Winter season in Portes du Soleil

During 2017 winter season in Portes du Soleil we:

Learned a lot – to ski again, to snowboard better, the portes du soleil piste map

Laughed a lot – with new friends and old we’ve had some fabulous times

Lived a lot!

Here’s my photoblog of our first winter season in Portes du Soleil after completing our chalet renovation.

The winter season in Portes du Soleil started slowly as we waited for big snow and it came in early January… so for the first day out on our snowboards, a white out!  Hooray!

and we had a great excuse to use our new, snow shovel to clear the drive when we arrived back home.

We didn’t reserve a table for our first visit of the winter season to our favourite mountain restaurant in Portes du soleil, Chez Nannon so, now as frequent visiting locals, we had the best table in the house!  A corner of the preparation table in the kitchen to watch being cooked and then enjoy Patates au Reblochon!

With beautiful sunshine the powder us snowboarders love disappeared so we took the opportunity to try skiing again, on perfectly groomed pistes.  After over ten years dedicated to snowboarding we were probably a little premature trying off-piste on the first day but it was very entertaining watching Adam put his ski back on!

After a few more days on skis and we joined friends over at Mont Chery for a beautiful sunny day with a little skiing,

a little drinking and then a lot of dancing in ski boots!  Well why not?screen-shot-2017-11-07.png

Some of the friends we met last year on a Back Country Snowboarding week came to visit so we loaded the snowboards…

for a few fun days of great boarding, great food and most of all great company.

The snow came again in February and after a day boarding on fresh off-piste powder

we were held up going home when we found friends at Happy Hours and an Ibiza DJ playing fantastic dance tunes for apres ski!  

A change of pace and activities with the visit of my nephew.  We celebrated my sister’s birthday with a few days of fantastic fun sledging, throwing snowballs, lots of cheese and cured meat feasts and a day teaching a five year old how to ski!winter sledging

When Max and Lucy arrived at the beginning of March we loaded the snowboards again and headed to Ardent where we know some great off-piste runs.IMG_4327

Fresh snow and our off-piste adventures tested Max’s snow boarding legs a little and we all had a fantastic few days in the fresh powder and out and about in town.IMG_4330IMG_4331

When the snow storms came again a few days later we experience skiing more on our own than we ever anticipated.   All lifts and pistes in Portes du Soleil were completely closed one afternoon due to an impending storm.

We would have been stuck in Avoriaz, several miles from our car, had it not been for a very helpful and thoughtful piste secour gentleman. When we explained our predicament to him, by the ‘piste-closed’ fence he was guarding, he swiftly attached two tow ropes to the back of his ski-doo and asked ‘Are you good skiers?’ ‘Good enough, we hope’ we replied.  ‘Hold on then’ he yelled as he accelerated his ski-doo up the closed piste towards our  home run in the next valley.  We grinned and chuckled at each other as we zoomed up empty pistes and past closed chair lifts.   I am not a good enough skier to have taken pictures whilst on the ski-doo unfortunately!  Maybe next time.

When he dropped us at the top of the, normally busy, Zore piste we enjoyed an eerily quiet and empty run back to the car with the wind occasionally blowing us to a stand still to remind us of the force of nature.

Mid March the ‘boys’ were in town for our annual ‘boy’s ski’ weekend.  We had dutifully been out, on glorious fresh powder I hate to say, testing ski runs, bookings bars and restaurants so that we could make the most of every day with the group.  IMG_4363

The bars were well and truly tried and tested over the next few days though we didn’t get to all of the pistes that we had planned.IMG_4365

we had some fantastic  scenery on the sunny days…IMG_4369

As usual an amazing, few days that left our stomach muscles sore not from exercise but from laughing so much!IMG_4380

No rest for the wicked – the following week was Rock the Piste! Live music concerts played at various locations in the mountains, on the piste, around Portes du Soleil.

Rock the Piste 2017 included Rag n Bone Man (he’s down there somewhere)…RagnBone man rock the piste

Matmatah, favourite of our friend David who donned his Bretagne flag/cape for the concert in support of his fellow Bretagnes.IMG_4392 (1)

Chinese Man (quite hard core for a Monday afternoon!)IMG_4396

On Friday friends Kieran, Matt, Sangeeta and Gina joined us for a skiing, drinking and dancing weekend and to see our absolute favourite, Caravan Palace perform at the top of Pleney ski lift…IMG_2062

We carried on doing our snow dances into April hoping that the white stuff would hold out long enough for our last visitors at Easter.

We persevered as the snow more that a little patchy IMG_4394and enjoyed riding with friends Angela and MartinIMG_4413

finally though it seemed more appropriate to be walking the hills in the sunshine IMG_4429

A sprinkling of snow saved the day for our friends Phil, Lucy, Andrew and Lenka and their families for their Easter family ski trip and our last few days on boards and skis for winter season 2017…IMG_4431

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Walking in Portes du Soleil

As soon as the snow disappears, normally early May, we are out walking in Portes du Soleil.  Walking in Portes du Soleil mountains from Morzine and Montriond has easy access and is very rewarding with amazing views across Haute Savoie region from many of the peaks.Morzine portesdusoleil summer hikingIn spring and summer the valleys and peaks are transformed by nature.  Verdant and welcoming from the valley floor to the rocky peaks where miraculously mountain flowers appear everywhereSpring mountain flowersand crocuses force their way through the fading patches of snow.sheepskinalps-walking-holiday1.jpgDuring May and June, the wonderfully peaceful ‘inter-season’ Adam and I enjoy a variety of walks from our home in Portes du Soleil.  Some walking out to conquer particular peaks and others simply a nice circuit along the rolling hills of the lower slopes.

