Morzine has arrived
From an ugly duckling to a snow-white swan – Morzine has transformed itself.
When we moved to the Morzine area, 13 years ago, it was a very different place.
Although awash with rustic charm and imbued with the authentic warmth of an old Savoyard village, when we arrived in Morzine it was very much an up and coming resort. The positive aspects of the resort: the enormous ski area, the close proximity to Geneva airport and resulting short transfer times, the fact it was, and is, a normal functioning town all year round; were all in place and were all part of the reason we immediately fell in love with the area.
In other ways the resort was lacking compared to some of the more illustrious and well-known alpine ski resorts. Many of the restaurants were a bit tired looking and unimaginative. The bars were often dingy and more like old east end boozers than what you might expect in a ski resort. The lift system, although huge, was often antiquated with lots of slow, two man chair lifts causing congestion along important links between the ski stations. The town centre, behind the tourist office, was a gravel car park surrounded by unattractive, dilapidated old buildings dating back to the nineteen fifties and beyond. There was no public swimming pool and no outdoor ice skating rink. There were no on-piste après ski bars to speak of. In many ways when we moved here Morzine was considered the poor relation of Les Gets, which was thought more chic and desirable.
In the thirteen years since we have moved here the town has reinvented itself.
All the charming original features remain. There are beautiful old Savoyard farmhouses and buildings in abundance. The old town, down by the river Dranse, is particularly beautiful with the St Marie Madeleine church and the town hall, the stuff of picture postcards. The melodic sound of the running river is a timeless constant.
Town centre and amenities
Behind the tourist office the main town centre has undergone a complete transformation. The old gravel car park has gone and a large, much needed, multi-levelled underground car park built beneath.
Above ground the tired old buildings, which surrounded the town square are gone. In their place attractive, low-rise buildings, clad in wood. In the square itself there is an open-air ice-skating rink onto which the quirky Coup de Coeur café (the perfect place for a coffee and a pain au chocolat) and various shops look on.
Around the square and the road leading to the square, trees have been planted and there is a stylish modern sculpture celebrating a local who invented the aerodynamic egg skiing position. The sculpture looks great at night with its funky illumination. The latest addition is a chiming bell tower just in front of the tourist office, which was unveiled in March 2014.
Nearby, down in the Parc de Dereches, which runs along the river, there is a fantastic new indoor swimming pool. A huge glass wall on the side of the swimming pool building means you can swim whilst looking out onto the falling snow and the, ever busy, super Morzine telecabine as it hauls people up the mountain.
Many of the old restaurants have undergone major refurbishment. The Chaudanne restaurant on the main road out of town has reinvented itself and now the chic distressed wood interior is a fitting accompaniment to an inventive modern menu. The downstairs wine-bar with its vaulted brick ceiling is one of the most chilled out places in town to go for a glass of wine. There is a table here where you can sit and look up through the glass floor as customers arrive, above you, through front door. It is probably not the best place to go in a skirt.
Closer in to town, the recently reopened La Chamade restaurant, looks very stylish and is constantly crowded.
As for bars there is now a bewildering choice of great places to go for a drink. The Tibetan Bar (previously known as the Buddha Bar) remains ever popular and reasonably unchanged. The recently opened Beanies, is a chic and intimate modern bar with a chilled out atmosphere and decadent cocktails. The Bec Jaune, another new addition, is a microbrewery, which does great burgers and has a relaxed lively atmosphere. It’s like a Shoreditch bar in Morzine.
Chez Roger, on the route de Bourg, remains very popular with seasonnaires, and is almost too packed to get into most nights. Bar Robinson is another popular seasonnaires haunt where many fall foul of the Mutzig challenge (drinking 3 pints of this 9% beer). The Dixie Bar, awash with big screens, is still probably the best place to watch a football or rugby match. There are in fact too many great bars to justice to here.
The choice and quality of bars has grown hugely since we moved here, and would ably compete as a venue for a good night out, with any ski resort in France.
Ski-to Après Ski
The Tremplin Hotel next to the Pleney Ski lift has become an excellent, ski-to après ski bar. With its huge wooden terrace and painfully loud thumping music it has given Morzine the après ski venue it had so long lacked. It is the perfect place to wash away the adrenalin of the day with a “serious” or even a “formibable” sized beer. There are frequently live bands and DJs.
Further along there is also the Aubergarde Hotel, which also offers the possibility of ski-to après ski. They also have occasional live bands and all kinds of summer events including the Morzine dog show in which Purdey, our golden retriever, won the “waggliest tale in Morzine” competition, and nighttime outdoor movie screenings.
For the start of the 2013/2014 season in Morzine, we had the opening of the new Pleney ski lift. A state of the art modern lift built to replace the old lift with its queues and awkward steps. It is brilliant. With huge clear-sided gondolas it gives an amazing view over the resort as it whizzes you up the mountain. Last year the new Prodains lift opened, another gorgeous modern lift, a cable car/gondola hybrid. This has made Prodains a viable alternative to Ardent as an access to the main ski area if you are arriving by car, minibus or using the free buses, which leave from in front of the tourist office.
All across the ski area new lifts have appeared as the resort constantly continues to upgrade and improve. Morzine has also invested in some the most extensive snow cannon coverage you will find anywhere in the French alps. So much so that when there is poor snow coverage across the alps, we sometimes get people being bussed in from some of the higher resorts to take advantage.
Worth mentioning though, thanks to it’s northern Alps location, Avoriaz, Morzine’s high altitude resort, scores as the top French snowiest resort according to Weather to Ski – an amazing 8m on average!
Despite the ever increasing recognition of Morzine as a brilliant resort it remains relatively good value.
The Guardian Newspaper ran an article in 2014, which found Morzine the best value resort in Europe. Morzine has a reputation for being a more down to earth, less pretentious resort than many of the other Alpine ski stations. In amongst the regional specialities: Tartiflette, Raclette and Pierrade, you can find fish and chips or Indian takeaways.
Morzine has arrived
When we moved here in the summer of 2001, Morzine was considered an up and coming resort. More than a decade later it has transformed itself. It’s new found popularity has led to the regeneration of the town centre with new shops and bars. Investment in the ski area with new lifts and extensive ski cannon coverage has reduced queues and improved the reliability of ski area.
It is safe to say Morzine has arrived and is now up there with best of the Alpine ski resorts.