A journey to the traditional mountain village of Le Grand-Bornand-Chinaillon is simultaneously a journey back in time. The history of this small community in the heart of the Aravis Massif can be traced back to the 17th Century, and its authentic natural beauty, architecture and culture have been, and are still being proactively conserved. Alongside this, however, Le Grand-Bornand-Chinaillon has, over the course of recent decades, been rapidly developing into a modern and family-friendly ski resort. The combination of the two gives rise to the charming, historical, but modern and well-equipped resort that holidaymakers will find in Le Grand-Bornand-Chinaillon today.
Le Grand-Bornand-Chinaillon, situated at an altitude of 1300m, is the main ski station in the ski area of the same name, meaning that it sits at the bottom of the majority of the lifts and runs. 2 gondolas ferry visitors back and forth between the lower station “Le Grand-Bornand-Village” (at 1000m) and the ski area itself. The two ski stations are a distance of 6km from each other, and are also linked by a free shuttle bus.
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The connection with history is virtually tangible in both sections of the resort. At the entrance to the Bouchet valley, the atmosphere in Le Grand-Bornand-Village is set beautifully by its traditional Savoyard features: a baroque church with characteristic bulbous spire, old granary, and traditional chalets clustered around the marketplace. Le Grand-Bornand-Chinaillon on the other hand is best described as one big open-air museum. This is where Le Grand-Bornand’s story first began, and contains no less than 400 chalets, all of which are at least 100 years old. The oldest of the buildings dates all the way back to 1664.
To make sure this special atmosphere is maintained, all new developments and buildings in Le Grand-Bornand-Chinaillon are required to conform to the basic architecture of the original buildings, and making sure new and old exist harmoniously side by side.
Both the village and the surrounding region bustle with traditional countryside culture. In fact, Le Grand-Bornand has more agricultural businesses than any other parish in the entire Upper Savoy region, and is especially well know for the production of “Reblochon” cheese. This cheese is also still quite often produced using traditional techniques in the dairies and cheese factories of Le Grand-Bornand. A visit to one of these establishments will therefore not only provide an interesting insight into the local culinary speciality, but also into the history of the cheese making process.
But there’s not just lots to see in Le Grand-Bornand; there is, of course, lots to do as well. The smallest of holidaymakers will find themselves particularly well catered-for, with a varied range of facilities and activities on offer. For this reason, Le Grand-Bornand has been given the label “Les p’tits Montagnards”, which is designed to identify ski resorts that are particularly well adapted and suited to children. As well as numerous practice slopes and areas, the next generation of snow-lovers also have the freedom of 4 toboggan runs, one of which is even floodlit and open at night.
Some of the best ways to discover the resort’s beautiful surroundings include a ride on a dog sled, horse-drawn sled or horse-drawn carriage, or alternatively a lengthy wander with the help of some snowshoes. For a different angle on the view, some prefer to take to the skies in a hot air balloon or, for the more adventurous, a paraglider.
There’s plenty on offer to make the evenings just as exciting as the daytimes too. Le Grand-Bornand’s après-ski repertoire includes numerous restaurants, bars, pubs, a club, an ice rink and a cinema.
Another great way to wind down after an exhilarating day on the snow is a visit to the “Espace Aquatique”, which, among other things, is equipped with an indoor and an outdoor pool, a kid’s pool, a jacuzzi, a sauna and a hammam, and is located just 5km away in the neighbouring village of La Clusaz.