High view of chairlift with skiers, with mountains above clouds at Samoens


Le Grand Massif, Haute-Savoie, French Alps

Modest altitude with no tortuous hairpin mountain climbs make this 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

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


Village chalet hotel with mountain chalets on mountainside in background

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 6-8-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 opend in December 2017 at Samoens 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


Skiers leaving high-speed gondola lift top station

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 – namely conserving its charm and authenticity while supplying quality services and, of course, speedy access to all that skiing.


Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery


  • 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 calm, authentic village ambience.
  • Excellent lift system.
  • Short transfers from Geneva airport.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • No ski-in/ski-out.
  • Not ideal for those on a tight budget.
  • Night-life largely confined to dining out.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • It’s big; get your bearings by skiing with a guide on your first day.

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 .

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

Things to do

La Cour

385 Chemin de la Cour
74 340 Samoens
+33 (0)450 349 296

Intimate spa and relaxation centre on the ground floor of the residence known as La Cour. Jacuzzi, Hammam, sauna, massage room and lounge area provide an opportunity to relax those muscles after a day on the ski slopes or a snowshoe outing.

Tried and testedÔ des Cîmes Spa & Wellbeing

MGM Reine des Prés

Jacuzzis, saunas, steam room and fitness room plus a selection of invigorating massages or beauty treatments.

Where to stay

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).

Tried and testedLa Reine des Près


MGM Reine des Pres, Samoens

La Reine des Prés 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.

Built by the acclaimed mountain developers MGM, this brand new residence offers 80 luxurious apartments combining traditional Savoyard features with high standards of comfort and permium 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 and Beauty Care Centre (payable).
The residence has a spacious lounge area with open fireplace, its own covered parking (payable €50/week, max height 1.80m), 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 very 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
0844 576 0170 (UK) or +44 23 9283 9310

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 andtestedL'Igloo Refuge

Piste Marvel, 74440 Morillon (or top of Bergin chairlift), tel:

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 wetaher 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

View from chairlift among snow-covered trees above Samoens

Insight: Samoëns

Light is falling fast as we peel off the autoroute from Geneva and begin the gentle final ascent towards Samoëns. When we reach the valley temperatures are plummeting… and through the gathering gloom we glimpse the silvery flash of snow-covered forests, a clear sign of cold conditions after recent heavy falls. We just couldn’t be happier. When we reach the hotel our hosts confirm that snow conditions are indeed just perfect, and set to remain so for some time to come. Sure enough, the next morning provides all the confirmation we need, and reveal for the first time the dramatic setting of the village, whose cuckoo-clock chalets cling to the mountainside below a huge rocky outcrop.

“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 spreading far beneath us..”

Skiers on forested piste, Grand Massif
A moment of calm on Lou Darbes piste above Les Carroz.

Fuelled for the long run

Breakfast at the Hotel Neige et Roc is enjoyed in the company of fellow guests attired for a whole catalogue of outdoor winter activities (the most athletic-looking couples invariably being the cross-country skiing fans) and like us, they’re clearly torn between the snug pleasures of chalet hospitality and the urgent call of the mountains.

The mountains always win, of course, so we pack our skis and head off to board the Grand Massif Express gondola lift for the smooth, near-vertical haul up to almost 1600m. It’s quite a ride, but around six minutes later we’re stepping from the cocooning micro-climate of our cabin into the desiccating chill of a sunlit snowscape. After snapping into our bindings we push off for an introductory glide down to the first of the series of onward chairlifts and blue-graded cruises which will take us towards the giant powder bowl which is home to the ski village of Flaine.

The route over proves to be hypnotic, climbing first through fairytale forests of snow-laden pines and larches before bursting dramatically from the tree-line to reveal the sudden vastness of the wide-open ski terrain spreading far beneath us. 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