Flaine is a distinctively designed purpose-built ski resort, sited in a maturely forested high snowbowl within the extensive Grand Massif linked ski area in the Northern French Alps. Primarily suited to family groups, it offers a great range of terrain for keen skiers and snowboarders of all standards.
When people refer to the archetypal modernist-style of purpose-built French ski resort, Flaine is usually the one that they have in mind. Inaugurated in the 1960s, the original development was approached as a Bauhaus-inspired project to blend architecture, art and nature in a snow-sure setting that offered convenient access to/from the slopes; creating possibly the world's first 'designer' ski resort.
The resort is still focused around this original, urbanised, split-level core, the two levels of which are linked by rail-mounted elevators: the upper Flaine Foret zone houses most of the self-catering apartments for which the resort is particularly noted, perched above the lower Flaine Forum zone which features a spacious snow-covered plaza area bounded on three sides by hotels, apartments, shops, cafes and bars, opening out on to the wide gentle pistes which flow through this wooded plateau.
Renowned for being especially well-suited to families (hence the prevalence of self-catering accommodation), Flaine has plenty of car-free open spaces and safe play areas for children; the childcare services and family-friendly facilities are also generally well regarded by this principal target market of family groups.
As well as being a very good destination for families, Flaine is also a good choice for mixed-ability groups and for those who prefer self-catering apartment-based holidays and convenient access to a big ski area. Anyone seeking a more traditional Alpine village ambiance or a wider range of catered accommodation may find the surrounding linked villages of the Grand Massif more to their liking.
The Grand Massif ski area is vast, presenting an impressive variety of terrain: the main Flaine/Aujon bowl contains plenty of wide open pistes for beginners and novices, plus there's a great choice of long red runs and challenging expert-level descents off the dome and crags of the surrounding Grandes Platieres, which top out at 2,480m.
The upper reaches of this huge bowl are well above the tree line and so can be quite exposed when the weather closes in; the linked sectors of the lower-altitude satellite resort villages of Les Carroz, Morillon, Samoens and Sixt have a great selection of good cruising pistes, plenty of which run through forested slopes and, therefore, provide more sheltered surroundings with less poor visibility on days when low cloud and/or rough weather are an issue in the upper sectors.
Off the slopes and apres ski
Off-slope activities and facilities include an ice rink, ice driving circuit, climbing wall, gymnasium, a cinema, plus a cultural centre housing an art gallery and library.
Those who like to dine out in the evening may be disappointed to find only a smattering of decent restaurants to choose from, sparsely dotted around Flaine's two principal residential areas. Likewise, only a limited selection of otherwise fairly lively bars are scattered around the various quarters of the resort; Le White Pub and the Flying Dutchman are the key central apres-ski venues. There is a token nightclub in the Galerie (commercial centre) in Flaine Forum, but nightlife in Flaine is generally low key.