Samoëns is a breath of fresh mountain air, proudly described by the French as one of their monuments historiques, and it just happens to be positioned at the bottom of The Grand Massif, an extensive and varied ski area. It is situated between Geneva and Chamonix and is only an hour’s drive from Geneva airport.
The Grand Massif consists of five resorts; Samoëns, Morillon, Flaine, Les Carroz & Sixt and offers over 265km of piste. It maintains an excellent snow record as over 80% of the slopes are north facing and they also benefit from the 'Mont Blanc effect'.
The different resorts all offer a wide variety of slopes and there really is something for everyone, no matter what the weather or ski ability.
Beginners benefit from the array of slopes available throughout the Grand Massif resort and there are special beginner areas at Morillon 1100 and Samoens 1600. Morillon also boasts a very pretty 5km green run through the trees making it one of the longest green runs in Europe.
Intermediate skiers can access a multitude of blue runs and are often pleased to hear that there are more blue runs in The Grand Massif than any other colour, including the beautiful 14km Les Cascades. This is a spectacular run through the alpine back country, starting at the top of Flaine and finishing at the village of Sixt where you can enjoy a glass of vin chaud before taking the ski bus back to Samoens. There are also a number of beautiful tree runs heading into Morillon and Samoens, while the Flaine bowl ensures that you can dip your toe into powder skiing just off the edges of the piste.
Experts love heading off to The Gers bowl in Flaine where there is a feast of off piste skiing. Flaine is one enormous bowl with very few trees, so when it snows it becomes a huge powder park! Snowboarders and Freestyle Skiers can take advantage of the 3 snow parks in resort, the most advanced being in Flaine offering half-pipes, boarder cross, big air jumps, tables, rails and quarters.
If skiing is not your thing there are an abundance of other options to do in the snow The Grand Massif offers dog-sledding, ice climbing, igloo building, snow-shoeing, ice skating, skidooing, and other unexpected activities and is officially-recognised as a family friendly resort.
Founded in the 13th Century, Samoëns sits snuggly in the valley of the River Giffre, close to countless limestone cliff faces and for centuries was the home to a fraternity of miners and masons who became fixtures of the local community.
Just off the main street is the famous botanical garden, the only one of its kind in the Alps, created in 1906 and with more than 5,000 plants. It’s worth a walk to the top where there are stunning views of the village and surrounding valley.
While Samoëns looks magical from up on high, it’s an equally exciting experience at street level. The village is jostling with shops, restaurants, festivals, open-air concerts and craft fairs – even outside the ski season.
The centre of Samoëns is traffic free, and has a beautiful square dominated by an ancient lime tree. Every Wednesday there is an extensive local market selling everything from fresh local products to souvenirs and snow machines.
More than anything else in its modern identity Samoëns remains a real Alpine community, where people live and breathe the mountain lifestyle. It’s so much more than just a ski resort and that what makes it a real hidden gem and for me the near perfect ski resort.