Flaine Ski Area
Flaine is central to the Grand Massif ski area that also includes Les Carroz d'Araches, Morillon, Samoens and Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval, and has 265km of runs in total. The central Flaine bowl has runs for every standard whilst Les Carroz has mostly gentle tree-lined runs.
Flaine forms the largest sector of the Grand Massif ski area. Flaine just by itself has five black runs, 22 red runs, 30 blue runs and seven green runs and some specailist areas for beginners so there are runs for every standard in the main bowl
Flaine is also linked with nearby resorts of Les Carroz d'Araches, Samoens, Morillon and Sixt-Fer-a-Cheval, which are known as the Massif sector and boast 145km of runs. With Flaine, the whole area is known as Le Grand Massif and has 265km of runs in total.
The Grand Massif has 14 black runs, 47 red runs, 67 blue runs and 16 green runs. Throughout the ski area the pistes have numbered markers down each slope to give you a reference to how far you have progressed down the piste at any given time.
Flaine itself is nestled in a huge natural bowl, which provides the majority of the resort's runs. The bowl sits primarily west facing with aspects looking north and south.
The Grandes Platieres gondola whisks skiers up almost 1,000 metres to the summit of Les Grandes Platieres, from where there are sumptuous 360 degree views of Mont Blanc, and the Aravis, Belledonne and Jura mountain ranges. On a good day you can see Lac Leman and Geneva.
From the top of the Grandes Platieres gondola there is a whole host of runs that you can take to ski back down to resort.
Between Les Grandes Platieres and the summit of Tete Des Lindars to the south there are numerous red runs that come off both peaks. Although these pistes meet up with blues further down, beginners and early intermediates are better served utilising the Serpentine blue off Les Grandes Platieres in the opposite direction. It provides access to several blue runs which feed into the Axinite blue, the main artery back down into Flaine resort.
If you want to remain high, however, there are four lifts across the bowl, which start from halfway up.
The link with the Grand Massif from Flaine at resort level is through the Grand Vans chairlift. From the summit of Grand Vans, which stands at 2,204m, there is also a 360 degree view of the area. Grand Vans provides direct ski access to Les Carroz, Morillon 1100, Morillon Village and Samoens 1600.
To access Samoens Village you need to use the Grand Massif Express gondola from Samoens 1600.
To access Sixt-Fer-a-Cheval from Flaine you must take the Grands Platieres gondola and ski the extraordinary 14km Les Cascades blue.
Most of the runs above les Carroz are in woods so it's a good place to head to when there is poor visibility. Generally the slopes here are not as steep as the main Flaine bowl or the area above Samoens 1600 but there are exceptions and the one one balck run and various reds deserve their grading.
Flaine Lift Pass & Ski Lifts
Flaine’s ski lift system is good, but it’s not yet on a par with the skiing. While Flaine’s ski area is perfect for beginners and intermediates, the ski lifts do not reflect this, and too often there is a drag lift when all you really want is a chairlift.
Flaine Ski Lifts
On the whole, the Flaine lift system is good. There are far too many drag lifts, however, which limits the enthusiasm of beginner and intermediate snowboarders. For instance, throughout the Grand Massif there are 32 drag lifts in total and as many as 11 of these are in Flaine, and although most of Flaine's drag lifts provide access to beginner pistes and are gentle, the remainder of Flaine's ski lifts include just ten chairlifts, three gondolas and a bucket lift.
The best aspect about Flaine's lift system is that the resort allows access to LE Pre chairlift, Flaine Forum bucket lift and the moving walkway at Le Bissec free of charge. If you want to learn skiing on the cheap, it really is an excellent place to start.
Flaine Ski Lift Company
The ski lifts in Flaine are owned and operated by the Companie des Alpes, which also runs the ski lift systems in Samoens and Morillon, but not in Les Carroz. The lifts in Les Carroz are run by Soremac.
Companie des Alpes
Tel: +33 4 50 90 40 00
Tel: +33 4 50 90 00 42
Due to its price structure and proximity to Geneva, Flaine is an excellent resort for beginners. Families and adults alike can learn to ski or snowboard in Flaine with little stress and the teaching and piste options, are perfect.
