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Domain: Grand Massif
Date: March 2008 (9 ski days)
Our holiday: This was our second ski holiday this season (wayhey! first time to ever manage 2). There were a lot of firsts involved in this holiday for us; first time skiing in France (Austria on previous occassions), first time staying in a chalet etc.
Website : www.samoens.com
Basics : We flew to Geneva and were picked up by our chalet hosts. The transfer was about an hour and all went like clockwork.
Lift system : Oh dear - this was the worst part of the whole stay for us. The lifts are old, with a few exceptions such as the new Grand Massif Express gondola. Many of the chair lifts were wooden backed/seated, tend to cut the calves from under you and were generally very slow and none were covered. The drag lifts (of which there are too many) were often long, turned corners and inclined to lift you off the ground. Generally speaking the capacity on the lifts was not as good as in other (Austrian) places we have been. Where there should have been chair lifts, there were drags and where there should have been gondolas, there were chairs. The links to the other resorts forming part of the Grand Massif (Flaine, Morillon and Les Carroz) are prone to closure. Also smaller simpler things are not up to scratch: if it's snowing/raining, the lifties don't brush off the seats, something which we have found par for the course in Austria. Chair lifts are not (cannot be?) slowed down for learners to disembark so have to be stopped often to mop up the roadkill. Ski buses run at less than one an hour but are timely and comfortable and driven by very helpful and friendly drivers.
The terrain : We skied every run that was open while we were there. Unfortunately the 14km Cascades run was closed, as were a couple of pistes down to the resorts due to the lack of snow low down. That still left a massive amount of ski area open and we had a ball. Flaine is all that people say it is but to my mind, if the conditions are right, the runs above the other resorts are more interesting and better fun and often less crowded. We loved the red (Chamois) from Tete de Sais towards Les Carroz, Stade and Bergin in Morrillon, Marmotte in Samoens, Mephisto in Flaine. The signposting is fantastic - it's very easy to navigate around the area and a real relevation to us as the Austrians seem to like you to be something of orienteers.
The snow : We had every kind of condition during our stay; lovely blue ski days with perfect pisted snow and lovely blue ski days with spring snow starting icy turning to slush and three days of fantastic powder. We also skied in lashing rain, hailstones and snow and on Monday, the fog was very heavy leaving visibility very low (and scary) at times. At all times there was still plenty of snow on the pistes. Pistes are not re-groomed during the day which they are in most places I've been in Austria so even easy runs get mogully and tricky if it's busy. I quite like bumps but sometimes I haven't the energy at the end of a long day for them and it would have been nice to have the choice to avoid them.
Off-piste : I don't partake but himself does and between his reports and the general look of the area, it seemed a fantastic off-piste place.
The resort : Beautiful village with a lovely atmosphere in the evenings. The village square hosts all kinds of low-key events in the evenings from games to mini stalls. There's a proper French market on a Wednesday morning at the Tourist Office, ice skating every evening on a covered rink. It's a lot quieter than the Austrian type of apres ski we were used to but lovely and chilled out. We stayed in Les Vallons (about a mile to the east of Samoens but easily walkable) and lots of the Savoyard farmhouses retain the original features (including cattle inside the barn part of the house).
Food : We were fully catered but being the savages that we are, still had sizeable lunches every day in the mountain. In Flaine, we liked Le Blanchot and La Cascade. In Morrilon we liked L'Igloo and the one close to the Les Molliets carpark on the Les Carroz side. All served lovely food - well above standard but at prices comparable to the canteen type places also available.
Accommodation : Our chalet was called La vieille Ferme and was a real gem of a find. The house is beautiful, the hosts helpful and the food to die for. Can't praise it enough really.
Costs: Food on the mountain is expensive by comparison to Austria (or Ireland). A lunch (even something like sausage and chips) will come in around 15 euro. Some of the places are real rip-off merchants, especially in Flaine. We were charged 15 euro for 2 espressos and 2 mars bars at the cafe beside the smaller of the 2 gondolas in Flaine and I was charged 3.50 for a can of Sprite at the top of the DMC. We also saw packets of crisps with a price tag of 3 euros!
Conclusion: We loved the place and would like to return but will probably wait until there has been some investment in the lift system. It's a place we would also certainly consider for a summer holiday.
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Last edited by A snowHead on Thu 20-03-08 10:05; edited 1 time in total