Champoussin & Morgins, CH 01/31/14

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Champoussin & Morgins, CH 01/31/14

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sun Feb 02, 2014 12:55 pm

For the final day of my trip, I went straight to the massive Swiss side of the Portes du Soleil, which encompasses six ski villages: some at altitude, others deep in the valley.

Before I forget, the French have, thankfully, gone really hardcore about protecting the environment on the Portes du Soleil, with all sorts of unavoidable reminders to recycle and not to throw garbage and cigarette butts from the lifts or on the trails.

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It took about 30 minutes of lifts and connecting trails to make it across the border from my hotel in Morzine. Throughout the region, signage is excellent.

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Here are "Les Dents du Midi" ("Teeth of the South"), a really well-known geologic photo opp.

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Whereas the French side is serviced predominantly by high-speed lifts and dozens of on-mountain restaurants, the Swiss side is mostly fixed-grip or t-bars and far fewer food/beverage options; thus, a more back-to-the-basics environment. Here's a map, which, as mentioned in other TRs, doesn't come close to conveying the vastness of the terrain.

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Serious Hike-To Couloirs Everywhere


So here's my bit of unplanned adventure from this trip -- when you're skiing by yourself in the midst of such huge expanses, there are all sorts of opportunities to be seduced by tracks (sucker and otherwise) going off into what appears to be untracked paradise. Even though there are no glacial hazards at the Portes du Soleil, without local knowledge or a guide you usually just say no and stay within visual distance of the trails and that's that. But between the Champoussin and Morgins trail network, I saw a football-field-wide gully of only partially touched snow that I couldn't resist: knee-deep bliss.

I left the trail here and kept going right:

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And kept going (my tracks on the looker's left):

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I must have gone down 1,200 verts before coming to a stop and realizing that I had gone seriously off track. Long story short, I had to hump my way diagonally uphill in the sunshine for at least an hour (which felt like a lot longer). In addition to concerns about getting cliffed out, another real worry was being stuck in a valley on the Swiss side after the lifts close and the buses stop running. A car service back to the French side is, no joke, $300+. Lots of people I talked to know friends who'd made that mistake, which is a lousy way to end the day.

I eventually found a snowshoe trail and ended up gliding into my goal for the day, the chocolate-box village of Morgins.

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Today's Special Entree: Horse Steak

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Lunch On The Patio While Looking Up at 5,000 Verts

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On the way back to France, I ran into this ^^^ unique shot for Europe: a dedicated single's line. As has been mentioned hundreds of times, U.S.-style corrals generally don't exist, which can lead to chaotic scenes during peak periods at busy lifts (absolutely not an issue if you avoid the February to early March vacation period). I wonder if a single's line is a Swiss-only thing?

In summary, a highly successful trip even if there wasn't a major snowfall. I'll have no choice but to get reaccustomed to North American-sized ski areas, but the first few days back are always a bit of culture shock. Heh, I'm with my son today at Camelback, PA.
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