Samoëns, an attractive small village in one of the biggest skiing areas in the French Alps, is the perfect place for a skiing holiday. Unsurprisingly, this authentic village, charmingly traditional in character and with a large number of interesting historic buildings, is listed for preservation. In order to protect its unique heritage, environmental awareness and sustainable tourism are a top priority in Samoën. The big old houses in this delightful little ski village are made entirely of natural stone, a reminder of the ancient tradition of stonemasonry in Samoën. There has nevertheless been major investment in the village over the last few years to make Samoën into an attractive winter sports resort which links directly to the Le Grand Massif premium skiing area.
Holiday skiers wanting to enjoy what Le Grand Massif has to offer will find Samoën a fantastic base, one which actually gives them access to a vast skiing area encompassing 4 individual villages. Samoëns itself, at an altitude of 1,600 metres, has a modest number of easy to intermediate slopes. There is also a practice area for beginners close to the cable-car station and this connects directly to the more advanced slopes. Two chair-lifts take skiers from Samoën up to Tete des Saix at 2,125 metres from where they can ski down easy or intermediate slopes either back to Samoëns 1600 or down into Samoëns–Vercland at 900 metres. Those with a bit more experience under their belt may want to take advantage of the ungroomed black run known as the “Aigle Noir”.
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On reaching Tete des Saix, Samoëns skiers also have another option – a detour into the neighbouring ski villages of Morillon and Les Carroz, which are connected to one another but still have their own ski areas. Fans of carving are particularly keen on Morillon’s 700 kilometres of broad, gentle slopes where they can practise their turns. Les Carroz, on the other hand, offers more scenic downhill runs through forest as well as a number of mogul and offside pistes.
Skiers wanting to take advantage of the 265 kilometres of slopes in the Le Grand Massif ski area can use the free shuttle bus which takes winter sports fans from Samoëns to the Saix cable-car goes every 15-20 minutes. Beginners are advised to also use the cable-car for their return journey as there are only red and black runs down into Samoëns. Samoëns is also a great place for fans of Nordic sports and the Giffre valley which surrounds the traditional ski village is a well-known mecca for fans of cross-country skiing with over 50 kilometres of runs passing through some wonderful countryside.
Snowboarders looking for plenty of tough challenges will love the Jampark Pro in Flaine. Younger skiers are not neglected in Samoëns, either – there are kids’ practice areas with a conveyor lift, a ski kindergarten for little ones aged from 3 months to 6 years plus several ski-schools.
On days when they don’t fancy skiing, holidaymakers in Samoëns should definitely see some of the many sights of this historic village, including the 12th century parish church (Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption), various 17th century chapels (Bérouze, Vallon, Chantemerle, Vercland) and the market hall (known locally as a “grenette”) which dates from the 16th century. If you still have time to spare, there are plenty more places worth a visit, for example the Maison de Lucinge (now housing the town hall), the ruins of a former castle and two fine manor houses - Château de Bérouze and Château du Tannay.
For the kids there is also the Clos Parchet ecomuseum, where they can learn about the history of farming in the High Alps, and all the family will love a trip to the Jaysinia botanical garden, founded in 1906 and home to an amazing seven acres of beautiful alpine plants. The resort also has two 500-metre long toboggan runs, one at Col de Joux Plane and the other at Samoëns 1600.