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MORZINE (1000m/3,290ft)

The Skinny
Location:
Portes du Soleil, Alps, France
Elevation (max):
1170m (3840 ft)
Trails: World Cup downhill tracks, hardcore natural singletrack, mellow alpine trails
Lifts: So many lifts
Thread code: Full face lid, DH armour, big full bouncer, or baggy enduro kit for all day epics
Rider: Tim Davies
Location: Pleney DH course
Rider: Vince Kamp
Location: Pleney DH course
Rider: Vince Kamp
Location: Pleney DH course
Rider: Caroline Wingfield
Location: Pleney DH course
Dents du Midi
Why You’ll know why the minute you arrive in Morzine’s colourful town centre. It might be a premier winter resort but when the snow melts and the sun shines the bikes invade and take over. Wander the streets and you’ll see group after group of riders milling about, stuffing their faces or on their way to do another run. And they’ll all be wearing the same idiotic grin.
Although predominantly a centre for gravity-assisted thrills the best thing about Morzine is that there’s something for everyone, whatever your level or rig. It’s not cliquey or intimidating because everyone’s here for the same hit, however they choose to take it.

Morzine’s star attraction is the Pleney downhill track, a testing mix of high speed alpine pasture, technical rooty sections that demands concentration and rewards with thrills aplenty. Some people spend their entire stay sessioning this track to the point where they have it dialled to scary speeds. All very well but there’s plenty more where that came from whether you want super-technical, natural singletrack or flowing XC trails with views to die for.

What As part of the famous Portes du Soleil circuit of over twenty networked lifts, there’s never any shortage of riding from your doorstep in Morzine. First stop for many riders is the aforementioned Pleney downhill run, as used for the Avalanche Cup series. With the lift going from the finish at the bottom directly to the start hut at the top there’s no faffing about and you can quickly tot up the gravity miles in no time. Multiple line choices mean you’ll need a few goes before you get it dialled but once you do you’ll feel ready to take on the world. New lines are being added all the time so it’s worth trundling down on a sighting run and keeping an eye open for some of the more exciting off piste alternatives. Pleney’s main weaknesses are the amount of traffic and its susceptibility to rain – one quick downpour and it goes from wahey to whoah in no time.

The Pleney lift is also a good way to link in with the runs in Les Gets. You can hack around the golf course at the top to link in with the Chavannes run into Les Gets or branch left off the top section of the Pleney along a short section of road to join the tight’n’twisty Tennis Courts run. A blast in the dry and a serious challenge in the wet, Tennis Courts gets steeper, rootier and twistier the further down you go before spitting you out on the road just outside Les Gets. From there you can roll down the road and be back in Morzine in a few minutes or while a way some time on the runs in Les Gets.

On the opposite side of the valley to the Pleney lift the Super Morzine gondola is the gateway to some more great riding, whether you choose to plummet straight back down into the town or press on towards Avoriaz and Switzerland. At the time of writing the Zore chairlift linking the Super Morzine to Avoriaz was replaced by a bus service, a bit of a faff but preferable to slogging it up the road. If you like your riding natural in flavour head left out of the Super Morzine station and take a left off the fireroad to pick up the Super Morzine singletrack downhill. More or less following the route of the gondola it’s super steep, super technical and will give your skills a real workout.

If you fancy a bit more of a ride the best bet is to pick up the aforementioned bus to Avoriaz and drop down into Les Lindarets. From here you can pick up the Portes du Soleil loop and head towards Chatel or take a seat on the Mossette lift to the top of the downhill track into the ski station of Les Crosets, aka the Swiss downhill. The open hillside offers a very different feel to the tree-lined runs back in Morzine and there’s plenty of super steep sections to keep you on your toes. ‘Shore junkies might also want to check out the elevated trails that run under the lift out of Morgines.

To find out more simply ask about or get down to the tourist information office in the centre of town and grab the free map which has all the major routes helpfully marked and graded.

