Low-altitude, largely intermediate circuit of slopes straddling the French-Swiss border, with a choice of contrasting resorts The Portes du Soleil seems to have quietly dropped its claim to be the biggest ski area in the world and left that to the Trois Vallées. But it remains a huge area, the central attraction of which is an extensive circular tour, straddling the French-Swiss border, taking you through one or two French resorts and several small Swiss ones - great for keen intermediates who like a sensation of travel. You can travel the circuit in either direction, no longer have to catch a bus part way round and longer or shorter variations of the circuit are possible. We have separate chapters on the five major Portes du Soleil resorts. On the French side, high, purpose-built Avoriaz usually has the best snow around, and it is well placed to make the most of the slopes of Châtel and Champéry, as well as its own. Until last season you had to take a bus at the lower, traditional village of Châtel to bridge a gap in the circuit; but there is now a chairlift link. On the Swiss side, Champéry is a classic, charming mountain village; its slopes spread across the mountainside above the tiny, purpose-built satellite stations of Champoussin and Les Crosets and lead to the traditional village of Morgins in a separate valley. Back in France are two further traditional resorts, off the main circuit but linked by lift to Avoriaz - Morzine and Les Gets. They share the biggest area of local slopes in the region. The lifts you ride doing the circuit vary widely. In the Avoriaz sector and in the Linga sector of Châtel the lifts are mainly modern and fast. On the far side of Châtel and on the Swiss side of the network, drags and old chairlifts dominate, and progress is slow. The slopes are low by French standards, with top heights from 2000m to 2275m, and low points, where snow may be particularly poor, in Morgins and Châtel (1200m). In general, you can expect better snow on the north-facing French side of the circuit than on the sunnier Swiss side, particularly around Avoriaz/Champéry. In the distant past there was a booklet-style map covering the whole of the Portes du Soleil. But now each resort has a map showing local lifts and pistes - you have to pick these up as you go. There's an overview map of the circuit on the back of each one.

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