A Never Ending Summer

(This article was first published in our Summer 20 magazine, before the UCI MTB World Cup in Les Gets was cancelled and the summer season subsequently changed to end on 6th September 2020)

Humans have always defined the four seasons of the year according to the weather. But with temperatures ranging between 16°c and 25°c here in Morzine and the surrounding valley, we’re proposing to move the month of September into the category of ‘summer’.

September has a lot going for it. The days are still long, our lakes are still warm and those little ones, having enjoyed anything between six and eight weeks of freedom, are firmly ensconced back in their classrooms. September is a month to take stock, to appreciate the natural beauty of our surroundings, to have some fun before the long months of winter approach on the horizon.

Yet, in years gone by, you’d stroll Morzine’s Rue du Bourg in September in a ghost town. Cafes, bars, restaurants, shops, takeaways, all closed up for the long autumn interseason. It’s scorching but the outdoor pool is closed. The mountain lifts are closed too, so small groups of mountain bikers have self-propelled up and down Pleney, but there’s no après-ride beer to be found. That relaxed, friendly vibe for which our valley is so famous, has been packed up with the tables and chairs, mothballed until winter.

Extending our summer tourist season into September is an age-old discussion and this certainly isn’t the first time the topic has featured on the pages of our magazine. Countless meetings have been held; several proposal documents prepared, more than a few tempers have flared. Then one day, Les Gets won the opportunity to host the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup for several consecutive summers and the 2020 event (which was scheduled to be the finals no less, pre-COVID-19 chaos), just happened to fall in the second half of September 2020.

Our local lift operators responded, announcing an extended Summer 20 mountain bike season, deep into September. Oh how the locals rejoiced! Finally, lift-assisted riding, long after our valley’s family season had finished. Oh how local business owners rejoiced! Finally, extra weeks in which to generate vital revenue to make up for a slowly depleting winter season.

“Summer in Morzine is such a narrow window,” Tim Jackson, owner of Torico Performance Bikes explains. “I open my bike hire shop on the Rue du Bourg in May, but usually the season only runs between the end of June and the end of August. That’s just eight weeks of business. Morzine needs a longer summer season.”

But is there demand? The number of permanent residents in our valley has swelled dramatically over the last ten years, there would certainly be bums on lifts. But we all have bikes, and we all have lift passes, so there’ll be no extra revenue from locals. We need holidaymakers to come to Morzine, Les Gets and Avoriaz in September to make this plan work.

Local mountain biker Guillaume Le Lan founded Chablais Bike, a not-for-profit association, with this precise objective in mind. He wrote about it extensively in our Winter 20 magazine so we asked him for an update. “Year after year we see the number of mountain bikers increasing more and more,” Guillaume explains. “There were more queues than ever at the lifts last summer. During spring time, you can see how many people are riding bikes, impatient for the lifts to open,” he continues. But is this a case of ‘build it, and they will come?’ “There’s no certainty that mountain bikers will come this September because of COVID-19, but let’s not forget that pedestrians also use the mountain lifts too.” “Once again, if you don’t try, you don’t know, so we’re very happy to see the lift companies of Morzine and Les Gets try this year. Hopefully they’ll adjust their summer season dates for the following year.”

“Let’s look at the summer season in other mountain resorts across the Alps,” says Tim. “Verbier Bike Park run their summer season right into October. Elsewhere in the Portes du Soleil, the lifts of Champery always run well into September. There’s no question that we need to create demand for September mountain biking in Morzine and the surrounding valley, but it’s definitely possible!”

Morzine’s lifts are run by SA du Pleney, a private company at which Jean-Damien Baud is Head of Commercial. “This summer offers us a great opportunity to be able to open the lifts later into September and to increase our share of summer activity by extending the season,” Jean- Damien tells Morzine Source Magazine. “But this is a longterm job, because it’s necessary to welcome tourists with other businesses, such as hotels, restaurants, shops and tour operators.”

It’s the classic chicken and egg scenario. Will other resort businesses stay open, most likely at a loss, for a couple of extra weeks each September so we can all build an extended summer season together? “We work daily to develop our summer activity,” Jean-Damien continues. “We’ve made numerous investments to improve the customer experience on Pleney and despite the uncertain economic context of this summer, we’ve still invested as per our original budget for Summer 2020.”

There’s no denying this is a big ask and a big task. SA du Pleney could run the lifts of Pleney throughout September and Tim could open his bike shop too. But if there’s nowhere to stay, nowhere to eat or drink after an incredible day riding your bike, then what’s the point? That’d be quite a hard sell for those of us concerned with marketing our valley.

Here at Morzine Source Magazine we’d love to see a collective effort made to extend our summer season. We truly believe there is strong willingness to make this happen at the highest levels and an acceptance that losses may be made in the short term for a long term gain. As our winters become more uncertain and four seasons tourism appears on the horizon for many mountain resorts, can Morzine embrace this chance? We believe it can. Watch this space.

A Never Ending Summer
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top