Flaine is an excellent place to learn to ski and is one of the main reasons why the resort is populated heavily with children and adult skiers who gingerly are trying out the sport on the cheap.
The resort has some excellent offers with ski passes, also. Children under five years old receive a free ski pass, and there are three ski lifts that are free for those who want to try out the sport before they commit to buying a ski pass.
Parents hoping to put children into ski school should note that the sun shines on the beginners' area in Flaine Foret virtually all day but not on the beginners' area in Flaine Forum; a small but crucial ingredient to the success of your week.
Beginner Skiing in Flaine
There is a large network of green runs in Flaine that service the needs of beginners. When you have found your ski legs Christophe Boujon, the head of the Ecole de Ski de France in Flaine recommends the Toumaline blue that descends from the top of Grands Vans into resort as the first blue to attempt. Alain Baudoin, of the Ecole des Ski Internationale recommends the Mephisto blue in much the same way. We found it wide and not too steep.
Other blue runs to look out for are the Marmottes and Portet that feed into Les Molliets, both of which are long and good to build up confidence, although Portet is flat between the marked number poles 22 to 13. The Sarbotte blue to Les Carroz is good fun and has an easy incline. There is a pretty view as you draw around the corner towards Les Carroz.
As mentioned in the intermediate section, the 14km Les Cascades blue is an excellent piste for the variety of scenery it offers as well as the back-country feel it gives skiers. Les Cascades is well within the compass of improving beginners. It can get icy towards the bottom but your confidence will be so high by the time you get there it should not matter. See the intermediate section for more details.
Brave children can ski along the Dolomie, Silice and Perce-Neige blues to the Marvel green that descends into Morillon 1100. The Marvel is not flat at all, and has enough to interest intermediate skiers. It is great for young children as along the route there are panels that give information about mountain animals, flora and fauna.
In bad weather it is best to head for Les Carroz. There is a large swathe of fir trees through which pistes snake down to resort level. The Lou Darbes, Forestiere and Combes blues are perfect for family skiing.
Ski Schools & Ski Lessons in Flaine
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The emphasis in Flaine is very much biased towards the intermediate skier and the Flaine bowl is perfect for boosting your confidence. Once ready to exit the bowl, the 14km Cascades blue is one of the great itineraries.
The classic intermediate itinerary in Flaine is to get the Grandes Platieres gondola up to the summit of Les Grandes Platieres. From there you take in the sumptuous view along the Mephisto Superieure red down to the base of the Lindars Nord chair. At the top, you can take the Fred and Lapiaz reds back down to resort level, enjoying just shy of 1,000 metres of vertical.
The Aup de Veran gondola at the bottom provides access to the reds of Diablotin, Lutin and Belial but these are short runs.
For those skiers who like long runs, the reds of Faust, Almandine and Lucifer all offer decent vertical for the resort. Be careful when skiing Lucifer as it is not always groomed. In the Grands Massif region, the Marmotte red, accessed from the top of Tete des Saix also offers decent vertical and takes you all the way down through the trees to the parking at Vercland.
For intermediates who prefer blue runs, the 14km Les Cascades is one of the great runs of the French Alps. Sure, you will need your poles for large sections of the trip but if you want changing scenery throughout your journey, the strong possibility of seeing wildlife and a desire to get away from it all Cascades provides a wonderful journey alongside the frozen river Giffre.
The really flat sections along Cascades occur thus: at the start, when you turn off the Serpentine blue right until the piste is joined by the La Peuf blue. Other flat sections occur between posts No 36 to 29 and 20 to 15. You have been warned. It also is worth bearing in mind that the last bus from Six Fer A Cheval to Samoens that can get you back to Flaine in time is the 3.40pm. The little bar at the bottom of the piste in Sixt, the Bar des Cascades, does not take credit or debit card, also - don't be the only skier without a vin chaud at the bottom!
