SAMOENS & THE GRAND MASSIF
Samoëns would be one of the Alps most beautiful villages in any light; being a ski resort makes it doubly so. Packed with Savoyard charm and dating back to the 13th century it still retains many architectural features from this era including a gothic church and medieval square. It is the only ski resort in France to be listed as a historical and artistic monument and so you can experience French culture and history as well as amazing skiing.
The tastefully developed town bars, restaurants and shops offer a good mix of interesting products and every Wednesday morning you can stroll around the traditional market which has been taking place every Wednesday for over 500 years!
Grand Massif ski area
Only one hour from Geneva airport, the Grand Massif is a huge ski area of five linked resorts (Morillon, Samoëns, Les Carroz, Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval and Flaine) with a wide range of varied terrain for all levels of skier and snowboarder.
Luxury ski chalet La Retraite is nestled in the heart of this area; within five minutes drive to Morillon’s, Samoëns’ and Vercland’s ski lifts.
The Grand Massif has 265km of beautifully groomed pistes including Cascades which is Europe’s longest blue piste; a stunning 14km run from the top of Flaine down past breathtaking mountain scenery and ending in the beautiful alpine village of Sixt. There are also vast off piste areas; the region is something of an undiscovered freeride paradise.
In the shadow of Mont Blanc, the area is renowned for its reliable snow record and has terrain for beginners to advanced making it ideal for family and group holidays. Skiing and boarding is on either open or tree-lined pistes 80% of which in Samoëns are north facing and provide a good mix of green, blue, red and black. You also have direct access to Flaine, Morillon and Les Carroz from the top of Samoëns ski area.
There are numerous bars and restaurants on the mountain for regular pit stops too. we’d be happy to recommend our favourites.
But don’t just take our word for it:
‘I consider the Grand Massif to be the most underrated ski area in the Alps. The 265km of pistes are more exciting and more varied than the motorways of Paradiski or les Trois Valleés.”
Peter Hardy, The Daily Telegraph
“Whether you are a beginner or pro, mad for skiing or crazy for snowboarding the Grand Massif is the place to get your kicks.” www.onthesnow.co.uk
Download le Grand Massif’s resort and weather app here.
* Figures provided by the Grand Massif ski resort
Grand Massif Improvements 2017/18
There are some big and exciting improvements happening in the Grand Massif over the summer of 2017
The Coulouvrier Bowl Development
A substantial expansion of the Grand Massif ski area with the addition of 4 new pistes in an entirely new valley; 2 blue runs for winter 2017/18 & 2 red runs for winter 2018/19. The pistes will be served by a new 6-seater chairlift departing from 1200m and arriving at 2120m, it will be the longest lift of it’s kind in Europe at 2850m. Taking only 10 minutes to whisk you back to the top, the lift will have a capacity of 3000 people per hour. This new area will be equipped with 70 new snow cannons.
Extensive remodelling of the Tete de Saix to improve the movement of skiers as they travel between the various areas of the ski resort. The summit will also benefit from stunning 360 degree views.
Snow Making in Flaine
Creation of a 110,000m3 reservoir which will provide Flaine with a tenfold increase in it’s snow making capacity. Carefully integrated into the surrounding landscape, it will help to offer enhanced snow coverage on the linking runs leading back to the resort.
In the autumn of 2016, The Grand Massif ski area became the first ski area to be awarded the Green Globe certification for all it’s services including ski lifts, pistes.
Origine Grand Massif
Started up by the Grand Massif ski area, the ‘Origine Grand Massif’ association has been created to support the local economy by promoting and connecting local producers and artists to skiers visiting the area.
Morillon, Flaine, Les Carroz & Sixt
Home to French Olympic ski champion Antoine Dénériaz, this small and pretty village is also a gateway to the Grand Massif ski area. Morillon has plenty of great runs including the marvellous Marvel, a wide, pretty and interesting 7km green run through the trees designed for beginners but everyone loves it! There’s a friendly traditional bakery, bars, a few small shops and a relaxed pace to life. Morillon also has a traditional market every Wednesday afternoon.
Uncompromisingly modern, Flaine is the architectural vision of one of the Bauhaus movement’s most famous sons, Marcel Breuer, designer of the Unesco building in Paris and the Wassily chair. Whether you consider the architecture a work of modern art or an eyesore, Flaine itself is a huge snow bowl with extensive and varied ski runs plus the area is blessed with one of the best snowfalls in the Alps – an average 6m per year. This fabulous ski area is easily accessed from Morillon and Samoëns – 5 and 9 minutes respectively from Rêves de Montagne.
