A mountain biking Mecca, but Morzine isn't just for the time-served trailblazers
If you’re dreaming of turning your summer holiday into some quality time with your mountain bike, then Morzine is the place to go.
Back to the old school
Kath Hudson gives us the heads up…
Rolling into Morzine in the summer is a surreal experience. It has the same vibe, excitement and beauty as a ski village in the winter, but bikes are hanging off the back of the lifts and parked outside of restaurants. People are wearing shorts, t-shirts, and full face helmets and the shop windows are full of biking gear. It’s all very familiar, while being completely different.
Located in the world’s biggest mountain bike area, Portes du Soleil, Morzine links with Les Get and Avoriaz to provide 600km of trails accessed from 24 lifts. It was one of the first resorts to open to mountain bike riding and remains one of the best – professional riders often train there and this year it will host a World Cup cross country and downhill race, last year Les Gets hosted Crankworx.
Last summer we decided to add a visit to our family holiday and discovered big swoopy descents, huge berms, rooty tracks through the woods opening onto spectacular mountain vistas, which make your heart soar. There are jumps, tables, boners, bike parks and Enduro lines – more than enough to keep seasoned riders happy, but also plenty of greens, accessible blues and fire roads for the less confident, and great road cycling. Our days were adrenalin fuelled from start to finish, with the ever present sound of cow bells.
This is what you need to know to hit the ground running…
Where to ride
If you are an uber confident downhiller then you can happily head off up any lift, but if you have someone with limited skills in your party (like me), you need to check the piste map. Atray, a blue which leads off Le Pleney lift is ideal for building confidence.
By the second day, all four of us were happy to tackle the reds at Les Gets, accessed by Nauchets Express. Chavannes Express takes you from the bottom of Les Gets almost to the top of the mountain, and gives a choice of green or red on the way down.
The 2018 price for lift passes was €5 per lift, or €27.50 per day, for an adult. Buying more days reduces the daily rate, if you find a run you love and want to keep doing it, or plan to be out all day, a lift pass is the best option, but you can get a decent amount of riding in by buying a couple of lift passes.
For example, you can buy a pass for Le Pleney, ride down to Les Gets, on a blue, buy a pass to the top of the mountain on the Chavannes Express and ride back down to the bottom of Morzine, on a not too difficult red.
Alternatively, you could do the cross country loop via Linderettes – a scenic village full of free range goats, (as well as a shop selling goat skins.) This involves buying passes for the Super Morzine and Zore lifts and following a marked route, which brings you back to Morzine via Lac Montriond.
The scenery is spectacular, but this circular ride does require a bit of pedalling as well as road. It is less well made than the main downhill tracks with some sharp, rocky descents, and it’s not always that well signposted, so take a map.
What to take
There are 25 hire shops with a massive choice of great bikes, as well as all the armour. If you’re able to take your own bike, make sure it is serviced beforehand and take as many spares with you as you can. Everything costs a premium and some things you can’t find – my husband couldn’t replace a brake lever and had to hold it in place with a hair band. We were concerned our hardtails wouldn’t be up to the job, but they were fine and saved us loads on bike hire.
Full face helmets, elbow, knee pads and gloves are a minimum for protection. When you go up the mountain, the Morzine tourist board recommends taking a backpack with a bladder, energy bars, a piste map, phone, a multi-tool, a puncture repair kit and a couple of inner tubes with tyre levers, as well as disinfecting spray, dressings, bandages, medical tape, eyebath and suncream. We also needed arnica, Ibuleve, ibuprofen, paracetamol, rehydration tablets and blister plasters.
Plan for emergencies
Don’t forget to buy appropriate downhill insurance, as well as making sure your bike is insured. Carry a charged mobile phone with the emergency number (112) in your contacts. There are number markers on the trails which you can quote if you need to be rescued.
Check the weather before you ride and take appropriate clothing, as it can go from being swelteringly hot to feeling like you’re back in Wales very quickly.
Where to stay?
We assumed camping was the cheapest option, but thanks to Airbnb there is no need. There is such a lot of accommodation in Morzine that it’s easy to find an apartment, with parking, which isn’t much more expensive than camping, allows you to save money by self catering and avoids the not unusual thunderstorms. We ended up staying in a nice little place owned by Greg Minnaar’s mechanic. If you’re driving, stop off in Cluses for supplies, or even bring it with you.
If you’re on your own, or with a mate and want to be sociable, the Hideout Hostel is a great place to stay with a choice of shared dorms or en-suite rooms, bike storage, friendly staff and a delicious Asian Fusion menu, which is a refreshing change to the samey menus in the rest of the village.
What else is there to do?
There is masses to do besides cycling, which could be the clincher for getting buy in from the rest of your family to go on holiday, if they’re not keen on shredding.
Morzine offers a multi activity pass which costs €2 per person if you buy it for the duration of your holiday or €9 per person for just one day. This gives discounts for loads of the other activities on offer, including the open air swimming pool, the summer luge, paragliding, and free access to many of the lifts if you are walking, tennis courts and indoor ice rink.
The summer luge and Wibit aqua park were great fun to do on our day off, when we were aching from riding!