Flaine’s black runs deserve their grading, and they are easy to reach so perfect for time-pressed parents who only have an hour or two between childcare duties. And even skiers who don't normally ski off-piste will be tempted by the Gers bowl.
The obvious, though steep place to start is the Diamant Noir black run. Just take the Grandes Platieres bubble up from the resort and folow the black piste signs. Expect moguls, and if you go at a busy time, lots of other people too, which adds to the challenge because its narrow in places. When you're half way down the mountain you can take the Diamant Noir chair back up and repeat, or if you're enjoying yourself and have found your rythmn, you can keep going on the less steep red run all the way to the base station. On the top bit, you can also spot obvious off-piste routes down the mountain as well and these are covered in our specialist Flaine Off-Piste section.
The Gers bowl is completely ungroomed but is avalanche controlled. There is officially one black run that goes down the middle of the bowl, the Onyx, but in reality the bowl is fair game to all with multiple entry points, so keep an eye out for any off-piste to the side that might tempt you, and come back and do it, but choose carefully because some of it is seriously steep. On the piste map the black run and the whole of the Gers bowl appear quite short and small, but don't be fooled: it has an 800-metre vertical. Snowboarders and improving intermediates should be warned that the Gers draglift, which returns you to the top, is one of the most difficult you will encounter in the French Alps. And if you're short of time, or just want to win the race for powder in the morning, remember it can be much quicker to get to the Gers bowl from the resort by taking the Tete des Verdes chairlift, skiing the Emeraude blue and ascending the Desert Blanc chair than it is taking the Grandes Platieres gondola wihich has queues at peak times.
The black run from the Tete de Lindars also deserves its grading. Again there is off-piste to the side.
From the Tete de Saix down to Samoens 1600 is another steep area, so the black run here is also challenging. The slope flattens out as you near Samoens 1600, so take the midmountain lift back up if you want to focus on the steep stuff.
Les Carroz also has a freeski zone accessed by the Gentianes chairlift or the Corbalanche chairlift from Flaine. The Corbalanche black goes straight through a freeride zone iand is normally ungroomed.
Flaine Snowboarding & Freestyle
Much in keeping with everything else, Flaine is an excellent resort for learning both snowboarding and freeriding – there are few resorts with a whole ungroomed bowl for freeriders and there is a dedicated ski school for those wishing to take up freestyle.
The Ecole de Ski Internationale is the place to head if you want to take up freestyle. They have dedicated instructors and mini-park in which they teach and you can practise.
If you are already proficient, an above average snowpark, run by H05, can be accessed on the Calcedoine run over the Aujon ski area. The snowpark has rails and kickers as well as a table and a hip. There is also a boardercross.
For freeriding the Gers bowl is perfect for grizzled veterans and for those taking their first schuss off-piste, but snowboarders should be wary that the Gers draglift is one of the most difficult you will encounter. Flaine has far too many draglifts for any snowboarder and incredibly the Aujon draglift to access the terrain park is pretty tricky also.
Snowboarders are well served by the terrain in the Grand Massif outside the Flaine bowl, where there are plenty of woods and natural walls, pipes and jumps. Inside the bowl, there is a natural half-pipe alongside the Serpentine blue.
For all things to do with snowboarding, Blackside (www.backside.fr) is a specialist shop in Flaine Forum that was set up in 1988 and can pretty much serve all of your needs.
Off-piste skiers are well catered for in Flaine and the Grand Massif as a whole. The Gers bowl is the highlight and the Corbalanche area provides an excellent arena to learn the craft before going under the ropes for real.
Hiring a guide is always recommended for off-piste skiing. As well as guiding you to the best routes and keeping you safe, they can tell you about the mountains, and provide you with the right equipment and show you how to use it correctly. Flaine is not a very dangerous resort for off-piste skiing and freeriding but there are hidden crevasses and cliffs, and skiers and boarders have been trapped in avalanches. You can also stick to the official runs - the Grand Massif has some good steep pistes for advanced skiers - but we think the off-piste is even better,
The Gers bowl and the Corbalanche freeski area are ungroomed. They are an excellent training ground for off-piste skiing and the aid of a lift in each area is real bonus.
