At the start of February I spent a weekend snowboarding in Portes Du Soleil with three friends. We stayed in Morzine with iGOSKi – the short break specialists. Hopefully, this review of iGOSKi weekend snowboarding in Morzine, will help you decide whether to take a short break with them.
iGOSKi were formed in 2006 by James Hardiman, the founder of their sister company Alpine Elements. With Alpine Elements experience, contacts in the ski industry, and existing client base, iGOSKi sent 3,000 people into the mountains in their second year. They now help over 6,000 people a season take short ski breaks.
Review of iGOSKi weekend: Getting there
We opted for the self drive option, not because we thought the flights or transfers through iGOSKi were expensive or inconvenient. But because driving with four people is an incredibly cheap option. The ferry cost us £110, and petrol and tolls came to around £210, so just £80 per person.
Getting the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe, and driving across France is surprisingly easy. You can get a few hours kip on the overnight ferry before arriving in Dieppe around four in the morning. Driving from Dieppe to Morzine takes around eight hours, so you can get a half a day on the slopes when you arrive.
If iGOSKi provide the flights and transfers it adds between £150-£250 per person, plus you have to pay for luggage. Although it sounds expensive, iGOSKi are pretty much inline with the cost of booking flights and transfers independently, with the added bonus of ATOL protection by booking with iGOSKi.
Having spoken with some of the other guests in our hotel they were all very pleased with the flight and transfer service. I was told that the transfer was waiting when they came through customs, and because it was a small number of people per transfer there was minimal waiting around.
Review of iGOSKi Ridge Hotel accommodation
We were staying at the Ridge Hotel. On arrival there was a warm welcome from the staff, lots of smiles, hellos and introductions, which all felt very friendly and got the stay off to a good start.
Ridge Hotel rooms
We had a four-person room with four single beds – perfect for a boys weekend. The room was large without being huge, but there was enough room for four blokes and all our gear. It could have done with a little extra storage – although for a weekend it is hardly worth unpacking – and coat hooks for wet gear wouldn’t go amiss.
The room were clean and beds very comfortable. Before we ‘unpacked’ the room it looked very nice, unsurprisingly five minutes later there was stuff everywhere and it looked a right tip. The decor was neutral enough not to insult your senses, and looked like it had fairly recently been redecorated.
Annoyingly there were no side lights, so all the lights were either on or off. This made it difficult if you wake up early, or want to have a read before going to sleep, without annoying the rest of the group. The room was ferociously warm, but turning the radiator off and opening the windows quickly fixed that.
With four of us, having a separate toilet and bathroom was a blessing. The shower was very powerful but not very well lit – although this proved to be a bonus when tackled with a hangover. The bathroom was clean, but small and in my opinion could do with a refit.
Ridge Hotel food & drink
Although the dining room looks fairly basic, the food is pretty good. It is not going to win awards but I enjoyed every dish they provided. On the whole it was fairly simple dishes, but cooked really well and presented nicely.
At breakfast there was a cooked option and a help yourself continental breakfast. The continental was fairly underwhelming, with a small selection of meats, pastries, breads, cereals and fruit. However the cooked option was very good with omelette and your choice of fillings on one day and a full english the next.
On site, there is a relatively cheap licensed bar with nice big sofas. It was always fairly busy, but then it was the only spot you could access the free WiFi. The barman was very friendly and happily pointed out areas we should snowboard the next day.
Adjacent to the bar is a games room with pool and table footy, plus a TV showing sport. The accommodation has two hot tubs to loosen achy muscles, and a ski room to store your gear. The staff were all pretty young and most looked like it was their first season, but they were really friendly, happy to help and seemed very well trained.
Ridge Hotel location
The Ridge hotel is a little out of town but a relatively easy walk to the Super Morzine Gondola. In snowboard boots it is a brisk ten minute ‘warm up’ walk, for skiers it probably takes a little longer and I am sure some people would find it annoying.
On the walk you have to cross a long suspension bridge spanning the two sides of the valley. The bridge is very high, and actually moves in the wind. It is (of course!) perfectly safe,but I can imagine anyone with a fear of heights may have a problem crossing it.
There is also a bus stop outside the hotel on the route to Ardent, which gives easy access to Chatel, Avoriaz and Lindarets. Although the Super Morzine is a quicker route up the mountain, to reach Avoriaz and the Lindarets area takes nearly an hour, including two chairs where queues form and a long, slow, flat run.
