One of the reasons we love Morzine, Avoriaz and Les Gets so much because of he multitude of ways to enjoy the mountains, and what we’re most fascinated with at the moment is ski joëring! This unique activity combines horses, skiing and an exciting opportunity to explore areas of the mountains that you’d never normally get to see during a week’s ski holiday. Avoriaz Ski Joëring is run by Phillipe Canteux and his daughter, Shinouk. We caught up with Philippe to find out a bit more about ski joëring and what makes it such a special thing to do in the mountains.
For those who don’t know, what is ski joëring?
Ski Joering is where you get pulled along on skis by a horse [but being pulled by dogs or even cars also come under the ski joëring umbrella]. It has a big history! It dates back to over 2500 years ago when it was used as a way of getting between towns during the winter in Scandinavia. Then after a while it became a competitive sport and gained popularity throughout Europe. Ski joëring featured as a demonstration sport in the 1928 Winter Olympics in the Swiss ski town of St. Moritz, and they actually still hold a famous ski joëring race there today. As skiing started to become popular in Morzine and Les Gets around the same time, there were a lot of farmers living in the area so they used their horses to pull people up the slopes so they could ski down, this was all before ski lifts were built, of course! And then in the 1980s and 1990s a few people in France and Switzerland developed ski joëring for tourism, as it’s such a great way to explore the less populated parts of the mountain.
How long have you lived in Morzine-Avoriaz?
I used to work as a physiotherapist in Morzine, but twelve years ago I moved to the Jura mountains and bought a farm, so now I live in Montriond during the winter and I go back to the Jura to run the farm in the summer. It’s a little complicated but it works for me!
How long have you been ski joëring for?
I started ski joëring about a year before I set up Avoriaz Ski Joëring, which I did about twelve years ago. I wanted to do activities with animals for people to enjoy and ski joëring was a good choice because it’s accessible and not dangerous. I thought about setting it up in the Jura but Morzine Avoriaz is higher and therefore a bit more snow sure. Plus, my heart has always been in Morzine!
What’s a typical ski joëring session like?
Usually a tour with the horses takes around an hour. Generally when people arrive they meet the horses and have a safety briefing, and then depending on how quickly they pick it up, and how confident they feel, that dictates the rest of the session. If they have good balance and a good position on their skis we can go faster, if they’re not feeling so confident we can take it slower. We’re constantly adapting the sessions based on our guests’ confidence and ability levels. And then usually the route takes us to a spot on the ridges of Super Morzine, where we stop to let the horses rest and take some pictures, and then we head back to base. It’s a really nice way to spend an afternoon in the mountains.
Do you need to be a good skier to do it?
No, absolutely not. It’s great for all levels, as long as you can stand up on your skis. We can take it very slowly if you’re not super confident.
What’s your favourite thing about ski joëring?
My favourite thing about ski joëring is getting to work with the horses. That’s my main job; tacking them up and getting them ready for their work. I love it.
What’s the general highlight of ski joëring for your guests?
I think for most people there are two main highlights, the first is getting to be in the outdoors and see all the wonderful nature away from the ski resort, and the second is the speed. The horses can get up to a gallop and it’s very exhilarating!
To find out more about Avoriaz Ski Joëring, view their Facebook Page or click HERE. Ski Joering tours are available by advance bookings only and prices start from €36 per person. We highly recommend you give this a go, it’s really fun and you get to see some amazing scenery!