Ski France: is Samoëns the perfect resort?

The dizzy heights of Tignes, Val D’Isere and Courchevel attract Brits in their thousands every season, but are we missing a French secret?

The pretty village of Samoëns is a Savoyard gem; a monument historique revered for its precious links to the French stonemason trade. The ancient village, built at the foot of Mount Criou is only an hour from Geneva airport and served by a modern gondola swishing skiers to the Grand Massif in a mere 8 minutes.

View of the village from the express gondola

Narrow streets wind at an easy pace, taking in specialist shops showcasing the finest Haute-Savoie produce, towards a lovely square centred around an old lime tree. Locals queue out the door of the award-winning patisserie, the saucisson and cheese shop is a feast for the senses, après-skiers sip vin chaud in outdoor bars, bric-a-brac shops are a treasure-trove of chalet-worthy finds and gorgeous little cafes serve tartiflette smothered in gooey reblochon.

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The Grand Massif, watched over by the magnificent Mont Blanc, has 265km of piste and includes the snow-sure resort of Flaine. The gondola to Samoëns 1600 opens up the whole area with a wealth of runs suiting all abilities, including the 14km blue Cascade run.

On my recent trip, the Christmas celebrations were wonderfully French, French and French! Christmas Eve brought a stunning fireworks display, set off from the famous Jardin Botanique Alpina to waterfall in the sky above the village. Locals and visitors enjoyed gastronomique dinners late into the night before exchanging presents. Christmas Day was spent on the slopes enjoying the spectacular views and (luckily for us) warm sunshine.

Fireworks at Christmas

It’s worth noting that skiing back to Samoëns village isn’t possible, although you can ski to nearby villages and get the excellent ski bus back easily. Otherwise the gondola is the best way down and a pleasant end to the day. There are free nursery lifts for beginners and wonderful mountain restaurants dotted around the pistes. Prices are pleasantly affordable compared to the more high-octane French resorts.

Hotel Neige et Roc

We stayed as a family in two studio apartments at the Hotel Neige et Roc and ate at the wonderful Le Serac in Samoëns and Le Puzze in Morillion … both relatively cheap and serving fantastic Savoyard cuisine. Our ski hire was from Xtreme Glisses and we were very pleased with the service and quality.

For more information on Samoëns click here.

Trip of a Lifetime: Trekking to the North Pole

Ice Trek North Pole
Ice Trek North Pole Expedition

The North Pole is a geographical concept; a frozen point on an ever-moving slab of sea ice forming and moving with the seasons.

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Negotiating the Arctic Sea Ice

Sadly the Arctic is warming as global oceans heat up and melting sea ice reveals darker  water which absorbs more solar radiation. Higher temperatures are melting this frozen landscape with record lows of sea ice being recorded year upon year. The quality of the ice is also in decline as thicker ice, built up over long periods of time, is replaced by thin layers which are more mobile and unpredictable. This dynamic, shifting ice is a nightmare for polar expeditions which could soon become impossible to complete.

Trekking to the North Pole is a trip of a lifetime. Icetrek are specialists in guiding trips of this type as well as providing the specialist equipment needed for such an undertaking. Their North Pole Last Degree Ski Expedition heads off on April 4th 2019 and places are still available. Starting at Longyearbyen in Svalbard the 10-day trek covers 112km across pressure ridges, open leads, sastrugi and ice rubble … all against a backdrop of freezing conditions and 24-hour daylight.

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The North Pole

The €41,690 price tag includes all equipment, helicopter transfers, exert guiding, expedition food, on-trek accommodation and training. Rated as a Level 4 challenge, participants must be fit enough to pull a 45kg sled against drift in temperatures as low as -30°C. Unsheltered exposure could be as much as 6 – 9 hours each day.

Ice Trek North Pole

Icetrek Expeditions is a world-leading polar adventure travel company, offering trips to the Arctic and Antarctica. The company was founded in 1999 by Eric Philips who is an International Polar Guides Association Master Polar Guide and one of IPGA’s founding members.

www.icetrek.com

Images courtesy of Icetrek