Searching for sublime scenery and superb skiing? Look no further than the Grand Massif ski area.
Situated in the Northern Alps in the shadow of Mont Blanc and equidistant from Geneva and Chamonix, the Grand Massif ski area comprises the five fantastic villages of Samoëns, Flaine, Morillon, Les Carroz and Sixt.
Somewhat lesser known in comparison to other Alpine ski domains, the Grand Massif hosts an impressive 265km of high quality pistes for skiers of all styles and abilities, connected by a convenient and efficient network of 70 lifts.
Each village here has its distinct charms, but a high standard of accommodation, facilities and entertainment form a golden thread that runs through the entire domain, and with the guidance of Alpine experts like Erna Low, customising an amazing Grand Massif holiday for solo skiers, couples, families or groups of friends is child’s play.
Located at an altitude of 1600m and with access to slopes as high as 2500m, Flaine is the highest resort here and is famous for its modern architecture, family-friendly facilities and super skiing ̶ the resort centre is located at the bottom of a huge powdery bowl.
Meanwhile, Samoëns is full of cosy and authentic Alpine charm ̶ it’s the only French mountain resort classed as a national heritage site and after an exciting day on the slopes, strolling around its car-free main square and soaking up the ambience is magical.
Alternatively, if you appreciate tree-lined pistes, high altitude skiing up to an altitude of 2480m and chalet-style accommodation, Les Carroz fits the bill. It’s also a great pick if you’ve got young children or babies in tow because the resort itself is located at a modest 1140m and has a pleasant, warm westerly setting.
Finally, Morillon is another magnificent choice for families and it holds the prestigious Famille Plus Montagne accreditation because of its child-friendly focus, and Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval (commonly known simply as ‘Sixt’) boasts unspoiled natural scenery, superb pistes and a serene, laid-back ambience.
If you’ve been looking for a ski holiday that combines pristine pistes, contemporary convenience and old-world charm and authenticity, perhaps nowhere in the Alps balances every essential element as elegantly as the Grand Massif.
Skiing in the Grand Massif
People have been skiing in the Haute Savoie since time immemorial (there’s some evidence of ski-like ‘patins’ being used as far back as the 12th Century) but the Grand Massif emerged as a combined entity in 1980 and the first combined passes were sold the following year. With a base elevation of 700m, a top elevation of 2500m, and a skiable area of 265km, 146 runs and 16 terrain parks, this vast terrain is the favourite choice of many discerning skiers. Here are a few savvy tips on skiing in the main Grand Massif resorts:
● Flaine sits at the foot of a large powder bowl which is north west facing and has more than 100 snow cannons to top up the natural cover. It’s famous for long runs of 1000m-plus which descend from the 2500m top of the Grandes Platières lift and there are some brilliant black runs for advanced skiers here, including the Lindars Nord, Diamond Noir and Grandes Platières. Intermediate skiers are also satisfied with blue and red runs and plenty of wonderful woodland trails, while novices have free beginner’s lifts so that they can find their feet with minimum expense. The most famous run in Flaine is probably the Cascades, which is a whopping 14km ride right down to Sixt.
● Samoëns offers off-piste adventures for advanced skiers at the Chamois and Marmotte slopes in the Croix area above the resort and La Combe de Gers is a beautiful natural basin between Samoëns and Flaine where there’s often fresh powder to explore. If you’re a cross-country skier, there’s 90km of trails here, concentrated in the Upper Griffe Valley.
● At Les Carroz, the Carroz Beginner’s pass entitles you to unlimited use of the Crêtes and Plein Soleil lifts, the nursery slopes around the village are great for getting started on your basic techniques and there are plenty of wide, sweeping green runs that help you progress. If you’re an intermediate skier, the gondola will whisk you up to the higher slopes where there are over 100 blue runs and at Col de Pierre Carée you’ll find over 17km of cross-country trails.
● The main skiing sector at Morillon starts at Les Esserts, the ski centre above the resort which can be accessed by car or gondola. At the lower levels there are some wonderful wood-lined slopes and there’s a good mix of blue and red slopes for intermediate skiers.
● Sixt has over 34km of ski trails, an accessible beginner’s area and a snow garden for kids aged three and over. Intermediates will appreciate the blue and red runs here and the slopes are usually quiet and in excellent condition.
As you can see, the Grand Massif offers a little something for skiers of all stripes and the scenery is second to none.
