5 days in the Grand Massif

Pierre has been an outstanding skier since he was a child! Myriam... Less so (despite a certain talent for snowploughing, learned not without pain during a short week in 2012). Our challenge in five days: to make the most of our first stay in the mountains for 4 years and (re)learn to ski, sitting for one, standing for the other... Easy!

Base camp : les Carroz d'Arâches ! We tell you all about it in details... But first, a little video preview: 

The Grand Massif: a little history / geography

At the gateway to Switzerland and Italy, the Grand Massif was created in 1983 from the merger of 5 resorts: Les Carroz, Flaine, Samoëns, Morillon and Sixt. Skiers of all levels will find something to suit them on the 265 kilometres of pistes !

Les Carroz was the first ski resort in Haute Savoie to be built in 1939. It welcomed the first ski lift and made the region famous... Not to mention the charm of its comfortable chalets and the ever warm welcome of its inhabitants!

How to get there?

Nothing could be easier!

  • The Grand Massif domain is directly accessible by car from the A40 motorway (it takes about forty minutes to get to Les Carroz from the motorway exit)
  • If you come by train, the nearest station is Cluses
  • By plane,Geneva airport is only 1 hour away from the estate

More information on access to the domain here!

Now that you know how to get there... Let's take a look at what you can do there? Let's start with handi-skiing, or sit-skiing: a whole programme...

Sitting skiing... Is that possible?

And not just a little! New sensations, new equipment, new techniques... Pierre tells you everything you need to know when you are a beginner!

How does it work?

Each skier has his own equipment! Like everyone else, before hitting the slopes, you will need to find the right equipment for you: uni-ski (seat shell on a single ski), dual-ski (the same, but with two skis underneath. More stable but less manoeuvrable), kart-ski (like the previous one, but with skis that are further apart and steering levers, for people who have difficulty gripping).

If you are afraid of being alone or do not have the necessary physical abilities, there are also tandem systems! In this case, the hull is directly attached to the instructor's skis (or any other experienced skier) so that you can ski down the slopes in complete peace of mind... In short, there is something for everyone!

I chose a uni-ski, which is easier to handle for a start...

How to get the material?

Rental in Les Carroz

For Myriam, it was quite simple: as every year for the past 15 years, we rented her equipment from Ski 2000. Sylvain and his team will be able to equip you from head to toe in the best way (count about 100€ for beginner equipment for a week: skis, poles, boots and helmet)! In addition to the smiling welcome and quality service for your choice of equipment, you will find at Ski 2000 a real expertise on boots. Regular skiers will find their happiness in a tailor-made boot made for their greatest comfort!

Good plan: get a 10% discount when you visit Sylvain from Wheeled World!

Handi-ski equipment

For me, this seemed less obvious. By asking around, we learned that in many resorts, handi-ski associations offered equipment loans. In Samoëns, the best equipped resort in the area, it is the Handi-Glisse association which proposes to make the mountain accessible to all, summer and winter. Their premises are located on the slopes, at the arrival of the Grand Massif Express gondolas and have all the types of equipment mentioned above... In several copies!

You can have access to this equipment for free by taking lessons with one of the schools in the area if you are a beginner, or for a deposit if you are a seasoned disabled skier.

Once equipped... How do I learn?
Which school?

For our return to the slopes after more than 4 years, we had to take ski lessons again, of course. On the Grand Massif ski area, several options are available.

We decided to contact theESF of Samoëns, which works with Handi-Glisse, and one of their instructors called me a few days before our arrival. Objective: to know myself better in order to choose my equipment better, for a serene learning experience!

Who are the handi-ski instructors?

They are instructors like any other, but they have undergone specific training. Theoretically (understanding the different types of disabilities and their consequences) and practically(they themselves are put in a situation on seated ski equipment).

In all areas, don' t hesitate to contact local schools if you want to learn to ski sitting down. Most of them have a handi-ski section on their website, and if not, they will be able to direct you to the right people.

How did it work out in practice?

To start, the ESF advised me to take two-hour sessions over 5 days: it may seem short, but the effort is quite intense! As the lessons can be taken in pairs, Myriam was able to join us... All for 460€!

A gentle start: we spent the first four days on two green runs. The objective was above all to find my balance: the sensations are not at all the same as before!

I thought I could ski alone after the first week, but I was quite surprised! Like me, it will certainly take several weeks before you can ski without an instructor. And this even if the use of the stabilos, my new "poles" (skates attached to a crutch-shaped hook at the level of the arms), is becoming more and more intuitive. From now on, they will allow me to turn, while using my pelvis to guide the chassis.

