For the Better part of one hundred years the recent history of Morzine has been closely linked with winter sports, beginning with skiing and more recently snowboarding.
1934 — First Cable Car
In 1934 the town of Morzine borrowed funds to build what would be only the second lift of its kind to be built in France, following on from the example set by Chamonix. This lift was the Pleney. This led to a huge increase in skiing and the resort continued to grow. Increased income from tourism led to the next major development in the area.
1952 — The Francois Baud Footbridge
Completed in 1952 the Francois Baud footbridge, or passerelle, is a suspension bridge that links the Pleney side of Morzine with the Montriond side of the valley. It is one of the dominant features of the town, rising up from the Dérêches.
1960 — Jean Vuarnet gold medal
In 1960 local skier Jean Vuarnet travelled to the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics where he won the gold medal in downhill skiing. Vuarnet returned to Morzine with a dream of creating the “Aspen of the Alps” He was asked by the town to help develop skiing in the area.
1963 — Avoriaz
Vuarnet had long seen the potential for skiing in the Chavanettes and Hauts Forts areas. This led to his desire to build Avoriaz. Vuarnet began construction in 1963 with the construction of the Prodains cable car. After running into financial problems Vuarnet contacted a builder from Paris by the name of Robert Bremond. Bremond assembled a group of young architects - Jean-Jaques Orzoni, Jean-Marc Roques and Jaques Labro. Their plan for the resort was to go against the fashion of constructing concrete blocks and instead build somewhere that would blend in with the surrounding mountains.
2012 — The indoor Swimming Pool
In the summer of 2012 the new swimming pool complex opened in the Dérêches. The outdoor facilities include a 50 x 21 metre olympic swimming pool heated to 27 degrees, a paddling pool, a teaching pool and sun loungers. The inside area includes a heated swimming pool, a teaching pool, a paddling pool and a spa area including Turkish baths.
The opening up of skiing in Avoriaz was one of the most important events in the history of Morzine, changing the area massively in the space of just fifty years. The construction of Avoriaz was the cornerstone for the design and realisation of the Portes Du Soleil ski area.
Jean Vuarnet and the Winter Olympics
A young Morzine skier by the name of Jean Vuarnet had begun exploring the snowy slopes above the Avoriaz plateau - particularly Chavanette and the Hauts Forts. He went on to win a gold medal at the 1960 Winter Olympics in the downhill skiing event in Squaw Valley, America. He returned to Morzine with a dream - to open up those areas for the public to ski, and to construct a resort there similar to those he had seen in America.
The construction of Avoriaz
Jean Vuarnet was aware that he needed a partner for this venture. He found a perfect partner in Gerard Bremond, founder of the Pierre & Vacances holiday group. Bremond associated with young architects who he saw as visionaries. These were Jena Jacques Orzoni, Jean-Marc Roques and Jacques Labro and together they began to visualise a different kind of alpine resort. The idea was to integrate with the environment. The heating would be electric, there would be no cars - indeed, the roads would be ski runs! The architecture would not be traditional Alpine chalets but would draw on a wealth of other influences - Baroque, Avant Garde, whatever influenced the young architects. The designs for Avoriaz began to take shape towards the end of 1962.
The first ski lifts
At the same time as plans were beginning for the village of Avoriaz, the ski area was beginning to open up. The Tete Aux Boeufs slope was equipped with a chairlift and drag lifts.
The development of the Prodains cable car was one of the most significant for Avoriaz. Opening in 1963, it helped to link the Morzine valley with the developments in Avoriaz.
In 1968 Telechampery constructed a two man chairlift giving access to the Chavanette area. At the same time Avoriaz began constructing a drag lift into the area which was completed in the summer of 1968. Jean Vuarnetís dream of opening up the Chavanette area to skiers was finally realised. The area, including the infamous Swiss Wall, was now accessible to skiers. The two sides - Swiss and French - were now linked and the first ever Avoriaz - Les Crosets - Champery lift pass went on sale.