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Domain: Grand Massif
Author: Martin Nicholas
Date: February â€˜07
Our holiday: Family trip (2 adults 4 teenage girls
Website: Very clunky old fashioned resort website Samoens , Webcams Grand Massif webcams , Ski Club information here and weather GSF for the area
Basics: Fly to Geneva which has transformed since I was last there 5 years ago into an efficient if crowded airport tuned in to mass transits of skiers. Hire a car through Car Jet who won best car rental agency of the year 2006, and avoid the Hertz / Europcar queues. In less than an hour you are pulling into the square of this listed historic monument of a village, with lots of character and a very French atmosphere, and incredibly welcoming locals.
Lift system: Like the website the Samoens end of the Grand Massif is a bit clunky and poorly thought through. A 4 man egg and 8 man gondola feed a slow non detachable pair of chairs, 1 2-man and 1 3-man, so unless you are up to the plateau at 1600 by 9 am it can ba a wait of up to 30 mins to get out of Samoens. Similarly coming home the 8 man out of Flaine feeds a 4 man up to Les Carroz, Morrilon and Samoens. The area is in need of some more investment to keep pace with Les Arcs, 3V, Esp Killy etc. The crux of the system is the Tete de Saix where Les Carroz, Morrilon and Samoens link together, and 1 lift away is the 1 run in each direction link to Flaine which is vulnerable to poor snow or high winds â€“ be warned!
The terrain: Some lovely tree lined runs. Down to Samoens they are Black or red, but 1 ridge over to Les Carroz or Morrillon and there are lovely cruisy blues and reds. The link to Flaine is a moderate if somewhat ice prone blue. The area suits intermediates rather than thrill seekers, is very scenic, but is short of safe off piste without a guide.
The snow: Thin up top, more like Scotland at Samoens 1600, but they kept it all going in a brown slushy sort of wak on chair lift landings and essential linking runs.
Off-piste: Limited on this trip due to thin snow
The resort: The resort is full of character being an old stone masons town (in contrast to the wood chalets of Morrilon just a few km away), with many restaurants, 2 supermarkets, banks, post office, excellent butcher, hardware shop, the French prize winning bakery of 2006 â€“ Jayasina â€“ fab croissants and reasonably priced pastries. There is a botanical garden in the centre open 2 â€“ 4.30 with fine views from the top, and nice walks up unmade tracks past working farms only a few hundred mtrs from the centre.
Food: In resort Muscade and Basilic excellent quality, menu â‚¬45 with extensive wine list, we tried to get in to Louisiana for pizza 3 times and were rudely turned away each time. The girls said Coveys Irish bar was the only night spot in town, the Ice Bar full of middle aged men (vis 30+!) In the mountains lots of choice. The Igloo above Morillon even has dormitory accommodation, very good food. The Epicea above the Centre of Flaine is high quality â€“ arrive early, and the Chalet du Bissac near the Grand Vans lift out of Flaine is newly refurbished and doing good quality fare. Top food also at Les Molliets which must have the prize for the best food served by the roughest looking waiters, but very charmingly.
Accommodation : We stayed in Viking Lodge a very comfortable Ikea on snow run by a Danish guy, but not cheap
Costs: Cheaper than the big names, comparable to Les 2 Alpes, Peisey Vallandry overall
Conclusion: Weâ€™ll definitely go again â€“ and probably in the summer too, its that sort of a place.
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