In The Spotlight: Samoëns

Quick facts on Samoëns

Picturesque, charming and family-friendly, Samoëns presents an enticing alternative to the typical French megaresorts we know and love. Less crowded than other more popular domains, it’s an altogether more relaxing proposition, with a fascinating history to discover and character to spare. Thanks to its proximity to Geneva, it’s also one of the most easily accessible of all French ski domains, making it an ideal option for a quick break or for families wanting to avoid long transfers. With beautiful scenery, varied terrain and – with its links to the Grand Massif ski area – an impressive 265km of pistes to explore, a Samoëns ski holiday offers something for all comers.

Samoëns Fast Facts

Domain altitude: 720-1,600m
Lowest slope: 700m
Highest lift: 2,480m
Total pistes: 265km
Lifts: 68
Runs: 148

  • Green: 20 (14%)
  • Blue: 64 (43%)
  • Red: 50 (34%)
  • Black: 14 (9%)

Getting There

Geneva is by far the nearest and most convenient airport (71km / 1hr), with various shared and private transfers available. Alternatives include Chambéry (125km / 1.5hrs), Lyon (201km / 2.5hrs) and Grenoble (204km / 2.5hrs).

It’s also possible to take the train to Cluses, from where Samoëns is an easy and inexpensive 19km bus journey (35 mins) or taxi ride (20 mins). Generally, there are three to four daily departures, with journey times averaging around nine hours on weekdays and slightly longer at weekends. The route involves a minimum of two changes, utilising a combination of Eurostar, TGV and SNCF services.

We Love

  • Predominantly north-facing slopes keep snow conditions good
  • Beautiful scenery abounds
  • Quick transfers
  • Being somewhat off the mainstream radar, crowds aren’t such an issue

The Downsides

  • The Grand Massif lift system lacks the seamless, interlinked convenience of the Espace Killy or Les Trois Vallées
  • If terrain parks are your thing, you won’t find much to hold your interest
  • Lower altitude means snow cover on the bottom slopes can be a bit thin

The Domain

Much prized by the French for its history and architecture, Samoëns is a thoroughly pleasant setting for a winter break. With its car-free centre, beautiful buildings and variety of restaurants and shops, including everything from gourmet regional specialties to interesting vintage curiosities, it’s a refreshing departure from the more familiar scenes of clinical, purpose-built stations. After all, how many ski domains can lay claim to a Gothic church and a weekly Wednesday market?

The town is linked to the ski area – known as Samoëns 1600, or the Plateau des Saix – by the Grand Massif Express high-speed gondola. Skiing back down at the end of the day isn’t an option: you either download on the gondola, or ski to Morillon and take the ski bus back from there. The Saix gondola at nearby Vercland provides an alternative route, which may save time depending on where exactly you’re based.

If you’re looking for ski-in ski-out convenience then Samoëns 1600 is definitely the place to stay, but for many people the charms of Samoëns town outweigh the minor inconvenience of bookending each day with an obligatory gondola or bus ride.

The Ski Area

Along with the connected resorts of Flaine, Les Carroz, Morillon and Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval, Samoëns makes up the Grand Massif ski area: France’s 4th largest. Situated roughly between Geneva and Mt. Blanc, the area enjoys an unusually picturesque setting, with some truly stunning views over the majestic Mt. Blanc massif.

For a domain that tops out at a relatively low 2,500m, the Grand Massif has a surprisingly good snow record. Also, a high proportion of its slopes – around 80% – face north, meaning that snow conditions tend to remain good for longer.

A lack of crowds and great facilities – including a particularly renowned ski school – make Samoëns a popular choice for family holidays. It also offers excellent and easily accessible beginners slopes, making it a great option for those making their tentative first turns on snow.

Those looking for more challenging terrain will find plenty to please in the wider Grand Massif area. The bowls of Flaine provide extensive opportunities for off-piste exploration of various gradients (and various degrees of peril), while Les Carroz and Samoëns itself offer tree runs in abundance.

Though it may not challenge the likes of the Espace Killy or Les Trois Vallées in terms of sheer scale, there’s no arguing that there are plenty of runs to explore here, with a broad variety of terrain to get stuck into. Keen skiers and snowboarders, fear not: you won’t be short of things to do in Samoëns.

Despite its modest size, Samoëns has a fantastic range of excellent eateries, so you’re genuinely spoiled for choice. From cheap and cheerful take-outs to bustling bistros and sophisticated Michelin Guide establishments, you’ll find something to whet your appetite in the many Samoëns restaurants.

Le Monde à l'Envers, Samoëns
Be sure to book well in advance to secure a table at this perennially popular local gem. Renowned for its great service and welcoming ambience, it dishes up delightful and highly original cuisine, combining fresh, top quality ingredients with an interesting blend of international flavours, all complemented by an excellent wine list.

Auberge de Montagne ‘la Table de Fifine’, Samoëns
Cozy and charming, ‘la Table de Fifine’ is the local hotspot for traditional Savoyarde food. Replete with authentically rustic décor and an open fireplace, it does a fantastic line in local specialties, including Pierre Chaudes (a hot stone upon which you cook your own meat) and several kinds of fondue: bring an appetite, and prepare to go home heavy. It also offers a separate children’s menu.

Le 8M des Monts, Samoëns
An elegant bistro serving fantastic contemporary food, Le 8M des Monts is an absolutely essential stop on any good Samoëns dining itinerary. With excellent service and a constantly changing menu featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients, it’s easy to see why it sets pulses racing amongst local and visiting gourmands alike.

Relaxed and inviting, Samoëns specialises in relaxed and convivial bars where locals and tourists mix readily. But though it’s not exactly famed for its raucous nightlife, things here can get pretty lively… if you know where to look. Read on for our guide to the best Samoëns bars.

La Reposette, Vercland
A favourite local restaurant and watering hole, La Reposette is located at the bottom of the Saix gondola in Vercland. Much loved for its roaring log fire, lively vibe and fantastic outdoor terrace, it’s the perfect spot for a quick pitstop, a hearty lunch or a few après-ski sundowners. If you’re based in Vercland, it’s also a sure bet for a delectable dinner.

Covey’s Irish Bar, Samoëns
Sometimes, only a pub will do… and for those occasions, there’s Covey’s Irish Bar. If you’re looking for a good international beer selection and a thoroughly decent pint of Guinness, then this is the spot for you!

The Place 2 Be, Samoëns
With a great drinks menu and a tantalising selection of cheese and charcuterie platters to keep the hunger pangs at bay, this relative newcomer is quickly becoming a Samoëns stalwart. Relaxed and welcoming, it’s a solid option both for après-ski and evening entertainment alike, with plenty of comfortable seating to melt into.

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