Some ski resorts scream from the mountain tops ‘visit me’, while others get on quietly with what they do delivering great holidays without the fanfare. In this review of Les Carroz snowboarding holiday in Grand Massif, I will tell you why this unassuming resort delivers way beyond expectations.
I visited Les Carroz over the last weekend in March 2015. There had been some fresh snow the night before arrival, but overall it was very much sping conditions. On arriving into town there was lots of grass and mud to be seen and not as much snow as I’d like.
Some runs into town were already closed, and the first impression was a quiet resort in the process of closing down for the season. It may have been the last couple of weeks of being open but how wrong we were about it being quiet.
Introducing Les Carroz
As ski resorts go Les Carroz is not a household name, but it is less than an hour from Geneva and not far from more famous resorts such as Chamonix, Morzine and Flaine. It’s part of the Grand Massif ski area, meaning it is linked with Flaine which is a very popular resort for us Brits.
Les Carroz is an authentic village, that has real people living in it year round. It is a popular resort in the summer and the vast majority of people involved in the travel industry are not seasonaires but permanently live in Les Carroz, making for a strong community feel.
The entire Les Carroz village is in Haut Savoyard style architecture. There are no large hotels, instead the buildings are mainly independent, family owned chalets – both small and large. It gives Les Carroz an open feel, with great mountain views and not a concrete monstrosity in sight.
Les Carroz is easy to reach from Geneva, in a car taking around 45 minutes. Many airlines fly from the UK to Geneva, however I took the Eurostar from London to Geneva via Lille. It was a relaxing way to travel, costing a little less than flying with none of the airport stress and door to door only taking slightly longer.
How massive is the Grand Massif?
Les Carroz is part of the Grand Massif ski area that also includes the resorts of Flaine, Morillon, Samoëns and Sixt. With 265 km of runs the Grand Massif is the 4th largest lift linked ski area in France. There are 148 pistes rising up to 2500m, around half of these are blue or green runs, and half red or black.
The area is well linked with plenty of fast chairs and gondolas, there is regular investment to upgrade lifts and add new runs. However there are still a few old and slow lifts that could do with an upgrade, but somehow they add to the charm.
Much of the skiing is below the tree line, so great for picturesque scenery and better visibility during poor conditions. However if you head over to Flaine you rise above the trees and have a huge open bowl to play in, with access to a lot of between piste off-piste.
There are a range of freestyle areas to explore, which work more like North American snowparks than European ones. Rather than have one snowpark suitable for a range of abilities they have different zones suitable for different levels. There are eleven areas with five suitable for beginners (green/blue), four for improvers (red) and two for experts (black).
Review of Les Carroz snowboarding
To access the ski area from Les Carroz there is the choice of a gondola or a chairlift, both pretty much go from the same place and head up to a similar spot on the mountain. Although the Gondola goes a little higher giving you quicker access to the rest of Grand Massif.
There are a lot of runs to choose from above Les Carroz, suitable for all abilities. However snowboarding back into Les Carroz there is the choice of the Combe – a sedate blue – or Timalets – a livelier red. Timalets has a couple of bars on the way down, including L’Anfionne which was very busy at the end of the day – so we joined the party.
Getting out of the Les Carroz area and over to Flaine on one side, or Morillon and Samoëns on the other, looks a little complicated on the piste map but is actually fairly simple. A few runs that appear to head towards Les Carroz actually head away giving access to the wider area – it is all very obvious when you are there.
Two things surprised me about snowboarding in Les Carroz. Firstly, the runs were wide and almost empty with enough steepness to make them a lot of fun. Secondly it is a really long run from the top at Tete Des Saix down to the bottom, with nearly 1000m altitude drop. Both lead to a very positive review of Les Carroz snowboarding holiday in Grand Massif.
Review of snowboarding holiday in Grand Massif
The Grand Massif’s best known resort is Flaine, which has one of the best snow records in Europe. When you add Les Carroz, Morillon, Samoëns and Sixt it makes for a formidable ski area.
We did a couple of runs into Morillon and Samoëns, and although they were fun – particularly near the top – it was a little flatter, busier and narrower than the runs into Les Carroz. However we spent most of our time on this Les Carroz snowboarding holiday in the Flaine bowl.
The Tourmaline run, which links Flaine with the rest of Grand Massif, can get pretty busy. Similarly Flaine had a busy feel to it – we even queued for a few minutes waiting for the Grandes Platieres gondola once or twice. But when you head up into the Flaine bowl, there are enough options and space for it to feel uncrowded.
From up on the ridge there are runs to suit all levels of snowboarder, including some great freeride terrain both between the piste and in unpisted areas such as the Agate run off Linards Nord. One of Flaine’s strengths is that pretty much whatever route you take down from the bowl, you end up back in Flaine, so great for mixed ability groups and families wanting to do different things.