Everywhere is well sign posted so, as long as you have an idea of where you want to head to, it’s easy to walk in Portes du Soleil without a map.sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil14.jpgWe have now completed/conquered the four main peaks that dominate the skyline from Morzine & Montriond; Pointe de Nantaux, Ressachaux, Pointe de Nyon and Roc D’Enfer.

Pointe de Nantaux was particularly daunting and rewarding at the same time and took us two attempts to conquer since the first time the summit was still very much covered with snow but in August 2017 we made it to the top with our friend David.Nantaux-summit-Haute-savoieThe sign at the bottom ‘KMV’ (kilometre vertical) gives it away that this is not the easiest of walks and this is by no means the roughest or steepest part.
KMV-walking-portesduesoleil1
In short the KMV is 1000m of ascent in 2000m of distance covered and then you have another 200m or so of climb and around 500m distance to reach the summit.

The arrow shows the top of the KMV (where I took the photo below), you may just make out the path directly below and the summit you see to the right is not the true summit….Nantau-Montriond-portes-du-soleil

IMG_4775The peace and tranquility, that we had all to ourselves (even on a bank holiday), at the summit was spellbinding.walking-in-portes-du-soleil-nantaux-summitNantaux-summit-montriondWalking the descent was harder on the legs though easier on the lungs and the scenery, with views across Portes du Soleil, absolutely breathtaking.  Oh to be the shepherd who gets to stay here!Sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil5Everywhere reminders of the power of nature.amazing-nature-walking-portesduesoleil

Pointe de Ressachaux is another must conquer peak when walking in Portes du Soleil. We set off reasonably early suspecting it was a 5-6 hour walk to the summit and back.   It was Sunday so, after several cups of coffee, 10.30am wasn’t a bad achievement!Sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil2As we huffed and puffed up and up through the forest we were embarrassed and just a little demotivated to be cheerily greeted by a group of pot-bellied, grey haired ‘ramblers’ striding down towards us at 11.30am.

In my halting French I asked were they returning from the summit already? ‘Bien sûr! Bonne Montée!’ they replied as they disappeared down through the forest.

A few corners later some very kind, and fit, person had made a welcome bench from a fallen tree…Sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil11We envied the French group, probably enjoying a menu du jour very soon but the tasty cheese baguettes in our rucksacks for lunch at the summit spurred us on. and hat a picnic spot it is.Morzine walking amazing viewshiking morzine portesdusoleil area

Pointe de Nyon, our favourite peak in winter for easy to reach, fun, off-piste on powder days and actually a deceivingly difficult walk in summer.
Morzine spring summer walk bike resortWe have walked from our home in Montriond, through town and up to the plateau du Nyon via the Cascade de Nyon which makes it about 5 hours to the top and back.IMG_4663On a clear day, as our next walk to the summit of Nyon, you can clearly see Mont Blanc from here…IMG_4659To make it shorter we’ve driven up to the plateau and walked from there which makes it a little more relaxing and leaves time for lunch at Chez Nannon.

You can even get the chair lift to just below the summit so that you can reach the amazing viewswalking-ported-du-soleil-Nyon

Roc D’Enfer lives up to its name Rock of Hell.

We walked from home which made the total circuit about 30km and around 7 hours. On the way to the base of Roc D’Enfer you have spectacular views, even Mont Blanc in the distance.walking Portes du soleil Mont Blanc viewWhen you pass the sign that basically says ‘ this way if you’re sensible and want an easy walk back to Les Gets or this way Danger of death’ you know you will have to keep your wits about you.

A steep, scramble over rocks takes you up to a narrow path along the long ridge which follows the crest where sometime it can be quite tricky to see where the path is.walking portes du soleil Roc D'EnferFor several kilometres the narrow path picks it way up and down the ridgesRoc D'Enfer walking portes du soleiluntil finally emerging into a mountain meadow and the long track back to Col D’Encrenaz and home with Roc D’Enfer looming large behind you.walking portes du soleil mountain meadow

Walking in Portes du Soleil is not all about ‘up’, high peaks and tough climbs.

We’ve had great days wandering in the valley and found virtually flat walks with friends and family by the river and around Morzine town using the suspension foot-bridge to avoid ups and downs.Morzine  - 6th July 2016The advantage of staying close to town is that there are always plenty of places for refreshments in the sunshine…IMG_3686and if you do fancy exploring and walking a little higher in Portes du Soleil you can always take the lift up.Sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil15

My favourite, relaxing rather than challenging, walking in Portes du Soleil has got to be around Lac du Montriond.  A flat walk with spectacular views in every direction and a bar at either end!

Sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil16

Similarly Lac du Mines D’Or is a short drive, up, along Vallee de la Manche and rewards you with amazing views, a short walk and the Chalet Freterolle just a little further up for a spot of local lunch…

walking-portes-du-soleil-lac-mines-d'or