Voted one of the easiest ski resorts to get to in France, Samoens is just a 45-60 minutes transfer away from Geneva Airport. Most of the journey is motorway, with no hair-raising mountain hairpins to get your heart rate up before you’ve even started skiing. Travel hassle-free to lovely Samoens with Mountain Drop-offs and arrive ready to hit the slopes of the Grand Massif!Guide section
Samoens is a charming historical market town surrounded by cute little hamlets. With easy access to a formidable ski area and a lovely semi-pedestrianised centre, it’s a wonderful place to visit in winter and summer alike.
We highly recommend Samoens for it’s family appeal. The pace of life here is just right. Enough going on to keep all ages amused any season, yet laid back enough for you to feel relaxed. Staying in Samoens you’ll find there’s a nice mix of traditional hotels, top-class residences with spas, self-catering apartments and catered chalets too. Accommodation can be dotted all around the town centre and in the many hamlet that stretch up and along the valley floor. There’s a good in-resort network of ski buses, so you don’t need a car in Samoens.
The Samoens slopes
Thanks to the Grand Massif Express gondola lift at the entrance to Samoens, you’ll arrive at where skiing begins in Samoens 1600 in just 8 minutes. This is a superb sunny plateau that’s ideal for beginner skiers. It’s also where you take either of the Charionde chairs to Tete de Saix at 2118m, giving you direct skiing access to Les Carroz, Flaine, and Morillon, the interlinked resorts that make up the Grand Massif ski area.
There are some really good slopes to explore around Samoens. We love the 14km-long winding blue piste Cascades that is a picture-perfect voyage all the way from the top of Les Grandes Platieres (the highest point above Flaine at 2480m) right down to Sixt, the last village in the valley. From here it’s a ski bus back to Samoens, but it is worth it in the right conditions and there’s the Refuge Lac de Gers by the lake for a tempting lunch stop too.
If you really want to give your legs a workout, try the Combe de Gers. This is where all the powder is, but be warned, it’s pretty steep and snowboarders beware, it’s either an evil drag lift back up to Tete Pelouse, or going right down to Sixt of you miss cutting across to the Gouilles chair…
Back in Samoens town
Officially classed at a ‘monument historique’, the Septimontins (the name for Samoens residents) are very proud of their town nestled in the Haut Giffre valley. It is surprisingly old, with the church dating back to 1476, not forgetting the imposing lime flower tree that was planted in 1438! This is the main meeting point in the oldest part of Samoens and where lots of activities take place in the square.
There are some really good eateries around the town, from the Septimountain tea shop and Jaysina Patisserie for cake and hot choc, to Le 8M des Monts and La Tornalta for an evening meal. If you’re looking for a lively apres-ski, try Covey’s Irish bar or the Red Rock Cafe.
Whether you’re visiting in winter for skiing or in summer for biking (Mountain Drop-offs carries pre-booked bikes for free), there’s lots to do in and around Samoens, from slow to very fast-paced activities. Here’s our dip into just some of the activities on offer.
Samoens weekly market
Every Wednesday there’s a huge market. One of the biggest in the Haute Savoie, there are stalls stretching from the area around the Tourist Office, all the way through the winding streets of the town, to the older covered market area in the main square by the Town Hall and church. It’s a must do!
Visit the Botanical Gardens
The Jaysina Botanical Gardens are a real gem of a find. Right in the centre of the old town, you’ll find a set of wrought iron gates in front of a Belle Epoque house leading to a stunning garden. Follow the paths that wind steeply up the slopes and admire the plants and the views as you go. The gardens are home to over 4500 plants and over 2500 different species. Closed when there’s too much snow.
Up at the Col de Joux Plaine
In summer this road is a vertiginous mountain pass up and over to Morzine that often features on the Tour de France itinerary and Rally stages too – great for testing those bike legs. In winter, the road is open only as far as the col summit, where there are lots of country ski trails. You get an amazing view from up here too. Ski buses take cross country skiers from Samoens centre up to the col in winter.
Cross Country Skiing – Vallee de Giffre
There are cross country skiing trails that follow the Giffre river from Verchaix village before Samoens, all the way to Sixt Fer de Cheval at the far end of the valley. The routes are really picturesque and go past lakes and stunning pastures reflecting Samoens agricultural roots.
The stunning Cirque du Fer à Cheval
The most wonderful place. The name translates as the horse show valley and when you’re standing there you can fully appreciate that the mountains do indeed form a horseshoe shape. In winter there are cross country ski tracks and snowshoeing trails and in summer a walk to the very aptly-named ‘Au bout du monde’ (the end of the world) is a must. Superb walking, with waterfalls galore in summer.
Visit Sixt village
If you don’t ski down the 14km Cascades piste from Flaine to Sixt, make sure you pop up for a visit during your holiday in Samoens. It’s a lovely spot and even has it’s own ski lifts and pistes which are ideal for families ad beginners.
Hike the Aiguille de Criou
This is the steep-sided peak that overlooks Samoens and dominates the backdrop. You’re sure to capture it in a photo or two wearing its winter blanket of ice and snow, but in summer it makes for a fantastic hike for experienced walkers. You’ll pass the delightful chalets de Criou on the way up, giving you an insight into the farming lifestyle that still exists in Samoens and there’s the Refuge de Folly for those wanting to spend a night in the mountains too.
Samoens has a fair few options for massages and beauty treatments. If you’re looking for a spa day with pool, jacuzzi and all the treatments under luxurious roof, there’s the Ô’ Des Cimes Spa at La Reine des Pres apartments. It’s open to non-residents, so ideal for a nice relax after a tiring day on the slopes.
One for the summer. The Lacs aux Dames is a lovely place for a swim, a game of tennis and a relaxed drink or lunch. If you’re into white water rafting, the Giffre river rapids will get you in a spin and you can hire kayaks and canoes too.
With transfers from Geneva to Samoens available all year round from Mountain Drop-offs, you can enjoy the delights of Samoens in summer and winter. And don’t forget, ski carriage in winter and bike transport in summer is included when booked in advance.
With nearly 3000 permanent residents in Samoens, this is a proper town with events and activities throughout the main tourist seasons and low seasons too. Whether it’s a music festival, a charity ice hockey match on the artificial ice rink or a street parade, there’s always something to keep all ages entertained.
For a relaxed family holiday with easy access and a short transfer from Geneva Airport, we highly recommend Samoens. You’re in a lovely, gently bustling town, yet within minutes you are in the heart the Grand Massif, France’s fourth largest connected ski area. It’s a delight in summer too, with walking, biking and watersports on offer.