Wide view of Samoens ski area, Grand Massif, French Alps

Samoëns

Le Grand Massif, Haute-Savoie, French Alps

Modest altitude with no tortuous hairpin mountain climbs make Samoëns one of the more accessible bases for anyone planning to ski in the already highly-convenient Grand Massif.

Reassuringly heavy snowfalls, plus a one-hour transfer from Geneva airport (or one of the easier drives to the Alps from the UK) makes this an increasingly popular choice with quality-aware British skiers.

Wide view of mountains, forests and ski pistes with fresh snow above Samoens, French Alps

The Ski Area

The skiing in the Grand Massif is varied, with something for just about everyone, including experienced mile-hungry cruising fans, who will enjoy Les Cascades, at 14km Europe’s longest blue piste.

Sustained infrastructure investments have resulted a highly-capable lift system which makes getting around a breeze (although Flaine, in the very heart of the area, can present a few bottlenecks at the end of the day in peak season).

There’s also extensive cross-country terrain, plus dog-sledding and guided snow-shoeing (including evening treks to a mountain chalet for wine-tasting or a traditional Savoyard meal).

Resort Information

Altitude : 700m - 2480m
Grand Massif
Pistes Total:
265 km
17 Green
64 Blue
46 Red
14 Black
Ski Domain Lifts: 95
32 Draglifts
32 Chairlifts
1 Cabriolet
4 Gondolas
1 Cable Cars

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View from gondola ski lift of Samoens, Grand Massif, French Alps

The Ski Village

Being a living, working, year-round community means Samoëns has its feet on the ground, and so far at least, avoids any sense of exclusivity despite some chic boutiques. The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming, and even more so since the centre has become completely pedestrianised.

But in contrast to purpose-built, high-altitude ski villages, don't expect to simply stroll (let alone ski) to the front-de-neige. Instead, main access to the ski area is via the powerful Grand Massif Express gondola lift, which hauls skiers smoothly up to 1589m in an 8 minute hop.

Recent years have seen increases in premium accommodation, including CGH apartments, luxury chalets and a well-deserved fourth star for the popular Hotel Neige et Roc. A new all-inclusive Club Med opened in December 2017 at Samoëns 1600. Old-style charm extends to the celebrated La Jaÿsinia Alpine Botanical Gardens established here in 1905.

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

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Family skiers leaving chairlift above Samoens, Grand Massif, French Alps

Best For

Samoëns offers a premium package of extensive skiing with high quality accommodation for a discerning clientèle who appreciate the ambience of a traditional Savoyard mountain village. It's particularly good for beginners or those who aren't searching for hard core off-piste as there are miles of beautiful tree-lined cruising to be enjoyed.

Its growing popularity is a dependable indication that Samoëns is doing something right. The village is still full of charm and authenticity while supplying quality services and, of course, speedy access to all that skiing.

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Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery


Handiski...

  • Samoëns Handi-Glisse Association can help you organise your holiday www.samoens-handiglisse.com
  • Wide range of ski equipment available for free loan.
  • Concessions on Grand Massif lift pass.
  • Access to 22 lifts, 8 places available on Grand Massif Express.
  • Accessible toilets at Grand Massif Express and next to ESF building.
  • Disabled parking at Grand Massif Express (7) and Samoens 1600 (4).
  • Qualified instructors.

icon-smileyYes please...

  • Quality accommodation and services.
  • Big-mountain skiing, but authentic village ambience.
  • Superb beginners' area in safe terrain at Samoëns 1600. Some is exclusively reserved for Club Med guests and their families just a few steps from the all-inclusive resort entrance.
  • Excellent lift system allows easy (blue pistes) liaisons with the other villages.
  • Free shuttle service with frequent buses.
  • Short transfers from Geneva airport.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • Ski-in ski-out confined to Samoëns 1600, otherwise lift access is via the Grand Massif Express or nearby Vercland.
  • Key liaisons can get crowded at peak times.
  • Not ideal for those on a tight budget.
  • Night-life largely confined to dining out.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • Skiing with a guide will help you discover some of the Grand Massif's best terrain.
  • Try the new Coulouvrier lift, accessible via 2 long blue pistes when we visited. Opened in 2017/18 winter season there will eventually be a further 2 pistes added by 2018/19.

Practical Information

Getting there

By Car
For Dover-Calais ferry travel, other cross-channel routes, offers and bookings visit P&O Ferries

For Samoëns, exit the A40 motorway at Cluses-Scionzier (exit no.18). Samoëns is a 20-minute drive away.

By air
The cheapest and quickest way to reach Samoëns from the UK is via a low cost flight to Geneva.

By train
For the Grand Massif travel by Eurostar from London to Paris then take a train from Paris Austerlitz to Cluses.

Book your TGV fast train from Paris or Eurostar’s ski train direct to the French Alps with OUI.sncf

Transfers
Visit Ski-Lifts for the best range of ski transfer destinations from airports and main rail stations.


