Portes du soleil

Mountainbike routes

The Portes du Soleil is the biggest mountainbike area in Europe, it truly deserves the mekka status, every mountainbiker should go here at least once.
The Portes du Soleil consists of a couple of smaller bike parks that are linked together by trails and lifts. You can easily spend a week here without using your car.
The three main mountainbike area’s of the Portes du Soleil are Les Gets, Morzine and Chatel, then there are also Les Lindarets, Champery, Morgins, Torgon and Les Crosets. Each of these trails area’s has it’s own character, from easy and flowing to steep, slippery and a lot of roots.
Morzine is the central hub that connects these areas, that is why most people choose to stay there.
Besides the waymarked trails there are also a lot of “off piste” trails. For some riders these unofficial trails are the main attraction of the Portes du Soleil, they are usually on the steeper and more difficult side of the spectrum. You will be able to find some trails by yourself, but to get the best you will need a guide with a lot of local knowledge.
Others come for the Pass’Portes du Soleil which is more of an All Mountain tour, that takes you past all the different areas. This event is the season opener, where you will ride the tour with a lot of people or you can ride it by yourself during the rest of the season.

Mountain biking in Portes du soleil

Pro’s

  • The biggest mountainbike resort in Europe
  • A lot of different trails.
  • With different characters from easy flow trails to big jump lines or steep natural trails
  • Great atmosphere
  • Fast lifts.

Cons 

  • The easier trails have a lot of brake bumps
  • During the weekends there will be queues for some lifts (mainly in Morzine and Chatel)
  • The best trails aren’t signposted.

The village

Morzine is the main hub, during the summer everything revolves around mountainbiking. Other popular places to stay are Les Gets and Chatel.
During the winter these are popular ski resorts, so you will find everything you need to enjoy your holiday, from swimming pools to restaurants and shopping.
Within the villages you will mainly find apartments and hotels, surrounding the villages are plenty of (self catering) chalets, if you prefer a bit more space and quietness.

Hotels and apartments

Booking.com

Campings

Camping Le Frene is above Les Gets you can roll down from the Mt. Chéry lift, but if this lift isn’t running because of a thunderstorm or you forgot the time during après bike, then it’s quite a lot of hairpins to get back up.
But the views of the Mt. Blanc from your pitch (or from the hot tub and swimming pool) will make up for this.
Since it’s located on the side of the mountain, some of the pitches are irregular and finding a flat spot for bigger tents or camper vans could be difficult, when the terras has filled up.
They don’t take reservations, if the weather is good there is a big change it will be full and it’s not the cheapest campsite.

Camping le Pré in Montriond (no website) is a couple of minutes from the lifts in Morzine. By bike follow the river behind the camping, not the road, it’s nicer and then take the elevator up to save you some climbing 😉
It’s a simple camping and expensive for what it is. You have to pay extra if you place your bike against a tree, so it’s best to leave it in the car. There used to be a woodmill next door, but this has closed.

Camping les Marmottes in Essert-Romand near Morzine used to be my favorite, but it is closed.

Camping L’oustalet  Nice, but slightly cramped camping near Chatel, in between the lifts and the village.

There are official camping-car areas near Morzine, Les Gets and Chatel.
Rules and prices seem to change every year.

Mountainbike trails

Les gets

There are a bunch of nice blue and red flowtrails in the Nauchets area and one shorter black line with gaps and bigger jumps.
On rainy days the soil becomes slippery and you can have a good drift session here.
The Roue libre goes all the way back down to Les Gets, it usually has a lot of brake bumps, you can avoid these by taking the Canyon a black natural trail. Although it’s an official trail it is not signposted very clearly, according to the map it starts halfway down at Chavannes, below the village behind a couple of underground dumpsters/poubelles. But you can also take the trails that go over to Morzine and then keep your eyes open for a trail branching of to the left.
While going down, it becomes a choose your own adventure, with different options going left and right all the time.
There are also a couple of nice trails on the other side of the lift (left of the lift when riding down), but these don’t dry up very quickly, with some parts turning into swamps after heavy rain. But they are worth some exploring in drier periods.
Mont Chéry is on the opposite side of Les Gets, the mountainbike trails on this side are not for beginners, but if you like like gap jumps or steep and slippery natural lines, then you will have a lot of fun here.

You can roll down from Les Gets to Morzine on the road without pedaling.

Bike Park riding in Les Gets! (4K)
Watch this video on YouTube.

Morzine

The piste d’Atray and the blue family are blue trails that are nice for warming up, there are no steep or technical sections, so they are suitable for beginners and even xc bikes.
From the blue family there are a couple of off piste options that end on the Les Gets-Morzine road.
The Roots is a red trail, that has some roots, but doesn’t really live up to its name. It’s mostly a fast flow trail, where the steeper parts have suffered from too much braking.
La Noire de Morzine is where most of the action is, this black trail would be awesome by itself, it is mostly a fast, flowing race course with some more technical sections and jumps, that an intermediate rider could go around. But then right next to the main line is an unlimited number of natural lines to choose from, some stay close to the main trail others venture more into the woods, usually seeking the steepest most direct line down.

