Escapes

Q:

What can I do after watching the Tour de France in Morzine?

We're planning to take my 16- and 18-year-old kids with us to Europe this summer to watch a Tour de France stage finish in Morzine. What outdoor sports can we do there afterward? Jackie Dallas, Texas

Your Own Private Tour: The French town of Morzine     Photo: courtesy, Morzine Tourism

Morzine, France

Your Own Private Tour: The French town of Morzine

A:Morzine, a picturesque Alpine village located in far eastern France on the border with Switzerland, plays host to the last mountain stage in this year's Tour de France, which kicks off July 1. By the time the riders complete Stage 17's 124-mile race to Morzine from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne on July 20, their swollen quads will have little juice left in them from battling five passes, the last one being the steepest. For you, however, the fun is just beginning.

It just so happens that one of my favorite ski areas (which also just so happens to be a superb summer-fun hub as well), is located right where you'll be. Portes du Soleil, or the "Doors to the Sun," is a collection of 14 resorts that straddle the Franco-Swiss border, though by resort you shouldn't expect furry glam like in, say, Gstaad. Rather, here you'll find a consortium of mom-and-pop-type hills peppered with 25 lifts open in the summer. You can ride up and hike under peaks like Les Dents du Midi, a toothy outcrop of 11,000-foot summits, and ride down into villages for un petit café. This area is also rapidly becoming a favorite among mountain bikers who can bomb more than 400 miles of marked trails. If your kids are made of rubber—and if you have health insurance for them—let them try Pléney's downhill run, a freeride course that drops about 1,600 feet over a two-mile track. That's steep enough to attract pros that come to race the trail during the Avalanche Cup. Not every run is collarbone-breaking, and if you're looking to do a ramble that links some of these villages, check in with Traces Directes. The French outfitter organizes tours and can help get your bags from bed to bed. A five-day trip goes for about $1,330. (+33.4.50.74.7040; www.tracesdirectes.com)

Sound a little too hardcore? Guide Philippe Clochey (+33.450.75.7718; www.rando-anes.net) offers outfitted hikes through the region using donkeys. Should you or the kids get tired, just hop on. You'll wander up trails through Alpine meadows to places like the Lac des Mines d'Or, or Gold Mine Lake, for a picnic lunch. Then you can carry on to the Col de Cou or even book a night in one of the many alpine huts.

The list of things to do continues. It's hard not to look at these peaks and want to climb them. Innumerable crags line these valleys and you'll find routes ranging from easy to insane. The bolted route Rocher d'Escalade and the Via Ferrate, a route up cliffs using cables and ladders, mean you need not be able to dangle from a pinkie to enjoy the climb. On the corny side, you can fly like Superman on the "Fantasticable," a huge zip line that dangles over the valley below. Strap into the harness, put on your cape, and off you go, most likely hitting 50 miles per hour as you fly face first along the cable. Down low, the River Dranse roils up into approximately Class III and IV rapids. Maybe you should stick to the raft, but the kids can give "Hyrdospeeding" a try: Put on a wetsuit, helmet, and flippers, then cast off down the rapids of your belly, hanging on to float. Jolly Good Alpine Adventures (+44.870.360.1747; www.jollygood.com), a UK-based outfitter, can help you arrange such fun as well as a place to stay.

It's probably going to be pretty tough to find a hotel here with the Tour coming through, but if you can, try to book a night in a three-star chalet like the Hotel Les Airelles. You can get a family-size room for about $200 a night, including breakfast. (+33.4.50.74.7121; www.les-airelles.com). To get pumped on Portes, visit www.portesdusoleil.com or call +33.4.50.73.3254. And lastly, for help with more information about Morzine, check in with the town's tourism office (+33.4.50.74.7272; www.morzine-avoriaz.com).

For Outside Online's complete Tour de France 2006 coverage—including daily stage reports, exclusive photo galleries, and insights from Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong's trainer—visit www.outsideonline.com/2006tour.

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