|Flaine (Altitude 1600m, population minimal)|
Flaine is an all-or-nothing proposition: either you enjoy this purpose-built, concrete and steel resort, or you look elsewhere in the Alps for quaint chalets and more traditional charm. The rectangular flat-topped buildings, reputedly designed by Marcel Breuer, are all clad in concrete and cling to the slopes of this narrow valley. Whether or not you like Flaine's unique appearance, you can't help buy enjoy the snow-sure setting which, although overwhelmingly intermediate, offers bountiful and good skiing from December to May. The other real advantage enjoyed by Flaine is its practicality. As a car-free resort it is great for families with housing and services clustered to provide maximum convenience for skiers. Everything here is designed with winter sports in mind around a concept that people come to ski, not stand in line. There is very little queuing except occasionally for the cable car.
For those who need their Savoie fix, Flaine is connected by a system of lifts to the more traditional lower-altitude towns of Les Carroz, Morillon and Samoens, and by bus to Sixt. There is also a cluster of Scandinavian-style chalets that serves as a refreshing change from the high-rise blocks to be found in the rest of the resort. Le Hameau de Flaine, is only a kilometer from the base area and is served by a regular, free shuttlebus.
- North facing, sheltered valley is completely snow sure
- A huge investment programme during summer 2000 saw a number of lifts upgraded and improved snowmaking equipment on the lower slopes
- Excellent for beginner and intermediate skiers with five free lifts on the nursery slopes, good quality ski instruction, small classes and a good number of English-speaking instructors
- Compact, car-free and very practical village centers
- Although the purpose built architecture serves a purpose, the resort lacks mountain atmosphere and real charm
- Nightlife and non-skiing activities are rather limited
- The mountain scenery can be a little bland
Samoens (Altitude 720m, population 2200)
In stark contrast to neighbouring Flaine, Samoëns is a traditional Savoyard resort. A delightful small down, it has consciously maintained its Alpine charm, despite a recent flurry of expansion in which new chalets and lifts have added to its appeal. At just 720m, resort snow can fluctuate, but the Red Devil gondola helps link the village and the ski area, which has some nice skiing for most ability of skier. Away from the slopes, nightlife is limited but you will find plenty of restaurants serving excellent local dishes. Neighbouring Morillon is smaller still. Still very much a resort for the French, the mass market is yet to overrun it. However, the family focus, varied skiing and mountain allure are starting to attract an ever increasing number of foreign buyers to this beautiful small town.
- Wonderfully traditional Savoie atmosphere with charming restaurants and chalets
- Some nice skiing, particularly good for beginners and families
- Plenty of recent development with some attractive chalets
- Its altitude means that snow cover is less reliable than many other resorts
- Not really a place for those seeking a vibrant nightlife
Les Carroz (Altitude 1140m, population 475)
Recent investment has meant that the once traditional hamlet of Les Carroz is rapidly growing into a ski resort in its own right. Usually in the shadow of its big brother, Flaine, Les Carroz has expanded to cover a large area on the road up to Flaine. Its location has meant that it benefits from shorter transfer times from Geneva and it is popular with many Genevois who pop up for a weekend ski. However, due to its lower altitude it offers less reliable snow. When the snow is good, Les Carroz is an excellent place for beginners, with gentle nursery slopes down into the town. There is also some fantastic off-piste that can be accessed at Flaine. Les Carroz itself is very much focused on family based skiing, and can be characterised by a lack of nightlife or non-skiing activities. It does however boast an entertaining summer season and is particularly noted for its hot air ballooning.
- Quick transfer time from Geneva airport
- A good ski area that is particularly suitable for beginners and families
- Although there are lots of apartments on the market, there are fewer chalets available
- Lower altitude means that Flaine is sometimes the better option, particularly for off-piste skiing
Sixt fer a Cheval (Altitude 700m, population 700)
Nestled at the bottom of the Giffre Valley surrounded by the Natural Reserve of Sixt-Passy, Sixt fer a Cheval, or 'Sixt' as it is commonly known, is a beautifully quaint little village with some stunning farm houses and traditional architecture. Containing 24 hamlets, Sixt dates back to the 9th Century and centered around the delightful 12th Century Abbey at its heart, is well deserving of its 'Grand Site de France' label, meaning place of great natural interest. Although Sixt has its own ski area, it is also linked to Flaine by the 14 km long "Cascades trail. The snow also bring snowshoe walks, dogsledding and Nordic skiing to this traditional area.
- Beautiful, traditional village with some lovely architecture
- A stunning natural setting offers some superb views
- Skiing not as challenging as neighbouring Flaine
- Many of the nicest properties stay within families and don't come onto the market