Charming French resort of Morzine is the perfect base for winter sports fans

Les Portes du Soleil is a major ski area in the Alps
Les Portes du Soleil is a major ski area in the Alps

Then, what seems just a minute later, they are learning to walk, ride a bike, ski maybe, then, in a flash, they have left home!

Our son, Matthew, is on a gap year and spending part of the time working as a chalet host in Morzine, in the Portes Du Soleil (Gates of the Sun) area of the French Alps.

Friends kept asking if I was going to visit and my reply was always: ‘Try stopping me’.

Anxieties about embarrassing him or cramping his style are non-existent and when I received an invitation to stay in a gorgeous chalet quietly located on the edge of the town for a long weekend, I couldn’t have been happier.

Originally a small farming community, Morzine has all the charm you’d expect from a traditional French resort.

Although no longer a small village, it has retained its original character thanks to the beautiful, classic wooden and slate chalets dotted around the valley floor.

Many streets are not accessible by car, so horses and carts clip-clop around to add to the atmosphere.

Swishing across the spruce-lined slopes that surround the valley is relaxing and scenic.

It’s not a destination for someone looking for an adrenaline-fuelled break, but don’t forget it is part of the huge Portes du Soleil ski area, which includes 12 ski resorts, two countries (France and Switzerland) and 650km of pistes.

Les Gets and Avoriaz are within easy reach. With so much skiing on its doorstep, there is a lot of choice, so it’s a good resort for groups of mixed abilities.

Matthew’s gap year has turned out better than expected. He really is living the dream.

It is hard work – he hardly has time to sit down, if he is not working he is skiing!

So he is busy, but loving it – meeting people, making fab friends.

The chalet he is working in is absolutely beautiful as is the chalet where I stayed.

The Retreat is a 19th Century farmhouse, beautifully restored and recently transformed into a lavish chalet.

The rustic, open-plan living space is so inviting, the fantastic central fireplace perfect on a snowy evening.

The decor is gorgeous, offbeat, with a cosy, boho vibe.

A decadent lounge area was much appreciated by me. I wasn’t there to go out clubbing – snuggling down to read or watch a movie is more my thing, especially after a long day skiing.

Dining is on a catered chalet basis, meaning you will enjoy a continental-style buffet breakfast with an optional hot dish, a very welcome afternoon tea, pre-dinner drinks and canapés as well as a four-course evening meal with wine. No cooking or washing up for four days is heaven!

The complimentary shuttle bus is no hassle, it takes you to a little-known, quiet starting point, the Ardent Lift, where there are no queues in the morning.

I’m used to being able to ski to my door, but I’m also used to beginning my day in quite a long queue, so that was a nice surprise.

From these lifts, you can avoid the crowds over in Morzine and have direct access to the Linderets Bowl in the heart of the Portes du Soleil ski area – the largest internationally connected skiing region in the world.

At the end of the day you can ski back down a moderate blue run, or catch the lift, and sample the après bar and restaurant at the Ardent lifts before taking a complimentary shuttle back to The Retreat.

The Retreat is owned and run by an ingenious company with more than 20 years experience called flexiski, who specialize in tailor-made ski holidays.

They don’t sell off the shelf packages, but rather, take the time to listen to your thoughts and then build a holiday that fits your requirements exactly.

Short breaks can be tricky to organize, but flexiski make bespoke easy.


Facts

  • flexiski offer three or four-night ski breaks at The Retreat in Morzine, on a chalet board basis, available from £345 per person, including a twice-daily shuttle bus to and from the lifts. flexiski.com
  • Flights, transfers and extras can all be booked to suit individual requirements.
  • The nearest airport is Geneva. easyJet fly to Geneva from many UK airports easyjet.com
  • A chalet cooks course at the Orchards Cookery School starts at £700 for a week orchardscookery.co.uk

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