The fresh snow and low avalanche risk meant we spent a lot of time between the pistes catching the last powder runs of the season. Much of the terrain is undulating and great for tricks, and there is plenty that is not too steep meaning it is less likely to avalanche. I would imagine that after a big dump of snow, the off-piste in Grand Massif is epic.
Although it was not open there is a 14km run from the top of Flaine down into Sixt called Cascades. It is blue all the way down to Sixt where you hop on a bus to Samoens. I have heard it is a beautiful run that is very tranquil, however I have also been told it is a little flat at the top.
Review of Les Carroz snowboarding holiday: Eating out
On the first evening we fancied some traditional Savoyard food. We ate at Airelles restaurant, a cosy and romantic venue – pity I was with a friend rather than my wife. We shared a fondue, which was delicious and exactly how it should be. They served all the French mountain favourites, plus had a good range of steaks that looked amazing.
On our second evening we ate in Marlow Bar. We went for burgers that used hash browns instead of buns, and washed it all down with Leffe. It was a long way from traditional, but hearty mountain food that delivered on flavour and replacing burnt calories.
Review of Les Carroz snowboarding holiday: Apres
As mentioned we found L’Anfionne, a lively bar on the Plein Soleil run back into Les Carroz, and enjoyed the atmosphere for a few drinks. Once in resort there wasn’t an obvious a apres scene near the lifts, although there were a couple of quiet bars that perhaps would have been busier earlier in the season.
In town later on the bars around the main square including Marlow, Saint Jack, Carpediem and Cave 59 all got busy. There was a good mix of British holidaymakers and locals with a really nice atmosphere. As it got later the bars became busier, there was a vibrant feel, and many people piled into the towns one nightclub – Club 74.
It was a very social crowd, much of it local, and all of it intent on having a good time. So much so that we didn’t leave until around three in the morning adding a surprise element to our review of Les Carroz snowboarding holiday.
Accommodation: Chalets de Jouvence review
No review of Les Carroz snowboarding holiday in Grand Massif would be complete without talking about the accommodation. We stayed in the Chalets de Jouvence self catering apartments that are about a five minute walk from town and are right next to a drag lift giving you access to the ski area.
The residences are split across a couple of buildings on opposite sides of the street. There is a plush reception with very friendly staff, common area and spa in the upper area. We were staying in the lower area which included secure underground parking.
The first impression when walking into our two bedroom apartment was ‘wow’. The apartment had a luxurious feel, with a high end finish, plenty of space, with comfy furniture and modern decoration. The kitchen was large and well equipped with everything you would expect and more.
The bedrooms were comfortable with plenty of space for two people and all their ski gear in each. There was also a sofa bed in the living area making the apartment suitable for six. There’s plenty of storage in the hall, a large bathroom, separate toilet and an ensuite bathroom off the master bedroom.
Although it is self catering you can get a breakfast selection delivered each morning. This provided the perfect start to the day without the hassle of having to leave the apartment.
One evening we visited the spa area to unwind after a hard days snowboarding. It has a surprisingly large indoor pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam room for guests to use. There are also a range of massage and beauty treatments available at a cost.
Overall it is one of the nicest self-catering apartments I have stayed in in the Alps. An apartment for one week in low season for four people costs just €1064, in high season this increases to €2300. This works out at around £200-£420 per person, per week, which is very reasonable for fantastic accommodation. Find out more at http://www.cgh-residences.co.uk/
Review of Les Carroz snowboarding holiday in Grand Massif: Conclusions
Les Carroz is not a resort that trades on its name, enticing skiers and snowboarders with promises of the best ski holiday on the planet. Instead it attracts locals and a large portion of repeat customers. In the bars I spoke to people who had been visiting Les Carroz for a ski holidays every season for many years.
I asked why they came back and got a variety of answers that boiled down to it being cheaper than big name resorts with quieter but still top quality slopes, plus that the town felt authentic, friendly and real. I have to say I agree with their opinions.
To conclude my review of Les Carroz snowboarding holiday in Grand Massif I’ll say it massively over delivered on my expectations. It is not big, brash and in your face but Les Carroz does everything well at a reasonable price. You haven’t got the freeride of Chamonix, the party of Val ‘d’Isere or the 650km of piste available from Morzine but it doesn’t pretend to have those things.
What a Les Carroz snowboarding holiday in Grand Massif does have is a large and varied ski area, plenty of freeride opportunity and all without the crowds. It also has a fun and friendly nightlife, which although not banging every night will keep a part time partier happy. All at a reasonable price and served by locals who truly care about the resort.
To find out more about Les Carroz visit: http://winter.grand-massif.com/les-carroz