A Family Week in the Grand Massif

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Skiing has always been a bit of a family pastime. Paul and Aaron’s first experience of skiing was when Paul’s Dad generously paid for the whole family to go on a ski holiday to Bulgaria.

Bulgaria may not have been the most salubrious of ski resorts (the scantily clad ladies strutting on the catwalk at the children’s award ceremony will always stick in my mind) but it gave the younger members of the family a taste for skiing and we repeated the experience a few times while Aaron and his cousins were growing up.

The cousins in Bulgaria in 2007

As the children grew up it was more disruptive to take them out of school and the cost of going skiing en masse at half term was prohibitive, Paul, Aaron and myself started going skiing at Easter, almost invariably to Cervinia where we could be guaranteed decent snow late in the season. We got our taste for spring skiing there, with long sunny days being a fair recompense for any end of day slush.

Now Aaron and his cousins can fund their own ski holidays cost is still a bit of an issue, but last year we managed a ski reunion, six of us crammed into a tiny French apartment in Les Menuires. We had fun, although next time we vowed we would stay somewhere a bit bigger. Poor Elliot, being so the shortest, had to squeeze himself into the prison cell that was the kids bunk bed.

This year we asked if they would like to join us, but only Aaron could make it. He and his girlfriend came to join us in Samoëns where we knew we could guarantee a spot for Bertie in the campsite. Aaron and Cerys booked up a cute little studio apartment in town on Airbnb for a very reasonable price.

Aaron’s girlfriend was a first time skier and took lessons. She managed to get to grips with skiing really quickly, determined to be able to ski with Aaron in the afternoons.

Enjoying a drink in the sunshine at the Croc Blanc

We had a few days of reasonable skiing. Paul and I only skied three of the six days but Aaron and Cerys went out every day. Luckily we had a small amount of new snow on the first night but after that we had a lot of sunshine and warmth. The conditions at Samoëns 1600 got increasingly poor during the week, turning the slushy snow quite unpleasantly brown by the time we had our last skiing day. But at least the top of Flaine stayed in reasonable condition.

Skiing Samoens and nearly getting stuck in Flaine

We skied Flaine back in 2019 but didn’t get over to Samoëns.

Samoëns has a reasonable number of runs and links to other villages in the domain (Morillon and Les Carroz). You can buy a Villages pass (which excludes Flaine) or a Grand Massif pass for the whole area. Both offer 4 hour pass options.

While we were there the conditions weren’t great. At one point we skied down to the Corblanche chair at 1100m and regretted it. There was a lot of exposed dirt!

In theory you can ski down to Samoëns itself but there was no chance of that this trip (although we spotted a couple of people defying the closed signs and following the ribbon of white to it’s end). Spring conditions were well and truly with us.

Better conditions at the top of Flaine

We spent a lot of time in Flaine to get the best conditions. But you have to be careful to make your way back from from Flaine to Samoëns before the lifts shut. There are no ski buses from Flaine to Samoëns so it would be an expensive taxi ride back.

We had one afternoon where we only just made it before the lifts were closed. It was a day I will remember for a long time, we had already been skiing since 9 and sat down for a cold drink in Flaine when I happened to look at my phone and realise we had three quarters of an hour to get to the Tetes des Saix lift. Two long runs had to be navigated to get there in time. We quickly downed what we could of our drinks and left them half finished on the table as we rushed to our skis.

After the unpleasant slushy lumps and bumps of the first run we got on the Grand Vans lift, but as it crested the Vernant ridge we saw that cloud had lingered in the valley and the route down was going to be very foggy. Cerys was a trooper getting down to the lift that day, never stopping her consistent turns from top to bottom. It was just before 16:30 when we got to the Tetes des Saix and the staff were getting rather impatient to close it. I take full responsibility for the ‘just one more run’ that caused this near miss.

As we skied back to the Grand Massif Express we felt like we were the only people on the mountain and to top it off we got stuck on the final lift, feeling a little worried as we watched the staff drive off on their skidoo. Luckily all was well and we got down to Samoëns pretty shattered but immensely relieved.

Other things to do in Samoens

We went for a couple of walks (and I went for one run) while in Samoëns. There is a path along the river to the village of Sixt-fer-a-Cheval and a number of options to take routes off into the hills. Because the weather was very warm these routes were devoid of any snow (at least as far as we went) although they are marked as snowshoe routes if you visit in snowier times. Staying here really made us regret not bringing our mountain bikes as there are a number of trails in the valley as well as the summer routes on the ski slopes.

We walked past the ice rink a few times where people were knocking a puck around. Paul and I have only been ice skating together once, and he vowed that he would never go again so it wasn’t on the cards for us.

The Gorges des TInes

One of the many chapels in the area

Staying at Caravaneige La Giffre

We booked in at Samoens Camping/Caravaneige Le Giffre (named for the river that runs very close by) for eight nights.

Bertie in the campsite

The walk to the Grand Massif Express cablecar takes about 5 minutes. If you leave your kit in their ski room (currently a temporary portacabin while building works are taking place to extend the main building) then you can halve the distance you have to manage in ski boots.

The cost is reasonable for a campsite, we chose a 6Amp Hardstanding pitch and it came in at 29 euros per night. You can opt for 10Amp if you wish and there are some pitches that are on gravel/dirt.

The river has some very obvious flood defences but there is still a flood warning and emergency evacuation process in the campsite.

We felt the facilities closest to us (the older block), while adequate, were a bit shabby and unloved. Cleaning focussed on the sanitary ware and the floors, doors and walls were all a bit grubby. However showers were powerful, the water warm enough and the block was well heated. The washing up water wasn’t really warm enough to get things clean so we used the motorhome. The other facilities block is newer and includes a laundry which takes card payments. Bins and recycling are provided by the municipality and are on the road outside the campsite.

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