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Samoens, linked to the vast Grand Massif ski area, offers fantastic lift served skiing for a broad range of ability and interest. But for those who prefer to get away from it all and rise to mountain tops under their own power, then Samoens and the Haute Giffre valley offer an excellent and varied selection of ski touring terrain.
There is truly something for everyone - wooded forests, gentle alpine pastures, rolling mountain tops, jagged ridges and peaks and steep couloirs. Keep your eyes open and you might just spot some stunning local wildlife including Bouquetin (ibex), chamois, or majestic Gypaète (bearded eagles).
The valley also boasts a good selection of mountain refuges – both manned and unmanned – meaning the next big adventure does not need to be limited to just one day!
Ski touring equipment, including avalanche safety equipment, can be hired from Xtreme Glisses in Samoens. Alps Accommodation guests receive a 15-30% discount.
There is an excellent ski touring guide book (in French) with many suggestions for the Samoens area - Ski de randonnée Haute-Savoie Mont Blanc (ISBN: 978-2880863593). The most popular ski touring routes, including the two below, are marked on the map IGN 3530 ET Samoens/Haut Giffre which is available in many local shops.
For beginners looking for their first taste of ski touring, the Grand Massif have several marked ski touring routes within the Grand Massif network.
Tete de Bostan (elevation gain: 1310m) & Refuge de Bostan (elevation gain: 667m)
This area is a fantastic winter playground for those new to ski touring, while also offering some excellent options for those with more experience. It is also a great area for families and mixed groups of skiers and snowshoers, for example, with a pisted trail winding through the forest and emerging at a mountain refuge (1763m) where you can enjoy a refreshing drink, a fondue, or even a warm comfy bed should you wish to spend the night up high!
For those with energy to burn, continue on past the refuge where huge snowfields turn to a wide ridge leading to the summit of the Tete de Bostan (2406m) on the Swiss/French border with stunning views in all directions. The reward for all that effort are endless long swooping turns over gentle terrain all the way back down to the bottom!
Parking is at Les Allamands (GPS co-ordinates: 46.112566, 6.750184), a short drive from Samoens, with the two routes leaving either end of the car park. Both routes take you ultimately to the same place, however take the right hand exit for direct access to the refuge.
Pointe de Sans Bet (elevation gain: 1422m)
This is another excellent ski touring route which with a big vertical climb meaning it should only be attempted by those with a good level of fitness and reasonable amount of ski touring experience. However, the reward for all this hard work are some of the best views you'll get anywhere.
The route begins in Le Crot (GPS Co-ordinates: 46.060813, 6.785887), situated just past the stunning village of Sixt-Fer-a-Cheval. Initially following a wide forest track the route winds it's way skywards with increasingly spectacular views of the surrounding peaks. Eventually, you break out of the trees into wide open pastures, and veering to the right, progress up a wide slope towards the summit. Arriving at the summit at 2240m, you will find absolutely stunning 360 degree views and probably the best view possible of the stunning Cirque-du-fer-a-Cheval. Once you have put your camera away, it's time for the fun part - a 1400m decent! The fun begins on a relatively steep slope from the summit, care is then needed to navigate some small rock/cliff bands, before things open up allowing long fast turns all the way down to the tree line. Look out for some fun lines through the trees on the way back down, following the skin track back to the car park.