When Traditionally the Portes du Soleil’s lifts open the last weekend of June with the Freeraid Classic although Pleney usually opens a couple of weeks before. From then until late September fat tyres rule the town and you’ll find yourself in good company as riders flock from all over Europe. All over? Not quite. After a day hanging out in Morzine you’ll wonder that the French tricolour hasn’t been replaced with the union flag there’s that many Brits around. If you’re looking for a bit of Gallic flavour you can forget it, Morzine has been well and truly anglicised.

The summer weather is generally excellent with August and early September reckoned to be the most reliable for sunshine. That said rain isn’t unheard of and the conditions can change in an instant so pack a waterproof if you’re heading further afield.

The Freeraid Classic season opener is a great way to get to know the area . Check out the article on Bikemagic.com here and, if you’re feeling a bit more competitive, the Dragon and Avalanche Cup downhill series frequently visit the area.

click image to go to official site
Click on map for full Portes du Soleil Map
Where Whether you need some parts for your bike, some fancy new threads or simply a bite to eat Morzine has plenty of choice. The bike shops are well-stocked with all the consumables you’re likely to need and, while not especially cheap, can usually get you back on the mountain with the minimum of fuss. If you haven’t stocked up on body armour before coming you’ll find plenty of cheap Dainese on offer here, be it a pair of elbow pads or a full on shuttle suit.

The burger-joint across the road from the Pleney lift station is a great refuelling stop and popular day-time hangout for chilling between runs and swapping tall tales. A little further into the town you’ll find all the usual bars and pizza parlours and there’s a decent supermarket tucked in the bottom of the valley near the swimming pool.

Après-bike you’ll find the more popular bars clumped in the quarter between the Pleney lift and the Office de Tourisme; follow the ruckus if you fancy a wild one or chill outside and watch the sun drop behind the mountains.

Accommodation is plentiful in Morzine, catering as it does for the hordes of skiers and snowboarders who arrive with the winter snow. Summer prices are generally reasonable and again the Office de Tourisme can help you find something to suit. A special shout, however, goes to the Hotel Sporting for its fantastic food. A full on, top quality three course dinner is included in the very reasonable room rate and the portions are big enough to satisfy any appetite.

How Easyjet and BA fly to Geneva from where you can hire cheap Easycar A-Class Mercs or book a transfer to Morzine via companies such as Alpinecab
The journey takes about an hour and a half and, if there’s enough of you, can work out from only €22 each. Companies such as endlessride.com and allmountainlodge offer packages which include all transfers and guided rides to suit all tastes and make life easier.

If you’re driving from the UK then Dover to Calais on the Sea Cat (Hoverspeed) is a good option, around 160 nicka even in July! Its an hour across then it’s fast Autoroute nearly all the way from the channel ports. Reckon on around seven hours to cover the 550 or so miles from Calais if you keep stops to a minimum and plant your foot hard against the floor*. Check the AA routeplanner to plan your journey

.www.easyjet.com

www.swissair.com

www.hoverspeed.com

*Disclaimer: knowheretoride.com does not recommend you break the speed limit and does not advocate speeding at any time unless you are in a hurry to mountain biking in Morzine

KNOWHERETORIDE VERDICT
Loads of cracking trails to suit all tastes and abilities. With stunning views, good facilities and a bike friendly vibe Morzine deserves its reputation as one of Europe’s riding hotspots.
GOOD Lift access, variety of trails, technical terrain, British enclave in France
NOT SO GOOD Can get busy, crying out for some Whistler-style trails, British enclave in France
When it rains the whole place turns into a shit slide.
IDEAL RIG Race ready downhill rigs will get a work out on Pleney but a mid-travel freeride machine will let you get further afield
YOU'LL LOVE IT IF... You like a technical challenge and get a buzz from being at the centre of it all.
More info:
http://www.portesdusoleil.com/ete, http://www.morzine-avoriaz.com, www.bikemorzine.co.uk,
www.avalanchecup.com