We wanted to know where the best off piste areas are in Morzine so we asked our friends at Hunter Ski Chalets for their tips...

Cosy authentic chalets, well-groomed pistes and thick coverings of snow, all wrapped within a sphere of stunning scenery and nature's tranquillity; there is no better way of escaping life's stresses. For advanced skiers, going off piste is the ultimate therapy. When it comes to these areas, the vast Portes Du Soleil ski domain has plenty of great spaces to take advantage of, from the sides of the pistes and into the backcountry. This is hardly surprising when you take into account that the Portes Du Soleil ski area is one of the biggest winter playgrounds in the world, with 12 linked resorts on either side of the Franco-Swiss border, more than 650km of marked pistes and about 200km lifts in total spread over 14 valleys.

If you’re new to skiing and aren’t even aware of the wonders that off piste skiing has to offer, then you are in luck. If you're an avid skier looking to uncover the off-piste treasures in Morzine, then even better. Read on to find out all of our useful tips and pointers.

Why go off piste?

For beginners, their well-groomed pistes are ideal for you to harness your skills, gain confidence and improve incrementally. Whereas for the more experienced skiers, these pristine pistes might not quite cut the mustard. Skiing off piste provides its own unique set of thrills and skills, offering a whole range of snow types and challenges. It’s a whole different experience.

Off piste slopes are untouched terrain, un-commercialised and perhaps more authentic shall we say, due to the lack of human investment. It’s almost like comparing camping in the wilderness with camping in a populated campground with public restrooms and pre-made fire-pits. To many, the artificial input of pistes taints the experience slightly. Off piste areas offer a more natural experience, where people can escape the clutter of people on pistes and be more at one with nature’s tranquility.

Althought skiing off piste is tempting, it is essential to have the right mountai safety knowledge to ensure you are safe from danger outside the pistes. Find out about Ski Club of Great Britain’s mountain safety courses and talks here.

Skiers and snowboarders seek out off piste terrain for different reasons and there are far more than three reasons to do so, but here is an idea of why so many people ditch the groomed slopes for the backcountry.

The challenge

A real test of your skill. Most off piste skiers are lured into delving into this terrain because of the perceived challenge. The snow texture is less consistent and can change quickly without warning, requiring you to change your movements quickly. Turning is also difficult since off piste you need to put weight on both skis as opposed to just the outside ski to prevent you from sinking deep into the snow.

Quieter slopes

Less people means less clutter, more room and even more silence. An opportunity to ski in to serenity. If you’re a speed demon then the diminished traffic on the slopes is a godsend, since you have the freedom of dictating your own speed, direction and pace of your descent.

Scenic surroundings

Another popular reason is the stunning scenery available. Since off piste skiing takes place outside of resort boundaries in the backcountry, the scenery is as you would expect, always superior to that of resort trails and public slopes.

Why is the Portes Du Soleil a great spot for off-piste skiing?

As mentioned previously, the Portes Du Soleil is pretty big, offering a huge amount of ski terrain for you have fun on. It sits at the northwest corner of the Alps, making it a landing point for many of the storms that come in from the northwest. So, what exactly does this mean? More snow. By being one of the first sets of mountains that takes the hit of these storms, it ultimately creates a microclimate that provides more snow than compared to other regions of the Alps. To take full advantage of this extra snowfall is to explore the off piste areas.

Where’s best for off-piste skiing in Morzine?

The best area for powder enthusiasts is at the Nyon and Chamossière ski peaks that are above Morzine. Thankfully, there are lifts available to take you to these locations, saving the necessity to hike for hours. By going on the TS de la Pointe, you will have access to the numerous lines down the face of the Nyon mountain, in between the pisted runs.

Chamossière is another hotspot for un-pisted terrain. By going on the Chamossière TS des Têtes express chair lift or the high-speed Chamossière Express, you’ll have access to a perfect un-pisted bowl. If you’re not averse to the idea of a little bit of hiking, then you’ll have access to a greater drop by going along the ridgeline above the Chamossière bowl and dropping in before the Pointe d’Angolon peak.

What to look out for

As exhilarating as off piste skiing can be, it goes without saying that it does offer its own unique set of risks. Beneath the pristine, untouched powder, hidden dangers lurk that can lead to serious injury; most common being broken bones, head trauma and orthopaedic injuries. The unpredictable nature of the terrain comes with some very serious hazards. Learning about your new environment is taking on off piste areas is a must, which one must undertake willingly, since there is a lot to learn about, such as: learning about terrain shapes, gradients and aspects, snowpack, avalanche types and the effects of wind and temperature.

However, you can reduce the chances of acquiring these injuries through training on and off piste. You can find lots of useful information in the mountain safety section of the website. In resort, Avoriaz Alpine Ski School can also prepare you for off piste by helping you to safely explore the mountains and enhance your knowledge in the backcountry. The school is easily accessible from Morzine, but if you are staying in luxury accommodation, places such as Hunter Ski chalets will personally escort you to the school.