Other than Whistler in Canada, Morzine is one of the very few places on this planet I can truly label an adventure junkies paradise. In fact, I might even be prepared to label it the ultimate adventure junkie paradise.
Last summer I experienced the most dangerous Canyoning experience of my life. Not because the activity was particularly life threatening but simply because the company I chose to book with was absolutely nuts. I’m talking hanging me off a bridge with a single rope in his hands kind of nuts. Being the nutter I am, however, I particularly enjoyed it (my dad thinks otherwise, he thought we were going to die) and canyoning has ever since become one of my favourite outdoor activities. If you enjoy plunging yourself into mountain streams via a series of abseil descents, jumps and natural water slides canyoning might just be your kind of activity too. With the safety of a guide (or maybe in my case no safety whatsoever) you can abseil down cascades, splash into pools and ride the river rapids.
During the summer months you can also hire a canoe, pedalo, kayak or stand-up paddle board at Lac Montriond (which is absolutely spectacular). This activity is a lot more gentle than canyoning but its still getting yourself outdoors and taking part in some physical activity.
If you enjoy exploring mountain caves and their intricate tunnel systems you should try Caving / Pot-holing to trace the natural rock formations that have happened over time. The caves can vary in difficulty depending on which site you visit so don’t worry about being a beginner. Most of them will be in entire darkness so a hard hat and head torch is required.
Hydro-speeding is one of the newer water sports and is a fun and exhilarating way to get yourselves down a river. Using a large float, which bears resemblance to a bodyboard you will find yourself hurtling down the rapids. It is quite a physically demanding activity but allows you to experience the unique sensation of surfing down white water rivers.
My first Paragliding experience took place in Morzine and it was so fun. You take off high up in the mountains and glide down to the bottom of the valley on a tandem paraglider controlled by an instructor. He manoeuvres the parachute whilst you sit back and enjoy the ride and spectacular views (unless you’re scared of heights, then you sit back and pray it will be over soon).
Now for the ultimate Morzine adventure activity, Downhill Mountain Biking. Just like Whistler, in the summer months an abundance of bikers travel from all around the world and gather in the small town to do what they do best. With thousands of kilometres of hills and cross country trails plus an extensive lift system, bike park and mountain scenery it is obvious why Morzine has quickly become a mecca for mountain bikers.
There is a highly developed network of trails from beginner to pro (I tried downhill here for the first time in my life and was left with multiple bruises, cuts and wounds from the many bushes and trees I very ungracefully crashed into). One of the coolest things about downhill in Morzine is how you can ride from France into Switzerland and back without even realising by following the trails. Don’t worry about equipment you can find plenty of shops that rent bikes and equipment.
One of the best known mountain bike events also takes place in Morzine. It is called the Pass’portes du Soleil and you ride the whole 80km circuit or smaller portions of it if you’re up for it. It is also host to both the French and the Swiss national competitions as well as the Champery World Cup downhill tracks which are sure to test even the most accomplished of riders. Plus there’s the Chatel Mountainstyle (or Slopestyle) competition where you get the world’s best free riders converging on the resort for the weekend and the Avoriaz roof style competition where there’s a mix of locals and pros showing off their best moves.
Other activities to look out for:
- Diving and Snorkelling
- Helicopter Tours
- Hot-air ballooning
- Ice skating
- Walking & Hiking
- Whitewater Rafting
One would think that Mountain Biking would stop once the snow covered the trails but in Morzine biking never stops. You can seriously race down the slopes once the pistes are closed on a mountain bike.
The most obvious activity would definitely be Skiing and Snowboarding. The Portes du Soleil ski area contains 462 kilometres of pistes across 12 resorts over France and Switzerland. Morzine and Les Gets are the tree-lined beginner spots.
Avoriaz and Crozets have some of the best snow parks in the Alps, Europe’s first Burton Stash and a halfpipe. Intermediates and above will appreciate the vast range of Avoriaz which has nearly 250km of reds and blues to choose from. It also offers some tougher terrain with runs on the Hauts Forts and down to Les Prodains which is part of the World Cup downhill course. One of Europe’s toughest mogul fields is the notorious “Swiss Wall” that links France to Switzerland via 300m of some of the toughest bumps around. Chatel / Pre la Joux & Linga Ski Area are two distinct areas of the Portes du Soleil but are the best after heavy snowfall. There are great open powder fields in both sectors and even some gentle slopes to test snow-pack stability whilst still getting fresh turns. Les Gets is the best for cruising pistes whilst absorbing the stunning panoramic views from the top of Mont Chery. This area is the best for beginners. The Morzine Ski Area has mostly gentle blue and red tuns but there is also a black run. There is also St Jean D’Aulps Ski Area and the Swiss Side of Portes du Soleil Ski Areas.
If you’re extremely brave you can try Ice Diving into the icy cold waters of Lac Montriond and experience the thrill of diving under the icy layers above (you’d have to be crazy to get into the water). Explore the water, wildlife and ice formations found in the freezing water.
Other activities to look out for:
- Cross-country Skiing
- Helicopter Tours
- Ice Climbing
- Night Skiing
- Snow parks for ski and snowboard freestylers
I think its fair to say that Morzine offers the greatest range of outdoor activities and certainly the most adventurous ones. Its quite funny to think that the place with the greatest abundance of activities is the place most people have never heard of. If you haven’t and are an extreme sport kinda person I’m sure you’re already looking it up for yourself.