Snowboarding in the Grand Massif
Between great snow parks, varied pistes and plenty of off-piste potential, snowboarders have plenty to keep them busy in the Grand Massif. Here are a few highlights if you want to carve up the slopes here:
● If you’re an intermediate snowboarder based in Flaine, you can polish your technique and perfect your turns on the long, cruisy blue runs rolling down from Les Grandes Platières cable car. If you’re a freestyler, make a beeline for the Jampark, located in the Aujon section just off the Calcedoine run. Here you’ll find hips, rails, boxes and kickers aplenty and there’s a fun Fantasurf half-pipe for kids.
● The fun park at the Soleil run at Samoëns has lots of cool obstacles for boarders of all aptitudes and the snow park at Les Carroz has rails, boxes, kickers and a decent half-pipe.
● The Grand Massif is a great area for gnarly off-piste action, particularly around the Gers bowl ̶ hire a mountain guide who can take you safely to the hotspots where you’ll have a blast riding through fresh powder.
● The après-ski is friendly and welcoming too (more of which later), so after an exciting day on the slopes, there are plenty of opportunities to mix and mingle with fellow boarders.
Snow Conditions in the Grand Massif
The Grand Massif includes pistes at a huge range of altitudes, facing a range of directions, so historical snow conditions vary, but this diversity is an advantage as no matter which resort you’re based in, an efficient lift system means you’ll find fab conditions on and off the piste throughout a season that typically stretches from December to April. Sophisticated snow making facilities also mean that natural snowfall can easily be topped up when mother nature doesn’t quite deliver the goods. Here are a few facts on Grand Massif snow conditions:
● The high altitude of Flaine and its iconic powdery bowl make it the most snow-sure resort in the entire Haute Savoie area. Grandes Platières is blessed by an average 15m of snow annually and the high runs from 2480m down to the resort retain their snow superbly throughout the season. Grandes Platières is wedged closely to the windward side of Mont Blanc and benefits from incoming snow from the north west, hence its impressive snowfall record. The most recent snowfall records for Flaine show 45 total snowfall days, 458cm total snowfall, 40cm largest snowfall, 131cm maximum base depth, 83cm average base depth, maximum summit depth of 440cm and 257cm average summit depth.
● Samoëns benefits from roughly 80% of its slopes being north facing, which means they’re shaded and retain their snow exceptionally well. If weather conditions aren’t conducive to good skiing, 35km of the slopes here can be covered by the arsenal of 143 snow cannons in place. In the most recent season, snowfall records in Samoëns reveal 300cm total snowfall, a total of 31 snowfall days, 50 cm biggest snowfall, 32cm average base depth, maximum base depth of 103cm, 80cm average summit depth and 265cm maximum summit depth.
● If you’re visiting Les Carroz late in the season you’ll need to stick to the shaded north-facing runs, but in chilly January and February, the resort’s bountiful south facing runs benefit from warmth and natural light that make them an absolute joy to traverse. 63 snow cannons are in place here to enhance the natural snowfall if necessary and this covers 27km of pistes. The more recent snowfall records for Les Carroz reveal a 407cm total snowfall, a total of 38 snowfall days, a 38cm largest snowfall, 9cm average base depth, 40cm maximum base depth, 208cm maximum summit depth and average summit depth of 140cm.
● Morillon’s family-friendly nursery slopes and ample blue and red runs hold their snow reasonably well throughout the season, although the low altitude beginner’s runs can be jeopardised by mist and rain. The most recent snowfall record for this village show 106cm total snowfall, 12 total snowfall days, a 440cm maximum summit depth, average summit depth of 289cm, 65cm maximum base depth, average base depth of 12com and largest snowfall of 12cm.
Après-ski in the Grand Massif
The Grand Massif resorts offer an après-ski scene that’s perhaps slightly more mild than wild, but there’s still a great range of quality restaurants, cosy bars and a smattering of lively late-night spots. Here are a few off-slope highlights:
● In Samoëns, foodies will love Lou Caboëns, which offers panoramic views of the valley from its sun-kissed terrace to complement tasty cuisine and refreshing drinks, while the crepes at Le Croc Blanc are legendary.
● At Morillon, Le Chalet d’Chair is located at the top of the Sairon piste, it serves hearty local fare and is one of the best places in the Alps to enjoy a cathartic hot chocolate next to a roaring log fire.
● Fancy some fresh seafood after an exciting day on the slopes? Head to Le Chalet des Molliets in Les Carroz for an impressive selection of fish dishes, while the Milk Hotel is your best bet for haute cuisine and fine wine.
