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Portes du Soleil: the New Home of Trail Running in the Alps?

It’s finally happened. No longer will you have to just start running and hope for the best; Morzine, Avoriaz and the entire Portes du Soliel have started to put some serious investment into their trail running network.

If you’ve never tried trail running, let me, a former running-hater, tell you: it’s actually really good. And not just because equipment is cheap(er than buying snow and bike gear) and it’s free. It’s a great way to see the mountains using just the power of your body AND it’s really good for you.

Plus, running downhill is really fun.

According to a review in medical journal, Progress in Cardiovascular Disease, regular running increases your life expectancy by around three years, and massively reduces your risk of dying from a stroke or heart attack. You don’t even need to fun fast or for a long time. And of course, it works all the muscles in your legs that you use for snow sports, mountain biking and road cycling.

Image © Olivier Saiz

Anyway, trail running is massive in the Alps. Nearby running mecca, Chamonix, is just down the road, and trail and ultra races are held in Haute-Savoie most weekends throughout the summer. While the Portes du Soleil isn’t quite as well-known as Chamonix in its running ubiquity, Morzine-Avoriaz is hot on its trail (pun absolutely intended).

Our little town already hosts the Trail des Hauts Forts, a qualifier for the UTMB (Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc), the Reebok Spartan Race, a gruelling obstacle race that spans from sprint-length to 40km+ beast-length, and the KMV, an exhausting vertical kilometre reserved for experts only. It’s even a candidate to host the Spartan European Championships in 2018.

But mainly, Morzine-Avoriaz is set on making trail running accessible to everyone. There is a huge range of terrain at your feet form Morzine, even more from Avoriaz. Thanks to new dedicated running trails, there’s now over 400km of easy-access marked tracks across the PDS, plus a website and a smartphone app to help you find them. Some trails even make use of the lifts, allowing you to cover more ground and access more amazing views.

Image © Christian Max

Morzine Mountain Running is a website dedicated to exploring the mountains on foot, providing easy-to-follow routes in and around Morzine, as well as advice and information on races. It even has a Facebook group for keen runners looking for training buddies. All these routes and more across the PDS are also available on Trace de Trail, a super handy (and free) smartphone app that helps you plan your routes and track your progress. It also alerts you if you start heading off-trail (easily done), lets you check the weather, provides access to emergency service numbers and ski lift opening times.

With six levels of difficulty, ranging from super easy (think loops around the Dereche) to super-difficult (the marathon-length Trail des Hauts Forts route), Morzine, Avoriaz and the entirety of the PDS really do have something for everyone when it comes to running. We may not be seeing an Ultra-Trail des Portes du Soleil any time soon, but hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more people enjoying the trails and scaling the peaks.

 

If you’d like to give trail running a go or start training for a race, Edwina Sutton is a professional ultra-runner and coach based in Morzine. She also helps run Morzine Running Club, check it out!

Portes du Soleil: the New Home of Trail Running in the Alps?
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