Heading to Ardent on the free bus takes about fifteen minutes, but you cut out the crowds. After one ten minutes gondola there are four chairlifts with many excellent snowboarding options.
Within fifteen minutes from here you could be riding the worlds best ski run ‘The Stash’, snowboarding off-piste through the trees, heading into Chatel, Avoriaz or towards Switzerland on immaculate pistes. If you have a car you can also park for free in Ardent and it’s just a 10 minute drive.
iGOSKi also runs it’s own minibus to the Pleney lift, that provides access to the Les Gets side of the skiing area. However you need to book this the night before and it only runs at the start and end of the day.
The Morzine town centre starts just after the Super Morzine Gondola, there is a road full of shops and restaurants plus a few bars. However the livelier part of town is a bit further on taking fifteen to twenty minutes to walk from the accommodation. Drunkenly walking back takes longer.
Weekend snowboarding in Morzine
Of course no review of iGOSKi weekend snowboarding in Morzine would be complete without talking about the snowboarding. Morzine is part of the Portes Du Soleil ski area covering 650km of piste. It’s not all lift connected, like the Three Valleys, but there is still a vast amount of piste easily within reach, and free buses link the rest together.
One drawback of being based in Morzine is that it takes a while to reach decent runs. As already mentioned I found taking the bus to Ardent was quicker than taking the Super Morzine Gondola. However there are a few runs in the Super Morzine area, that beginners, intermediates and families would find entertaining.
We were lucky to get lots of fresh snow, so we spent the first day playing in 30-40cm of fresh powder between pistes. We mainly snowboarded in the Lindarets valley, but also popped over into Chatel, and at the end of the day into Avoriaz for a cheeky piste side beer in the sun.
On the second day of this review of iGOSKi weekend snowboarding in Morzine we had an off-piste guide booked through Morzine Bureau of Guides. Unlike resorts that are famous for off-piste, such as Chamonix, Val d’Isere, Verbier or St Anton, fresh snow in Portes Du Soleil does not get tracked out within a few hours.
Over a day after it had last snowed, with less than 10 minutes hiking, we had untouched backcountry all to ourselves. Kitted out with all the avalanche gear we followed our guide, who started by testing our ability through some icy moguls.
Having passed the test we headed up towards Pointe Des Mossettes, coming down near the black run, but one ridge over in untouched snow. We had been snowboarding in the area the day before and this was an instant example of the benefit of having a guide. After a short hike, skirting Pointe De Chesery, we enjoyed a fun off-piste route back into Les Brochaux.
We then headed through Avoriaz and up Grand Coombes chair and traversed a long way towards Pointe De Ressachaux. Having traversed further than anyone else, we then had an untouched run down into Prodains. At the bottom it became very technical, we crossed a frozen stream and met routes others had taken through the trees and a steep icy bottleneck.
After taking the Prodains Express, Stad and Fornet chairs, we hiked across a ridge into Vallee De La Manche. There was another long traverse, before an excellent descent through a massive powder bowl. People had been there before us but there was plenty of powder to go around. At the bottom we took the bus back to Morzine.
It had been a tiring morning so we retired for a late lunch, and a few on slope ‘what a great morning’ drinks. We then did a few more runs before heading back down to Morzine. England were due to play Scotland in the Six Nations early that evening so we wanted to get set up in a bar for that.
For the last couple of days we stuck mainly to the piste and had a play in the many Portes Du Soleil snowparks –including The Stash. On the last day it was snowing heavily for much of the day and visibility was terrible. But there was enough fresh snow on the pistes to make it fun.
Review of iGOSKi weekend: Conclusion
For a weekend snowboarding in Morzine we got a lot of riding in. And for my first experience of the Portes Du Soleil ski area I was very impressed. We hadn’t made it to Switzerland, Let Gets or any of the smaller separate ski areas, but there was plenty to explore and we had a great time.
iGOSKi provide a great service and the Ridge Hotel is a very good budget option for short breaks. As long as you don’t expect luxury – which you shouldn’t for budget price – you won’t be disappointed.
I will conclude this review of iGOSKi weekend snowboarding in Morzine, by saying I would be happy to stay at the Ridge Hotel in the future, and to holiday with iGOSKi again. I would also be over the moon to head back to Morzine as it is a nice town, that is lively without being crazy, easy to get to and has great access to the excellent Portes Du Soleil ski area.
If this review of iGOSKi weekend snowboarding in Morzine has inspired you to head away with iGOSKi then check out: www.igoski.co.uk if you want to find out more about Morzine then visit: www.morzine-avoriaz.com