You will find that everyone is very friendly especially if you make an effort to speak a little French - however basic! Samoëns is a well-kept secret, and was recently described in The Daily Mirror in an article titled "Skiing's best kept secrets: Unsung winter resorts every ski fan should know about" as; a large village in the giant French Grand Massif area. It is linked to popular Flaine with 164 miles of piste for all standards. What's good about Samoens is that it is a real French community, with a life beyond skiing and tourism. It has great restaurants, low prices and is also one of the closest resorts to Geneva airport.
There are bakers, butchers, chocolatiers, fromageries, wine shops etc in town including two small supermarkets. Carrefour is on the road out of the far side of town signposted Taninges – a must for bigger shopping trips. There are lots of excellent restaurants and bars around Samoëns and the surrounding area - to suit every taste and budget - see our suggestions here.
The region is well known for its wines and there is an annual Wine Tasting Festival in January
There are many activities in and around Samoens and the Grand Massif. Some of them are below, and there is something to suit every generation from gentle strolls, swimming, visting local historical venues, or just relaxing in the local villages. For the more adrenaline seeking visitors, there are many exciting things to dry, whether they be based on dry land, snow, water or in the air!
Through our reservation partners, Alps Accommodation, we have further information available on many activities - for more information, click here
The Market; The travelling ancient Savoyarde market visits all the local towns and villages. Wednesday is Samoens. Get there early, it closes at midday when the local siren sounds. The very best of local produce and crafts are available all year round but the market is particularly large and colourful in the summer months when it extends from the ice rink car park up all the old streets in the village.
Wine; There are two excellent wine shops in town each with regular tasting opportunities. The more traditional shop, La Feuille de Vigne Savoyarde, which doesn’t have a website, has tastings on a Thursday night. The more contemporary shop, La nez on l’air does…https://www.lenezenlair.com/
Botanical Gardens; A steep walk up the hill from the village centre this extraordinary set of gardens is well worth a visit. https://www.samoens.com/en/articles_apidae/la-jaysinia-botanic-garden-2/
Cinema; A quirky traditional cinema that is surprisingly popular and does get some mainstream films, somewhat surprisingly! https://www.samoens.com/en/articles_apidae/le-criou-cinema/
Animal Park; A bit of a drive down towards Chamonix but this very natural wildlife park is a lovely experience, especially for kids who have an interest in animals. http://www.parcdemerlet.com/en/visitors-guide/#visit
Farm Museum; For a glance into the past of savoyarde farming this is a lovely simple place to visit. http://www.le-clos-parchet.com/
Sixt Fer a Cheval; This natural wonder is a registered World Heritage site. It could have been used as the inspiration and the film set for ‘The Land that Time Forgot’! A truly spectacular horse shoe of giant cliffs and waterfalls at the very head of the River Giffre sitting just below the glacier near the Swiss border. Here you can walk, pony trek or enjoy a drink and bite at a choice of two lovely restaurants. https://www.alpsaccommodation.com/sixt-fer-a-cheval.htm
In winter, the Grand Massif is a beautiful, natural winter wonderland for snow sports, eye watering scenery and great restaurants for all tastes and pockets. The activities most famously include off-piste skiing and boarding – something the area is renowned for and well catered for. But there’s more…piste, slalom tracks, Telemark, Nordic/cross country, paraskiing, heliskiing, snow shoeing, husky rides and fun parks for kids. Flaine is not so natural! Here you’ll get your fix of concrete, louder music (in some bars) and freestyle parks. If that doesn’t appeal please don’t be put off – that’s just part of Flaine – you can soon escape to incredible off piste terrain such as the famous Gers bowl and the run down the Cascades which feels like the middle of nowhere (until you get to a telephone half way down which, bizarrely, has a man on the end of it more than happy to come and get you and drag you by skidoo up to his restaurant on the Lac de Gers.
Samoens accesses the Grand Massif ski domain via the Grand Massif Express – an 8-minute flight to Samoens 1600. A short 5 minute drive to Vercland is an alternative access point where a quieter, smaller village provides another starting and finishing point for your day on the mountains – there’s a popular restaurant to enjoy there, La Reposette, that sits conveniently at the foot of the new lift. Another option is the 10 minute drive or free bus trip to Morillon which takes you up to Morillon 1100. This resort is lower than Samoens 1600 and is a little more protected from the elements in bad weather – the upper heights of the Samoens area are more exposed to wind than Morillon.
After the recent addition of new runs at Samoens, The Grand Massif now boasts about 300km of piste. It also boasts the longest chair lift in Europe in the newly pisted Coulouvrier; while the new lift to the Tetes de Saix feels like it must be the fastest!
