Haute-Savoie / France
The pretty, unspoilt village of Samoëns in Haute Savoie is a great choice if you want fabulous skiing, boarding and summer sports in the Grand Massif, together with luxury holiday accommodation.
The name Samoëns comes from the seven mountains that surround the village - it was once a centre for skilled stonecutters, which explains the use of stone, rather than wood, in the older buildings. A strict conservation policy means it's the only resort in the French Alps classified as a historic monument.
Despite its peaceful rural location, there are plenty of bars and restaurants in the traffic-free centre of the village, where narrow streets lead off the main square with its traditional church and fountain. There’s a free shuttle bus every 20 minutes in the season, which will take you to the pistes at Morillon and Sixt.
The village has all the shops you are likely to need during your holiday - delis, supermarkets and bakeries, as well as gift shops, ski and bike rental.
As part of the Grand Massif ski area, skiing in Samoëns is connected to the stations of Flaine, Les Carroz, Morillon and Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval, which between them cater for skiers of all abilities - a total of 265km of pistes accessed by a great lift network. Snowfall is regular and abundant, with 80% of the pistes north-facing. Experienced skiers should seek out the Combe de Gers for its 800m drop and pristine snow.
There are three jam parks for freestylers, with plenty of challenges at every level.
Beginners have their own area at 1600m, which is separated from the main slopes, so novice skiers can ski safely. There’s a restaurant too, so that parents can relax while their children enjoy their lessons. And when they are ready to hit the slopes, the Marvel piste offers a gentle 5km run through an ancient forest.
Cross-country skiers will find plenty of choice too - head for the Col de Joux Plane, where the altitude of 1700m means you can expect great snow all season, as well as breathtaking panoramic views of Mont Blanc.
Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, sledging and fat bikes are just some of the many other activities open to you when you book a holiday property in Samoëns.
Skiing and boarding are the main activities that bring guests to chalets in Samoens in the winter, and in the summer, hiking, biking and climbing are the most popular. But when you stay at an OVO Network property, there is so much more to see and do.
Here are some of our favourite things to do in Samoens - you’ll find the details below.
Keen growers will be fascinated by La Jaÿsinia Alpine Garden, which brings together plants from mountainous regions all over the world. There are almost four hectares to explore, and it’s quite a climb to the top of the gardens, but you’ll be rewarded with the ruins of a medieval castle. Entry is free, and the gardens are open every day, except in heavy snowfall.
There’s plenty to keep kids busy at this year round adventure park. The treetop rope trails, which range in difficulty and height, are suitable for anyone aged from two upwards. Other summer adventures include paintball, disc golf and laser shooting.
The park at the Lac aux Dames is a lovely day out for families, with sports and activities for all ages. Enjoy a gentle stroll around the lake, or go for a swim in the outdoor complex. There are also tennis courts, boules and even paragliding. It’s a great place for a picnic, but there’s also a restaurant where you can enjoy a meal or just a drink.
Fancy a change from skiing? This covered ice rink, just a short walk from the centre of Samoens, is a great alternative for families - there are plenty of aids to help younger children find their feet on the ice in the ice garden, an area reserved for beginners. It’s mandatory to book, either at reception, by phone (+334 50 34 13 92) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This Alpine adventure is a great day out for families with older children - it combines hiking and climbing on a trail cut into the rock face. You’ll wear a helmet and be clipped to the trail at all times to ensure your safety, but you’ll still need a head for heights! The Bureau des Guides offers various packages and can advise you on the right one to suit your group’s needs.
Explore mountain waterways, stunning scenery and waterfalls while you have some fun when you go canyoning - you’ll jump, slide, scramble and abseil your way down streams and rivers. Choose a day or half-day package with the Bureau des Guides.
Cyclists are assured a warm welcome in Samoens, which has been awarded the Accueil Vélo label. Road cyclists can test themselves on the Col de Joux-Plane, which often features in the Tour de France. With 400km of tracks, there’s something for riders of all ages and experience levels.
Discover the magical subterranean world beneath the mountains when you go caving with an expert guide. Itineraries can be arranged around the abilities of you or your group. No experience is necessary and all the equipment you need will be supplied - just wear stout shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy. It’s a great option for a rainy day.
The frozen streams of the Giffre valley are ideally suited for ice climbing. It’s an activity which will naturally appeal to rock climbers, but surprisingly no experience is necessary - practice sites are usually at an incline of about 45 degrees so that you can get used to the equipment in total safety.
Samoens has a fascinating history, and you can learn all about it with a guide from the Société des Maçons. Starting at the ornamental fountain in the main square, the guides will help you discover the life of the stonecutters who inhabited the town and its evolution into a ski station.
8M des Monts (Place de l'église Immeuble le Clévieux, Samoens, tel +33 4 50 21 30 01) Fresh local ingredients, beautifully cooked and friendly service make this one of the most popular restaurants in Samoens - so booking is essential. The menu changes regularly, according to the season, but expect to pay about €10 for an entree and €20 for a main course. Vegetarian choices are available.
La Canette Burger(176 Grande rue Au pied de la ville, Samoens, tel +33 6 95 28 58 94) Excellent burgers at great prices make this bar a popular apres-ski choice. Prices range from €6.50 for a plain single burger up to €20 for a triple burger with all the extras. Vegetarian options are available, as are hot dogs, salads and chicken burgers.
La Luge (G13, Samoens, +33 6 85 80 77 00) This cosy mountain restaurant situated in pine forests at the bottom of the Gouilles chairlift is only accessible by foot, skis or snowmobile, making it a perfect lunch stop for skiers. Booking is advisable, but you may still be in for a bit of a wait. Opt for a simple omelette or go all out for the Chamois plate - charcuterie, salad and a whole Vacherin cheese! If you can manage it, the homemade desserts are really delicious. You can eat on the terrace on a sunny day, but when it’s cold and the fires are lit, inside is the place to be.
Le Mazot(452 Chemin de sur la Ville, 74340 Samoens France, tel +33 9 83 27 94 22) Pizza is always a popular choice with families, and you won’t be disappointed with the takeaway options from this little hut. Avoid a wait by pre-ordering by phone and collecting later. All the classics are here, but local produce such as raclette and reblochon also feature. If you fancy a dessert, try a caramelised apple pizza, or nutella and bananas, or choose from the pancake menu.
La Reposette (60 route du Fayet Vercland, 74340 Samoens, tel +33 9 67 07 22 08) Right by the Vercland bubble, this charming restaurant is a great lunch or apres-ski stop. Poke bowls, wraps and burgers join local dishes on a short but varied menu.
Le Serac (Immeuble Dents Blanches, 74340 Samoens, tel +33 4 50 34 45 18) Savoyard specialties are the focus of the menu at this traditional mountain-style restaurant - various tartiflettes and fondues as well as pizzas and pasta. The service is friendly, but the restaurant is usually busy, so make sure you book in advance.
A typical French mountain village, life revolves around the picturesque main square. Check out Popcorn Vintage for a wonderful selection of beanies, scarfs and neckwarmers to keep out the chill in the mountains. For clothing, try Deci Dela, La clé des cimes or pick up an interesting vintage bargain at Fripland Samoens. Unusual books, gifts and homeware are available at Dahu and L’Art Des Choix. Young children will love the toyshop La Courterie, which is packed full of soft toys, games and puzzles.
There’s a Sherpa supermarket in the village, but for a bigger food shop, there’s a Carrefour at Lieu dit Les Sages.