There are over 40 different routes to access the Gers bowl but the most famous of them all is the old black run that used to come off the Zeolite blue at post marker No 4.
The route favoured by Alan Baudoin, an instructor with the Ecole de Ski Internationale, is to ascend the Veret draglift and when at the top, follow the ridge along to the right. From there you choose your line and take the plunge in to the Gers bowl.
Along a similar vein, there are opportunities underneath the Corbalanche chairlift in the right conditions although as it is east facing it is best avoided in warm conditions. One of the best routes is to bisect the Gentianes and L'Airon chairlifts.
In the Flaine bowl itself, there are several other areas that are good to learn off-piste skiing.
There is a large off-piste area between the Grandes Platieres gondola and the Lindars Nord chairlift. It is always very difficult to be dogmatic about off-piste, but this is one of the safest places to learn to ski off-piste away from the runs. Under the Lapiaz charlift also provides a decent arena for off-piste tutorial.
The Vernant chairlift and the Grand Vans gondola border an area rich with opportunities. You can ski straight down parallel with the Vernant chairlift from a ridge underneath the Grand Vans but you must be careful of the marked lake as you near the end of your run.
If you ascend the Vernant chairlift you can choose your lines, and be mindful of a couloir that provides an exit point off the ridge from under the Grand Vans. The off-piste becomes more challenging the further you ski away from the Vernant chairlift towards the oncoming Grand Vans gondola. The other side of the Vernant chairlift also provides decent off-piste.
In Les Carroz it is possible to ski through the woods by the Plein Soleil chairlift, while in Samoens the area between the Chariande Express gondola and Lanche chairlift is perfect.
Flaine Mountain Restaurants
Flaine is a resort that attracts the budget conscious. Despite the reputation of frugality, however, there are a few mountain restaurants that cater to those looking for something heartier, and tastier, than a self-service bowl of pasta.
Flaine's mountain restaurants are fairly standard, and our selection of Flaine's best mountain restaurants is included below, but if you really have had enough of Flaine's dreary architecture and simply want a blow-out lunch then Samoens or Les Carroz is the place to head for. Favourites include the trendy Milk Hotel (www.milkhotel.fr, +33 6 17 77 70 23), which uses simple, fresh ingredients in an elegant way. There is also the 4* Les Servages d'Armelle (www.servages.com, +33 4 50 90 01 62), where you'll be eating the likes of blue lobster in tarragon butter. Both have sublime sun terraces.
Gite du Lac de Gers, Flaine
At the intersection of the Les Cascades and La Pepiniere blues there is a telephone attached to a banner board. Ring it and if you have booked a skidoo one will come and tow up to eight skiers to the delightful Gite du Lac de Gers overlooking the frozen Lac de Gers. Tel: +33 4 50 89 55 14
L'Ancolie is based in Hameau de Flaine and fits into its surroundings. It is fair classier than most of the restaurants in resort but you pay for it, too. L'Ancolie has a roaring log fire in the middle of the stripped wood restaurant but is also very child friendly. The food is unashamedly Savoyard and the cheese board is to die for. Tel: +33 4 50 90 87 94
Le Desert Blanc, Flaine
Le Desert Blanc is a fair self-service restaurant with the best sun terrace in resort that faces Mont Blanc. It is located at the top of the Grand Plattieres gondola. The restaurant's position gives the staff the opportunity to be slack, which they are not and the food is solid if not world-beating. It's also a great place for a beer in the sun. Tel: +33 4 50 90 82 09
Le Bissac, Flaine
Le Bissac is one of the better self-service restaurants in Flaine. It is located basically in Flaine Foret, near the bottom of the Petit Balacha lift. If you reserve a table you can get waiter service in the restaurant that serves hot dishes such as Faux-Filet or roast lamb with gratin dauphinois and vegetables of the day. Tel: +33 4 50 90 81 32
Les Chalets du Michet, Flaine
L'Eloge is attached to Les Chalets du Michet at Flaine Forum and is the fast-food brother to Les Chalets du Michet, an old shepherd's hut which specialises in Savoyard food. L'Eloge is cheap and relatively cheerful with croque monsieur, lasagnes and soups, while Les Chalets du Michet has all the usual Savoyard suspects such as pierre chaud, raclette, fondue and Tariflette. As the restaurant is open a night, they offer a special discount if you eat there twice in one day. Tel: +33 4 50 90 80 08