Sitting just immediately to the North of the Mont Blanc Massif, the Grand Massif enjoys an excellent snow record – it is consistently one of the snowiest areas in the alps – it seems this is thanks to the South Westerlies being lifted upwards over Mont Blanc and dumping their snows on us on the lee side. The main resort is Flaine (pronounced locally as ‘Flenn’) – a purpose built resort renowned for its off piste areas and for Les Cascades – at 13km one of the longest pistes in Europe – it starts at the top of Flaine face to face with Mont Blanc and extends all the way to Sixt. Conditions need to be right for this run and you will have to get a bus back to Samoens. And beware – it’s described as a blue but it’s not that easy at the bottom where it’s more of a red really.
The Grand Massif also incorporates Les Carroz. Unlike most of the Grand Massif which is North facing and fairly exposed, Les Carroz provides sunnier south facing slopes and lots of trees – a good area to head to when the cloud comes down.
Ski/Board Hire; There are at least four shops in the village that we use and our guests recommend and the ones we don’t mention here also seem very popular – spoilt for choice:
Ski passes; Order in advance at www.skipass-grand-massif.com or buy direct at the ski lift. Another option is to buy in advance a skillico card – this is a ‘ski a la carte’ or ‘pay as you go’ card. You only pay for what you do. This is a good option if you don’t know how much skiing you plan to do https://www.grand-massif.com/en/your-stay/ski-passes/skillico/
Ski lessons/guides; ZigZag are in town and we thoroughly recommend them. This locally owned independent school offers a comprehensive range of options including ski school Monday to Wednesday or Monday to Saturday. Private groups and one-to-one is offered for piste, off piste or a mix of the two. For the fearless – high mountain guides for whole-day off piste adventures are available. They can supply all the off piste gear if you don’t have it and there is no extra charge. The national ESF is also available – their ski school starts on a Sunday which may suit some guests. Book in advance by phone or online https://www.zigzagski.com/
Ski Bus; This leaves from the crossroads at the bridge 3 houses down from Deux Coeurs – it runs regularly, more frequently in the morning and evening. Check the colours of the ski bus routes when returning to the house. We are on the blue run. Returning feels a little confusing at first – the bus appears to be going into town but it then goes right round the roundabout and off again in the right direction. The next point of confusion is when it shoots past our stop without stopping – don’t panic it goes round the block then drops us last.
Guests staying with us also receive discounts from many other suppliers through our reservation partners in Samoens, Alps Accommodation. For more information click here.
Watersports on the Giffre
There are several companies providing watersports; including rafting, hydrospeed, and inflatable kayaking. The nearest one from the chalet is EColorado - turn left at the bottom of the road and walk 500metres.
Rafting; You will be expected to don one of their wet suits and booties – changing rooms are provided – the idea is to wear swim-wear only under the suits as they are very tight and you will almost certainly get wet. If wearing eyewear then a safety string is recommended. Rafting is very much led by the skipper who is provided – she or he will tell you what to do. It’s quite hard work, it’s exhilarating, it can be quite scary but nobody ever regrets doing it afterwards! All ages and abilities can do it but you would want to be reasonably fit and active – you may fall in, you may want to jump in, the river is cold but its amazing how you don’t seem to notice it – many guests choose to jump in and float the last 100 metres in the water. The activity is particularly exhilarating after heavy rain or when the spring snow is melting.
Kayaking; This is slightly more tricky and you may need some initial tuition – your guide will provide this. Taking phones and cameras is not a good idea unless you have proper waterproof bags and leashes. That said any photos you do get tend to be priceless. Quite often Ecolorado will photo you from the bank – they definitely will if you arrange it.
Hydrospeed; This is a little different – you spend the whole time in the water with an inflatable pointed float – it’s extremely exhilarating and colder! www.ecoloradorafting.com or telephone 0033 450344526
Canyoning; This sport involves making your way down mountain streams in a wet suit, helmet and grippy shoes. It involves ropes, abseiling and even some jumping off waterfalls. Like the watersports described above it too is exhilarating and breath taking. Just up the road from the house, up the Clevieux canyon at the foot of Le Criou, is a great place to try this activity – its not too difficult. If you like this then the next port of call is the Nyons canyon on the Morzine side of the same mountain – it has a few surprises in store! Mountain Spirit Sports will organise this for you.https://mountainspirit-sports.com/en/tours/le-clevieux/
There are several commercial companies, however we recommend our friend Lolo (see photo) who is very experienced and accommodating - he will take clients up one after the other or can call in other instructors if you want to fly together. His number is 0033 660088179. It can be easiest to text him to arrange a flight - the more notice you can give the better, and he can select the best weather opportunities. It involves meeting in Samoens then them driving you up to the jump point often at Samoens 1600. Once strapped in you are expected to run with him until you take off. You need a head for heights, obviously! Its also cold up there so wear windproof insulation.
Samoëns is such a beautiful village, with so much happening, that there is always plenty opportunity to learn or develop your photographic skills. Whatever your skill level or interest, whether it be the latest digital camera or a phone, there are lots of wonderful images to be captured and shared.
There are several bicycle hire shops around the village, both for mountain bikes and road bikes. The chair lifts operate for periods during the day in the summer to transport you and your bikes up the mountain. Its similar to skiing only this time theresusually no snow. The pistes are surpringly rocky and shaly – you are left wondering how theyre so smooth in winter as pistes. Only a small number of the lifts are open in summer, enough to get you across to Morillon and Les Carroz. To descend back to Samoens can be doe by telecabine or if youre feeling brave there are tracks back down. It is very au naturale at the Samoens end but more park like at Les Carroz. Protective clothing is advisable for anyone taking a serioious descent and it goes without saying everyone should wear a helmet.
Road biking is also renowned in the area. The ascent from Samoens up to the Col de Joux Planes is a gruelling battle and the subsequent descent into Morzine a white-knuckle ride for those who want it so. This occasionally forms the all important penultimate day of the Tour de France as it did when Chris Froome won in 2016.
Anthonioz Ski and Xtreme Glisses are good starting points for bike hire but there a many others. Electric mountain bikes are popular now as are bikes with ever increasingly wide tyres – so wide they are now being ridden on the pistes in winter time.
The opportunities here are endless. Maps are provided in the house to help you plan your walk. A lovely level walk is to simply trek off down to the local hamlets of the Vallons d’en Haut and d’en Bas. These old villages are a fascinating reminder of France of yesteryear – ancient farm houses still being worked today. There’s a lovely chapel to visit and a water font for warm days. The walk through both villages and back is about 30-40 minutes. A much bigger walk would be to turn left from Vallon and up Le Criou. Do not underestimate this walk – it’s a long, long ascent. The first part can be rather frustrating as you’re in the trees but nearer the top you emerge into something truly spectacular – high alpine pastures where cattle are taken to graze in the summer, and with little huts for the farmers to shelter in. Up from there it gets steep, shaly and rather more difficult – you are now on top of the world. Be careful though – the slab sided mountain is not a fall anyone would survive. This walk takes all day, take all the necessaries.
Another big walk is to go over the river and up the other side of the valley and climb over two or three summits to Lac de Gers. From there you can descend down Les Cascades to Sixt and walk back along the river to Samoens. But beware – its not flat! You have to rise right up to get passed the gorge section of the river – so just when you think you’re nearly home you have this to contend with. Again, this walk takes all day so take supplies – it is steep and challenging for the less accustomed.
A very different walking excursion to be enjoyed in summer is to walk from Morillon 1100 to L’Igloo for a bite of delicious lunch, and then walk back down. The path is the Marvel piste which is laid out as a nature trail – delightful. Anyone not fancying the ascent can instead take the Esserts and Bergen chair lifts up but you do have to walk back down as the lifts don’t do occupied descents.
Yoga; There are various yoga teachers in Samoens – some of whom speak English, including Julia Barnes. Surrounded by seven beautiful mountains, Samoens a spiritually apt location for this age old practice. Most instructors will visit the chalet for one to one lessons or for group classes.https://yogajulia.com/
Pilates; For those who prefer Pilates, or both, again there are English and French speaking teachers in town, including Karen Jackman who lives in Taninges. Karen offers one to one as well as group sessions and will travel to the chalet.https://p3pilates.fr/workshops/class-times-and-bookings/
Leisure Centre and Swimming Pool; On the edge of town there is an outdoor swimming pool and tennis courts for summer enjoyment. As with most French swimming pools – be prepared – like it or not you will be required to wear ‘speedos’! That, fortunately, is not necessary on the tennis courts although suitable footwear will be expected.The pool has slides and a grassed area for sunbathing – Samoens is surprisingly hot in summer. https://www.samoens.com/en/articles_apidae/swimming-pool/
Fun Golf; Near the leisure centre are some lakes that are set up for golfers to whack balls at targets on the lakes – great fun! At Morillon Lac Bleu nearby you can also play crazy golf – great for kids.
Treetop Activities; ‘Go-ape’ style high ropes and zip wires are available in Samoens at Indiana Park (two parks – one for kids, and one for all ages) and at Lac Bleu in Morillon where different abilities are catered for from ‘easy’ right up to ‘down right terrifying’! Safety harnesses and instruction are provided.