Zore/Super Morzine

On the other side of Morzine is the Supermorzine lift, which takes you up to the Zore Zone, this is an area with mostly playful flow trails.
A lot of berms and tables were build here, most notably the humongous table underneath the lift on red route Racine Carré, make sure your jumping technique is in order before you commit to this jump, I’ve seen to many people nose dive and crash.
The black Hattock is a bit different, it has some parts that are more natural, and one jump line with big gaps.

HATTOCK, Avoriaz (Super Morzine), France
Watch this video on YouTube.

The roll down to Morzine is not really worth the effort, it’s on a forest road, most people take the Super Morzine lift back down. It’s best to not be cheeky and ignore the forbidden for mountainbikers signs and ride down the once famous super Morzine trails like Porridge and Run of the Mill. There is still hope that someday there will be legal trails there, but this is only possible if there are no tensions with the private landowners.

Lindarets

This is a quiet valley, most people only pass through on their way from Morzine to Chatel or the Swiss part of the Portes du Soleil.
There used to be more trails in the area, but some of the best parts have been shut down, because of erosion/lack of maintenance.
Blue des Brochaux is a blue flowtrail, that gets better, the faster you ride it.
Towards the end you’re on a rocky ski piste, if you want to go over to Switzerland keep going straight, if you want to go back to the Lindarets lift or to Chatel keep your eyes open for the left turn.
Dans la Forêt is indeed in the forest and has a more natural character, there used to be two red trails, you can still see some parts from the lift, but they are no longer rideable.
The remaining trail starts with an exciting rock face, that is grippier than it looks. After that the trail becomes easier, but it will be slippery when wet.
Coupe the France was used for the french nationals in 2007, it has some steeper sections on loose rock in the upper part and slippery mud in the lower part, it’s not an easy trail, but it isn’t very exciting compared to the blacks in Châtel for example.

When you’re driving down from Les Lindarets you go past a like, on warm days, it’s great to dive in after a day of hot and dusty riding.

Les Crosets & Champery

This is another area that is relatively quiet, but has some worthwhile trails.
For the Grand-Conche follow the fast forest road from the top of the lift down towards France and then near the new lift, there is a small sign pointing to the left, you don’t want to miss this.
The trail starts out fast and rocky with some hairpins, more like an alpine singletrack. Then when you reach the fields it opens up and becomes even faster and more flowing, with a couple of short steep sections that can be slippery when wet. Early in the season there could be some snow in the upper part. Over the years this trail has been more sanitized, but it’s still fun and a nice warm-up before you ride Champéry.
When you reach the road you can follow this trail or change to Le Loquet, which is similar, but slightly easier. to find the start of Le Loquet follow the road to your left.
Les Crosets is a steep flow trail, there is one large rock you roll over and there are some big gap jumps you can easily go around. Intermediate riders can ride it slowly, but will have to stop to let their brakes cool down.
Champéry, most people will know this track because of Danny Hart’s epic world champs run and Rob Warner’s even more epic commentary. Look at the time!
But don’t let this scare you, in essence it’s just a flow trail, with nice big berms, it’s just steeper than most other trails and because of that it is hard to look ahead and you have to dive into the steep sections without seing what is coming next.
But if you have been riding Grand Conche and Les Crosets and you were having fun, then you should give Champéry a go.
The large gondola goes every half hour, so just let the fast guys and girls go first and then you’ve got the track for yourself. On your first attempt try to remember as much of the lines as possible, so you can ride more relaxed on the following runs.
Just don’t try it in the wet, like Danny, that is when it becomes a real beast. Most of the track is in the forest on a mountainside that doesn’t get a lot of sun, so it will take about two days before it dries out sufficiently and after a day or five of dry weather it will become dusty.
There are a couple of drops, but the chickenruns are clearly visible, probably because most people take them instead of the drop.

Keep an eye on the weather, it’s a lot of hassle to get back to Morzine from Les Crosets or Champery if the lifts are closed because of a thunderstorm.
When it’s time to go back towards Les Lindarets you can, follow the road which is a fast downhill run or the trail that first circles back underneath the lift and goes to the col de Chèsery with some up and down sections.

Danny Hart World Championship Run Champery 2011 Full Length
Watch this video on YouTube.

