Winter Dreaming: Les Portes du Soleil

Anticipation is the feeling of excitement when you are planning a new travel adventure. It is that anticipation that raises your level of happiness and it can bring your spirits up for a couple of months before you even leave, according to studies. In Fernie at this time of year, the anticipation is for a great ski season. The dream of all those perfect days of blasting down the slopes with a smile from ear to ear. 

When I was a boy, I used to dream all day long about skiing for several months before the actual ski season began. The anticipation was the driver to change the exercise routine and work out those muscles needed for skiing. Equipment needed to be serviced, new inner and outer wear had to be found, and a financial commitment was made by buying a seasons’ pass. 

In town is a buzz of anticipation. Businesses are ramping up and new people are moving in for the season. There is an increased level of activity. Just think, this is happening all through the many outdoor recreation towns all over North America, Europe and the rest of the world. The ski season is coming.

The trip I am personally anticipating is a momentous week-long adventure skiing across kilometre after kilometre of vast ski terrain in Europe from one ski resort to another moving from valley to valley and country to country just on skis. Relaxing and sleeping in different lodges and eating wonderful foods that are specialties of the village are residing in. 

The largest unified ski area in the world is Les Portes du Soleil; Gateway to the Sun. It consists of 12 ski resorts with 200 lifts, 650 km of trails and 14 villages. Les Portes du Soleil spans France and Switzerland with 10,000 foot peaks as backdrops including the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc and les Dents du Midi; the Teeth of Noon. Five main villages offer most of the accommodations. Each one is different and unique to one another. 

Getting to Les Portes du Soleil is easy. Thirteen-hour direct flights from Calgary to Geneva are available and then it is an hour car ride to Morzine. I would spend the first night here. A six-day pass runs about $400 that gives you access to all 200 lifts to tour the area. 

Local guides say that one of the things that Canadians do not grasp is the enormity and scale of the area. I am planning an itinerary that will take me to all 12 resorts and 14 villages during the six days. Some of the resorts are large with a large variety of accommodations, eating places and nightlife while others are small lodges with no nightlife. It is nice to have a mixture - some busy and others very laid back. 

Timing is important. January is a quiet time right after the New Year with lower prices for accommodations but can be cold with minimal snow. February is a busy month and is high season so accommodation is going to expensive if you can find any as people are booking a year in advance. March is the time of year when the snowpack is at its greatest, the weather is warmer. 

Make sure that you go during the full moon. If you get clear skies, you will have spectacular nighttime views of the mountains with stars as the background. Taking a night horse drawn sleigh ride in Avoriaz above Morzine would be the topping of a remarkable ski holiday.