Flaine ski resort
In years gone by Flaine was one of those resorts that people tended to love or hate, mostly because of the stark architecture at the heart of the resort, born in the 1960’s era of high-rise concrete construction.
Over the past two decades however Flaine has been largely transformed with the creation of many new buildings, including the Scandinavian-themed Le Hameau de Flaine village, and Flaine Montsoleil, a North American style upmarket resort development. The result is that the resort now boasts an eclectic mix of architectural styles spanning five decades.
But Flaine, unlike many 1960s French purpose built resorts, has never apologised for its distinctive original structural design and while others have quietly demolished or ‘beautified’ their concrete, Flaine has glorified it.
In any case, once you’re on the slopes, everyone agrees that the vast snowy bowl surrounding Flaine is a truly great, world class ski area. After taking one of the many lifts to the top, visitors are treated to stunning panoramas of Mont Blanc and views down to the four picturesque traditional villages that share the huge Grand Massif area with Flaine: Morillon, Les Carroz, Samoëns and Sixt.
Flaine lies in the northern part of the French Alps, in the Haute-Savoie region of southeastern France, between Geneva and Chamonix. It is surrounded by several major ski domains: in the north by Les Portes du Soleil, in the east by Aravis, and in the south by the Mont Blanc region.
On the slopes
Flaine sits at the heart of the Grand Massif, one of the world’s biggest ski areas, with 265km (167 miles) of trails for all standards of skier and boarder. The 140km (87 miles) of runs local to Flaine are largely located within a vast, mostly treeless snow bowl with dozens of trails leading down into it; most ultimately return to the large nursery area at the base of the slopes. The north-facing slopes here normally ensure good snow cover for much of the season.
A fast, queue-gobbling eight-seater chairlift whisks skiers and boarders over toward the back of the resort for some wonderfully long ski runs that lead down through the forest to the neighbouring villages, including Morillon and Samoëns. The longest of these pistes is Cascades, a famous 14km-long (9 mile) trail with spectacular panoramic views.
Most of the vast terrain is suited to intermediates; but for advanced skiers there are numerous black trails, including one of the longest in the Alps down to Samoëns. The Combe de Gers powder bowl is also popular, and off-piste courses are run by the ski schools.
The ski season in Flaine generally runs from early December until late April and the resort has a good snow reputation thanks to its proximity to Mont Blanc, meaning it normally ends the season with the snow still lying deep.