|Le Grand Massif|
|Nearest city||Geneva, Switzerland|
|Top elevation||2,561 m (8,402 ft)|
|Base elevation||657 m (2,156 ft)|
|Skiable area||265 km (165 mi) of runs|
|Runs||137 (75 easy, 45 intermediate, 15 difficult)|
|Longest run||14 km (8.7 mi)|
|Lift system||77 lifts (1 cable car, 8 gondolas, 30 chairlifts, 38 surface lifts)|
The Grand Massif area was born in 1980 by the combination of the Massif (Les Carroz, Morillon, Samoëns, Vernant and Sixt Fer à Cheval) and the Flaine bowl resort; the first combined ski passes were sold for the 1981 season. The area provides a tremendous variety of on piste runs, off piste and between piste skiing, scenery and height, providing good skiing in all types of weather and conditions.
The area consists of a ridgeline running between the valleys of the River Arve (coming down from Chamonix), and the River Giffre (sourced in the National Park area above Sixt), with spurs running off the ridgeline to form the Flaine bowl and the high valleys and ridges of the Massif.
In the best snow conditions it is possible to ski from the Tete des Saix (2120m) down to Morillon village at 700m on a choice of runs, and from the top of Flaine (2480m) down to Sixt at 800m on the classic picturesque 14 km Cascades run.
The resort of les Carroz (1140 – 2500 metres) is administered by the commune of Arâches-La Frasse and the resort of Flaine (1600 – 2500 metres) has been jointly managed by the commune and by Magland, a small town situated in the valley. Compagnie des Alpes ("CDA"), the world's largest ski operator, acquired four resorts in the Grand Massif (Flaine, Samoëns, Morillon and Sixt) in mid-December 1997, and in 1998 formed a global alliance with Canadian developer Intrawest. For Flaine this means the addition of 2,700 beds (with a further 2,000 in a second phase) and investments in new lifts, services and infrastructure. Les Carroz remains independent of the Flaine resort management.
Skiing in Grand Massif
This season, the Grand Massif ski area is open to skiers from 21 December 2013 until 19 April 2014.
Until the 1930s the village of Les Carroz was a simple farming hamlet with just a few houses. At 1100m altitude, it sits on a large sunny plateau overlooking the Arve Valley south east of the town of Cluses, on the road to Flaine. The village is part of the commune of Arâches-La Frasse. Whilst the busy periods are during the ski season (mid December to third week of April) and during the French summer holidays (July and August), it has a permanent population and is open all year round.
Classic cascades run
This run goes across high mountain, down through the forests and past the cascade waterfalls to Sixt; in good weather and snow conditions it is considered to be a special day trip for those that enjoy the scenery and tranquillity of the mountains. Good access to Cascades is from the top of the long Gers drag lift, but to reach this the black Styx run must be skied first; Styx is open when avalanche conditions permit, but is variable in condition (sometimes pisted, sometimes not). Otherwise one can reach Cascades via the blue piste off the top of Flaine, but there is some poling to do. At the bottom at Sixt Fer à Cheval, a bus meets skiers to take them back to the cabin lift at Samoëns. There are some quiet and surprisingly interesting runs in Sixt on the opposite side of the valley to Cascades.
Another treat from Cascades is the restaurant at the Gers lake, a popular place to sit, enjoy a meal and admire the scenery. Access is either off the bottom of the Styx run, requiring a walk around the lake shore, or from the notice and phone that is situated by a little bridge on the Cascades run, after dropping into the Gers valley; skiers call up the restaurant and are pulled up to it on the back of a skidoo (the ride and tables are best reserved in advance). Time must be allowed after lunch to ski down to Sixt and catch the bus back round to Samoëns. For the energetic prepared to give up a skiing day, another option is to walk to Gers using racquettes (snow shoes), and stay overnight.