Annecy, La Clusaz, Avoriaz, Chamonix… when you think of Haute-Savoie, the same destinations often come to mind. Yet the Alps are full of small, authentic ski resorts that have everything you need for a perfect holiday.
So for your next holiday, say goodbye to the monotonous buildings of the big-name resorts. This winter, head for the small, authentic villages of Samoëns, Combloux or Saint-Gervais for a magical, unforgettable holiday.
Even the smallest villages in the Alps have plenty to offer. Charming chalets, narrow, illuminated streets, ski slopes or hiking trails surrounded by nature, breathtaking views, a friendly, magical atmosphere… all the conditions are there for you to enjoy a memorable Christmas holiday.
We shine a spotlight on the seven most authentic ski resorts in the Alps…
1. Combloux, a typical Alpine village
As well as its small size, which gives it a warm and welcoming feel, the little Alpine village of Combloux is also one of the most authentic resorts in the Alps, thanks to its rich farming and architectural heritage.
With its 18th-century baroque bell tower (listed as a historic monument), its wooden chalets, charming little hamlets, mountain pastures and its many working farms, Combloux really is an enchanting village.
This is especially the case in winter, when the magical atmosphere of Christmas gradually takes hold in the village streets. Every Thursday in winter, you can discover the snow-covered village by immersing yourself in the world of the Légendes de Combloux. This festival recounts the stories and legends of the village and the Pays du Mont-Blanc through theatrical, sound and light shows that are sure to amaze you. Aurélien Astre, director of the Combloux Tourist Office, says the event aims “to bring history to tourism and bring locals and visitors together”.
An iconic village resort in Haute-Savoie, Combloux promises unforgettable winter holidays…
Dream holidays in the Évasion Mont-Blanc
As soon as the snow falls, Samoëns gets itself ready for Christmas and invites its visitors into a magical world. Twinkling lights, the scent of cinnamon, and Christmas carols… the cobblestoned streets of the village offer guests a truly enchanted interlude, filled with dreams and magic that will stay in their memories.
And when Christmas finally arrives, the authentic village of Samoëns adorns itself with its most beautiful decorations for a magical end to the year. Christmas trees, candles, garlands… you’re in for a treat!
In Samoëns, the holiday season is one of warmth and sharing, so visitors are invited to numerous family-friendly and festive activities organised in and around the town centre. There are ice sculpture demonstrations, concerts, Christmas markets, storytelling workshops, snowman and Christmas wreath-making workshops, raffles, fire shows, magic shows, live nativity scenes, and the chance to meet Santa Claus. Between heartwarming traditions and new creative events, this authentic Alpine village has something for everyone!
If you’d like to know more about Samoens, go to the tourist office’s website.
Book your stay in the Grand Massif
3. Manigod, a resort keeping traditions alive
Nestled in the heart of the Aravis Massif, the charming village of Manigod is definitely worth a visit. A welcoming and family-friendly resort that has preserved its Savoyard authenticity, this Alpine destination is perfect for winter holidays. Whether it’s skiing (day and night), entertainment, or festive events, there’s no time to be bored!
No matter what activity you’re doing, don’t forget to take in the breathtaking surroundings. The village of Manigod offers one of the most beautiful panoramas in Haute-Savoie, with its endless alpine meadows and traditional chalets.
Visit Manigod this winter
4. La Chapelle d’Abondance
Charming chalets, narrow and illuminated streets, ski or hiking trails surrounded by nature, breathtaking views, a friendly and magical atmosphere… that’s just a glimpse of what awaits you on your next holiday in the authentic ski resort of La Chapelle d’Abondance.
Whether you want to admire the lights at dusk, stroll through decorated streets or find gift ideas, head to one of the village’s most anticipated annual events: the Christmas market. Many craftspeople are waiting to show you their handmade goods in their little wooden chalets – mulled wine, jewellery, wooden toys, waffles or pretzels… There’s something for everyone.
The tourist office also organises a programme of activities throughout the Christmas market. Children can join in craft workshops or meet Santa Claus while adults enjoy advent concerts and street performances…
The magic is everywhere! So come enjoy a timeless moment in a typical Alpine village.
For more information, visit the official website of the Pays d’Evian Vallée d’Abondance Tourist Office.
Discver the Portes du Soleil
5. Saint-Gervais, a charming village and resort
Perched on the slopes of Mont-Blanc, the village of Saint-Gervais captivates visitors with its authentic charm and friendly atmosphere.
Its origins as a spa town in the early 19th century, before it became a ski resort in the 1930s, are still visible in the village today. This is particularly apparent in its charming architecture where Belle Époque baroque architecture meets the spirit of the mountains.
As the holiday season approaches, the atmosphere becomes even more magical. The village streets are adorned with light installations for the Lumières Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc festival, offering spectators a breathtaking sound and light show that is sure to leave them in awe.
When you stay in Saint-Gervais, you can enjoy the charm and authenticity of a typical Alpine village while benefiting from the various offerings of larger neighbouring resorts such as Chamonix, Cluses, or La Clusaz.
For more information, visit the official website of the Saint-Gervais Tourist Office.
Stay in Saint-Gervais-Les-Bains
If you’re looking for an authentic, family-friendly, and small-scale destination for your upcoming winter vacation, Châtel is the place to be!
At an altitude of 1,200 meters in the Abondance Valley, Châtel is a small village that has managed to preserve and showcase its natural, architectural, and historical heritage.
That’s why the resort is still popular with nature lovers and those who appreciate the authenticity, charm, and quality of life that reign in these villages, away from mass tourism.
The tourist office’s guide to the village starts: “Welcome to a world of freedom, adventure, and discoveries. Here, respect for nature, preservation of heritage, and a sense of hospitality blend perfectly with tourism. Châtel, in every season, offers the privilege of discovering unsuspected treasures and fully experiencing an authentic and natural destination.”
This is a great summary of what Châtel has in store for its visitors! It’s an ideal destination where families can discover the joys of the mountains.
For more information, go to the Châtel tourist office’s website.
7. Le Grand-Bornand, an authentic village
In the heart of the Aravis mountains, between the Arve Valley and Lake Annecy, Le Grand-Bornand is one of the most authentic ski resorts in Savoie Mont-Blanc. With its 400 two-century-old chalets (making it the French resort that has preserved the most traditional habitats), its central square, typical church, stone streets, and small shops, Le Grand-Bornand has retained all its charm from the 17th century.
Sprinkle all of this with a thick blanket of snow and festive garlands, and add a delicate aroma of gingerbread and you’ll have a magnificent Christmas setting, worthy of a fairy tale.
Next, explore this authentic Haute-Savoie village and its Christmas traditions through the multitude of activities and events that are available. Light shows, street performances, concerts, nativity scenes, photo opportunities with Santa Claus, torchlight descents, Christmas mass, a giant wooden play area, or creative workshops… you’ll be spoiled for choice.
This beautiful destination in the Aravis Massif is not to be missed under any circumstances, but particularly during the holiday season!
To find out more, check out the Grand Bornand tourist office’s website.
Luxury chalets in Le Grand Bornand
So there you have it …
You now know all about the most typical villages in the Alps. Often overlooked, these smaller resorts have a lot to offer, especially as the holiday season approaches and the Christmas atmosphere fills their streets. Authenticity, hospitality, friendliness, and liveliness… the most authentic villages in the Alps still have plenty to say!
Here are a few more articles that will help you get ready for your winter holiday: