Samoëns and the Giffre Valley – it’s the locals that make it!
By Barbara Allan
Samoëns and the Giffre valley is an amazing holiday destination. But it is also home to a great many folks. People from here and afar call Samoëns and the Giffre valley home. And we love it! We love the huge variety of activities there are to enjoy. Even more, we love that no matter the time of year you can always find an activity to enjoy. We never grow tired of the stunning scenery either. And we love that with each changing season there is something new that takes your breath away. We love our local restaurants and bars. More so, we love that all year round you can find a great place to eat out or have a drink among friends. And above all else we love that here in the Giffre valley we are all friends. We are a community: a multicultural bunch of friendly locals who have chosen to live here. We love Samoëns and the Giffre valley and we want you to love it too. So come and meet us! Ask us what’s great about our resort. Let us make your holiday.
So what will the locals tell you to do?
Well, we’re going to tell you that the skiing in winter is fantastic. Because it is! But we’ll also give you some top tips on where exactly to go. Emily & Eileen who are back for their second winter season this year just love the green Marvel run in Morillon. So does Alison here at Alps Accommodation. She also says the Gers bowl in Flaine is an absolute must for the more experienced skiers and boarders. Adrian from Zig-Zag ski school agrees, but he also loves the Serpentine run in Flaine. So does Claire from 360 ski school. They both love the rolling bumps and flow of the long, blue piste. Francois from X-treme Glisse ski hire, as well as Bastion and his team over at Ski-Service Roland Gay say their favourite winter piste is the red Velarge run from Samoëns 1600 down to Vercland. And well, if the guys from the ski shops love it, then it must be good!
Biking is another favourite pastime of the locals, and that’s all disciplines of the sport. The road cycling here is top notch. Locals often take advantage of our flat, valley floor and enjoy a cruisy spin up to Sixt or down to Taninges and back, but they love the challenging climbs the region offers. Probably one of the best climbs would be the Col de Joux Plane of Tour de France fame. Here in Samoëns we also have some word-class downhill mountain biking terrain. And that is not an overstatement. Each year we host the French National MTB Enduro competition, and in summer 2015 Samoëns was included in the World Series. Locals Nick Maher from Go Massif Transfers and Jamie Carr from Ride the Alps both participated in the event, and loved it. But of course they did! It’s rare to see these guys off their bikes in the warmer months. Swedish Anna who moved to the valley nine years ago is also a keen mountain biker. As well as downhill, Anna enjoys the many cross-country cycling routes in the valley. And when she’s not pedalling over mountains you’ll find her climbing them.
That’s another thing the locals will tell you is great about our valley. There’s a whole variety of other amazing mountain sports and activities to enjoy: climbing, rafting, ski-touring, ice-skating, bowling, torch-lit snow-shoe hikes, dog-sled rides, horse-riding, live music events, theatre shows, historic tours – the list is almost endless. And we haven’t even mentioned the stunning scenery yet!
What do the locals say about our surrounds?
As well as an amazing lift system that provides winter access to our vast skiing domain and summer access to some great alpine hiking and biking trails, here in the Giffre valley we have some of the most spectacular and undisturbed, natural environments. And no matter how much time passes, the mountains here just keep surprising and inspiring you.
One of the most beautiful places to visit – and you can ask anyone that lives here and they will all agree – is Sixt-Fer-a-Cheval. At the far end of the valley where the mountains are close and the water runs pure from the source is a sleepy village, seeped in history and surrounded by a vast nature reserve. All year-round Sixt-Fer-a-Cheval provides some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see in the Alps. In Spring there is an abundance of wildlife and flowers. For close encounters with Ibex and marmottes, Tom here at Alps Accommodation highly recommends a late springtime hike to Les Refuges des Sales. Spring and Summer is also the best time of year to see waterfalls tumble over the 2000m high cliffs of the Cirque-du-fer-a-cheval. The Cirque transforms into a frozen paradise come winter. Before winter though are the stunning colours of Autumn.
Autumn is actually the favourite time of year of many a local. I for one love the crisp, clear mornings and quiet, calm of the forests for hiking. Or biking for that matter. Nothing beats the sound and sensation of riding through a deep bed of fallen leaves - a mountain biker’s powder! Martin from wine cellar Le Nez en L’Air is a fan of Autumn because he thinks it’s the best time of year for mushroom picking. We wonder if his love of Autumn might also be based in it being the season for the nouveau Beaujolais. Perhaps not a wine for everyone’s taste, its release into the market certainly makes for a great night out in Samoëns!
The village of Samoëns itself has won awards for its beauty and historical value. In fact, all the quaint little villages of the Giffre valley offer visitors a cultural experience that’s hard to match. Joc from 360 ski school actually thinks it is this unspoilt charm – the history and traditions – that make Samoëns and the Giffre valley the unique and special place it is. Again, it’s that local element that sets us apart.
So where do the locals eat and drink?
There is an excellent variety of eating and drinking options throughout the Giffre valley. Samoëns in particular has a great choice of bars and some very good restaurants. Angelique and Hugues’ 8M des Monts along with Boogey and Ko’s Le Monde a L’Envers always rate high among the locals. So does Le Feuille d’Erable in Sixt. But then it depends what you feel like eating. Louise who runs Zig-Zag ski school with her husband Adrien and is also editor in chief at Alpine Insider magazine thinks exactly that. At the moment Louise really enjoys eating out at Le Neige and Roc but she loves a number of other addresses in the valley. Hayley from Alps Accommodation is the same. For pizza she says you can’t go past La Louisane but she also loves La Reposette in Vercland and thinks Covey’s do a mighty fine burger.
Covey’s Irish Bar rates high on the local’s list of bars too. Mind you Jerome’s Red Rock Café is equally adored. A lot of the French locals love a night out at the Clarine bar, but so do I for that matter and I’m Australian! Morillon’s Le Bon Coin is another of my favourite bars – it’s so French but draws a big English crowd too. Helen and Sarah, also Morillon fans, enjoys La Covagne down by Lac Bleu. Then of course there’s the Dutch-run La Reposette in Vercland, which is everyone’s favourite. Here in Samoëns it really doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. There is an array of places and activities to enjoy, all of which provide a welcoming environment to all.
For great variety and a choice of things to do and places to visit, Samoëns and the Giffre valley truly is the year-round holiday destination of choice. But what really sets it apart and will add to your holiday experience, is the simple fact that Samoëns and the Giffre valley remains first and foremost a community. We are a community of wonderful people who are all proud to live in a place that is so much more than a holiday resort. And we want you to experience that place too. Come and see our Samoëns – we’re sure it won’t disappoint!