FeaturesA break from the snow

A break from the snow

For some people the idea of a summer holiday is buckets, spades, sand and sea. Life in Jersey means we’ve already got that pretty much in the bag over the summer months. Whilst I understand school holidays dictate timeframes for many, I’ve long wondered why people head ‘to the beach’ for their summer getaway.

For the last ten years I’ve been pretty content to let Jersey’s beaches satisfy my summers and leave my ‘time off’ to the darker months, concentrating it primarily on as much time on snow as possible. Since my first snowboard trip to the Alps at 21, I’ve been getting more and more at home in the mountains and my waking dreams of air fresh enough to scold your nostrils combined with blazing sunshine on top of the world begin to creep in before August is finished and frequently last through to after Easter. Just as the season was coming to a close last year a London PR agency approached me with an interesting proposition; would I like to make my way to Morzine and experience what the mountains have to offer in the summer months? Of course I would.

Morzine is a great resort. Slap bang in the middle of the Port du Soleil, it’s one of my favourite resorts in the French Alps. Not only is it just an hour transfer from Geneva but it’s one of the most favourable for road trippers too as one of the closest quality resorts to drive to from Jersey; with good traffic you’ll do it in under nine hours. Whilst the charming Morzine village is quite low at 1000m, the new two year old Prodain lift takes you up to the wooden world of Avoriaz at a more welcome 1800m. Coupling the two areas and combining them with Les Gets and the available jaunts over to Switzerland make a region for winter entertainment that rivals its slightly larger Trois Vallées counterpart and without the premiums associated with Russians’ patronage.

It’s at the foot of the Prodain lift that you’ll find Au Coin Du Feu (By the fireside) – the flagship chalet-hotel operated by Chilly Powder, a Morzine based chalet operator run by Paul and Francesca Eyre. The couple met in Morzine while doing seasons and having saved and bought some land, built the chalet around Paul’s design in 1996. Now with several chalets offering both catered and self catered options, the business has certainly grown but still feels like a true family affair, with the couple and their three children as a walking advertisement for the benefits of the mountain lifestyle.

Great for kids
I thought it would seem odd arriving in Morzine with no snow on the ground but as we meandered up the valley in the sunshine flanked by the steep mountains and the buildings of Avoriaz breaking the skyline in front of us, I was already breathing deep and sucking in a new kind of mountain air; less snowfield, more meadow. Although it makes perfect sense that a high valley basked in sunlight would hold heat, I was taken by how warm it is up there in the summer. Arriving at the chalet feels like arriving at a friend’s house with an informal check in and relaxed atmosphere. Other guests were milling around and with daughter in tow, it was great to see a group of children playing happily in the garden. I’m getting better each year at the art of entertaining my daughter on all manner of holidays but, whatever I propose, I know it will be second fiddle to running wild with a group of like-minded three year olds. In addition to the great outdoors, the chalet offers both a crèche and kids club/playroom downstairs, allowing winter time visitors to get some skiing in safe in the knowledge that little ones are having a good time. For summer visitors it allows parents to experience the frankly shocking variety of entertainment on offer.

A mountain bike mecca
I’d seen the structure of the mountain bike course in nearby Les Gets on a previous winter trip but was amazed at the volume of mountain bike routes and mountain bikers that clearly descent on Morzine when the snow melts. I guess the clue is in the name but having grown up mountain biking in Wales, this was something else. Planned downhill routes, bike parks and cross country trails stretching into Switzerland and back, all served by the ski lift system for upload. It had been a few years since I’d been on a full suspension bike and the tech has certainly advanced with quick-adjust seat height and suspension settings that make it a breeze to adjust your riding depending on conditions. Our contact had arranged a guided morning of mountain biking provided by FB Freeride, giving guidance and advice on the trails and riding tuition for the newbie rider. We rode to Les Gets and back, arriving at the base of the new Pleney lift in Morzine in time for a late lunch in the sun before making out way back to the comfort of Chilly Powder’s afternoon hospitality. The chalet has a small bar that serves as a sanctuary for a mid afternoon tipple. When you’re on holiday it seem totally appropriate to sample local beers mid-afternoon.

Kids eat early evening and there’s time to get them to bed before canapes are served pre-dinner. It gives those without children time for a longer day or time in the bar, pitying those that have kids to settle. It took me quite a few trips to the mountains before I got to enjoy the luxury of the full catered chalet. Since then I’ve sampled a cross section of the quality available and can say that the offering provided to Chilly Powder’s guests is at the top end of what’s available but without feeling in any way stuffy. The menu is not only accomplished but also varied, incorporating mountain food influences but presented in the style of what you’d expect in one of the island’s better restaurants. We were staying half board and enjoyed the breakfasts, served in buffet style with hot options changing each day.

When it’s time for the staff to take a day off on Wednesday you can either head down to Morzine or jump on the Prodain lift to Avoriaz. We fancied something light so went for a great tapas at Le Coup de Coeur although if it’s your first time in Morzine I’d recommend sampling the whisky meat tree at the buzzing L’Etale or the burgers and real ale at local craft brewery Le Bec Jaune. Suffice to say you’ll be spoilt for choice!

I’m sure many people come principally for the mountain biking but that’s just one facet of the summer entertainment agenda. If you fancy getting wet then you’re in luck. The region is replete with water based activities. We donned our life-jackets and helmets for a morning of canyoning, which started with a bridge abseil and also spent a morning river rapid rafting with Frogs Rafting, a little outside town towards Geneva.

If you’re with small children or feel a little less adventurous then there are several pools. Morzine offers an outdoor pool right in the centre of town whilst Chilly Powder guests have the amazing Aquariaz, Avoriaz’z amazing indoor pool complex – complete with water half pipe, right at the top of the lift next to the chalet. With a full water based indoor play area and activity centre for children you’ll be getting a water cannon in the face before you know it.

If you fancy combining the two then Le Lac de Montriond is a great middle ground with a natural swimming pool and family canoeing and paddle boarding in an incredibly picturesque setting. It gets surprisingly busy so I’d advise taking a packed lunch or making sure you get in one of the lakeside cafes in good time before your kids make you realise how important a prompt lunchtime is for a hungry child.

Take time to fly
If you’d rather stay dry them simply walking or hiking the area gives some great views. A stop at Les Lindarets can’t help to entertain. Referred to locally as the goat village, it’s still a surprise to see the village positively overrun with the mangled horns of relatively tame goats, most of whom are happy to pose for selfies. Be warned, their horns are sharp and they get distracted easily so be careful!

Take some time to lunch with the goats and then carry on up the same valley to Chatel and head up the left hand Chaux Fleurie lift to find the Fantasticable, a chance to take in the mountain views whilst hurtling along 2523 metres of cable at 100km/h. It’s certainly exhilarating. If you fancy cruising down the mountain at more of a steady pace you could opt for a relatively tame toboggan run instead at The Pleney Luge. If all this sounds a bit active and you really need to slow it down, there’s also pony trekking in town!

A trip to Morzine in the summer was more diverse and enjoyable than I’d ever have imagined. The best review I could give is that our week last year led me to book two weeks with Chilly Powder this year. I’m slowly learning that the mountains needn’t be kept just for winter and, whilst our Jersey beaches are incredible, there’s always room for a bit of variety.

Summers at Chilly Powder half board start at €575 per person per week.
Learn more at www.chillypowder.com
UK 020 7289 6958
FR 00 33 45074 7521

We travelled direct with Blue Islands who will be continuing the routes this summer under their new Flybe banner. Book at blueislands.com until 31/5 and at flybe.com thereafter.

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