Things to do

Tried and testedVisit an artisan cheese producer


Le Criou
95 Chemin du Bré
Chez Renand
74340 Samoëns


Artisan cheese producer Aurore Delesmillieres in her farm shop, Samoens, French Alps

We visited artisan cheese producer Aurore Delesmillières at the family farm near Samoëns and discovered her range of 4 local cheeses. These young cow's milk cheeses are supplied to local shops, restaurants and holiday accommodation. Great for a fresh tasting starter or cheeseboard, you can buy it from the farm shop which is open 1745 - 1900hrs every day except Sunday.


Artisan cheese producer Aurore Delesmillieres with her cattle, Samoens, French Alps


Where to stay

Tried and testedCGH Residences Chalets de Layssia

19 place des sept-monts
74340 Samoens

Exterior view in snow of CGH Les Chalets de Layssia ski apartments, Samoens, French Alps

Situated in the heart of Samoëns village, Les Chalets de Layssia offers spacious and comfortable luxury apartments with on-site Ô des Cimes spa and fitness centre. Just a few steps from a good selection of shops, bars and restaurants, the residence has the convenience of a hotel with the benefits of self-catering. The shuttle bus to the Grand Massif Express gondola stops beside the residence and runs quite frequently. We were there in January and with plenty of room in the car parks found it more convenient to take the car.

The Ô des Cimes spa offers a range of treatments in a calm and relaxing setting. We tried the 30 minute back massage "en duo" which we can thoroughly recommend for easing those tight shoulder and back muscles. The residence pool is great for a dip but its modest size may frustrate keen swimmers. The Jacuzzi's, sauna and Hammam are separated from the pool area, creating a calm adult space.

Rooms are spacious and well-appointed although kitchen areas, while well-equipped are limited in worktop areas. Our large balcony had a view towards the Grand Massif Express gondola and the ice-skating rink. The residence has a welcoming lounge area for guests with refreshments and children's games.

For shopping, there are bakeries nearby and a mini-market in the town. A short drive beyond the village is a large modern supermarket ideal for stocking up with groceries and fresh produce.

Enquiries and bookings:
Peak Retreats
023 9283 9310 (UK)
reservations@peakretreats.co.uk


Tried and testedCGH Residences La Reine des Près

Samoëns

CGH Residences La Reine des Pres, Samoens

La Reine des Près luxury residence is just 5 minutes walk from the Grand Massif Express gondola lift giving access to the Grand Massif area and a couple of minutes from Samoëns village main square.

The residence offers 80 comfortable apartments combining traditional Savoyard features with premium facilities. Within the Leisure Centre you can relax and enjoy great views from the free private indoor heated swimming-pool with Jacuzzis, saunas, steam room and fitness room. You might also find time to be pampered in the Ô des Cîmes Spa (payable).
The residence has a spacious lounge area with open fireplace, its own covered parking (payable), laundry room (payable), ski lockers and a luggage room. There's free Wi-Fi in apartments and reception.

MGM Reine des Pres, Samoens reception area.

All the stylish apartments at La Reine des Près are fitted and furnished to a high standard of comfort and convenience. They have a living area with a double pull-out bed (making up 2 single beds), a fully equipped kitchenette, bathroom with hairdryer and wc (sometimes separate). All apartments have satellite TV, telephone and a balcony.

Enquiries and bookings:
Peak Retreats
023 9283 9310 (UK)
reservations@peakretreats.co.uk


Tried and testedHôtel Chalet Neige et Roc

74340 Samoëns

Hotel Neige et Roc, Samoens

Owners Françoise and Olivier Deffaugt have created an extremely comfortable hotel. The ambience is warm and attractive with relaxing surroundings plus spa and fitness facilities. Located just a short, level stroll from the village centre (the shuttle bus stops near the hotel entrance).


Where to Eat

Tried and testedLa Maison de Fifine

74340 Samoëns
+33 (0)4 50 34 10 29

Relax in the warmth of an exceptional setting, where owners Liliane et Jean-Yves Bellenger have recreated a centuries-old Alpine chalet. It works, and so does the menu: traditional Savoyard specialities with a modern twist.


Tried and testedL'Igloo Refuge

Piste Marvel, 74440 Morillon (or top of Bergin chairlift), tel:+33(0)4 50 90 14 31

A modern take on all the traditional Savoyard dishes with delicious home-made soup, cheese dishes and salads in generous portions. The interior dining is cosy with a wood burning stove to warm you up. There's also a covered terrace and outdoor seating if the weather is suitable.

Prices start at 7€ for a sandwich with most dishes around 16-18€. It's got a nice selection for children too. The restaurant is busy from midday but our tip would be to reserve or arrive after 1 pm.


Insight: Samoëns

Skiers joining ski lift at Samoens 1600, Grand Massif, French Alps.

Insight: Samoëns

Daylight levels and temperatures are both falling as we peel off the autoroute from Geneva and begin the gentle ascent towards Samoëns. When we reach the valley we glimpse the silvery flash of snow-covered forests through the gathering gloom. So far it’s looking good. A few minutes later we’ve checked into our accommodation at CGH Les Chalets de Laÿssia and are transferring bags from the underground car park to the spacious apartment which will be home for the next week.

