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Family holidays in Morzine

Family holidays in Morzine

Emmanuel Tresmontant - 2008-12-01

At an altitude of 980m, between Mont Blanc and Lake Geneva, this famous uplands village is devoted first and foremost to peace and quiet and relaxation.

 
Far from the glitz of Courchevel and the extreme skiers that you might come across in Alpe d’Huez or Chamonix, Morzine cultivates its image as a laid-back family resort. Here people go for walks on foot or snowshoes, ski through woods and, if altitude beckons, they can take the cable car up to Avoriaz, just under 9 miles away. Morzine also lives to the rhythm of the seasons, as illustrated by its fruit-picking and mushroom-gathering chefs, its herds of cows that go up to the mountain pastures, and its Reblochon cheese makers…
 
A skiing area open to all
 
Morzine is the birthplace of Jean Vuarnet, 1957 Olympic champion and creator, along with architect Jacques Labro, of the Avoriaz resort in 1966. Its skiing area is mainly aimed at fans of “easy skiing”, on account of the average gradient of the slopes and the beauty of the scenery that you need to take time to contemplate. Nevertheless, good skiers will enjoy descending the excellent “Arbis” and “Aigle rouge” red runs (in the Nyon-Chamossière sector, 2,019m) and the “Tulipe” red run (Le Ranfoilly sector, 1,850m). You can also make your way through a forest of giant spruce to the resort of Les Gets, renowned for its children’s facilities.
 
But for a full day’s skiing, I recommend the Franco-Swiss skiing area of Les Portes du Soleil which, from Avoriaz, offers no less than 400 miles of pistes (“the biggest skiing area in the world”, people say here). In spring, in Morzine like everywhere else, the snow, which is hard in the morning, gradually softens in the sunshine until it becomes slush at the end of the day! It is advisable, therefore, to prioritise skiing in the La Rosta (1,665m) and Ranfoilly (1,850m) sectors, where the snow remains of good quality. In Morzine, the artificial snow is 100% natural and chemical-free: it is made from water kept in artificial lakes, which is propelled by 17m-long cannons and turns into snow on contact with cold air.
 
Childcare
 
To meet constantly increasing demand, the municipality of Morzine decided to build a new daycare centre in the heart of the village, in a spacious, modern building. In winter, reservations should be made several weeks in advance, for week-long durations. Reckon on €97 for 6 half days or €169 for 6 full days, including meals.
 
Snowshoe hikes at the Col de l’Encrenaz
 
To get a real feel for the mountains, far from the marked pistes, I recommend booking a snowshoe hike with Véronique Fillon. Starting from the Col de l’Encrenaz (1,433m), this guide, who is as nimble as a chamois, will take you along steep tracks covered in thick snow that require a minimum level of fitness.
 
But you will be rewarded when you reach the Col Rati (1,923m), which offers a 360° view of the Mont Blanc mountain range and Les Aravis, and is a launching point for paragliding and ski sailing enthusiasts.
 
Inexhaustible on the behaviour of the mouflon and grouse, Véronique is also able to spot with binoculars a mountain hare (also called “Monsieur Blanchon”): a camouflage expert whose very broad hind paws act as snowshoes in the powder snow!
 
Alpine spa
 
What would a winter sports resort be these days without a spa? Opened in early January 2008 in Morzine, the 4-star L’Aiglon hotel has a brand new spa that is open to all. After a good day’s skiing, there’s nothing like plunging into a bubbling jacuzzi or a swimming pool with hydro jets! Sauna, Turkish baths, affusion shower, balneotherapy bath, UVA, 50-minute massages with essential oils or hot stones…
Spa relaxation package (Turkish baths, sauna, jacuzzi, swimming pool) for €25. One-hour Californian massage for €90, one-hour 4-hand massage for €150.
 
Discovering Morzine Reblochon
 
Reblochon is one of the most prestigious cheeses of Haute-Savoie, along with Beaufort Alpage, Tomme de Savoie and Abondance. I recommend going to see how this artisanal unpasteurised-milk cheese is made. To do so, on a Wednesday or Thursday morning go to the Fruitière de Morzine, which has, since the 12th century, taken the milk collected by all the farmers of the surrounding area. Today, the only Morzine milk producer has a herd of 35 mountain cattle (of the “Abondance” breed), which, from the month of June, go up to the mountain pastures to graze on rich grass. This herd produces 700 litres of milk a day, which is transformed into 169 tasty Reblochon cheeses at the Fruitière.
 
So, every morning the milk is poured into a large vat heated to 33 degrees and natural rennet is added to make it curdle in less than an hour. A cheesemaker cuts the resulting curds into small pieces. A yellow liquid then rises to the surface: this is the “whey”, which has always been used to feed pigs. You can then watch the moulding, pressing and salting of the future Reblochons. Ripening lasts for 2 or 3 weeks in a cellar with a temperature of 12 degrees and 100% humidity.
Authentic and handmade, Morzine Reblochon is a beautiful orangey yellow colour; it is very creamy and has a mild, hazelnut flavour.
 
Where to stay
 
If there is a dream spot in Morzine that is not to be missed, it is La Bergerie, a charming hotel founded in 1976 in the
 
centre of the village.
 
The rooms are cosy and have a kitchenette. Swimming pool, sauna, children’s games room, garden offering a fine view of the snow-covered peaks…
 
Beyond the material comfort, the soul of La Bergerie is mainly embodied in Madame Marullaz, the owner, who knows better than anyone how to make people welcome.
 
The breakfasts are as good and varied as in the luxury hotels (jams and homemade brioches) and afternoon tea, served at 5pm, is a tonic! (€14, hot drink and all-you-can-eat buffet).
 
Les Sept-Pieds slate quarry
 
Hard-wearing and a lovely light grey colour, slate has been Morzine’s number one speciality since the 14th century. I recommend paying a visit to Frank Buet’s mine, which is two centuries old. To get there, the road to Les Prodains (towards the Avoriaz cable car) climbs up a wooded coomb lined with beautiful big old buildings. The slate can be used – as at chef Thierry Thorens’s restaurant – as a tablemat or cheeseboard.
 
PRACTICAL INFORMATION
 
Tourist Office
Place de Baraty
74110 Morzine
Tel: + 33 (0)4 50 74 71 99
 
Halte-Garderie l’Outa (children’s daycare centre)
Chemin de la Coutettaz
74110 Morzine
Tel: + 33 (0)4 50 79 26 00
Full-day option: maximum 8 hours’ care.
Half-day option: from 9am to 1pm or 1.30 pm to 5.30pm.
 
Véronique Fillon, mountain guide
Chalet Namasté – Le couard d’amont
74110 La Cote d’Arbroz
Tel: + 33 (0)4 50 75 74 33
€20 for half a day (equipment supplied).
 
SPA alpin (alpine spa)
Route de la Plagne
74110 Morzine
Tel: + 33 (0)4 50 74 56 63
 
Ardoisière des Sept-Pieds (slate quarry)
Route des Prodains
74110 Morzine
Tel: + 33 (0)4 50 79 12 21
 
Fromagerie de l’Alpage (cheese dairy)
Route de La Plagne
74110 Morzine
Tel: + 33 (0)4 50 79 12 39
 
Hôtel de la Bergerie
Route du Téléphérique
74110 Morzine 
Tel: + 33 (0)4 50 79 13 69
 
Hôtel de la Bergerie
Route du Téléphérique
74110 Morzine 
Tél. : + 33 (0)4 50 79 13 69

At an altitude of 980m, between Mont Blanc and Lake Geneva, this famous uplands village is devoted first and foremost to peace and quiet and relaxation.

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