Originally a traditional farming village Les Carroz ski resort was created in 1936. Ski into Les Carroz from the top of Morillon and enjoy a mix of pistes to suit all abilities of skiers and boarders. Off-piste fans will enjoy the tree runs under the gondola – a local secret! Les Carroz is also home to our favourite restaurant in the Grand Massif – the absolutely fabulous Les Servages d’Armelle.
Rich in 9th century architecture Sixt is part of the Grand Massif ski area with some lovely red runs in Sixt itself and, of course, the famous Cascades piste – a 14 km blue run starting at the top of Flaine and ending in Sixt. At the end of the valley is the stunning Cirque du Fer à Cheval, a horseshoe of huge snow covered mountains and frozen waterfalls which can only be explored on foot – or snowshoe
The Grand Massif is France’s 4th largest ski area and boasts an excellent snow record, one of the best in France in fact, due to its proximity to Mont Blanc and a unique micro climate. There’s a large percentage of north facing slopes and 128 snow cannons ensure the entire area remains snow sure throughout the season.
If you fancy a day trip why not visit Chamonix where you can take a cable car to Aiguille du Midi and absorb stunning 360° views of Mont Blanc and the French, Swiss and Italian Alps from an altitude of 3,842m. Chamonix is only 45 minutes drive away and we can arrange transport for you. Or perhaps you fancy a trip to Annecy, a beautiful medieval town built around a 14th Century Chateau that is dissected by small canals and streams running out of the lake. Maybe a day trip to Italy appeals – you can enjoy a beautiful spa set in a 1920s building with stunning views of Mont Blanc from the Italian side (only 1 hour 15 min drive away from the chalet).
The Grand Massif piste map
Your luxury chalet is less than a 5 minute drive from main Grand Massif Express gondola, which takes you up to Samöens 1600m. Here there are a choice of numerous runs. It’s also the main drop off and pick up point for the ski schools and ski lessons.
Hassle free skiing
We can have your ski passes and skis (or boards) at the Chalet, ready for your arrival, saving you precious time in the queues on the first morning.
Grand Massif is a snowboarders paradise. Its one of the largest ski areas in France – consisting of five interlinked resorts – and has a vast network of lifts rising to 2500m. Plus the the direct proximity to the Mont Blanc Massif makes for very consistent fresh powder on and off piste snowboarding.
Whether you’re a first timer finding your feet or an experienced rider looking to explore new terrain and push your boundaries, there is plenty for every level of rider at the Grand Massif.
If carving the pistes is your thing, you’re in luck, the Grand Massif has 265km of them from tree lined coasting in Morillon , huge open slope bombing in the upper mountain of Flaine and the unmissable experience of the Cascades clocking in at a mere 14km long.
Park riders are not left out with ‘Le Foret’ putting a twist on the traditional, winding through the trees making the most of the natural terrain available giving you a truly unique freestyle experience.
When the snow is fresh you couldn’t be anywhere better to slide off piste and into the kind of riding you only dream about.
Steep and deep lines under the Samoens lifts are not to be missed, dive into the seemingly endless trees that cover La Carroz and make sure to keep an eye on the legendary Gers Bowl for the backcountry experience of a lifetime.
Whether you’re a beginner or expert, ski lessons are a great investment and help you enjoy your holiday to the maximum. There are several reputable ski schools in Samoëns, offering ski and snowboard instruction at all levels in both English and French:
- ZigZag International Ski School. This smaller, private school is a firm favourite, and offers high-quality tuition tailored to suit your level. All the instructors speak good English, and are enthusiastic and friendly. Book early to ensure a place.
- 360 International. Another boutique school, with English-speaking instructors and good tuition.
- Ecole du Ski Français. For the traditionalists, ESF is the largest and most well-established ski school in France. It offers individual and group lessons (English is not guaranteed), though our guests have found that quality can be variable.
For more information and prices, please visit each school’s website. We’ll be happy to make a reservation for you, or you can contact them direct.
There is much more to Samoëns in Winter than just skiing and snowboarding.
There are numerous winter activities on offer in Samoëns in the Giffre Valley for those who don’t like skiing or snowboarding but still fancy an energising winter break in the mountains. You can explore the slopes at a more leisurely pace on snowshoes or cross country skis, sail above them on a tandem parapent ride, whip across them on snowmobiles, soar above Mont Blanc on a spectacular helicopter ride, or take a romantic trip on a husky sleigh ride.
- Igloo building
- Helicopter sightseeing
- Ice climbing
- Ski de fond
- Dog sledging
“A pair of skis is the ultimate transportation to freedom“