The large, renowned ski resorts of the French Alps may well be vetted by sheer popularity, however, smaller and lesser known destinations can open a whole lot more to your ski holiday experience and you will be delighted once you discover these hidden gems within the mountains. If you are looking for something different to escape from the more English-centric ski resorts such as the Three Valleys or the more modern, purpose built resorts like Flaine, then look no further than the picturesque mountain village of Samoëns.
In the heart of France’s Haute Savoie, less than an hour away from Geneva, Samoëns is steeped in authenticity and traditional Savoyard charm. This old farming village is the only ski resort classified as a ‘Caisse Nationale des Monuments Historiques’ – a National Heritage site. Historic stone buildings epitomise the old part of the village, laying testament to its history as a centre of stonemasonry. The gothic church and the renowned botanical garden, dating back to 1906 and housing more than 5,000 plants, brings further inimitability to this historical town.
Life in Samoëns revolves around the traffic-free square and marketplace, monopolized by a magnificent lime tree planted in 1438, ‘Le Gros Tilleul’. Every Wednesday, throughout the year, this part of the village welcomes one of the largest markets in the region, donning stalls full of nourishing produce and regional specialities. The enchanting main street offers an abundance of gourmet shops presenting delicious local cheese, mountain ham and pâtisserie. Arguably, the real charm of Samoëns lies not in its historical virtue but the undeniable allure of this illustrious central market place which feels more like a real French village than a ski resort.
The appeal of the village of Samoëns as a ski destination is further advanced by its fortunate attachment to a fantastic ski area. Consisting of five resorts- Flaine, Samoëns, Morillon, Sixt and Les Carroz, the Grand Massif offers 265km of piste at altitudes between 688m–2650m. There are more than 134 runs to explore, offering satisfaction for all standards, from meandering blues for the beginner and intermediate skiers to the steep black couloirs reserved for the adrenaline seeking experts. The area hosts the longest blue run in Europe, Les Cascades, at a staggering 14km long, the run stretches from Grandes Platières in Flaine (2580km) to the village of Sixt (700m). If you are partial to a spot of motorway skiing, this run poses an enjoyable, scenic day trip across high mountain, down through the trees and past cascade waterfalls. More advanced skiers may be deterred by the human slalom and find more attraction in the Combe de Gers, a steep 800m descent into the Gers bowl.
Samoëns’s position in a glacial valley, at 1200m above sea level, does not compromise your snow-sure skiing when this extensive, high altitude ski area is just eight minutes away, courtesy of a high-speed gondola that connects Samoëns to the Grand Massif.
The bustling and inviting ambiance of the village centre is not the only attraction that renders Samoëns a truly year-round resort. Come spring and summer there is an abundance of fun activities for the whole family to enjoy. Once the snow melts away from the ski runs in the Grand Massif area, the pistes are replaced with hiking, running and mountain biking trails.
There is more than enough to satisfy those seeking an adventurous, adrenaline fuelled holiday with downhill mountain biking trails, white water rafting and paragliding. If, however, you’re looking to take it easy and just have a good time with your friends there is plenty to enjoy with wine tastings, yoga lessons and live music events. Families can enjoy a range of activities including bird watching, water slides at the swimming pool and an adventure park.
Article written by Bella Eyre, Sales and marketing Coordinator at ELP.
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