Grand Massif catch-up from Flaine and Les Carroz

13th February 2018, by Chris Gill

The lower of the two nursery areas at Flaine, on Tuesday 6th

The lower of the two nursery areas at Flaine, on Tuesday 6th

With editor Watts safely deposited at Geneva airport after our visits to Annecy Mountains, Espace Diamant and the Portes du Soleil, I headed back into the hills to remind myself of the merits of one more area, the Grand Massif.

This is an area that has grown on me over the years as its resorts have matured and its lift system has improved. Since my last visit three years back there have been several important developments that I wanted to check out – big new lifts and attractive new lodgings.

First stop was Flaine, to overnight in the latest reincarnation of the central hotel Totem, the first in a chain of funky makeovers called Terminal Neige by the swanky Sibuet group (better known for its posh gaffs in Megève and St-Tropez).

The Totem offers good rooms of various sizes (with the best bedside reading lamps you will ever see), service friendly but amateur, food satisfying but entirely buffet-based – a blunder, in your editors’ view. No pool, but a capacious outdoor hot tub. There are other TN places in Avoriaz and above Chamonix.

Stepping outside, Flaine Forum – the heart of the resort – seemed rather more prosperous as a whole than last time I was here, aided perhaps by the increasing quantities of slightly upmarket accommodation both here and on the outskirts. But it is still a very limited place.

I spent a very enjoyable day checking out the packed-powder pistes of Flaine and the adjacent valleys. As usual, the main Platières gondola out of Flaine was oversubscribed when the alternatives were not.

The major new lifts are two fast six-seat chairs going up to to Tête des Saix – the hub of the area, where lifts from all directions converge.

The Tête des Saix chair, new last season two valleys over from Flaine, is an excellent device, replacing the slow old Gentianes chair (and the higher Airon) but starting lower down the valley at Les Molliets, increasing the options.

The standard route to Tête des Saix from Morillon was the slow Lanche chair, but this season that has been replaced by the Coulouvrier six-pack. Because it starts much lower – it’s a staggering 2850m long – it is also accessible from Samoëns 1600, thus creating an alternative way to the top from there, too.

Sadly, day two served up thick cloud at the bottom and thicker cloud at the top, so I didn’t get a chance to check out this new addition. It’s accessed by two new blue pistes and has replaced the Lanche chair.

Happily, I had an excellent apartment to retreat to in the new CGH residence Les Chalets de Léana. I enjoyed staying a few years back in CGH’s Chalets de Jouvence, which are in a ski-in/out position at the top of the village. The new development, in contrast, is a short walk from the centre, so a bus-ride from the lifts. Your call.

My two-bedroom apartment was comfortable and spacious by French standards, and the pool and spa facilities were about the best CGH has to offer, I would say. Slowly but surely CGH is polishing its act, getting better with each new development. If only it would site its hot tubs outdoors …

My stay at Les Chalets de Léana was arranged by the lovely people at Peak Retreats. They and their colleagues at Ski Collection offer all the CGH residences, in 15 top French ski areas. For more info go here

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