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On Foot in Les Portes du Soleil

Located between Lake Geneva and Mont-Blanc, the Portes du Soleil has twelve linked resorts in France and Switzerland with over 470km of signposted paths.

by Rupert Parker
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The French village of Morzine in Les Portes du Soleil is one of the most popular resorts for British skiers and the entire area, straddling the France-Switzerland border, is a mecca for winter sports. Summer, however is becoming increasingly popular with paragliding, white-water rafting, canyoning and mountain biking all on offer.

Even the humble walker is rewarded with endless views of Alpine peaks, meadows filled with wildflowers and crystal clear mountain lakes. An added bonus is that many of the ski lifts are open, whisking you to the mountain tops with a minimum of effort. Even better, a Multi Pass, valid across the two countries, gives you free travel on 27 lifts as well as buses, swimming pools and other facilities.

Before I start hiking proper, I take an evening stroll on the Alta Lumina through the forest in Les Gets. This kilometre-long trail tells the story of the region with an imaginative light show using holograms, lasers and sound effects, with the trees as a backdrop. It’s not unlike those temporary light displays that many cities have staged in recent years. The good news is that’s permanent and open all year, although only after dark for obvious reasons.

Day 1 Le Pas de l’Aigle in Morzine

Close to the centre of Morzine, I take the cable car up to the Nyon plateau. There’s an option of taking a chair lift upwards but I opt to hike up to the Pointe de Nyon summit at 2019m. Here the “Pas de l’Aigle” viewing platform juts out 15m with a dizzying section of glass floor at the end. Below me is a 350m vertical drop but ahead are stunning views of Mont Blanc and Lake Geneva.

Trout Lunch

From here I follow a gentle trail down to Lac de Nyon Guérin and lunch at the mountain refuge, eating trout straight from the lake. I take the chairlift back to Morzine, then the Super Morzine cable car followed by the Zore chairlift for the next stage. This is a pleasant hike along the ridge to Avoriaz, sharing the trail with children on horseback, another of the region’s summer activities.

Day 2 Lac Vert and Champery

Avoriaz was created in the 1960s, with a focus on sustainability and is environmentally friendly. It blends in seamlessly with its natural surroundings, and the entire resort is car free. The joy of staying in a ski resort in summer is that the lift connections make getting around easy. I go down on the chairlift to Lindarets, then walk up a gentle uphill to Les Mossettes station where another lift whisks me up to the Pointe des Mossettes at 2240m. I’ve now crossed the border and am in Switzerland.

From here the trail winds around the mountainside and drops down to Lake Vert, a stunning mountain lake nestling at1,980m, the waters as green as its name. There are spectacular views of the Les Dents du Midi and the high pass between France and Switzerland, known as the Portes du Soleil. Another combination of chairlifts and gondola brings me down to the unspoilt Swiss village of Champery.

Day 3 Champery and Barme

A shuttle bus takes me up to the Alpine settlement of Barme, just a handful of farms and restaurants. The road is impassable in the winter, the village is only accessible on skis but today all is easy. From here I climb upwards to the Arete de Berroi where I gaze at Les Dents du Midi and Dames Blanche The ridge takes me to the Col de Cou at 1,921 m, the border between Switzerland and France.

Col de Cou

In days gone by this area was a prime location for smuggling, but it’s always been important for bird migration. At the end of each summer, around five million birds pass through the Col and only half of them will return the following spring.  I’m also returning to Barme along a different path. Back in Champery, the brand new swimming pool is the perfect way to relax my aching limbs.


GO: Return flights to Geneva from London Gatwick with EasyJet cost from £65.  

INFO: Portes du Soleil has information about the region.

The Multi Pass allows access to a range of activities and lifts and is priced from €2.50 per day.

Alta Lumina Enchanted Night Walk: tickets are priced from €19 for adults and €10  for children under 15 years.

STAY: One night at Hôtel l’Equipe in Morzine is priced from €95 pp, based on two sharing with breakfast.

One night at Hôtel Mil8 in Avoriaz is priced from €88 pp, based on two sharing with breakfast.

One night at Hotel National in Champery is priced from 105CHF, pp based on two sharing with breakfast.  

EAT:   La Chamade in Morzine serves excellent French fare with a range of cheeses.
Le Refuge Nyon Guerin, just below Pas d’Aigle has fresh fish from the lake.

La Crémaillère near Avoriaz has good mountain food.


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