaz has absolutely everything we need to run the camps. The beginner park on Chapelle is perfect for building confidence; it's not actually filled with beginners, but with riders of all levels learning new tricks on smaller kickers. This allows the campers to feel inspired by other riders, while remaining confident that they aren't out of their depth.

GP and Amy: So many reasons! The best parks, all types of terrain and a great nightlife. We opened Slopestyle because we wanted to offer the best choice of core brands to the expanding snowboarding community here. The shop has enabled us to live in Morzine full time: we get to snowboard every day and sell the brands that we ride and love.

Jono: My family came here many years ago to learn to ski. Over the years we've ventured further afield, but nowhere else seems to offer the vast amount of terrain. And I do a lot of work in Austria and Switzerland, both with art and snowboarding; it's great that I can just get in the car and drive there.

Jon: CSB set up here because the resort has always been very accepting of snowboarders; it was the first in Europe to build a snowpark. The freeride terrain is amazing: generally sheltered and less dangerous than typical big mountain off-piste.

Best pistes for beginners?

GP and Amy: Super Morzine. It's not too steep and there are wide, uncrowded pistes with loads of room. It's also a great area to get your first powder turns.

Jono: The Lindarets bowl. Nice wide-open runs to get those legs burning and mellow enough to not put fear in your heart, it's still my favourite run of all time.

Hamish: There's a tiny park in Avoriaz, Des Trashers, tucked away out of sight up among the apartment buildings. It has a few small boxes and mini jumps, and is never busy.



Best route for a Portes du Soleil cruise?

Jon: Get over to Switzerland via Mossette, loop through Crosets to The Wall, then spend the afternoon in the Fornet bowl.

Gilly: Go over to the Crosets park; it's not too far away, has jumps of all sizes and is usually uncrowded.

Jono: Best bet is to pick up a map of the 12 circuits découvertes (discovery trails) around the area, which are marked with different Alpine animals according to their difficulty.



Best spot on a powder day?

Jono: The best spots are trade secrets, but if it's snowing we generally head into the trees; there are lots of sheltered spots. On a blue bird day there's no need to hike for hours, so long as you get up early; some of the best powder stashes are just off the pistes.

Gilly: I'll be skinned for this, but I like the bowls off the back of Super Morzine, towards Lake Montriond. You must go with someone that knows the route or you'll end up too far down above a massive cliff – but if the sun is out it's a blast.

Jon: We all have different names for the places we ride. My favourite is "Pylon 29", from the top of the ridge down though Prodains.



Favourite runs?

Jenny: There are just so many... I spend a lot of time in the Arare park, but we like to take little jib runs down Happy Valley or what we call Spin to Win – officially known as Linga and Prolays.

GP and Amy: We always finish our days on Starwars, the run from the top of the baby park in Avoriaz to the bottom of Ardent. More hits than you can shake a lightsabre at!



Best place to eat?

Hamish: Changabang's [00 33 4 50 74 06 39]. It's a snowboard shop, it's a café, it has cheap-ish food – and it's right at the top of the Prodains cable car, close to the pipe.

Jenny: L'Etale [00 33 4 50 79 09 29]. It's got a really nice atmosphere and great meat.

JP and Amy: Les Marmottes at Lindarets is our favourite spot on the mountain: they serve warming soups and great omelettes.



Top tip?

Hamish: On bad weather days we head down to the indoor skatepark in Montreux [00 41 21 963 6455; www.empireskatebuilding.ch]. It's always empty and has a perfect 40ft wide miniramp.

GP and Amy: If you're visiting during holidays, make sure to buy a full area pass – that way you can avoid the crowds in the Avoriaz sector.

Gilly: Avoid long lift lines in holiday weeks by checking the Super Morzine lift in town first: as it's a bubble, the queue moves along quite fast. If this is really too long, get the bus up to the Prodains cable car, which gives you the option of waiting for the cable car up or walking up to the chairlift

Jono: The supermarket just off the pistes in the centre of Avoriaz does an amazing sandwich complet for a fraction of the cost of eating out on the mountain.

Jenny: Nurture Du Monde is a grocer's specialising in foreign foods; they have a English section for homesick seasonaires.

Jon: Always know where you are on the mountain; being in Switzerland at 4.30pm is an expensive mistake. It's a long taxi ride back.

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Traveller's guide

Getting there

Scheduled bus transfers from Geneva are €55,50 (£39) return (00 33 450 79 15 69 or 00 41 22 798 20 00; www.altibus.com). Shared transfers with Ski Lifts €40 (£28) one-way (00 33 450 75 83 98, www.ski-lifts.com).



Snowboarding there

Portes du Soleil (00 33 450 73 32 54; www.portesdusoleil.com). Lift tickets €39 (£28) full day; €189 (£135) six-day pass. Group prices and lower-priced tickets for individual resorts available.

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