Home > Feature

Triathlon dream vacation in the Alps: training (or racing) in Morzine, France

Chilly Powder Resort offers outstanding training and leisure opportunities in the heart of the French Alps

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

As we start to see a bit of a glimmer of light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, many of us are dreaming of traveling somewhere special once that becomes an option. My dream spot? Morzine, France, an area they call the “Portes du Soleil.” Almost two years ago my wife and I got to spend a week there before we headed to Nice for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. We stayed at a chalet called Chilly Powder, which is set below the cliffs of the spectacular French ski resort of Avoriaz, looking to see if the area would be a worthwhile triathlon destination spot.

The answer to that is pretty simple: an unmitigated “yes.” Whether you are looking for a training spot, or a place to enjoy an active family vacation, Morzine is a destination like no other.

The “Chalet”

Calling Chilly Powder a chalet is a bit of a misnomer. Started by Francesca and Paul Eyre in 1996, there are a variety of accommodation options including catered bedrooms and self-catered chalets offering year-round holiday activities. They offer childcare, delicious food (dinners include wine) and a “nothing is too much trouble” attitude that ensures any stay is guaranteed to be amazing. The Eyre’s are incredible hosts – one of the highlights of our week was a night spent listening to their stories of how they met (both from the UK, they met in Morzine), all the professional cycling teams that have stayed at Chilly Powder during the Tour and so much more. The “do-everything-possible-for-guests” attitude starts from the top and works down through the rest of the staff.

In addition to being a gourmet chef (hence the incredible cuisine that separates Chilly Powder from pretty much any other “chalet” I’ve ever stayed at), Francesca is an accomplished endurance competitor – she’s taken on numerous long-distance triathlon, cycling and trail-running events, including the Manaslu trail run in Nepal that featured 220 km of running with 15,000 m of climbing. The Eyre’s three children are also accomplished athletes – son Ben played junior hockey in the United States and now plays the local professional team, Eloise is an elite skier and youngest son Jaimie is also making his mark as a hockey player.

It’s not hard to see how the family could excel when it comes to sports based on where they live. Chilly Powder is at 800 m of altitude and it’s not hard to hike, run or ride up to 1,800 m. The cycling is truly out of this world – the region regularly hosts the Tour de France, taking the riders up the Col de Joux Plane, the Col de Joux Verte, the Col de Ramaz and the climb from Morzine to Avoriaz.

The cycling in the region is nothing short of amazing. In addition to the spectacular terrain and views, I was constantly amazed at how quiet the roads were in terms of both traffic and other riders. Each ride began with the descent down to Morzine, which meant, of course, it ended with the climb back up to Chilly Powder, which isn’t too much of a challenge – it’s a long, gradual climb with a couple of steeper pitches. I wouldn’t hesitate bringing anyone from my training group up it. The riding doesn’t all have to be over Tour de France-level climbs, either. One of my favourite rides was up to Lac Montriond, which was another gradual climb that doesn’t require pro-like quads.

What’s possibly even more incredible than the riding in Morzine, though, is the hiking and running. Once again, there are lots of options so you can choose your level of difficulty. From Chilly Powder we hiked for hours up into the Avoriaz ski area, enjoying the spectacular views down the valley. A short drive to Lac Montriond to watch the triathlon set us up for another beautiful hike from the lake to Les Lindarets, where we joined hundreds of other hikers who were enjoying a late lunch and the incredible views at one of the numerous cafes.

“Triathlon incorporates three sports,” you’re saying. “You haven’t talked about swimming at all.”

You beat me to it. I talked about Lac Montriond, which, since 2018 has hosted a triathlon race and offers pristine waters with a one-of-a-kind backdrop. Then there’s the swimming complex at the Parc des Dereches that features a 50 m outdoor pool and an indoor 25 m pool, along with both indoor and outdoor paddling pools and an 80 m waterslide.

Can you say training camp?


So how do you get to Chilly Powder? We flew to Geneva, then rented a car for the 75-minute drive. Switzerland is super-close – I was able to take a ferry across Lake Geneva for the elite racing at the ITU Grand Final in Lausanne, getting to the lake in about 45 mins. Italy is not far, either – in fact, for some of the hikes from Chilly Powder you are told to bring your passport – it’s not hard to hike your way across a border.

For those looking for a family-friendly training venture, there are lots of activities available in the region that will suit all ages. For those who don’t want to take on the auspicious climb to check out the Avoriaz ski area, there’s a cable car five minutes walk from Chilly Powder sure to provide some excitement for the little ones. Once there you can take on some easy jaunts around the unique ski village and there’s an indoor play pool perfect for kids, too. I even tried a canyoning excursion in which we followed a river down the mountain – doing everything from rappelling off a bridge to floating, jumping and climbing to make our way down. Such ventures are easy to find and do – the region is very dialed in to tourism and you can rent equipment for virtually any endeavour.

If you’re desperate to mix your trip with some sort of a sporting activity, there’s the Morzine Montriond Triathlon (Aug. 28, 2021) that includes super-sprint, sprint and Olympic-distance events for the adults, along with a kids race that includes a 100 m swim, 2 km bike and a 500 m run. It probably comes as no surprise, either, that the Morzine Haut Chalblais Granfondo on June 20, 2021 is considered one of the most difficult Gran Fondo events.

While I can’t even begin to imagine how much fun it would be to ski in Morzine, time there in the summer isn’t too shabby, either.

Chilly Powder

Chilly Powder operates year-round, offering active summer holidays for individuals, groups and families looking to experience the stunning Portes du Soleil region. Summer prices start from £595 per week based on two adults sharing a standard bedroom, or £1,660 for two adults and two children sharing a standard family bedroom. Prices based on a half-board basis with wine included in the evening meals. Self-catered chalets and winter ski holidays are also available.

Chilly Powder is offering a 100% credit note for all new bookings, should a booking have to be cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions in place during dates of a scheduled trip. To learn more about the guest guarantee or to making a booking, contact Chilly Powder on info@chillypowder.com or 020 7289 6958 or visit www.chillypowder.com