The town of Samoëns is located in the Vallée du Giffre in the French Alps and carries the designation of a “ville fleurie” distinguishing it as one of the most beautiful towns in France. It is a popular summer destination as well as the site of a ski resort that departs from a new lift at the edge of town linking up to Samoëns 1600 also known as the Plateau de Saix This resort is part of the larger five town Grand Massif which includes Flaine, Les Carroz, Morillon and Sixt fer a Cheval.
Rated as one of the most beautiful national parks in France, Cirque du Fer-a-Cheval is a short drive away, on a clear summer day do not miss the views of the Massif de Mt. Blanc from the top of the Col De Joux Plan, or the Cascade Du Rouget near Sixt.
For the adventurous, summer activities include: White water rafting, kayaking, para gliding, mountain biking, hiking and cycling many of the Tour De France routes that criss cross the valley, the “IndianaPark” or ropes course, mountain climbing and 4 wheeling. For the less adventurous, there are a number of out door cafes, bars, a weekly market (Wednesday mornings), restaurants, a public pool and water slide, as well as many parks.
With their 265 km of pistes and their 5 interlinked resorts, the Grand Massif ski slopes are currently considered as one of the largest, finest domains in France. For a long time, they were used as a training ground by Antoine Deneriaz, a native of Morillon who won the gold medal in the downhill event at the Turin Winter Olympics on 12 February 2006.
Thanks to its geographical location, the Grand Massif enjoys abundant, regular snowfalls throughout the season, and the area is well known for the quality of the snow in spring. Of course, 80% of the slopes are north-facing, allowing the snow to lie for longer and remain in good condition.
The Grand Massif features some exceptional spots:
– The Combe de Gers with its dizzying 800 m drop and untouched snow!
– The blue Cascades piste running for 14 km from the summit at Flaine to Sixt Fer à Cheval
– The Marvel piste that provides beginners with a 5 km run through the heart of a forest over a century old
– three jamparks for the greater joy of freestylers
The Aravis massif rises majestically between the Lake of Annecy and the Mont Blanc range. The highest point in the massif, a succession of broad combes, plateaux and hanging valleys, is the Pointe Percée, rising to 2753 m (9,032 ft).This unique mountain landscape is home to four traditional and authentic mountain villages: La Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand, Manigod and Saint-Jean de Sixt. These communities escaped the horrendous resort developments of the 1970’s, and today they remain proper little villages with a warm and friendly atmosphere.
With their excellent snow records, these villages have become top ski resorts with an excellent reputation. Only 6 km (3 ½ miles) apart, they have developed two astonishingly varied and extensive ski areas, with a total of more than 220 km of pistes !
In the summer, the AravisRange is a haven for hikers, from beginners to experts, with more than 250 km (155 miles) of well marked and maintained footpaths.
The Vallee Verte is a beautiful valley running north south from Lac Leman towards Annemasse. With easy access to Lac Leman, Geneva and the Alps du Leman, this is a popular valley all year round but little known by overseas visitors. The three main towns are Habere Poche, Villard, and Habere-Lullin, with many lovely villages in between. You might be surprised to know that there are five ski areas, great for families and much better value for money than many of the more popular ski areas nearby. They are Les Brasses, Les Habéres, Bellevaux – Hirmentaz, Bellevaux – le Chévrerie and the Stade de neige de Lulin.
Chamonix is a vibrant alpine town with a wonderful architectural heritage that bears witness to a wealth of history.
There is an excellent alpine museum and exhibition centre in the centre of Chamonix and by taking advantage of the free public transport, one may also discover the outlying villages and hamlets, each with their individual identity and charm. The centre of town offers a wide selection of shops and boutiques and plenty of restaurants.
As the highest European mountain west of Russia, Mont Blanc holds a special allure for mountain climbers, and is an ideal playground for almost all types of outdoor activity, such as ice climbing, rock climbing, extreme skiing, paragliding, rafting, and canyoning.
Chamonix is famous for its spectacular cable car up to the Aiguille du Midi (3842m). Constructed in 1955 it was then the highest cable car in the world. Together with a cable car system going up to the Point Helbronner (3462m) from Entréves in the Aosta Valley (Italy) it is possible to cross the entire Mont Blanc Massif by cable car.
In the summer months Chamonix is a mecca for alpine mountaineers, drawn to the area by challenges like the north face of the Dru, the Frendo Spur on the Aiguille du Midi, traversing the Alps on the legendary GR 5 footpath or more accessible challenges like summitting Mont Blanc (by a number of possible routes).
Apart from high-mountain summer sports, Chamonix is also a destination for the hardcore mountain biker. As well as the obvious lift-assisted areas for Freeriders there are hundreds of kilometres of challenging hidden singletrack trails – often only found with the help of guides.
A 19th century spa town with traditional buildings and a rich heritage, the town centre, with its wealth of shops, bars and restaurants is soon to be completely pedestrianised. The large weekly market takes place on Thursday mornings.
It’s own ski area forms part of the Evasion Mt-Blanc ski domain, links directly with Megéve and is a short drive to Les Contamines. From the Bettex ski lift close to the town centre, the ski area extends to 2350 metres with 420 km of runs. There are also 30 km of cross country trails.
The Tramway du Mont Blanc opened in 1907 with the original intention of going all the way to the summit of Mont Blanc. This was a touch over-ambitious and instead the TMB takes skiers to the Bellvue/Prarion area above Les Houches.