by: Patrick Thorne - 22nd January 2007

  • 4
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced/Expert
  • 5All-Mtn. Terrain
  • 4Family Friendly
  • 3Aprés Ski
  • 5Terrain Park
  • Overall Value

Full review

Flaine sits on a forested hillside in a natural snowy bowl only 30km (18 miles) from Mont Blanc. Established in 1968, the resort dates to the baby-booming years when France was building big ski resorts in big ski areas very quickly, there was nothing here before. The lay out of Flaine makes everything very easy, doorstep skiing, all facilities are close to one another in the centre and always close to any accommodation. The resort is located at a snowsure altitude and is a more vibrant place than many of the other purpose-built resorts dating from the same era Popularly regarded as an ugly purpose built resort, Flaine has in fact been designed to the Bauhaus school of architectural design and is the only modern ski resort to be recognised as an architectural treasure. Legend has it that a huge giant slept in the mountains and valleys, resting his head on the spot where Flaine now stands. Flainoz was an old French word for pillow. The main part of the resort is split in to three sections - Forêt, Forum and Front de Neige, linked together by pedestrian walkways and lifts - the design is very functional. Flaine sits at the heart of the giant Grand Massif ski circuit joining the slopes of five ski areas to offer 265km (165 miles) of linked trails served by 75 lifts. The "Cascade" blue run is a scenic 14km (nine mile) run from the top of Les Grandes Platières cable car at 2500m, the blue run "Les Cascades" takes you down to the small village of Sixt Fer à Cheval at 700m. The run is pure enjoyment through beautiful scenery, disturbed only by the occasional meeting with marmots in late spring. Return to Samoëns with a free shuttle bus, then traverse across the grand Massif Ski area to return to Flaine. The Diamant Noir run black run is also known as “The Strong Cup of Coffee”, also starting from the top of Les Grandes Platières cable car it’s a short athletic bumps run down through a narrow gully, where you will be negotiating your turns with a few man-high moguls. A third choice from the top of The Grandes Platières is the blue Serpentine which meanders down gently into the resort. A 900m drop on easy and carefully groomed terrain, a never ending ride ideal for those who like to switch on their cruise-control and switch off time. The world famous Combe de Gers (from 2400m down to 1800m) is a north facing back bowl accessible from the top of the Col de Platé chairlift . Only to be attempted by proficient and experienced off-piste experts, take the Zeolite run to access the bowl which you almost literally dive into. The descent starts with a steep 'n' deep part and with sun exposure on powder that runs from west to east then north, there's always a spot with good snow. A small drag lift brings you back up the mountain for more, or to return to the resort centre.
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