Elevated view of the Grand Massif ski area above Flaine.

Flaine

Le Grand Massif, Haute-Savoie, French Alps

The Grand Massif’s largest ski village supplies an upbeat base for exploring the huge linked domain.

Purpose-built Flaine sits in a wide bowl, sheltering it from the worst excesses of passing weather fronts.

A respectable altitude means slightly longer transfers from Geneva airport than to neighboring Samoëns, Morillon or Les Carroz but it remains one of the shorter drives to the Alps from the UK.

Rear view of skier on return piste with Flaine la Foret some distance ahead.

The Ski Area

The Grand Massif is deservedly popular with British skiers, who value its wealth of varied terrain, good snow record and the fact that it offers something for just about everyone, including those in search of mileage. Select your lift-pass according to your own hunger for exploration, starting with the Forfait Flaine offering 120km of pistes around the Flaine itself. The Forfait Massif, on the other hand, expands things to include the terrain between Flaine and Samoëns, Morillon, Les Carroz and Sixt Fer A Cheval - a total of 145km. Topping off the options is the Forfait Grand Massif, opening up all 265km of groomed pistes, with something for pretty well all levels of skiing ability. Both the lift system and piste layout are constantly being improved, although later in the day there still signs of congestion on key return runs into Flaine Forêt.

Resort Information

Altitude : 1600m - 2500m
Flaine
Pistes Total:
140 km
8 Green
26 Blue
25 Red
5 Black
Ski Resort Lifts : 23
1 Magic Carpets
9 Draglifts
10 Chairlifts
1 Cabriolet
2 Gondolas
Grand Massif
Pistes Total:
265 km
20 Green
65 Blue
50 Red
13 Black
Ski Domain Lifts: 70
4 Magic Carpets
29 Draglifts
29 Chairlifts
2 Cabriolet
6 Gondolas
1 Cable Cars

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Bird's-eye view of snow-covered apartment blocks an pine forests at Flaine-la-Foret, French Alps.

The Ski Village

Opinion is sharply divided on the hard-edged architectural style of Flaine Forum, but since some of the original apartment blocks are now officially listed as Historic Monuments they obviously have their own fans. And most subsequent developments (including MGM Constructeur’s recent Le Centaure apartments) have sustained the general feel, preserving much of the original unity of the site. All of which makes it refreshingly free from ostentation, and a fun place to be. It’s practical, too, with everything close at hand. Slightly less so, but offering sweeping views over the village is the Hameau de Flaine - seventy or so Scandinavian-style chalets added on an elevated site 2km away by a Norwegian developer during the 1980s. Set between the two is the car-free Flaine Montsoleil resort, originally developed by the Canadian Intrawest Corporation and now owned by French leisure giant Pierre et Vacances.

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

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View from chair-lift between snow-covered pine forests between Samoens and Flaine.

Best For

Mile-hungry intermediates who find the idea of ski-touring appealing, but prefer for the most part to remain safely on-piste - the Grand Massif has lots of terrain, and each sector has its own distinct personality. And getting around is easy, with plenty of Blue-graded cruising for those simply want to glide around the mountains in relaxed fashion and see the sights. Those who normally prefer to stick closer to home might just find things more limiting, though, as all the great scenery lies beyond the surrounding ridges and many skiers waste no time heading off to enjoy them. As for beginners, if you’re keen to make rapid progress then Flaine could be a good choice, as you’ll soon be hankering to leave that bowl and ski what lies above and beyond it.

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Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery

Snowboarding

The Jam Park has a boarder cross and other features.
1 Snowparks
1 Snowboarder Cross


Cross-Country Skiing


13km Cross-Country and Nordic Ski Trails

Handiski...

  • Reserved parking at the bottom of the cable car, entrance via Flaine Forum. Under the Cassiopée flats in Flaine Forum (2 places), and Combe de Vernant carpark (2 places).
  • Direct access to most pistes in Flaine and the Grand Massif. Download piste map for disabled skiers here.
  • Preferential ski pass price for disabled skiers, see tarifs (conditions apply).
  • Public toilets at Covagnes – one step depending on the amount of snow.
  • For adapted accommodation options contact the Tourist Office + 33 (0)4 50 90 80 01 or ask your tour operator.
  • Ecole du Ski Français (ESF), Ski Ecole International and Flaine Mountain Experience (offer equipment) have specialist instructors. For more information email contact@grand-massif.com.

icon-smileyYes please...

  • Excellent snow record.
  • Big-mountain skiing, combined with lively (but not too lively) mood.
  • Capable, modern lift system with convenient hands-free lift passes.
  • Short transfers from Geneva.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • Flaine Forum isn’t exactly chocolate-box pretty...
  • Despite improvements, return runs can become congested.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • When temperatures are low and snow conditions are good, ski Les Cascades - but be ready for an always-icy final section...

Practical Information

Getting there

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

The Grand Massif is a full days drive from Calais, mostly on autoroutes (tolls will cost just over 60 euros each way). For Les Carroz, exit the A40 motorway at Cluses Centre (exit no.19). Take the N205 Sallanches direction, then after 3km turn left to Flaine on the D6.
Note:
It is essential to carry snow-chains when driving to Flaine
.

By air
The cheapest and quickest way to reach the Grand Massif from the UK is via a low cost flight to Geneva which has a 1¼hr transfer time, 1¾hr by bus. Hire a car when booking your flight or book a shuttle bus in advance. Expect to pay around 40 euros single/70 euros return. See all bus and taxi details here.

