Skiing and snowboarding.
Without doubt, the biggest draw to the Grand Massif (which contains both Samoëns and Sixt, as well as other villages and hamlets) is snowsports. The ski season starts in mid-December and runs until mid-April, with chairlifts in operation from 9am until 5pm for most of the season.
The slopes are reached by gondola from the village centre – an eight-minute journey up the steep sides of the valley. Here, 265km of high slopes combine to create the ultimate playground for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities. From a large beginner’s area at Samoëns 1600, to a variety of extreme black runs, the Grand Massif resort has something for everyone – with new runs, new chairlifts, and new snow cannons being added every season.
Skiers in for the long haul can tackle the 14km blue run (the longest in Europe, called Les Cascades) from Grandes Platières, near Flaine, to Sixt, passing the gorgeous Lac de Gers refuge. And for those looking to test their limits: the bulk of the Grand Massif’s North-facing slopes are made up of intermediate (roughly 40%), advanced (also 40%), and extreme black runs (11%).
Extensive off-piste is also available, including the gnarly Gers Bowl, which features an 800-metre drop of untracked powder. Anyone looking to compete against more than mother nature can register for a Derby “race to the bottom” these are open races run at various resorts in the French Alps, throughout the season.
Samoëns also boasts one of the best snow records in the Alps: a localised microclimate creates regular, high quality snowfalls throughout the spring, and since 80% of all its slopes are North-facing, that snow lies for longer than elsewhere.
Snowsports and other winter activities.
Activities aren’t limited to traditional skiing or snowboarding; Samoëns is renowned for a host of other winter activities, including:
Snowshoeing on 15 signposted trails
Cross country skiing on 46km of stunning trails
Sledging and tobogganing
Guided torchlight forest tours, with stargazing, and dinner in a traditional Mongolian roundhouse
And as evening dawns, those who’ve kept up their appetites for thrills can take to the deserted mountain trails on skidoos, guided by experts from Moto Neige. Threading through narrow forest runs at night is sure to work up an appetite, and luckily the organisers also provide charcuterie, salads, and fondue beneath the stars.
But while snowshoes on feet and snowchains on tyres characterise the sharp end of Samoëns in-season, there’s a softer side to winter, too.
From the friendly faces at apres-ski spot Jeff’s to the Christmas village that runs from the 19th to 26th December each year, Samoëns (also accessible from Sixt) is cosier, more intimate, and more charming than overly commercialised resort towns.
And for those who prefer to watch rather than participate in winter sport, Europe’s biggest dog-sledding race (the Grand Odyssée) has debarked from Samoëns every January for half a century.
The summer season.
The biggest surprise, for people used to coming to the Alps in ski season, is that gets hot in summer – really hot, with highs of 30 degrees and above.
With the snow gone, restaurants and fairs spill out onto the village streets, meltwater flows from the mountains in magnificent waterfall, and the valleys and peaks bathe in verdant greens and blues. Locals and tourists alike flock to the lakes of the Savoie Mont Blanc region, and the famous botanical garden – home to more than 5,000 plants – bursts into bloom. Adventure parks open at Samoëns and Morillon, with children and adults swinging from the trees. Rafts and canoes begin to brave the rushing rivers, and those with more of a head for heights can join Via Ferrata groups to get a glimpse at views usually reserved for professional climbers.
Bikers ascend the Col de Joux Plane, and explore the open sky between the Grand Massif and the aptly-named Portes de Soleil (doors of the sun). The seriously hardcore tackle the 12km road between Samoëns and the Col, which has formed a gruelling stage of the Tour de France on more than ten occasions, and which Lance Armstrong has beaten in 35 minutes.
Walkers are also well-served, and those taking the GR5 route are as likely to see Ibex and Chamoix strutting the slopes as they are to catch striking views into the valleys and secret mountain refuges that make up the hidden life of the striking Cirque du Fer à Cheval.
Anyone interested in exploring closer to home can hire battery powered bikes to get around Samoëns, or arrange more adventurous mountain bike tours with a local guide like Alp Adventure.
Serious cyclists have the chance to catch a stage of the Tour de France, or tackle a segment of it themselves, whereas those who like their sports on four wheels can watch cars careen around corners in the Mont Blanc Rally.
For summer and winter availability, please visit our bookings page. To learn more about The Lodges at Sixt and Samoëns, click through for property details.