The Portes Du Soleil is heaven for mountain bikers. It straddles the French-Swiss border and is made up of 12 different resorts. This makes it the largest bike park in Europe. Many mountain bikers that travel to the area arrive via Geneva airport. The closest resorts in the Portes du Soleil to Geneva, are Morzine and Les Gets. In this post, I am going to talk about mountain biking in Les Gets and Morzine to give you an idea of what to expect from these amazing mountain bike destinations.
Mountain Biking In Les Gets
Les Gets is our go-to place, for lots of quick-fire downhill rides. The style of riding in Les Gets, is jumping on a lift and blasting down to the bottom as fast as you can. If you are not familiar with the colour grading of mountain bike trails, they work in the same way as ski runs:
Green – Easy and suitable for beginners
Blue – Reasonably easy, but there may be some features such as jumps and berms
Red – More difficult, and should only be ridden by those that know what they are doing. This is because they are usually quite steep.
Black -These are difficult and often have unavoidable features and can be very steep.
The trails in Les Gets are brilliant fun. There are only two green trials, so as an adult, you will need to be comfortable with at least riding blues to make the most of your day.
Having said that, there is a coaching track in Les Gets. This is a fun blue trail that gives you a sample of all the types of terrain and features you will come across while riding in the Portes du Soleil. It is a brilliant introduction to mountain biking the alps.
The Mont Chery side of the valley doesn’t have that many trails, but it does have a black trail that forms part of the World Cup Downhill track and a couple of enduro routes, for those that like a pedal. However, most of your time in Les Gets will probably involve riding all the downhill trails off the Nauchets chairlift. You get to these by taking the long Chevannes chairlift to the top of the mountain.
Although the terrain is quite steep in places, you will soon get to grips with riding it. We like to spend the day ticking all the trails off, stopping for lunch, then doing it all again. The style of the terrain varies throughout Les Gets. By this, I mean there are trails with lots of roots, some are made up of dirt, while others are quite gravelly. Les Gets is a good place to ride when the weather has been bad, as the hard-packed gravel gives you loads of grip under your tyres, but it does get muddy in the forest sections.
There is a great red trail that brings you all the way to the bottom of the mountain. It is very long and fast, with big berms and tabletops, providing lots of fun. However, it does develop quite big braking bumps, especially towards the end of the summer. Sometimes, it is like riding down a staircase, which adds an extra element to the terrain. We usually save this for later in the day, as the lift back up is very long.
The other reds and the blues are great fun, and are ideal for honing your downhill mountain bike skills. They have lots of features, such as tabletops, gaps and berms. The more challenging jumps are avoidable, so you can build up to them, as you learn the terrain.
If you are the type of person that likes to launch themselves off jumps, Les Gets is the place for you. The black trail has loads of jumps and boardwalks, but to get to it, you need to clear the huge jump over the red trail below. This is almost like a test, to prove you are good enough to ride it.
One of my favourite trails, is the blue that links Les Gets with Morzine. This is so much fun for riders of all levels. Its smooth dirt surface twists through the forest and seems to go on forever. This is one of those trails that makes you feel like a hero and will have you smiling all the way to Morzine.
Les Gets Village
Riding to the bottom of the mountain brings you right to the village of Les Gets. The terrain is punishing on your bike, but luckily there are lots of easily accessible bike shops. This is very handy for spares and repairs.
The other great thing about Les Gets is that there are some great options for lunch stops. Think burger bars and more traditional French food. But, I recommend that you pay a visit to Wild Beets Kitchen. This is a firm favourite with pro mountain bikers stopping for tasty, but healthy lunches (they have beer too).
Mountain Biking In Morzine
Morzine is divided into two parts, Pleney and Super Morzine. Both sides of the valley are extremely good fun to ride on mountain bikes, but they are both quite different in terms of terrain.
Pleney, is serviced by a large bubble lift, big enough for two people with mountain bikes. This lift gives you access to two blue trails, two red trails and a black.
The terrain on the Pleney side of the valley has a more natural feel than the trails you find on the Super Morzine side. You should expect to ride over lots of roots, as you descend through the forests. There are a number of man-made jumps on the Main Line. This is Pleney’s black run and is amazing. You can expect to see lots of pro mountain bikers training on this trail for much of the summer.
The red trail is actually more difficult to ride than the Main Line. This is because it is very steep and is tricky to ride, especially in wet conditions. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t fun though, it is just a different kind of challenge.
When it comes to beginner trails on Pleney, you have the choice of the two blue trails. These are very natural, with lots of roots, but they are not particularly steep (for the alps). One of the blue trails is called “Family”. This is great fun, but the name is a bit deceptive, as it can be tricky for kids with bikes with small wheels, due to the roots and ruts. Therefore, I recommend that you ride it first, before taking your kids down it.
For the 2020 summer season, an additional red trail was put in. This follows the 2018 French Championship downhill track. This is 3km long and brings you down 500 metres back in to Morzine. There is also a beginner’s area at the top of Pleney, so you can learn and practice techniques, such as jumping and taking corners properly.
By hooking your bikes on to the outside and riding the Super Morzine bubble, you have access to some fantastic downhill mountain bike trails.
If you are staying in Morzine and haven’t ridden in the alps before, I would recommend that you ride the Super Morzine trails first. This is because it has the perfect trails to get yourself calibrated for riding in the Alps. The green trails are as easy as you will find in the Portes du Soleil. They are smooth and undulating with a gentle gradient. These are perfect for kids and less experienced riders.
Once you have got the feel of the green trails, go for the blues. There are a few blue trails up there, but the two main ones are Tutti Fruitti and Cap Canaveral and are visible from the Zore chairlift. Tutti Fruitti twists its way down the mountain with lots of berms and tabletop jumps. The jumps are all avoidable if you are inexperienced, or don’t fancy flying on the day. Cap Canaveral has more jumps but is not quite as steep. There is an option for a couple of big jumps, the first being a drop and the second being a huge tabletop, known by locals as the “widowmaker”.
For more experienced riders, there is a couple of great red trails and a black with some huge jumps and drops.
Riding on this side of the valley gives you access to the rest of the Portes du Soleil. I recommend that you pop over to Chatel for some amazing bike park trails. Or go into Switzerland for the views and different style terrain.
Compared to Les Gets, there is a bit more going on in Morzine village. There are lots of bars and restaurants to stop off at for lunch or enjoy a post-ride beer. There are a number of bike shops too, that will be able to help you out with parts and servicing. I recommend that you check out Torico Performance Bikes for bike hire and servicing.
So Which Is Best?
Deciding between Morzine and Les Gets for mountain biking is quite difficult. They both have their good points. I would say that it depends on what type of riding you want to do on the day. In Les Gets, you can get more runs in on different trails, while in Morzine, you can ride long trails with a more natural style on Pleney and dusty trails on Super Morzine.
Les Gets is easily accessible by mountain bike from Morzine and vice versa. During a week’s mountain bike holiday, you could cover the whole Portes du Soleil. If you are on a mission, you could ride both Morzine and Les Gets in one day.
Wherever you decide to ride in the Portes du Soleil, you will have an amazing day mountain biking.