Via Ferrata; These are a series of ledges, ropes, cables, walkways, ladders, foot holds and metal loops for assisted rock climbing. Challenging enough to be a bit scary, but easy enough that you don’t need formal training. You will, nonetheless, be given safety harnesses, carabiners and safety lines, which combined with a little instruction and demonstration, will keep you completely safe. We, both families, have all done it, but, beware – the via ferrata between Samoens and Sixt takes you a full kilometre off the ground! You either need a head for heights or, alternatively, enough discipline to ‘never look down’!https://www.valleeduhautgiffre.fr/via-ferrata-du-mont-%C3%A0-sixt/
Lac Bleu; A Lake at Morillon that has something for everyone! A rather bracing lake for (semi) wild swimming, a little beach (best avoided if you’re not a teenager!), a bar, a restaurant, treetop adventures, pony trekking, tennis, off-road Segway, inflatables, kids’ parks and, for the parents, sunbathing in the surrounding area.https://www.ot-morillon.co.uk/explore-and-discover/our-culture-our-dna/natural-heritage/the-lac-bleu/
Yurt experience; During the snowy season it is possible to go night time snow shoeing on the Joux Planes side of the valley. Wrap up well and off you go with flaming torch. A brief walk under the stars is rewarded afterwards with a fondu in a real yurt - very cosy and very atmospheric, and the fondu is gorgeous. You are taken and returned to town by minibus so a bottle of wine is allowed too! This can be organised through Kukipegs Property Services
Snow Shoeing; Samoens offers 60 km’s and 15 circuits of marked snowshoe trails throughout the valley and also at higher altitudes in the Col de Joux Plane (regular transport runs from the tourist office), with sensational views of the Samoens valley and the Mont Blanc mountain chain. The jewel in the crown has to be the Cirque du Fer a Cheval circuit one of the six classified areas of France and protected as a site of extraordinary beauty with its sheer cliffs and over 30 ice-falls. Shoes can be hired from most of the hire shops for DIY snow shoeing but for a safer and more communal experience we recommend booking through ZigZag (Arno is the guide), Indie Snow Indie or Suivez la Trace (Patrick is the guide). They will take you by minibus to the best starting points and, from there, the best places, you’ll be safe, entertained and you’ll be told what to look at!
Cross Country Skiing; Samoëns offers a collective area called the Domaine-Nordique du Haut-Giffre which incorporates three areas – first the magnificent World Heritage site, Cirque du Fer a Cheval, just beyond Sixt, second, the long Valle run from Sixt to Morillon and third a high level snow field at the Col de Joux Planes with incredible views of the Giffre Valley and of Mont Blanc (visibility permitting of course) Equipment can be hired from some of our recommended shops. Guidance and/or lessons can be provided by Zig Zag. https://www.valleeduhautgiffre.fr/domaine-nordique/
Tobogganing; The Domaine-Nordique at Joux Planes has a dedicated toboggan run – fun for all ages. They can be contacted on the following link to plan for this. The views are amazing. https://www.valleeduhautgiffre.fr/domaine-nordique/
Ice rink; Samoëns has a brand new semi indoor ice rink – open to the elements but fully covered and with stadium seating for the bigger events and for all your friends to watch you trying to skate! It’s tastefully designed to fit in with the beautiful village but is very new and high tech all the same. It runs through the winter months only. https://www.samoens.com/en/activites-dhiver/ice-rink/
Dog sledding; The dog sledding takes place at nearby Les Carroz. It is a great area of tree lined tracks and open space sledding, truly exhilarating and a close-up experience with the amazing dogs. It is very popular and booking very well in advance is usually necessary Fancy a mush? https://www.lescarroz.com/en/winter-sport-activities/dog-sledding/
Truly fascinating is the annual international dog sled ‘odyssey’ hosted by Samoens: https://www.samoens.com/en/articles_apidae/prologue-ceremonie-douverture-de-la-grande-odyssee-savoie-mont-blanc-16eme-edition-2/
Horse drawn sleigh rides; This is not, to be fair, a common site in Samoens but to have a lovely family experience or a special romantic interlude, it can be done. The trips set off from the tourist office - the best people to organise it for you. https://www.france-voyage.com/cities-towns/samoens-29940/tourist-office-samoens-6446.htm
Guests staying with us also receive discounts from many other suppliers through our reservation partners in Samoens, Alps Accommodation. For more information click here.
Creche and nannies; Samoëns has a new creche close to the Grand Massif Express – 20 places for little ones from 4months to 5 years. Booking essential on 00 33 450344028.
Private nannies are available including the English speaking ‘Sun and Snow Child Care’ – babies and children catered for. Can collect from ski lessons and take back to chalet for lunch or tea.
Kids activity clubs; For kids from 3 to 6 Le Cadelet nursery school in Verchaix provides fun, care and security and for 7-13 year olds the outdoor La Marmotte in Vallon provides safe fun and care for the slightly older kids.