By Sara Burdon
“Snow is falling, all around me” and yet I can’t stop thinking about next summer. There are more and more of us living in the mountains that love summer first and winter second. But are holiday trends following this?
I’ve been riding mountain bikes in the Portes du Soleil for over 15 years and have seen massive changes in this time. When I first came (on an old hardtail that suffered as much as me from a week of charging down tracks) the village and trails were quiet and women were a rare breed. Summer’s now more popular than ever, but why?
The area was put on the MTB map when the World Championships were held in Les Gets in 2004. Morzine and Les Gets quickly became THE destination for British mountain bikers. We started flocking here to take advantage of the huge lift system and the network of downhill trails, which provided all the fun without the pain of pedalling back up the hill. Every year more trails are added, all graded as ski runs, from green through to black.
Top riders continue to base themselves in the area to train between races. Recently crowned World Champ for the third time (one junior, and now two elite titles), top French rider and Les Gets ambassador Loic Bruni explains “It’s unrivalled for variety of tracks and conditions, so is the perfect training base in between races. There’s also a great scene, always lots of other riders around and a fun atmosphere in the evening.”
For non champions, the Pass’Portes du Soleil MTB weekend offers a great introduction to riding in the area. The 80km ride will give you a taste of what’s on offer in each resort and is a good basis for exploring. It’s seen participant numbers increase from 1,500 in 2004 to 7,814 in 2017. With 75% of 2017’s riders saying they intend to come back, what more do you need to convince you to give it a try?!
Road cycling has also grown over the years. Le Tour de France has had numerous stage starts and finishes in Morzine or Avoriaz, with the highlight being 2016, with not just a stage finish, but the coveted Etape du Tour. This is an event where normal folk like you or I get to ride a stage of Le Tour de France and suffer just like the pros – apart from having to get up and do it all again the next day, and the one after. 15,000 participants took part in the 181km long Etape. Thanks to events such as these, Morzine is seeing an explosion in road cycling tour companies using it as either a base for a holiday, or part of a tour. Something that was virtually unheard of 10 years ago.
And the latest trend in mountain biking, eBikes, offers something for those who want to tackle the easier trails in the valley or pedal across mountain tops and get further than their legs could carry them unassisted. The new eBikes offer added assistance to your pedal power (but be warned, it’s still a sport and you do have to earn your turns!). In short, they give you the legs of a Tour de France rider. Sound good? There’s a growing network of eBike-specific trails, with Bosch charging stations and a dedicated PDS eBike map, plus more hire bikes available every year. In 2017 there were over 300km of signed ebike trails in the Portes du Soleil and more are planned for 2018.
Bikes may be my main thing, but it’s not the only activity on offer. For families looking to keep kids entertained, a mountain break offers so much more than the standard beach holiday. For intrepid explorers, day long hikes will take you away from the tourists and into the peace of the mountains. Got little ones and don’t want to go as far? Take a lift up for a nice stroll along the top to a restaurant or picnic spot, taking in a 360 degree panorama as you go. Chill out by the pool or lake; go for a pony ride; have an adrenalin-filled high ropes afternoon; get wet rafting; or wander through the village. It’s easy to fill years of living here, let alone a two week holiday.
Families and non-riders were slower off the mark to catch onto the delights of a summer holiday in the mountains, but that’s been changing recently, too. In the past a mountain holiday was viewed as a potentially pricey trip, forking out for pool entry, lift passes and various activities. That all changed in 2009 with the Multipass. For just €2 per person per day, holidaymakers get access to lifts, pools and numerous other activities across all Portes du Soleil resorts. Just make sure you’re staying with a participating accommodation provider.
Those of us living here have seen summers get busier, but by how much? Summer 2001 saw just over 180,000 lift rides by mountain bikers, while 2017 went well over 1 million! As for the Multipass, in 2017 nearly 300,000 Multipass days were purchased, leading to 513,000 lift rides and 68,000 pool visits. And that’s without the numerous visitors buying lift tickets and pool entries instead of the pass.
Summer offers huge potential for mountain resorts. The infrastructure is already in place and many more visitors could be welcomed to the area. The Portes du Soleil was one of the first ski resorts to see the potential in summer mountain holidays and work to put in place activities and events. As such the villages are now buzzing in summer and have a life and atmosphere to them that is often missing in other “ski” resorts in the summer.
But don’t just take my word for it, come here this summer and see for yourself!
For a spectacle: Crankworx Les Gets 20-24th June 2018
From Whistler to Les Gets, the best known MTB event! The big names in mountain biking, DH races, a breathtaking slopestyle event, but also kids races where youngsters compete and climb on the same podium as their heros. Come for Crankworx and stay on for the Pass’Portes the following weekend.
This fun event opens the summer riding season each year. A ride of 80km through France and Switzerland, with 15 lifts to lighten the load, it’s as much as about the views and atmosphere as the riding. With eight different food stops along the route – think hog roast, BBQs, tartiflette and cheese fondue… mmm.
For runners: Spartan Race Morzine 7-8 July 2018
Are you a Beast? Spartan is the leader in obstacle racing. That means a run with numerous obstacles thrown in. Three levels of distance and difficulty means there’s a route for everyone except die hard couch potatoes. If you want real kudos, do all three.
For families: Morzine Kids’ Kingdom 16-20 July & 11-17 August 2018
A week of free entertainment and shows for children. From face painting to bouncy castles, to arts and crafts, to shows, to petting zoos, to games. No longer any need to wonder how you’ll keep the kids occupied throughout the holidays.
Sara spent years running bike holidays based in Morzine. She’s since worked in PR for the Portes du Soleil and Morzine Tourist Office, as well as spending five years managing PR and Marketing at Lapierre, France’s biggest bike manufacturer.