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
Grand Massif pistes
23 Green
60 Blue
47 Red
12 Black
Ski Domain Lifts: 95
9 Magic Carpets
25 Draglifts
26 Chairlifts
1 Cabriolet
6 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.
  • List of accessible lifts available as download on Samoëns website.
  • 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 sector - two new long pistes with 6-seater chairlift.

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

The following morning, while gazing from the balcony we spot a change to the skyline since we were last in Samoëns, in the shape of a large covered ice rink. 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 haul is as hypnotic as we remember it, climbing through snow-laden pines and larches before bursting dramatically into the sudden vastness of the wide-open terrain spread enticingly beneath us..
Wide overview of Samoens 1600 ski village, showing Club Med village, French Alps.
High view of skiers on piste between Samoens and Les Carroz, French Alps.

Fuelled for the long run

Keen to do just that, we unpack our skis and climb aboard 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. Eight minutes or so 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 up here recently, including the addition, just a few steps from the lift, of a brand new Club Med Ski Resort.

From Samoëns to Morillon and beyond

After snapping into our bindings we push off for an introductory glide down to the six-seater Chariande Express chairlift, the first of the series of onward lifts linking Samoëns with Morillon, Les Carroz, Flaine and ultimately Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval (from which the return journey is via shuttle only). The lift offers a faster, longer ride than its older companion, the Chariande 2 chairlift.

The haul is as hypnotic as we remember it, climbing through snow-laden pines and larches before bursting dramatically into the sudden vastness of the wide-open terrain spread enticingly beneath us.

Ski lift signage at Samoens 1600 ski area, French Alps.
High view of skiers on piste between Samoens and Les Carroz, French Alps.

Key lift upgrades for Samoëns

It’s a fast lift; a little over six minutes and 2.26km later we ski off at the Tête des Saix (2118m), which opens up possibilities for anyone who enjoys covering some distance. 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, and if we keep straight ahead we’ll eventually reach Flaine.

Running for cover

Right now, though, it’s bitterly cold so we decide to put Flaine on hold until things have warmed up a little, and instead turn right to point our skis towards the terrain belonging to nearby Morillon 1100, the idea being to enjoy some of the more sheltered runs lower down among the forests.

This is one of the great joys of skiing in the Grand Massif, and one which surprises many skiers when they first come and experience it for themselves, not least since Flaine (much of whose terrain is well above the tree-line) has always tended to grab most of the media attention.

Wide view of skiers with chairlift and mountains, Grand Massif, French Alps
Skiers approaching high-speed chairlift above Les Carroz, French Alps.

Down among the trees

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, then continue all the way to the main village some 400m lower, from which the Morillon gondola brings us straight back up again. We’re warming up nicely now and are developing a taste for these quieter runs, so turn our attention to the neighbouring wooded terrain which is well worth exploring above Les Carroz.

Clear and cold (for now)

The visibility, though, is best higher up, so after rediscovering a few longish blues and reds we work our way back down to the Molliets 6-seater high-speed chair-lift. At the top things now feel a lot less raw, although temperatures remain low, keeping snow conditions close to perfect as we ski down to take a break just above the arrival of the Kédeuze gondola lift from Les Carroz.

Skiers on piste among tall trees in the Grand Massif, French Alps.
Skier beside gondola lift in falling snow at Samoens 1600, French Alps.

Heading back, to beat the front

After a memorably disappointing lunch (we won’t be returning, thanks) we escape from the restaurant to find conditions have deteriorated, so snap straight into our bindings and cruise via a couple of blues (Blanchot and Marmottes) down to the base of the Tête des Saix chairlift, which opened in 2016. Capable of operating at 6m/sec, the muscular 6-seater speeds things up dramatically for skiers heading to Morillon and Samoëns, which is good news for us, since we want to beat the fast-approaching depression which when it arrives promises to shut down visibility on the mountain.

Back to snowy Samoëns 1600

When we ski off at the top it’s a simple matter of taking direct a red (Marmotte) or a more wayward blue (Dahu), which head down to Samoëns 1600. We know the blue well, so follow it all the way to the Damoiseaux chair for a quick haul over the final crest before the Grand Massif Express, while the snow is falling thick and fast. Back in our apartment only our legs know just how far we’ve travelled, but getting around is now easier than ever. Samoëns is somewhere to which we’ll happily return, with or without an excuse. MountainPassions heart icon


Wide view of skier above Morillon village, Grand Massif, French Alps.

Dropping into Morillon village, Grand Massif.