Fresh, misty mornings; crisp, cool evenings; and mountain vistas speckled with gold. Autumn has arrived. It’s a beautiful time of year in the Alps and it’s an exciting one too – the official countdown to winter has begun!
If you’re anything like us, snowy daydreams now fill your every waking hour. You can’t wait for that first moment back on the slopes. Well, channel that excitement and start planning your next winter adventure now. With Alps Accommodation it’s easy. We’ve got some great tips to help you make the most of your winter holiday to the Grand Massif this season.
When should I come?
A skiing and snowboarding trip to the Grand Massif is always fantastic, so this depends on what type of holiday experience you prefer. Fancy a white Christmas? Or a February family fun-time? Maybe you’d prefer the mountain to yourself and to pick up a last-minute deal. Or do you and your mates fancy a few cruisy runs followed by a long leisurely lunch on a sunny slope side terrace? In the Grand Massif you can do it all.
Christmas in the mountains is gorgeous, and Christmas in Samoëns is nothing short of a fairy tale. Wrap your hands around a hot chocolate or vin chaud as you stroll through the Village de Noel. Meet mischievous Christmas elves and see Santa arrive in his sleigh. Or stay on for the New Year and enjoy spectacular fireworks displays, live music, activities for all the family, and a simply buzzing atmosphere on and off the slopes.
Personally, we love January. It can be cold, but the snow is usually at its best, with regular dumps and powder days. It’s also the quietest month, which means less time in queues and more time on the slopes. This is especially great for beginners, who can enjoy a stress-free learning experience. You’ll likely pick up some great weekly and last minute short-break deals in January too. So be sure to check out Alps Accommodation’s regularly updated Special Offers.
The Alps Accommodation team also loves Springtime in the Grand Massif. The slopes are quiet and frosty mornings and long sunny days combine to create the perfect two centre destination. Tackle hardpacked pistes first thing or enjoy a leisurely breakfast and hit the slopes around 10am, when the snow is just about perfect. It can get slushy by early afternoon on warmer days, which is hard work on the legs but is also great fun. If you finish up early, there’s plenty of sunny mountain terraces to kick back and work on your tan, or head down to the villages to enjoy the spring cheer or take part in lake side activities.
The February/March school holiday period also benefits from some of the best weather, and it’s the perfect time for families. The villages and the mountain are a hive of activity! A bit more patience is required when out and about, but upgrades and improvements across resort, particularly the addition in winter 2017/18 of the Coulouvrier ski sector and high-speed chair-lift, have changed the flow of skiing traffic for the better. Alps Accommodation reported on the development earlier this year, and locals agreed that more time was spent on the slopes and less in lift queues, especially in the peak holiday weeks. But there are plenty of other ways to save time (and money!) during the busy school holidays, or any time during the winter for that matter!
Top tips for peak weeks
Plan your day
Let’s face it, a little organisation goes a long way and Alps Accommodation is here to help.
Your biggest challenge will be hitting the slopes of a morning, so get ahead of the peak time queues by arriving early. Most ski schools meet at 9am, so you’ll want to be in the main lift queues well before this. Or if you’re not so rushed wait until 10am when the ski schools have disappeared into the numerous runs and away from those first lifts. Another great alternative is to take the Vercland Telecabine. It’s a slower lift but opens earlier than the rest and rarely has anywhere near the same queues. And remember, by pre-ordering your discounted weekly ski pass with Alps Accommodation you can avoid annoying ticket office queues entirely, because we’ll arrange for your pass to be hand delivered to your door on arrival.
Once you’re on the slopes, know where you’re headed. If you’re taking lessons, all Samoëns ski schools meet at the top of the Grand Massif Express (GME). Each meeting point has flags bearing the ski school’s name. ESF is the main school operating out of Morillon and they meet at Morillon 1100. Exact location depends on your level, but it’s written on your ticket so be sure to read it ahead of time!
If you’re not in ski school, we recommend starting your day from Samoëns using the Coulouvrier chairlift. This one tends to be quieter than the main Chariande lift, especially first thing. It’s also really fast! There’s much to explore in Samoëns, Morillon and Les Carroz alone, but if you’re heading to Flaine we suggest doing so early. That way you’ll have plenty of time to get back in the afternoon or enjoy a run down the famous Cascade piste all the way to Sixt, before it gets too busy.
If you’re planning to dine at a mountain restaurant opt for an early or late lunch. Everyone tends to quit the slopes between 12pm and 1:30pm, so this is the ideal time to have a few runs to yourself and avoid all queues. If you don’t want to dine out each day, then a picnic lunch is a great option and cost effective too. The Grandes Platières in Flaine is a popular stop with stunning views of Mont Blanc. Tête des Saix in Samoëns also affords great views, and there’s designated picnic spots along the wooded Marvel run in Morillon.
