Samoëns is certainly a pleasant place to enjoy a first ski holiday, and beginners will start their first experiences on skis by taking the Grand Massif Express lift up to Samoëns 1600, where there are some good nursery slopes. A special beginner’s only lift ticket covers the essential lifts for first timers only, for a lower price than the regular ticket. However it is perhaps slightly more hassle than would be ideal, with most accommodations a bus ride away from the gondola, so you’ll need a bus ride and a gondola ride before you actually reach the base of the nursery slopes, while some other ski areas have the nursery slopes a few steps from your accommodation. 80% of the French Ski School’s teachers speak English and the school guarantees English speaking tuition.
After taking the eight minute ride on the Grand Massif Express up to Samoëns 1600, skiers enter the vast Grand Massif ski area which could keep most entertained for months. The region is characterised by a huge snowy bowl above Flaine at the top with dozens of fast wide pistes dropping in to it from all sides with great long swooping runs or, on the outer edges of the region, incredible long runs that start above the treeline but then continue on and on in to the lower wooded slopes before finally ending, up to 14km (nine miles) later in the valley, usually at one of the four traditional villages around its edges, although unfortunately not quite back at Samoëns itself, so one downside is that you’ll always need to get a bus back to the village at the end of the day. Famous runs include the 14km long blue-graded Paste des Cascades down to Sixt Fer à Cheval, accessed via the Grandes Platières cable car, or you can head down to Morillon at the end of the day on another wonderful long run and get the valley bus back to Samoëns.
Expert skiers won’t get bored in the Grand Massif with more than 40km (25 miles) of steep terrain with a black grading and plenty more opportunities off-piste over some spectacular verticals. The Combe de Gers sector is particularly popular and bump fans will love the "Styx" run. In the Croix sector just above the resort at Samoëns 1600 the Marmotte and Chamois slopes are also fun and challenging, both really enjoyable runs with jumps and ramps at the end of the slopes. The resort lists the 3.1km (2 mile) long Diamant noir (Black Diamond) run as its toughest.
The ski schools offer off-piste guiding, heliskiing (over the nearby border in to Italy, it isn’t legal in France) as well as trips to nearby ski areas including the legendary Vallee Blanche descent above Chamonix, the world’s longest, where descents of up to 25km (17 miles) are possible down from 3842 metres, after an alarming ridge walk.
Snowboard / Freestyle Skiing
Samoën's access to the Grand Massif means guests in the village can easily reach the region’s terrain parks which are located above Morillon and in Flaine where there’s a boarder cross in the Vernant sector’s Jam Park. A third park is located above Samoëns itself on the Soleil slope which has progressive features for all ability levels.
There are more than 90km of cross country trails in and around the resort, so it’s a major centre for the sport. Samoëns’ main cross-country ski area is in the Upper Giffre Valley and divided into two distinct sections. One on the valley floor runs from Morillon and ends at the foot of a horseshoe-shaped corrie known as Cirque du Fer à Cheval.
The second section is at altitude and located at the Col de Joux Plane mountain pass, 1600 metres up and 13 km from Samoëns. A free shuttle bus can take you there from the Tourist Office. Overall about half of the cross country tracks are graded easy, a third moderate and 8km of them have a black, difficult, grading.
There are other options in the vicinity. For example, above nearby Les Carroz, cross-country skiers will benefit from the great snow cover and superb views at what the resort believes is the highest and most snowsure Nordic ski area in the Alps. Located at an altitude of 1844m on the Col de Pierre Carrée this extensive area above the Arve Valley offer 17 km of tracks marked out for both the classic and skating cross country skiing styles.
Samoens Average Snow and Weather Conditions
The Grand Massif area has one of the best natural snowfall records in Europe, in part thanks to its proximity to Mont Blanc, receiving an average of five metres (nearly 17 feet) of snow each winter. Samoens is at the lower end of the region but normally offers doorstep skiing all season long, thanks to this natural snow accumulation, north facing slopes and increasingly extensive snowmaking cover on lower runs.