An Expert Skier’s Guide to Samoens and the Grand Massif

From the construction of the first ski lift back in 1950, Samoens ski resort has developed into a highly accessible and sought-after destination for French and international skiers. Enjoying a prime location between Geneva and Chamonix, Samoens is just an hour from Geneva international airport; making it a highly accessible destination for last-minute ski weekends for those in search of fresh air and the freshest of tracks. It is also great for families who don’t fancy the 3 hour airport transfer to French ski destinations such as Merilbel, Val d’sere, Tignes and Val Thorens. While also catering brilliantly to beginners and intermediates; Samoens is today a firm favourite for advanced skiers thanks to the fast inter-resort links and wide range of skiing options it offers.

Here, Samoens local experts ZigZag Ski School have collated some useful information to help advanced skiers get the best from their first visit to the area. 

Get to Know the Grand Massif

Samoens’ strength is it’s accessibility.  The resort is one of 5 that make up the impressive Grand Massif ski domain.  As the name suggests, the ski area is vast, with more than 40,000 hectares of ski terrain, including 265km of groomed pistes, available to visitors. Samoens is located centrally within the Grand Massif, allowing skiers to quickly and easily reach any other part of the resort. 

The Grand Massif Express cable car delivers skiers from the village to a huge, sunny beginner zone – the Plateau des Saix – at Samoens 1600m.  From here, skiers can attain the Tête de Saix summit via either of Samoens’ two speedy 6 man chair lifts; the TSD6 Chariande Express or the newer TSD6 Coulouvrier.  (Interesting fact for ski geeks : the TSD6 is Europe’s longest lift of its kind.  Climbing an impressive 944 vertical metres over a distance of 2574m, the Coulouvrier lift is capable of transporting 3000 passengers/hour at a speed of 6 metres/second).

* Top Tip *  On clear days we recommend heading directly to Flaine to enjoy skiing high above the tree line, with stunning views over the Mont Blanc range. When visibility is low we recommend heading to Morillon or Les Carroz to ski the beautiful forest trails, where visibility is always better.

Samoens Grand Massif Expert Ski Area

With development and investment improving facilities every winter, the Grand Massif ski area is currently home to 67 ski lifts and 142 slopes:

– 23 green slopes for beginners

– 60 blue slopes

– 47 red slopes

– 12 black slopes

* Top Tip *  Head out early during peak holiday periods and hit the Aouïa piste to reach the Coulouvrier lift and you’ll beat the crowds to the top of the resort. 

* Top Tip *  Click here to view an interactive Grand Massif piste map.  Use the toggle buttons on the right side of the map to see only those pistes that are open and the lifts currently running.  You can also toggle on “restaurants d’altitude” to view restaurants on the map.

Our Favourite Pistes for Advanced Skiers

We’ve asked five ZigZag instructors which of the Grand Massif pistes they enjoy skiing with advanced skiers and why :

ZigZag favourite #1 – The Méphisto Superière + Minos pistes in Flaine are great fun for flying down with a few centimetres of fresh snow on them.  They’re rarely busy, even during peak periods; plus, the views are just spectacular from the top of Flaine.

ZigZag favourite #2 – Flaine’s Serpentine is everyone’s favourite for carving down at top speed and enjoying the woop-de-woops.  And before you ask, yes, that is a technical term.

ZigZag favourite #3 – The Corbalanche piste in Les Carroz is a great place to work on moguls.  Rarely groomed, this is an excellent piste for advanced skiers who’re looking to challenge themselves and there are some fun tree runs to do off the side too.

ZigZag favourite #4 – Flaine’s stunning Agate piste is steep and rarely groomed, with remarkable panoramic views.  The Lindars Nord chairlift that allows access to it is rarely open, so you’ll find loads of ski tourers enjoying this piste all to themselves.

ZigZag favourite #5 – Samoens’ new Come piste is a fabuously steep red with lots of zoom appeal.  Jump on it first thing in the morning and make sure your skis are sharp to enjoy maximum corduroy rip.

Off-Piste for Advanced Skiers in the Grand Massif

This section is prefaced with a safety message : we highly recommend booking a certified Guide or ski instructor when you go off-piste in the Grand Massif.  Even if you’ve skied an area before, conditions can change hourly and familiar terrain does note equal safe terrain.  Not only will a Guide keep you safe, but you’ll get way more out of your day when following a pro who knows the resort inside out.  

* Top Tip *  When fresh snow has fallen, there’s no need to go far afield : some of the best fresh tracks are to be found on the Northern faces of Samoens itself.  Lapping the ungroomed Aigle Noir piste is a local favourite – just be ready to be whooped at from other powder-lovers riding the Chariande Express chairlift above you! 

The go-to spot for powder skiing in the Grand Massif is the Combe de Gers. With a single (steep) button lift servicing it, the Gers Bowl doesn’t track out quickly and fresh dumps can be savoured all day long.

There are unlimited powder skiing options throughout the Grand Massif when conditions are good.  Knee-deep powder is a regular treat best enjoyed throughout January, February and March.  The advantage of the Grand Massif over other more “powder reputed” areas is that there are still fresh tracks to be found even several days after a fresh snowfall.  The resort is expansive and doesn’t (yet) have a reputation as one of THE powder destinations, which means it doesn’t track out as quickly as other, more popular destinations.  While the big name resorts are tracked out by lunchtime, we’re here quietly enjoying epic off-piste skiing for days.  Shh, don’t tell everyone. 

Notable off-piste descents

There are a couple of really special off-piste opportunities here in the Grand Massif.  We’ll name a few for inspiration, but please note that these shouldn’t be skied willy-nilly and are really worth booking a Guide for. 

  • Véret-Gers
  • Aujon
  • L’Arbaron
  • La Croix des Sept Frères

These are just a few of the better known descents – the rest are secrets kept by locals and you’ll need to book a Guide to be allowed a look-in!  Plus, of course, for the resort’s most infamous James Bond experience including a 48m abseil : please enquire.

Ski Touring in the Grand Massif

For those who really want to get into the backcountry, ski touring opens up an entire new world of off-piste opportunities.  Again, an activity best enjoyed in the company of a professional, ski touring is a booming sport for advanced skiers here in the Grand Massif.  Touring up groomed pistes is prohibited for safety reasons, but rest assured there are a range of easy options for touring novices.  For adept tourers, there are spectacular routes in every direction : the Grand Massif region is truly your oyster.