No matter how you plan your day, take note of the lift opening and closing times. These are clearly marked where you get on. Linking lifts also have message boards that provide important weather information. Take special note of these as links can sometimes close early!
In the busy weeks, demand for all services is high so to avoid disappointment it’s essential you book ahead. Alps Accommodation can offer advice every step of the way, providing you with winter specific information and access to a range of special discounts.
You pre-booked your discounted weekly lift pass and it’s been hand delivered to your door. Why not enjoy the same convenience with home delivered boots, skis and boards? That’s exactly the service you’ll receive from the team at Ski Higher Samoëns, plus there’s a 10% discount for Alps Accommodation clients. Or benefit from a 20% discount at Roland Gay in Samoëns’ main square. You can also pre-book their heated ski lockers, located at the top of the GME. It pays to book ahead with our friends at X-Treme Glisse too. They offer a 20-35% discount for advanced bookings. For more information about pre-booking your equipment in Samoëns or Morillon click here.
Ski and Snowboard Lessons will also need to be booked ahead if you’re travelling in the school holiday period. To avoid disappointment, it’s best to always book lessons in advance. We’ve partnered with 3 ski schools here in the valley, all of whom provide 5-10% discounts to guests who have booked their chalet or apartment via Alps Accommodation. Reservations are now open for the coming winter so be sure to contact them today!
Childcare is another important consideration. Sure, it’s a family holiday but there’s nothing wrong with Mum and Dad taking a night off! But if you don’t want to miss out then you will need to book ahead.
There are some fantastic restaurants in the valley, but if you don’t pre-book it can be near impossible to get in during the February school holidays. To assist, we’ve provided a list of options for both Samoëns and Morillon. Or perhaps you’d like to take advantage of some flexible catering options: home-cooked meals delivered to your door, or your very own in-house chef. Special rates apply of course!
Mix it up
One of the best ways to avoid the hustle and bustle of the school holidays, but also make the most of your winter holiday to the Grand Massif, is to get out and try different things! The Grand Massif offers incredible skiing and snowboarding, but Samoëns and the wider Giffre valley offers guests a multitude of experiences. Learn to drive a dog-sled, take a snow-shoe hike, paraglide high above the valley, tour the village by horse and carriage, eat fondue in a secluded woodland Yurt, fat-bike your way across snowy plains. The list goes on!
Ski Touring is a favourite activity of the Alps Accommodation team, and the perfect way to escape the crowds. Cross-country skiing in beautiful Sixt-Fer-a-Cheval also provides peace and tranquillity in the otherwise buzzing school holiday period. In fact, Sixt is a great destination for beginner skiers and snowboarders too, its special debutant ski domain offering the perfect stress-free learning environment. Add to that incredible natural and cultural history, and Sixt is a must-do for any visit. By no means should you feel obliged to stick to the ‘usual’ offerings this winter holiday. The team at Alps Accommodation have lived in this valley for well over a decade, and can recommend any number of additional activities for you to try.
So how do I get there?
By now you’ve decided when you’d like to visit Samoëns and the Grand Massif this winter. You also know what you’ll do when you get here, and you’re stocked full of great time and money saving ideas to make the most of your holiday. All you need to do now is get here! Well, Alps Accommodation has that covered too.
Samoëns and the Giffre Valley is conveniently located just one hour from Geneva airport. Regular flights with low-cost airlines fly daily to Geneva from most parts of the UK. GoMassif, our recommended airport transfer company, will bring you the rest of the way. Their team knows the location of all the chalets and apartments in our portfolio, so can offer you an efficient door-to-door service. They also offer both private and shared transfer options. For small groups or solo travellers, the shared option is most cost effective, but if you’re travelling with friends or family and can fill a mini-van (8 pers) yourselves, opt for a private transfer and split the cost. It works out cheaper and you avoid unnecessary wait times at the airport. Once in resort you’ll find you can do just fine without a vehicle too. The majority of properties in the Alps Accommodation portfolio are located within easy walking distance of the lifts or are on or near the ski bus route. Most are just a short walk to the village centres too!
If you prefer the flexibility of having a vehicle in-resort, then car hire is available from Geneva airport. Alternatively, Samoëns and the Giffre Valley is about a 9h drive from Calais, and many visitors do make the drive themselves. This is a good option if you’re bringing your own equipment and want to save on excess baggage costs. It also means you can stock the car with whatever you fancy for your self-catered holiday!
What are you waiting for?
Now that you’ve got the low down from us, come and experience it for yourself. We are sure you’ll love it! Contact our office today.