News from the snow
les Carroz France
Only 65km from Geneva, the French resort of Les Carroz has become, along with its higher altitude neighbour, Flaine, a magnet for familes. Apart from its proximity to the Geneva's airport, les Carroz has the attractions of excellent skiing for intermediates, good child care and ski kindergarten, a sunny north west aspect and, oh yes, a linked ski area on the Grand Massif amounting to 265kms of varied pistes. Unlike Flaine, which, purpose built in the 1960s, draws criticism for its ugly concrete architecture, les Carroz is a traditional old village, with many lovely rustic buildings and a delightful, very French atmosphere. Indeed, this is a resort much-patronised by the French themselves and so it is a good choice for those who feel that visiting other cultures is as much a part of the holiday as the skiing. Established as a ski resort in 1936, les Carroz was previously a mountain farming community. However the village was also known for its clock-makers; today some of the workshops still survive where tourists can not only see the timepieces being made but also, of course, purchase them.
Traditional family resort, centred on the village square, and linked in to the huge Grand Massif ski area. Popular with locals who have skied here since 1936.
There is a wealth of choice for the intermediate skier, with long sweeping runs networking all over the Grand Massif. Novices are well catered for with the ski schools teaching all levels and ages on the nursery slopes and there are kilometres of wide easy piste on which to hone technique. Two lifts in the village operate free of charge for beginners. Experts, too, will find themselves with plenty to test their skills. Throughout the Massif /Grand Massif there are several tough black runs including moguls fields and the powder skiing here can be as good as it gets. Please note that, because of the nature of the terrain, which is rocky and has hidden crevasses, you are strongly advised to hire a local guide when heading off piste.
Les Carroz is relatively low altitude and west facing so snow here can be less than reliable early in the season and spring afternoons may turn the snow to porridge. However, the Grand Massif with its height and north facing slopes is almost always assured of good snow and plenty of it. It is well worth exploring the area to its fullest extent and visiting the other villages in the linked pass - Morillon, Samoens and Sixt, which have a delightful rustic charm.
The runs down to Morillon are intermediate, Samoens is accessible by snow to better skiers (the runs are red and black) while the little community of Sixt and its small but excellent ski area is reached by the recently constructed piste down the Gers bowl - strictly for experts. Although a lift is planned to link Sixt with the Grand Massif, for the time being, a shuttle bus takes skiers back to Samoen or Morillon for uplift.
When touring around always make sure you know how and when you get back to where you started as taking the wrong connection or missing the last lift can lead to a difficult journey home.
Night skiing is offered twice a week throughout most of the season.
Child care facilities are good; children aged from 3 months to 5 years can go into the local nursery and the French ski school accepts children from 3 years old.
There is more happening up in Flaine although that resort is famous for its lack of atmosphere. Taking a taxi or bus to Samoens, Morillon or Sixt is well worth the trip, where again the bars and restaurants are traditional French.