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 .

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


Where to stay

Tried and testedLes Chalets du Hameau

Flaine, Grand Massif

Le Hameau de Flaine is a small hamlet offering a collection of unique chalets built in Scandinavian style. The lively resort centre of Flaine Forum/Flaine la Fôret and its ski lifts to the Grand Massif ski area is only 2km away via ski or the free shuttle bus. For your convenience, there's a grocery shop, restaurant, bar and reception desk for all information at the heart of the hamlet.

All the apartments and chalets are fitted and furnished to a high standard, are south-facing and have some of the best views over the valley. As they're all privately owned, each one is individual and has personal touches, which make them homely, comfortable and inviting.
They all have a fully equipped kitchenette with electric hob, oven, fridge and dishwasher (the chalets also have a freezer), TV (with 2 English channels), ski locker and a balcony or terrace.

Enquiries and bookings:
Ski Collection
0844 576 0175 (UK)
or +44 (0)2392 890 960
reservations@skicollection.co.uk


Where to Eat

Tried and testedLe Bissac

74300 Flaine
+33 (0)4 50 90 81 32

Situated at the top of the cabriolet lift at Flaine, Le Bissac offers a self-serve or restaurant menu in the warm and cheerful chalet interior. Always busy at lunchtimes, but you can while away a few minutes at the bar waiting for a table. Good quality food and service, though vegetarians have a more limited choice.


Tried and testedL’Igloo

74440 Morillon
+33 (0)4 50 90 14 31

Situated at the top of the Sairon chairlift in Morillon at altitude 1600m, L’Igloo is a warm and welcoming mountain restaurant. The food is of the highest quality and reasonably priced. We can recommend the home-made vegetable soup with plenty of grated cheese and fresh bread for 7,50 euros. Other snacks, regional dishes, salads, and a plat du jour are available, plus a selection of delicious desserts.


Insight: Flaine

Wide valley with distant skier in huge mountain landscape above Flaine, Grand Massif

Insight: Flaine

It’s already snowing hard as we pass Les Carroz, with a further 14km of steady climbing ahead of us before we reach Flaine. Around the mid-way point we pass the base station at Les Molliets chairlift, barely visible beyond vast accumulations of drifted snow, leaving us in no doubt that the Grand Massif’s reputation as a snow-magnet is well-founded. By now we can sense that we’re almost there, but nevertheless tackle the final hairpin descent into Flaine Forum with due reverence. Then we see it — the vast snowy bowl bounded more by vast ridges than peaks, and at its heart the unmistakable, assertive outlines of the Bauhaus-influenced apartment blocks styled by Marcel Breuer back in the mid-’60s. Countless images in the press have shown us how it looks; now we’re finally about to see how it all feels.

“…the vast snowy bowl bounded more by vast ridges than peaks, and at its heart the unmistakable, assertive outlines of the Bauhaus-influenced apartment blocks styled by Marcel Breuer back in the mid-’60s.”

All the way up

The village is car-free but today, at least, parking is no problem. Within minutes we’re walking around the heart of the village, an experience which proves a lot more uplifting than we’d imagined. As for the architecture, the overall effect, when softened by a pristine snowscape, suggests that style and functionality can co-exist — although quite how successfully is a more subjective judgement. Whatever we might feel, there’s no doubt in our minds as to the quality and quantity of the skiing on offer. We arm ourselves with Forfait Grand Massif lift-passes giving us access to a total of 265km of groomed terrain, allowing us the freedom to seek out the very best conditions, no matter what the weather might decide to throw at us. But there’s more to this decision than mere convenience, as we’ll discover.

Flaine forum, snow, trees

Freedom to explore

Our first days are spent making the most of the fresh snow, sometimes by taking the Grand Platières gondola to the highest point (2480m) in the massif to storm down long, Red-graded runs like Faust, one of our personal favourites. Another similarly-entertaining option involves riding the Aup de Véran gondola over to the steep terrain below the Tête des Lindars (2561m). From here the Diamant Noir traverse link feeds over to Almandine, a long, Red-graded plunge back towards the village. One of the less-obvious attractions of this sector is the easily-overlooked but nevertheless charming Célestine, an innocent-looking Red-graded piste which winds its way down to enter near-silent forest, where it twists, skier-cross style, among the trees before emerging back right beside the village. Just don’t tell a soul about this one.

Heading further afield means taking the Grand Vans 8-seater chairlift, notable for the glacial cold of most of our journeys, despite (or because of) its rapid progress. But it’s certainly worth it, even on days when the snow falls, visibility clamps down and we have to put our trust in piste-markings alone for navigation. At times like this the reward is the sheltered terrain among the forests above Les Carroz and Morillon, where we float around contentedly in a silent world as the powder beneath our skis grows ever deeper.

We get a whole lot more of this during our final days here, the sustained snowfalls drawing us back to the tree-lined terrain. In fact, the only down-side is that the weather has closed one of our all-time favourite long-distance routes, Les Cascades, which begins at Les Grandes-Platières and ends up an incredible 14km later below a series of frozen waterfalls above Sixt-Fer à Cheval. So we have the perfect excuse to come back. MountainPassions heart icon

Skier on piste with snow-laden trees, Grand Massif.