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The history of the ski resort of Morzine

Morzine has always managed to preserve its authenticity and old-world charm, whilst never losing sight of the fact that innovation was essential for the resort's development. The history of the resort is sure to interest mountain lovers. For decades, in summer and winter alike, Morzine has fascinated and enchanted visitors. Let us retrace together what makes this mid-altitude mountain village, one of the many jewels of the French Alps, so special.

©Morzine-Avoriaz.Sam Ingles

From a Small Traditional Village…

Traditions Rooted in an Exceptional Environment

Morzine is ideally situated at the heart of a valley in the Haute-Savoie, surrounded by some of the French Alps’ most beautiful peaks. The resort has always offered its visitors a unique mountain atmosphere, with its history plain to see in the typical haute-savoyard architecture of the village’s chalets, many of which are available for holiday rentals.

Ardoise, a Key Material in Traditional Chalet Construction

From 1900 onwards, the extraction of ardoise (a kind of slate) was Morzine’s main economic activity. The stone was used primarily for roofing and was a key material in traditional chalet construction. Today, the use of ardoise for roofing as well as decorative elements remains an important element of Morzine’s architectural identity.

©Morzine-Avoriaz.Sylvain Cochard

… To an International Ski Resort

A Promising Beginning

Winter tourism began in the 1920s with the appearance of the first snow sports. However, Morzine’s first ski lift, the famous Pléney cable car, was only opened in 1934. From that point onwards, holidaymakers had an easy way to get up the mountain and enjoy the ski runs. At the time, Le Pléney was at the cutting edge of mechanical uplift technology.

Did you Know? The Pléney cable car was the second French ski lift to be constructed after the one in Chamonix. What a great way to make mountain holiday easier.

Morzine, a Pioneering Resort

The Alps’ oldest hotel was opened in Morzine in 1809, well before the development of tourism. The resort has always been ahead of its time, notably in the construction of holiday accommodation. By 1936, there were already sixty chalets available for holiday rental, making Morzine one of the best-equipped resorts for tourists in the region. Today, Morzine’s chalets remain uniquely special, and the resort still has some of the best facilities for visitors in the French Alps.

©Morzine-Avoriaz.Sam Ingles

A Endless Ski Area

As the years went by, new chairlifts and drag lifts appeared on the Morzine landscape. Starting in the 1960s, new cable cars were built, for example the one at Pointe de Nyon. In 1965, the famous Portes du Soleil ski area was born, growing to become the largest in the world in the 1980s, although this is no longer the case. Morzine demonstrated its commitment to development with an ever-increasing number of lift connections, ski descents, itineraries, kilometres of pistes and breathtaking views straddling the Franco-Swiss border. Its ski area knew almost no borders apart from the high summits of the surrounding mountains. 

Jean Vuarnet, a True Accelerator of Morzine’s Development

An Olympic Champion and Entrepreneur

Despite winning many medals abroad, Jean Vuarnet lived almost his entire life in Morzine. An outstanding competitor, he became the Olympic downhill ski champion in 1960. As well as being a formidable skier, he was instrumental in Morzine’s development as a winter sports destination.

©Morzine-Avoriaz.Sam Ingles

Major Developments

Jean Vuarnet helped turn Morzine into a unique resort. He helped develop the valley, opening it up to tourism in the 1960s, and was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Portes du Soleil, coming up with the idea to create links to the ski area across the Swiss border, and was also involved in the creation of the neighbouring, purpose-built resort of Avoriaz. Thanks to his visionary spirit, truly at one with the resort’s philosophy, Vuarnet remains an iconic figure in Morzine’s history.

Avoriaz, Morzine’s Purpose-built Neighbour

Linked Ski Resorts

No history of Morzine would be complete without a mention of Avoriaz, a purpose-built ski resort where motor vehicles are banned - a concept unheard of at the time of its construction. Morzine and Avoriaz are two linked resorts that complement each other, with two distinct identities.

Avoriaz is above all a pioneering resort on every level, a model in terms of sustainable development and architecture. Founded in 1967, this high mountain resort developed a completely new concept, with skiers able to ski to and from the resort as well as get around it on skis. 

A Natural Extension of the Resort of Morzine

Born from a daring and avant-garde project, with architecture designed to blend into its rocky and mountainous surroundings, the creation of Avoriaz served only to grow the fame and reputation of Morzine. Avoriaz is an extension of its neighbouring resort which blends seamlessly into the Portes du Soleil ski area.

©Morzine-Avoriaz.Oliver Godbold

Modernising, but Never Harming

Morzine defines itself by its willingness to constantly evolve thanks to an exceptional ability to adapt. From the outset, the resort has always adopted the most advanced ski lift technology available. At the same time, it has stayed true to the traditions which lie at the core of its identity and unique character, and which the people of Morzine work hard to preserve.

The authenticity of the holiday rental accommodation in Morzine is highly attractive to visitors, and the resort’s first-class infrastructure and mountain views also make this a great place for a holiday, whatever the weather. So, are you ready to come and breathe the air of the great outdoors during a winter holiday in Morzine?  

Cimalpes was born in the French Alps from the dream of two entrepreneurs passionate about their Alpine lifestyle. Today, Cimalpes’ mission is to share this passion with its guests by hosting them in the most charming chalets and apartments, and by accompanying them to organize a memorable holiday in our ski resorts. The Cimalpes teams will be delighted to meet your every need; let us treat you to the Cimalpes promise.


With more than 3,000 reservations per year, Cimalpes enables more than 25,000 holidaymakers to benefit from hotel comfort in their own accommodation each winter.