Morzine is well-known as the central access point for the vast Portes du Soleil ski area, but outside of the ski season the town regains its summer charm, tourist numbers decrease and the surrounding countryside opens up as a massive alpine adventure playground.
The slopes become green pastures where cows, sheep, and goats graze, bright flowers hang from balconies, restaurant terraces spill onto the pavement and a laid-back vibe takes over the town.
It’s eerily quiet in the daytime when visitors escape to the lakes, trails, and rivers, until mid-afternoon when sun-tanned walkers, bikers, and rafters filter in for nutrition and a well-earned kip. Apart from the odd whiff of a BBQ, the air is fresh and the sky dotted with clusters of colorful parachutes from paragliders enjoying their own slice of this natural paradise.
If you say you want to swim, the tourist office is likely to send you to the town’s Olympic-sized swimming pool, but for a more natural experience follow the locals for a refreshing dip in the region’s crystal clear waters.
Just a five-minute drive or twenty-minute cycle outside of Morzine is Lac Montriond. In a setting surrounded by mountain cliffs and waterfalls, if the chilly water doesn’t take your breath away, the scenery certainly will. There’s a walking path around the lake, bathing areas at each end, and facilities for canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding.
For a more Mediterranean feel head to Excenevex on Lake Geneva (or Lac Léman as referred to by the French). Pine trees border the four hectares of natural beach which plunges gently into the lake. If it wasn’t for the mountains in the distance (and the swans on the lake) it would be easy to imagine you are on the French Riviera.
Fly through the air
There’s still some dispute over where the sport of paragliding was first invented, for a long time it was considered to be Mieussy, a small town just 23km from Morzine. Whether or not it is the founding spot, it is certainly where the concept flourished from the passion of several of the great grandfathers of the sport. Due to the pronounced thermals and remarkable scenery, the region continues to remain on every paraglider’s hit list, and even for the untrained, an opportunity to take to the skies is not to be missed. For around 75€ you can experience the thrill of freefall on a tandem flight with an instructor such as Aero Bi and see views of Mont Blanc and Lake Geneva. Paragliding flights start from 75 euros.
Another adrenaline-inducing way to see the mountain landscape by air is on a 1325m long zip wire at Fantasticable in nearby Châtel. Strap in and hold tight as you fly along at speeds of 100kmph. You might not have much time to admire the view, but it is sure to be one of the most fun and memorable experiences of your trip. You can buy a ticket for 36 Euros from Ski Pass Chatel. You access Fantasticable via the Pré-la-Joux chairlift.