Mountain Biking in Morzine

Morzine, in Portes du Soleil in the Rhône-Alpes, is the heartbeat of France's downhill mountain biking scene. Amie Marsh has this overview of what's on offer. (We have a separate article here on road cycling around Morzine.)

Champion downhiller Wyn Masters on the trails over Morzine. Photo: Damian McArthur Photography

Champion downhiller Wyn Masters on the trails over Morzine.
Photo: Damian McArthur Photography

Morzine a small farming town in the heart of the Portes du Soleil. Connected to 12 resorts via 24 chairlifts, it boasts hundreds of miles of cross country and downhill trails, more than any other European resort. It is a great base for a French mountain biking break.

The resort is only just over an hour's drive from Geneva airport, making it really accessible and a great place to visit for a weekend break as you can get up the mountain on the same day you land. There are lots of transfers between Geneva and Morzine for as little as €25 each way.

Many professional downhill riders make Morzine their home during the summer as the terrain and training facilities are so good. Morzine itself has lots of MTB shops which can provide mechanic services and top-of-the-range bike and equipment hire, as well as guiding and coaching schools.

Morzine is split over two sides of the valley: the Pleney side has some excellent single-track riding through the trees, as well as the main downhill run back into the town. The Super Morzine side of the valley is much rockier, and also has some excellent single track. Both sides of the valley have some great secret trails that are located off the map.

Around Morzine

As the Portes du Soleil is an established MTB resort, time and money have been spent on providing a variety of trails for all abilities. There are lots of cross-country (XC) trails and beginner downhill tracks, as well as some of the most challenging downhill tracks in the world.

The region offers some spectacular scenery and views as far as Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc. Due to its range in altitudes – 1000m to 2500m – there's some amazing tree-lined riding at lower levels, and exposed technical and rocky trails up high.

The main French resorts within the Portes du Soleil area are Champery, Les Gets, Morzine, Avoriaz and Chatel and Super Chatel. Champery and Les Gets have both held UCI World Cup races, while Avoriaz is home to the French National track; just over the hill is the Swiss National track in Les Crossets.

Lets Gets and Chatel have some well-marked XC and downhill trails which are ideal for beginners and families. These tracks include small obstacles and a small decline which make them ideal for practicing small jumps, bermed corners and getting some confidence to ride fast. Les Gets is also home to the Kona Bike Park and has lots to offer intermediate and experienced riders. There are tracks for all abilities, including the World Cup downhill track on Mont Cherry. The area is fairly low and offers lots of tree-lined technical riding, as well as jump tracks, 4X, north shore and skills areas.

Lac Montriond – perfect for a post-ride cool-off. Photo: Damian McArthur Photography

Lac Montriond – perfect for a post-ride cool-off.
Photo: Damian McArthur Photography

Avoriaz has some good XC trails that are suitable for beginners who want to ride a more varied terrain. It's home to some great downhill runs, including the French National track; this area is fairly rocky compared to  places like Les Gets. There is also a free airbag in the Linderets bowl for those wanting to practice their freeride skills. A short ride from the Linderets is Lac Montriond, where you can swim, sun bathe and relax after a hard day's ride before heading back to Morzine. Avoriaz is linked to the Swiss resorts via the Mossette lift.

Chatel is the other side of the Linderets bowl with some brilliant trails and a bike park with lots of drop zones, northshore, pump tracks, technical riding as well as fast jump tracks. Chatel has some of the scariest jumps and obstacles on offer in the region, but there are tracks for all abilities and over varied terrain. One of the UCI IXS cup rounds is held in Chatel, as well as some big mountain freeride competitions.

Super Chatel is across the other side of Chatel village and is linked back into some of the Swiss resorts. There is an abundance of tracks and trails here, particularly for the more experienced rider, with trails normally much quieter and in better condition than those in the designated bike parks.

A great way to see all of the Portes du Soliel is to enter the Passportes du Soleil XC weekend. This event is held over a weekend in June and riders can follow a set trail around all the 12 resorts. Food, water and some entertainment is supplied along the way.

The MTB season around Morzine

Lifts start to open in the Morzine area at the beginning of June and close mid-September. The alpine weather is normally quite hot, and a mid-afternoon thunderstorm is not uncommon. When it does decide to rain in the mountains, IT RAINS! Always carry a set of lightweight waterproofs with you, along with a spare tube and pump.

Books and maps

The Pleney side of Morzine has some excellent riding through the trees. Photo: Chris Frewin

The Pleney side of Morzine has some excellent riding through the trees.
Photo: Chris Frewin

Considering the size and popularity of the Portes du Soleil area, there is little in terms of quality bike maps available, particularly for the areas outside of the bike parks. There are two books, though, that between them cover the majority of trails in the area: Portes du Soleil: 53 MTB Routes is an English version of local guide originally published in French, while Morzine and Portes Du Soleil: Selected Downhill and Cross Country Mountain Bike Trailswas published by Bikefax Mountain Bike Guides back in 2005.

The Portes Du Soleil website offers travellers lots of useful info about the area. The local tourist office in Morzine is also a great place to get information once you are in the resort. Ask for a copy of their Mountain Biker's Guide, which has details of cross country, downhill and freeride routes. There's also a road-biking guide available.

VTT accccommodation in Morzine

Although most MTBers tend to plan their own trips, there are a few companies and organisations that can help you with planning a holiday and provide excellent bike facilities within their properties. See our bike-friendly accommodation listings for lots of options in Morzine, or zoom in to the French Alps accommodation map below.

In particular, see Brown Bear Lodge and Chalet Ellen. These accommodation providers know Morzine intimately and will be able to make local recommendations for routes and mountain bike activity breaks.

Bike hire in Morzine, mechanics and coaching

Morzine has lots to offer in terms of bike rental, mechanics and coaching. Alpine Sports Warehouse is centrally located in the town and offers a range of quality bikes at great prices. Morzine Mountainbike Mechanics is an independent mobile mechanic service that can collects your bike and delivers it back to you the following morning. They are often the only mechanics based around the Linderets bowl, meaning you don't have to worry about pushing your bike all the way back to Morzine when you have a problem. See our bike hire listings for more leads.

Coaching can be found at Shred Coaching, where beginner's courses, group and one-to-one lessons are available. 

See Amie's article on getting into downhill MTB in France, as well as our MTB blog.

Amie Marsh is the founder of Dirty Girls Ride, a Morzine-based MTB group for women.

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