On the last day, a climb to the Tête des Saix gave us a change of scenery and allowed us to put into practice everything I had learned, this time on blue and red runs. It was a great pleasure to be back on the slopes that I have always known! I can't hide the fact that the sensations are completely new being so close to the snow! You feel the speed much more when you are facing the slope!

Some practical information...

You canbuy your ski pass directly at the foot of the lifts. Don 't forget your disability card, which gives you a discount on the initial price. We took each day a 4 hours pass for the 4 villages: 45€ for 2 per day with insurance included, instead of 84€ (the first time, count 1,5€ per magnetic card).

We were pleasantly surprised at how much was being done to welcome the seated skiers to the area. You can't miss the signs at the lift entrances. And to get there, don't worry: the boarding is entirely supervised by the staff of the lifts, with or without a ramp depending on your needs. Access like clockwork...

Our favourite hikes

Skiing is good... But the mountain is not only that! Here is a small overview of our favourite walks and hikes...

Sentier Haute-Combe: a hike ofabout an hour which starts from the Molliets chairlift (10 minutes by car from Les Carroz). If you are in a wheelchair, be well equipped for the many small hills to climb! In winter, the snow covers this path often used for dog sled rides... Powdery weather: for the able-bodied, bring snowshoes!

Col de Pierre Carré: in winter, the Flaine golf course becomes a playground for everyone. Hikers and cross-country skiers rub shoulders in a dream setting. Weather permitting, you can see the Swiss Jura mountain range behind the Môle. The sunset is worth the diversions!

Les Grandes Platières : From Flaine, take the cable car that will take you to the Grandes Platières plateau at an altitude of 2,480 metres! In good weather, you won't be disappointed by the view: a breathtaking 180° panorama of the Mont Blanc range!
To make it easier for you to get here, there are parking spaces for PRMs at the foot of the lifts (follow Flaine Forum and go to the end of the road). Be careful not to arrive too late: the journey takes about 15 minutes and the last descent is at 4.30pm!

Our good addresses
Where to sleep?

As far as accommodation is concerned, we have to admit that we are lucky. We stayed in the family flat in Les Carroz. The advantage is that it is available on Airbnb . If it is absolutely not up to standard(we prefer to warn you right away), it remains accessible under certain conditions (the doors inside the flat are 73cm. The bathroom was fitted last year. There are two steps into the building, but a removable ramp is available in the flat).

Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions! If this one doesn't suit you, there are many other Airbnb's available in Les Carroz.

To be sure of finding accessible accommodation, we recommend that you target hotels or the Club Med in Samoëns...

Where to get a drink?

In Samoëns 1600, after your lesson, take the time to enjoy the good weather on the terrace of the restaurant Au Pré d'Oscar. Fully accessible, even at the top of the slopes! After the effort, you can even accompany your fresh drink with a hot and hearty dish...

If you are staying in Les Carroz, the bar at Marlow is a favourite spot for local beer lovers... and classic beers!

Where to eat?

For dinner, here are some restaurants we liked:

  • The Marlow: because it's not all beer and the atmosphere is warm and relaxed, with hearty dishes
  • Aux Petits Oignons: a restaurant offering typical local dishes, located just outside the entrance to Les Carroz from Arâches
  • Le Poirier : a pizzeria in the Carroz Est, less typical of the area but very efficient after a day outdoors!

And because we love local products, especially in Savoie...

If you want to bring back local products, don't miss the Grenier Savoyard! This grocery shop will delight your taste buds with its charcuterie, cheeses, drinks and jams of all kinds! (note: they even lend raclette and fondue machines if you don't have one at your disposal...)

Some useful information in a wheelchair...

The Grand Massif is very wheelchair accessible, both in public places like bars and restaurants and on the slopes.

Before you set off, however, take two things with you to deal with the snow: cross wheels to ensure grip and skates Wheelblades to prevent the front wheels from getting bogged down! With these two things in place, you'll be able to tackle a lot of obstacles! 

The main accesses in the resorts are generally well laid out to allow you to get around easily and independently. When you go for a walk, a little help will not be refused... especially in the powder! Choose well-groomed paths (the best ones are the cross-country ski trails) so that you don't sink into the snow... But be careful not to damage skiers' tracks!

Find all the accessibility information on our good addresses and visited sites on jaccede.com!

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