As the temperature rises, and the snow gives way to grass and wild flowers, the mountains of Morzine and the Portes du Soleil are transformed from a winter playground to a summer one, as locals and visitors swap their skis and snowboards for bikes. Welcome to the mecca of France’s mountain biking scene.
With 600km of trails across 12 linked resorts, the Portes du Soleil is the one of the world's biggest mountain biking areas, and one of the most varied, too. From enduro and cross-country bike trails, to World Cup-level downhill bike trails, to family mountain bike trails, there is something for everyone.
If you enjoy your biking to be gravity-focused, head up to Super Morzine, where the Avoriaz trail crew provides some of the finest downhill bike park riding in Europe, with well-maintained trails of every level. Beginners can practice their technique on the gentle green trails with their smooth, perfectly-sculpted berms. Meanwhile, expert riders can push their limits on the blues, reds and black, with its steep forested sections and huge jumps.
Many riders also flock to Morzine for the renowned downhill mountain bike trails on the Pleney. Famous for France’s first permanent DH track it continues to attract World cup racers and holidaymakers alike.
If, perhaps, your favourite type of riding is to avoid sculpted bike parks and to explore your surroundings – and you aren't afraid to pedal – there are plenty of cross-country bike trails throughout the Portes du Soleil. One of the most popular cross-country bike trails is located in Les Gets: the Tour de Mont-Chéry. It is a 13km route for experienced riders that takes in beautiful Mont Caly (pause for a snack and for views of the Mont Blanc) and features a fun, twisty descent to Col de l'Encrenaz, before leading you back to Les Gets.
As thrilling as cross-country bike trails are, the distance involved often means they are too much for little legs – but there are several family mountain bike trails dotted throughout the area. One of the most easily accessible and child-friendly family mountain bike trails is the footpath that borders the Dérêches river, which runs through the middle of Morzine. It begins by the swimming pool and winds all the way to St Jean d’Aulps, on both sides of the river, with several bridge crossings en route.
Taking the Pleney gondola from the heart of Morzine also gives you access to a few blue family mountain bike trails – one is even called 'Family'. But for the largest network of greens and blues, use the Pleney gondola to ride over to the Chavannes and Nauchets side of Les Gets. Here you’ll find flow trails with every type of jump-size and turn-shape to help the whole family hone their skills.
As confidence grows, and you desire some variety, you can venture further afield from the Super Morzine gondola, from Lindarets towards Châtel or Les Crosets, or even as far as Morgins. Locals favour these areas when they are looking to escape busier times of the season, or when they want to link trails together with some brief pedals, enduro-style, and experience the awesome scale of the Portes du Soleil.
If your children need a little assistance on a family mountain bike trail, or perhaps you are keen to explore some enduro and cross-country bike trails with less effort, consider swapping leg-power for battery-power. The Portes du Soleil is embracing the e-bike revolution; most of the bike shops in town have e-bikes for rent, and there are battery-charging stations located around the town and mountain. There is even a Bosch ‘Uphill Flow’ trail on Super Morzine, the first of its kind in France. Designed to replicate the fun of a downhill trail, while going uphill on an e-bike, it features steep curves, small tables and jumps.
At the other end of the spectrum, if the leg-burn of an uphill climb is what makes you most happy, you’ll be pleased to hear that Morzine is a haven for road cyclists. There are 16 mapped itineraries starting from town covering over 1000km, and 25 mountain passes within 50km. One of the most challenging and picturesque passes is the Col de Joux Plane. Linking Morzine with Samoens, the steep 11.6km-long route climbs 989m in height and has featured several times in the Tour de France. There are fantastic views of Mont Blanc en route.
For riders looking to improve their mountain biking skills, or to enlist the help of a guide to show them around some of the best local trails, there are several mountain bike schools and instructors
in the area.
Where will your two wheels take you this summer?