La Casade, Flaine
La Cascade is scarcely a mountain restaurant as is lies on the Azurite red almost in Flaine itself. Although it is a restaurant, it is in fact a hotel, also. To be fair, the evening menu far outstrips that at lunch but there is a decent sun terrace and it is convenient to get to being just 300m from town. Tel: +33 4 50 90 87 66
Restaurant Chalets Les Molliets, Le Carroz
Chalets Les Molliets is not strictly in Flaine, but in next door Les Carroz but is well worth the trip. A rustic wooden hut, it takes big groups well and although it can get a little crowed inside that creates a great atmosphere, if you like meeting new people. Staff turnover is low, with the staff having been employed for many years and the steaks and excellent deserts keep skiers coming back to the sweeping sun terrace for years. Ask for the Fera, a fish that is caught in Lac Leman. Tel: +33 50 90 05 09
L'Igloo is located in the brilliant Marvel green above Morillon, which means it is perfect for the whole family to eat together at lunch. It is perfect for those cold days, as it is a very welcoming mountain restaurant. Dishes are more simple than in most places in Flaine, but dishes such as Reblochon quiche and homemade vegetable soup are wholesome, filling, cheap and delicious. Tel: +33 50 90 14 31
Flaine is divided into three inter-connected villages that boast good facilities for self-catering but little else. The selection of shops in Flaine is poor and the clothes and equipment shops stock only what is necessary, rather than providing a good selection.
The main village of Flaine is divided into three levels, each of which is connected by walkways and modernist land lifts. Flaine Foret is the highest at 1,700m, Flaine Forum, which is the main heartbeat of the whole resort, is at 1,650m and Flaine Front de Neige is at 1,500m. There are also two outlying suburbs which are really mini-resorts - Hameau de Flaine and Flaine Montsoleil - which are built in a much more attractive syle, if, like most people, you are not a fan of post-modernist architecture.
Flaine Forum is a completely pedestrianised zone, while Flaine Foret and Flaine Front de Neige are relatively traffic free. Flaine Montsoleil is situated at 1,750m and is easily walkable from Flaine Foret. It laso has its own lifts and pistes. Le Hameau de Flaine, which includes Le Refuge du Golf, is at 1800m. It is 1km from the main resort, but there is a good bus service. In normal snow conditions you can reach it on skis, via unofficial tracks.
There is plenty of accommodation in Flaine (most of it located for maximum convenience) but you can also stay in neighbouring Les Carroz and Morillon, as well as Samoens.
Ski hire and equipment rental in Flaine
There are plenty of ski rental shops, but their prices are quite high if you simply walk into them when you arrive. Some hotels and tour operators have recommended shops, but they rarely offer the best value even if they give a small discount (usually 5% or 10% at most) to the hotel or tour operator's guests. Generally, if you want to save money, you're much better off booking in advance with a reliable service provider like the one below.
SKISET has four outlets in Flaine covering Flaine Foret, Flaine Forum and Le Hameau de Flaine, and more in the lower villages, so one should be close to your accommodation. It will give discounts of up to 50% if you book online here.
ALPINRESORTS.COM also works with four shop in Flaine, and more in Les Carroz and the other surrounding villages, and can secure discounts of up to 60% if you book online here.
Flaine Bars & Restaurants
Flaine firmly concentrates on families and adults learning to ski including a significant proportion of novices. While less experience on snow is no limiting factor for apres ski, the fact that there are so many families and first time skiers and boarders means there are relatively few party goers old enough, or fit enough, to push the limits late into the night.
Flaine Apres Ski Bars
Flaine apres-ski and nightlife is severely limited. La Cascades at the foot of the pistes and the Brit hangout Le White Pub are about as lively as it gets after skiing. Later on the Flying Dutchman gets going and their outdoor BBQ go down well.