● In Flaine, Pentes a Joules is located at the foot of the Epicea piste and it’s an excellent spot for tasty snacks and live music, while the snack bar at Le Blanchot is terrific for tasty takeaways.
● If you’re a beer lover, Le White Club in Flaine has a wide range of draught and bottled local and international brands and regularly hosts live bands, while Diamant Noir has darts, pool and table football as well as tapas and a wide range of refreshments.
● Sipping a (strictly medicinal) vin chaud or three is one of the best ways to keep warm and contented in the Alps and L’Après-Ski Chez Jeff in Samoëns has a signature recipe which attracts revellers from miles around. Alternatively, Covey’s Pub is a welcoming Irish venue where you’ll find perfectly poured pints of the black stuff and sparkling conversation.
● In Les Carroz, The Marlow is centrally located and one of the best places to sip a beer or wine while watching the world go by, and Carpe Diem bar is the best place in town for late night music and busting a few moves amongst a friendly crowd.
Facilities in the Grand Massif
The facilities on offer in the Grand Massif are designed to make every member of your party feel completely safe and comfortable while you have the time of your life on and off the slopes.
Ski hire in the Grand Massif
There are several ski hire outlets in the Grand Massif ski area, but rather than wasting time trying to find a good deal and high-quality equipment for your group personally, let Erna Low take the weight from your shoulders and roll this component conveniently into your ski holiday package. We have long-established connections here, therefore we can easily find the best gear for skiers of all styles and abilities, at affordable prices. Contact us if this option sounds attractive.
Ski passes in Grand Massif
Erna Low can also easily arrange the best ski passes if you are staying in Flaine for your Grand Massif ski holiday and we’re often able to source discounted deals for families, large groups and children. Let us know if you’d like us to arrange hassle-free ski passes. We can send them out to you before ou leave so there is no waiting in line to collect them when you get to resort.
Spa and pool in Grand Massif
You can unwind all the way between sessions on the piste in Grand Massif at well-appointed spa and pool venues like the 2000 square metre Aquatic Centre in Flaine Forum, the Oxalis Institut in Samoëns offers soothing beauty and wellness treatments, and the Aquacîme Mountain Spa in Les Carroz has a fab outdoor pool and waterslides for children. Shops in the Grand Massif
You can scratch your shopping itch in the Grand Massif at supermarkets like Sherpa and Spar Helios and the cakes and tarts at Aux Saveurs de Flaine are divine. In Samoëns you can treat yourself to a stylish new hairstyle at Espace Soan, while at Heidi Boutique in Les Carroz you can shop for chic soft furnishings.
Facilities for Children in Grand Massif
The Grand Massif is one of the best French Alps ski areas for kids, and every village has something special to offer youngsters on and off the slopes.
Ski schools in the Grand Massif
At Flaine, ESF Club Piou-Piou is a lovely educational snow garden for 3-4-year olds and ESF Rabbit Club caters for kids aged 5 and over.
At Samoëns, Ecole de Ski 360 teaches kids aged 4 and upwards in small, supportive groups and at les Carroz, the Kid’O’Ski service picks up and drops off kids from aged 3-12 at the ESF and ESI ski schools between 830am and 430pm on a half day basis, or full day with lunch included.
Children’s entertainment in the Grand Massif
There’s a huge range of children’s entertainment activities across Grand Massif, from husky dog sledding and ten-pin bowling to the Speed Dragoz Alpine roller coaster in Les Carroz and the Indiana Parc woodland adventure area in Samoëns.
Childcare in the Grand Massif
Sun and Snow childcare in Samoëns provides qualified nannies who can babysit at your accommodation, and La Souris Verte in Les Carroz offers childcare for children aged 6 months and upwards. At Morillon 1100 Les Esserts, the Village Des Enfants offers a winter nursery and day care service for children from 6 months to 10 years old and it can accommodate 65 children.
Accommodation in the Grand Massif
From Flaine’s memorable modernist architecture to the chocolate box chalets of traditional resorts like Les Carroz, there’s plenty of comfortable and convenient accommodation in the Grand Massif. Here are just a couple of great examples:
● Les Portes du Grand Massif in Hameau de Flaine is a four-star family-friendly option in striking distance from the Gerat ski lift. Suites can accommodate 2-12 people and there’s a good in-house spa, swimming pool and sauna area.
● Residence Alexane Ski Apartments in Samoëns is conveniently located close to the Grand Massif gondola lift and boasts an excellent in-house Italian restaurant and plush wellness centre with sensory showers, a sauna, indoor pool and separate children’s pool.
Grand Massif Ski Area Map
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