While most families are drawn to the beautiful, historic resort of Samoëns because of its position in France’s Grand Massif ski area, you’ll discover there is plenty more than skiing and snowboarding to challenge adventurous kids (and their parents!) here.
The Grand Massif – with its resorts including Flaine, Les Carroz, Morillon, Sixt Fer à Cheval and, of course, Samoëns – sits at the heart of the Alps at 2,500 metres. With access to 256km of runs, Samoëns lies opposite the more famous Flaine in a north-facing position, meaning that snow (when it falls) tends to last pretty well here.
In terms of skiing and boarding, the resort is better suited to confident beginners and intermediates as the blue runs into the village inexplicably turn red through short sections, which can be a bit much for those just off the nursery slope.
But while the Grand Massif will have everything keen skiers and boarders are looking for, it is the ‘extra’ activities which make the historic stonecutter’s village of Samoëns such a great place for families with an adventurous spirit.
If you and your family enjoy a thrilling, fast paced experience with a certain amount of history attached, then husky sledging is for you. There’s a company in the resort who will take you up to the Upper Giffre Valley where you will charge through the stunning winter landscape with your team of dogs and a ‘musher’. You won’t believe how fast these dogs can go!
Each sledge can carry one adult/teen and one musher, so if there’s a few of you, and you’re of a competitive disposition (like me and my family), you might want to see if you can encourage your musher into a race against the other teams. This exhilarating experience is very popular though, so I recommend booking before you arrive in the resort to ensure your place.
Another great way of seeing more of the stunning Grand Massif landscape – while getting your pulses racing – is to take a snowmobile tour. Tours run in Samoëns in the afternoon and evening, after the lifts have closed.
Choose between having a guide driving or hiring your own snowmobiles and following a guide, for the ultimate petrol-head mountain experience.
Forget about the little runs you might have made down hills close to home on snowy days – the toboggan run in Samoëns is on a whole different level. You can hire sledges in the village and then take the lift up to the top and travel the whole way down, picking up speed as you go! Not for the feint-hearted.
For those who like a serious physical challenge, ice climbing is the ultimate activity for an adventurous family. Learn how to scale frozen waterfalls, ice walls and other frozen landscapes with just a rope, ice pick and special spiked shoes.
You don’t need to have done this (or even rock climbing) before to give it a go. There are several companies in the resort with experienced guides, who will take you out to explore the winter landscape of the Giffre Valley in a whole new way.
If you haven’t discovered it yet, ‘fat bikes’ are mountain bikes with specially oversized tyres to allow you to ride comfortably on snow and other soft surfaces. Using tyres of around 97mm and rims of around 66mm, the bikes literally glide over the snow, making this a must to try for any keen mountain bikers.
In Samoëns you can choose between taking a group fat bike tour along the river Le Giffre by day or, for a little extra exhilaration, strap on a head torch and take the same tour by night under the stars.
How to Get to Samoëns
The good news is that the resort is only an hour’s drive from Geneva Airport, so getting here couldn’t be easier. Flights to Geneva are run regularly during the ski season by the likes of easyJet and British Airways.
Take the stress out of getting yourself, your ski equipment and your kids from the airport to the resort by booking a Shuttle Direct transfer online before you leave home. Let them know what equipment you will be bringing with you and they will ensure that the vehicle that meets you will be big enough to transport you all safely and comfortably.
Where to Stay
Résidences les Glaciers – Set right in the heart of the pretty resort, the Résidences les Glaciers is opposite the ski school and the Grand Massif Express cable car, and close to the ice rink and local cafés. The self-catered apartments all have balconies and there’s free Wi-Fi throughout.
Chalet Clos Moccand – The stylish Chalet Clos Moccand apartments are a little further out but still only 400 metres from the ski school and 900 metres from the Grand Massif cable car. There’s free Wi-Fi here and, important for those overworked muscles, a sauna to relax in at the end of the day.
Chalet Peterets – Live the mountain dream with your own traditional self-catering chalet at Chalet Peterets. With mountain views, its own terrace, a wood-burning stove and a location just over one kilometre from the Grand Massif Express, this is a great choice for families who want to spend some good quality downtime together.
About Shuttle Direct
Take the stress out of family travelling by arranging your airport transfer with Shuttle Direct before you set off, the leading provider of airport transfers across Europe and northern Africa. A specialist in ski transfers, Shuttle Direct will carry any skiing or boarding equipment free of charge – just let them know what you’ll have with you when you make your booking.