The largest of the five French resorts in the Grand Massif ski area, Flaine offers family-friendly convenience, with beautiful tree-lined slopes and traditional villages just a few minutes away. The 265 km long ski area is suitable for all levels, from beginner to expert, and the snow guarantee is good, with 80 percent of the slopes facing north and a fair amount of snow cannons.
Flaine was born in 1969, when large concrete blocks of apartments were considered stylish, even in the mountains. These original blocks, designed in the 1960s, still form the core of the resort village and have the great advantage of being mainly ski-in/ski-out.
Appreciating the architecture is a matter of taste; many find it ugly, but some admire its Bauhaus heritage and outdoor sculptures by Picasso, Vasarely and Dubuffet.
Keep up to date with the key facts about the resort below and scroll down for our insider’s guide to a day on the slopes, expert reviews and advice. For more Flaine inspiration, check out our guides to the resort’s best accommodations, restaurants and après-ski.
In this guide:
Within the resort
Flaine is split into two main parts. Flaine Forum is set around a large pedestrianized square, with the slopes and main gondola forming one side. Above this lies Flaine Forêt with its own slopes and chairlifts. Both have a few restaurants and bars, and are connected by two funicular lifts that are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, Front de Neige and Les Gérats are two lesser-known parts of the resort.
Most of Flaine’s accommodation consists of apartments, but smart hotels are on the rise. For those who prefer chalet style, in the 1980s a Norwegian developer built the Hameau de Flaine – an attractive collection of Scandinavian-style wooden chalets, 2km from the original Flaine. Officially, the slopes can be reached by a free shuttle bus, but if snow conditions permit it is also possible to cross the road and glide through the forest to a slope.
Just outside Flaine and on the way to the Hameau, the Pierre et Vacances premium apartments are located in chalet-style buildings built in the 2000s, with a slope just behind them.
Although Flaine has a number of good restaurants serving reasonable food to a largely family clientele, there is little haute cuisine. This is a resort with more apartments than hotels and largely aimed at self-catering who prefer to eat on site. The same goes for the nightlife, while Flaine Forum and Flaine Forêt offer a few bars, but it is not party central.
Much of the ski area in the large bowl above Flaine is above the trees, but it shares the large and varied Grand Massif ski area with four lower and very contrasting resorts, which have some lovely tree-lined pistes above. Les Carroz is a traditional mountain village with chalet style buildings that has grown over a wide valley but retains the feel of a real lived-in village and not just a ski resort. Part of the property is located near the gondola, but another part can be reached by bus.
The old mountain village of Samoëns has a medieval church, a pedestrian main street and a covered market. There are more and more attractive, modern chalet-style apartment complexes in the area. But from most of these – and from the center – it’s a bus ride or a long walk to the lifts.
Morillon is much smaller and quieter than the other resorts, again based on an old village with newer developments. Most accommodations, including a three-star hotel, are a short walk from the gondola. Sixt Fer à Cheval is another basic option, a traditional village with local slopes suitable for beginners, and free buses to the Grand Massif lifts, 10 minutes away.
On the slopes
The 265 km long ski area of the Grand Massif is beautifully varied and large enough to keep even the most intermediate skiers satisfied for a week. For experts, there is plenty of excellent off-piste terrain to explore with a guide.
For beginners, Flaine has two dedicated children’s areas served by four free lifts, including three magic carpets. Then there are a few short greens and a long, soft blue to continue. There are also beginner areas in the lower villages of the ski area, Les Carroz, Samoëns, Morillon and Sixt Fer à Cheval, although in Samoëns you have to take the gondola both up and down.
Above Flaine there is a wide, north-facing bowl, mostly above tree line and great in good weather as it is almost 8,000 feet high and the snow remains in good condition. It is accessed via two gondolas and a high-speed chairlift, all of which leave from Flaine Forum or Flaine Front de Neige – in one of the two main sectors of the resort. Almost all the pistes here are best suited to intermediate pistes – a few easy blue pistes, but mainly red pistes that deserve their rating mainly because of the short steep sections.
There are many beautiful off-piste runs here between the pistes. But be careful: the basin is known for its deep rock crevices and pits, and there have been fatalities and injuries.
For safer steep descents, head from the top to the skier straight into the next valley and the Gers Bowl. This is served by a long drag lift with a seriously steep black piste next to it and excellent off-piste from the ridges on either side.
One of the Alps’ classic off-piste runs can be reached by staying high above the top of the Gers tow lift on the blue Cascade run. This run is 14 km long with an altitude difference of more than 1,700 meters. It leads far away from the lift system and is even suitable for beginners. It starts very flat and becomes slightly steeper as it winds its way picturesquely through the forest to the small village of Sixt Fer à Cheval. At the end there is a shuttle bus back to civilization and the gondola at Samoëns.
A more direct route from Flaine to the slopes of Samoëns, Morillon and Les Carroz is to take the eight-seater Grands Vans chairlift from Forêt and then another chairlift to Tête des Saix, before continuing to the other sectors. Apart from the upper section, the slopes here are all nicely tree-lined and good to use in a snowstorm, when the Flaine Bowl can be a whiteout. Most of the slopes here are blue and red and excellent for advanced skiers. The long green Marvel run is ideal for families, with regular signs providing information about the local wildlife.
There are no halfpipes or real terrain parks in the Grand Massif. Instead, there are several ‘fun’ areas aimed mainly at children, with bumps, bends and trees to maneuver over.
Who should go?
Flaine is a resort dominated by families and novice skiers or snowboarders, but the slopes of the Grand Massif area are suitable for all levels, especially intermediate skiers looking to rack up the miles. Ski-in/ski-out convenience is a big draw in Flaine, as many of the properties have direct access to the slopes. The wide range of apartments in Flaine makes it a popular choice for groups and families who like to cater for themselves, but there is an increasing number of hotels. Just a 90-minute drive from Geneva Flaine is also a good choice for a reliable, snowy short break.
Know before you go
British Embassy/Consulate: (00 33 1 44 51 31 00; ukinfrance.fco.gov.uk)
Ambulance (Samu): call 15
Police: call 17
Fire (pompiers): call 18
Emergency services from mobile phone: call 112
TOURIST OFFICE: See flaine.com, the Flaine Tourist Board website, for weather reports, lift status, webcams, traffic information and local event listings. Collect maps, leaflets and other information from the office in Flaine Forum.
Phone code: from abroad, call 00 33 and omit the zero at the beginning of the ten-digit number.
Time difference: +1 hour
Local laws and etiquette
When greeting people, French uses many more formal titles (Monsieur, Madame and Mademoiselle) than English.
It takes years to master the laws of vouvoiement (which version of “you” to use). When in doubt – except when talking to children or animals – always use the formal vous form (second person plural) instead of the more informal tu.
When driving, it is mandatory to have fluorescent vests and a warning triangle in the car in case of a breakdown. Since 2021, it is also mandatory to take snow chains in your car or winter tires from early November to March.