Châtel

This bikepark probably has the most trails per square meter.
Don’t discard the green Vink line its a big jump line, it’s suitable for beginners and pro’s, just be aware that there will be big differences in speed. The top part of the Vink line that is red on the map is steeper and faster and not suitable for complete beginners.
La Panoramic is another run that you might skip because it’s green, but it’s actually a perfectly build rollercoaster ride, with some smaller table jumps.
The Vorachatak starts out with a narrow and steep single trail and then opens up into a fast flow trail.
Haute Tension is a rocky natural single trail, it’s a bit of to the side and sees less traffic compared to the other trails in the Châtel area. Which is a shame, so go check it out. It starts behind the building with the big antennas.
People is a classic flow trail with big berms and table jumps, no real technical difficulties, but it will be to steep and fast for most beginners.
And it brings you to the famous gap jump over the river underneath the lift.
The first part of serpentine isn’t very exciting it brings you to the start of the black trails, after that the real trail begins. It’s another exhilarating rollercoaster ride with big berms and jumps.
Fluid is another fast flow trail, the first part is a straight line with table jumps, the second part is steeper with tight berms in quick succession.
Ric et Rac is a fast jump line, there are not a lot of turns. Some of the jumps are tables and others are big gaps, so it is recommended that you check them out first before you commit.
Towards the end there are wooden boards with rubber mats on them, they might look a bit crappy, but it is best to stay on them, otherwise you will end up in a muddy ditch.
Komatrautrail another exciting trail, that sees less traffic, because it’s a bit of to the side. First follow the road from the middle station of the lifts to the first hairpin. (First check the signs at the lifts to see if the trail is open)
It’s mostly a natural single trail with rocks and roots, with some medium gaps and drops added.
Air Voltage starts at the same spot as the Komatrautrail and despite that it has some roots and rocks it has a completely different character, with (really) big gap jumps and drops.
Gueps is the first black trail that you can access from the serpentine and probably the easiest of the black trails in this part of the bike park. But all of these trails require skills and commitment. They get more difficult when they are wet.
Gueps starts out fast with gap jumps and then changes to steep natural terrain with roots. Then you cross the red Ric et Rac trail to ride Zougouloukata for some big drops and gaps.
Dré dans l’pentu has a similar style as Gueps, but with some drops mixed in, the first one is directly at the start of the trail and you’re forced to jump, the chickenline is blocked.
Coup de Fouet (Whiplash) another trail with more jumps and steep roots.
Bike Patrol less jumps in the top part, just dive straight in to the forest and then cross the field on a loose rocky and dusty trail.
Black shore narrow and high north shores mixed with jumps and big drops.

trail map chatel mountainbike karte kaart
trail map chatel (click the link for a bigger version)

Books and maps

The Vtopo book has a mix of tours that link the signposted routes and new routes that take you away from the signposted routes and even away from the lifts. There are 56 routes for all levels from families to experts.

GPS

All the official trails are signposted and hard to miss.
You can download gpx files for the portes soleil area from trailforks.
Or download the Portes du Soleil summer app from the iphone app store or google play.
You can download the gps file for the pass’portes route on this page

Mtb trailmap

There are free trailmaps at all liftstations, each sector has its own map.

Les Gets and Pleney (Pdf)
Lindarets and Morzine Zore (Pdf)
Châtel
Champéry, Les Crosets, Morgins (Pdf)

Bike shops/ guiding/ Mountainbike rental

There are to many shops to list here, just walk down the street, when you walk into a shop you will quickly figure out if there core is to rent out bikes, repair bikes or sell clothes.
I have good experience with getting my fork fixed by Jaffvtt in Les Gets.

Tips and tricks

The lifts close when there are thunderstorms, so keep an eye on the weatherforecast, plan your rides accordingly. If there is a large likelyhood of thunderstorms move away from where you are staying in the morning and then come back around 14:00 and do a couple more runs closer to home.
During the weekends the lifts in Morzine can have long waiting lines, you could drive your car up to Les Lindarets to avoid the lines and cross over to the Swiss side, not Châtel or when you do go to Châtel stick to the upper lift, most people tend to mainly use the lower lift.
You have to pay for most parking area’s in Morzine, the underground garage called “office de tourisme” underneath the main square used to be free, but not the last time I was there. The parking at the Carrefour supermarket is still free.

Other useful links

Nearby

Verbier A good mix of flowing bike park trails and steep natural lines, because of the rate of the Swiss frank a bit on the expensive side.
Aosta/Pila In the Aosta valley there is as much quality riding as in the Portes du Soleil, you will just have to spend more time in the car to get to the different bike parks.
Samoëns From what I remember this bike park is mostly aimed at XC and Enduro, but you can still have fun here on your Downhill bike. But it’s to long ago that I have been here to do an accurate write-up. In the meantime they have also hosted an EWS event, so it’s likely that there have been some updates. If you have more up to date info, please let me know in the comments below.
Bernex If you want to get away from the big and busy Portes du Soleil, then this small and relaxed bikepark is close by.
les Carroz Another smaller park nearby

Similar

Nothing in Europe really comes close to the Portes Soleil in terms of large mountainbike areas with linked lifts, only the Leogang, Saalbach area comes close.
You can also combine:
Les-deux-alpes A large bike park with mostly flow trails and an epic long descent down to Venosc.
Alpe-d’Huez This large bike park is close to Les deux alpes, but the trails are not linked. Alpe d’Huez has more natural enduro trails. and is famous for hosting the Megavalange

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