Purpose built in the 1960s in a large bowl of powder facing West and aptly nicknamed the big snowy bowl, Flaine offers the widest range of skiing in the Grand Massif ski area. The resort is not the most picturesque of them all and for some visitors the severe architecture is too much to take but if you can ignore the ugly concrete buildings and focus on the fluffy white stuff you’ll find a family-friendly resort with excellent facilities. Children are particularly well catered for and good deals can be found on family lift passes. The village centre is mainly car free, compact and convenient.
In spite of its dreary reputation, Flaine is regarded as a cultural landmark in France having been designed in the Bauhuas style by celebrated architect Marcel Breuer. As a result, the resort is a hub for modern arts and at the bottom of the slopes there’s a range of art by abstract artists, the most notable piece being a large Picasso sculpture of a woman’s head.
The resort has, in recent years, undergone a number of refurbishments, and is now making something of a comeback. The Totem, a hotel originally designed by Breuer, has been revamped and rebranded as the ultra-cool and minimimalist Hotel Terminal Neige Totem.
Among Flaine’s many attractions, and foremost is the great skiing on offer, is that it’s a resort that won’t break the bank. There are plenty of low-cost accommodation options available (the new Totem Hotel has competitive rates) designed to appeal to a hip crowd of skiers who are more appreciative of Flaine’s artistic credentials than previous visitors. Newer chalet style accommodation is also available.
The main resort is small and made up of two areas accessible by lifts called the red and black devils. Forum is the busier andlower of the two at 1600m while bigger Forêt, up the hillside, is located at 1700m. The latter has its own shops and bars. There are also some rather nice traditional villages in the outlying area; Samoëns, Les Carroz and Morillon offer additional lodging options and generally better dining.
The skiing in the Flaine bowl is mainly open, but the lowest runs are wooded. Outside the bowl, above Les Carroz, Morillon and Samoëns the situation is reversed and most of the slopes are below the treeline.
In town there are various activities to partake in but nightlife and evening apres ski tend to be quiet with most people preferring to stay in their chalets.