The next morning we gaze from the balcony across to an impressive, award-winning covered ice rink, a new arrival since we were last in Samoëns. Beyond it the Grand Massif Express gondola lift is stirring from its slumbers, ready to haul skiers up the mountainside to Samoëns 1600, gateway to the vast Grand Massif ski domain.

The route over is hypnotic, climbing first through fairytale forests of snow-laden pines and larches before bursting dramatically from the tree-line to reveal the vastness of the wide-open ski terrain spread enticingly beneath us..
Skiers on forested piste, Grand Massif
A moment of calm on Lou Darbes piste above Les Carroz.

Fuelled for the long run

For our first day’s skiing we unpack our skis and head off to board the shuttle bus which stops beside the residence. It’s a free service, but takes a circuitous route to pick up other skiers before finally dropping us at the foot of the gondola lift. The Grand Massif Express is an impressive, high-capacity lift offering a smooth and at times near-vertical haul. It’s quite a ride, but around eight minutes later we’re stepping from the cocooning micro-climate of our cabin into the desiccating chill of a sunlit snowscape at Samoëns 1600. Things have changed a lot in recent years, not least the addition, a few steps from the lift, of a brand new Resort Club Med.

After snapping into our bindings we push off for an introductory glide down to the six-seater Chariande Express, the first of the series of onward chairlifts linking Samoëns with Morillon, Les Carroz, Flaine and ultimately Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval (from which the return journey is via shuttle only).

The route over is as hypnotic as we remember it, climbing first through snow-laden pines and larches before bursting dramatically from the forest to reveal the sudden vastness of the wide-open terrain spread enticingly beneath us. It’s a fast lift; a little over six minutes and 2.26km later we ski off at the Tête de Saix (2118m). Up here we’re spoilt for choice, with red- and blue-graded descents back through the tree-line to the neighbouring villages. If the snow cover is good there’s also the option of skiing back to the foot of an antique ‘egg’-style gondola serving Vercland, between Samoëns and Morillon.

Somewhere down there in the shelter of the similarly-wooded margins are the villages of Morillon and Les Carroz. As we ski off the Chariande chairlift we find ourselves at the 2118m Tête de Saix, which opens up the possibilities for anyone who enjoys covering some distance. From here, if we keep straight ahead we’ll eventually reach Flaine, something we decide to put on hold until things have warmed up a little. Instead we turn right and point our skis towards the terrain belonging to nearby Morillon, in search of some more sheltered runs down towards the forests.

This is one of the joys of skiing in the Grand Massif, and one of which many skiers are unaware until they actually come and experience it for themselves, since Flaine (much of whose terrain is well above the tree-line) has always tended to grab most of the media attention.

En route to the Tête des Saix (2120m) on the Gentianes chairlift.
The final run down to Flaine on the Blue-graded Tourmaline piste.

Running for cover

Taking a combination of blue- and red-graded pistes starting with Perce-Neige and l’Arête, we work our way lazily and in blissful near-silence down to Morillon 1100. If we wished we could continue all the way to the main village some 400m lower, from which the Morillon gondola would bring us straight back up again. However, we’re warming up nicely now and are developing a taste for these quieter, sheltered runs, so we decide to stick to our winning formula and turn our attention to the more extensively-wooded terrain above neighbouring Les Carroz. As you’ll see in our Resort Review, we’ve skied it in varying conditions, including fresh (and still-accumulating) powder, so we know that this sector is well worth exploring – particularly during less-than-perfect weather, when the sheltered runs here feel particularly welcoming.

This particular morning’s visibility is however perfect, so after a few tree-lined blues and reds confirm everything we’d remembered about this sector, we work our way back up to the Gentianes chair-lift to enjoy some of the best views in the Grand Massif. At the top we ski off back at the Tête de Saix, where things feel a lot less raw now that the sun has climbed a little higher in the near-cloudless sky. Temperatures remain low, however, keeping snow conditions close to perfect as we ski down to pick up the Vernant chair-lift up to the 2204m Grands Vans, followed by a gently-snaking cruise down the blue-graded Tourmaline piste. As we swoop down through the tree-line once again, we see coming towards us in slow-zoom the unmistakable outline of Flaine Forum, the ski village created by Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer.

Frozen Cascades

After a welcome lunch break on the front-de-neige we take the Grand Platières gondola up to 2480m, the highest point in the Grand Massif and gateway to the famous Cascades piste. Europe’s longest Blue run extends for 14km, while dropping a similarly-remarkable 1800m, most of them gently. The sting in the tail is a final steep winding descent beside the frozen waterfalls after which it is named. It’s almost always icy, and today is no exception, putting our edge-grip to the test. At the bottom we find ourselves in the small village of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval, where we refuel on chocolat-chaud before boarding a shuttle-bus back to Samoëns.

Back at the hotel only our legs know just how far we’ve travelled, but it adds up to a long way; more than we’d thought possible, in fact. Despite which, we can’t resist a final walk around the heart of the village, which is a very nice place in which to spend some time unwinding. Later, as we relax beside the hotel’s crackling log fire, we reflect on our experiences, and realise that Samoëns is somewhere to which we’ll happily return, with or without an excuse. MountainPassions heart icon