Ports of Call
Flaine Travel Guide
Flaine © www.flaine.com
Probably because it was purpose-built, the holiday destination of Flaine is one of the most user-friendly ski resorts in France: compact, with easy access to the pistes, and a location that ensures exceptional snow conditions. Flaine is situated beneath Mont Blanc, near Geneva, at the gateway to 'Le Grand Massif', one of the best ski and snowboard areas of France. From the nursery slopes, to an easy glide on the 8.5 mile (14km) blue Cascade run, or the off-piste challenge of the Combe de Gers, Flaine is a trend-setting family-orientated resort that caters for all levels of skiers and boarders.
Consisting of concrete apartment blocks built on three levels along the slopes at an altitude of 5,250 feet (1,600m) in the centre of a natural bowl, this, the youngest resort in the French Alps, may not sound particularly appealing. Flaine may not conform to the archetypal image of the Alpine village, but it has been architecturally designed for comfort and convenience, and visitors are amazed at how the buildings blend in with the limestone of their surroundings. The three levels, Flaine-Foret, Flaine-Forum and Flaine-Front de Neige, are connected by elevators and pedestrian trails. The centre is car-free, with restaurants, bars and services grouped around two central shopping plazas. All activities are either close and easily accessible, or in the resort centre. There is also a cultural centre where classical and jazz music events are scheduled, a library and an art gallery; children are particularly well catered for. Though not a fashionable destination, Flaine is increasing in popularity, particularly as a family ski resort.
The majority of Flaine's marked ski runs are suited to intermediate skiers, but there are also some challenging adventure trails for experts. The breathtaking view from the cable car station atop Les Grandes Platieres gives a perspective on the variety of terrain, lifts and trails spread out in three directions. Flaine is connected by a system of lifts to the traditional resorts of Les Carroz, Morillon and Samoens, offering altogether a huge ski-circus of 78 lifts and more than 160 miles (257km) of trails. There are 16 black, 54 red, 47 blue, and 15 green pistes, along with a 'hot' snowpark for snowboarders (the Jampark), and about 40 miles (64km) of cross-country. There are several excellent ski and snowboarding schools available for beginners, and excellent nursery slopes close to the resort. The altitude virtually guarantees good snow coverage from December to May.
Holidaymakers do not come to Flaine to shop, but to ski, as is evidenced by the fact that this is not a resort sporting designer boutiques or glitzy malls. Shopping arcades contain the necessities for visitors; if you forgot your sunglasses or gloves, you can easily buy some. There is a supermarket and bakery for self-caterers, and services like a post office and hair-stylist. Serious shoppers will have to save their credit cards for a spree in Geneva on the way home.
Most holiday visitors to Flaine come on package deals, which include dining in the hotel, but for those who want a change of scene, Flaine has about two dozen establishments offering a variety of typical French cuisine, traditional fondues, or pizza and snacks. Good choices for basic French fare are Les Chalets du Michet, which operates from a converted cowshed, or La Perdrix Noire. Limes Rock Café has good value meals, and Chez Daniel, where you can sizzle steaks on hot rocks, is famous for its crêpes.
Being primarily a family holiday resort, Flaine is not a hectic party spot. Après ski is enjoyed mainly at the two most popular pubs, The White Grouse and The Flying Dutchman, both with a good atmosphere. Le Skifun offers some low-key disco action. Les Cimes has karaoke twice a week.
Off the slopes Flaine offers many diversions to holidaymakers looking for a bit of diversity. There is a cinema, ice-rink, swimming pool, fitness centre, bowling alley and indoor climbing wall. Snowshoeing and ice driving are popular.
While the skiing is great for novices and intermediates, experts might find it lacks challenge. Although the scenery is magnificent, Flaine lacks the charm and atmosphere of a traditional Alpine resort.