Much has been made of Le Perdrix Noire and although it has decent food and good beers it is hardly a raucous night out.
Flaine does have a nightclub in the Galerie Marchande Forum. It is open late and you can dance in it, but that's really as good as it gets.
Flaine has so many residence apartments and so few hotels that it is a wonder there are not more restaurants in the resort. Flaine is a dining desert, which is why the half-decent restaurants do so well. The resort is crying out for a top-class place to eat
Most of the restaurants in Flaine have been mentioned in our mountain restaurants section, but at night there are three more restaurants in the village that claim to be the best. To be fair, all are good value and prepare good food but none of them are world beaters.
Chalet La Cascade
Chalet La Cascade is about as cosy and intimate as Flaine can get. The restaurant is located at the foot of the pistes, it has a roaring log fire and if you want to book it you can be transported there and back by skidoo. The menu is small, but selective and although you can get fondue all over the Alps, it is pretty good here boasting three cheeses and also comes with sausages.
Chalet La Cascade
Tel: +33 4 50 90 87 66
La Perdrix Noir
The Perdrix is run by an English couple. If you didn't know you could probably tell from the interior decoration and the beers on tap. The restaurant suffers for being placed in Flaine Foret shopping arcade but appearances can be deceptive though, as the food is very French and very good. The chef has a good fish and seafood supplier but for us the spit-roasted half a duckling was the best thing we ate in resort. The set menus are very reasonably priced, also. Tel: +33 4 50 90 81 81
La Perdrix Noire
Tel: +33 4 50 90 81 81
La Ferme du Sartot
The most marvellous part to eating in La Ferme du Sartot is that it is the polar opposite to what Flaine stands for. Rustic and small, the restaurant must be booked in advance purely because in a delightfully unplanned way there simply is no menu. You call up discus with the chef what you would like to eat, and probably more importantly what he can get, and then turn up to his little chalet replete with open log fire. We'd say the food at Le Perdrix just shades it, but the setting and experience at La Ferme du Sartot is infinitely superior. Tel: +33 6 75 28 95 00
La Ferme du Sartot
Le Cret des Neiges
Tel: +33 6 75 28 95 00
Flaine Other Activities
For those who do not want to ski there is plenty to do in Flaine, provided it is on snow, but opportunities other non-snow activities such as shopping, wellness and culture are at best very limited and in some cases practically non-existent.
There are a lot of extra-curricular activities in Flaine and children who do not take to skiing are well served. Alongside the list of activities below, there is also a cinema (T +33 4 50 90 43 12) with two screenings per day and bowling alley (T +33 4 50 34 04 72) with six lanes in Flaine Foret shopping centre, a natural ice rink (Tel: +33 4 50 90 89 31) and a cultural centre (Tel: +33 4 50 90 41 73) that houses a library, exhibitions of contemporary artists and world-class Classical concerts. There are 7km of prepared marked trails in Flaine for unaccompanied or guided walks and snowshoeing and the ski schools below provide equipment as well as guides.
Dog sledding in Flaine
Tel: +33 6 82 09 50 03
Quad biking in Flaine
Tel: +33 6 09 45 36 62
Ice driving in Flaine
Tel: +33 4 50 90 82 59
Heliskiing in Flaine
Flaine Master Class
Tel: +33 4 50 90 87 16
HelicopterRrides in Flaine
Mont Blanc Helicopters
Tel: +33 4 50 92 78 00
Indoor Climbing in Flaine
Tel: +33 4 50 90 80 01
Paragliding in Flaine
Tel: +33 6 60 08 81 79
Snowkiting in Flaine
Tel: +33 4 50 90 87 16
Snowmobiling in Flaine
Ecole de Ski Internationale
Tel: +33 6 12 21 40 60
Snowshoeing in Flaine
Ecole de Ski Francais
Tel: +33 4 50 90 81 00 / 80 44
Ecole de Ski Internationale
Tel: +33 4 50 90 84 41