It’s often difficult to distinguish one French ski resort from another, sprawls of mock chocolate box style chalets, with sweeping wooden rafters, and ornate carvings. However, the resort of Flaine in France has non of these trappings, and you’d be forgiven for being initially disappointed by the architecture here, which on first glance could seem quite industrial.
Yet in spite of this underwhelming first impression, it’s the only ski resort built in the 1960s to be listed in the French Historical Monuments Survey. Discovered in 1959 by geophysicist Eric Boissonnas and the Swiss architect Gérard Chervaz, the couple entrusted the resort design to Bauhaus master, Marcel Breuer, well known for his creations including the the Palais de l’Unesco in Paris and the Whitney Museum in New-York.
From the off, Marcel was determined to respect nature, being careful not to disturb the natural surroundings and to integrate the resort into the mountains, blending it with the environment’s contours, which is why the different resort levels cannot be seen from one to the other. This respect for nature continues today, with not a single electrical cable on show, a non polluting heating plant and a car free resort centre. While the buildings on first glance may seem slightly out of place, in comparison to wooden mountain huts, on closer inspection the architecture is much more in tune with its surroundings than you’d expect.
Every structure is based on a light, shadow principle, with the buildings each named after a constellation of stars and cut like diamonds so the sun’s rays shine on them at different angles making them glitter. And it’s not just the buildings that attract art lovers from around the world. Thanks to Eric and Sylvie the resort boasts a wealth of monumental works of art, Le Boqueteau by Jean Dubuffet, La Tête de Femme by Pablo Picasso and Les Trois Hexagones by Victor Vasarely. The auditorium is home to a Pol Bury fountain.
The history of the resort is also somewhat of a fairytale. Legend has it that a giant walked into the mountain and decided to sleep in the bowl on a pillow, the bowl was known as Flainoz and the resort became known as Flaine. And it’s not just the accommodation that’s unique here, the mountain range is made up of lapia that creates dips and sudden drop offs. In the summer you won’t find grass here, just a volcanic landscape.
The resort boasts over 170km of groomed piste which caters well for beginners and intermediates. And the quick transfer from Geneva airport and car free resort center makes this Grand Mastiff resort a hit with families.
Everything is easy here, with an elevator to take you from one resort level to another, a free ski shuttle and masses of great self catering accommodation.
Our base for the weekend was the New Pierre & Vacances 5* Les Terrasses d’Helios Residence, a ski-in ski-out position with 119 light, airy colour schemed apartments with retro style furniture. All the accommodation has balconies and terraces to enjoy the views from and a number feature a fireplace for cosy nights in. The apartments sleep four to eight people and the residence boasts a Deep Nature relaxation area (treatment rooms, sauna, steam room and relaxation room) and indoor heated swimming pool.
If you can tear yourself away from the comfort of your chalet, and an afternoon on the slopes isn’t enough of an adrenalin hit, then why not spin around a few laps of the resort’s ice driving track. At 1km long it’s the largest in France and you’ll be in the safe hands of owner Eric Carton who has 28 years experience. For dinner, make sure you head to Le Michet, it’s the oldest building in Flaine, houses an open fire in the middle of the room, cow hide throws, exposed brick walls and wooden vaulted ceilings. The food here is traditional mountain food, so is a great place to share a fondue and a bottle of wine from their extensive wine list.
And for night owls there’s no end of bars. Le White pub does a happy hour from 5-7pm, and there’s the Beastie Club for late night drinks.
Pierre & Vacances (www.pierreetvacances.com, 0870 0267 145) offers 7 nights at the five-star Terrasses d’Helios apartments from £903. Price does not include flights.
Direct flights to Geneva available from all major UK airports with a range of airlines from £76 return with Easy Jet. Premium breakfast for 4 people 120€ for 7 days in the apartment
English premium breakfast for 4 people 128€ for 7 days in the apartment
Grand Massif Lift Passes: Adult 1 day – €44.50 Children – €33.40, Adult 6 day – €231 Children – €173.30
Ski lessons with ESF Flaine start from 146€ for 5 days group adult lessons. Private tuition starts from 45€ for one hour. For more information on lessons in Flaine visit: www.esf-flaine.fr
Ice Driving Prices start from 200€ per person for a 2h30 min introductory session
Phone: + 33 (0)4 50 90 82 59
Paragliding Tandem ski paragliding sessions are available from 70€ with Flaine Parapente. Visit: www.flaine-parapente.com or call +33 (0)6 60 08 81 79
For more info about Flaine visit: www.flaine.com
Snowangel Top tips
1. There were further improvements for the 2014-2015 season. These include 3 brand new pistes and the 8-seater Aup Véran cable car.
2. One unusual feature of the resort is the green piste located at the domain top station. This enables beginners to learn amid the inspiring views of both the bowl and Mont Blanc before then riding back down in the cable car.
3. Flaine is often called the “big snowy bowl” due to it having one of the best snow records in the Alps.