Club Med – How Will It Affect Me?

An Insight into the Changing Face of Samoëns

Club Med Samoëns - how will it affect me?

Following years of negotiation, Samoëns has officially won the bid to become the newest member of the Club Med family and construction has begun at Samoëns 1600m.  Its great news for Samoëns’ international reputation, but what might it mean for you as a skier?

The development involves the construction of a 930-bed village at Samoëns 1600m, on what used to be La Char piste.  Club Med offers 3 levels of luxury within its resorts (each ranked as a 3, 4 or 5 “trident” property), and Samoëns’ development will fall within the 4-trident category.  The resort will operate during the summer and winter seasons, closing during spring and autumn.  It will offer an all-inclusive package to its clients, including full board accommodation, meals, ski equipment, lift passes, lessons and childcare.

Local opinion is divided.  On one hand, the development is expected to bring international prestige to Samoëns.  Club Med’s powerful marketing machine has already begun advertising Samoëns as a luxury destination to international visitors, which is expected to offer a significant boost to the reputation of the area (as has proven to be the case as a result of every other Club Med implantation) and to benefit the local economy as a result.  Where other Club Med resorts have been built, an increase in local property prices and rental rates has been recorded.

Opponents argue that the development will have a negative environmental impact, with staff, clients and supplies relying on vehicular transport to access Samoëns 1600m.  There is also much talk about the impact that 1800 additional skiers might have on the flow of skiers to and from the plateau each day.

To counteract this burden of additional skiers, Club Med is to participate significantly towards the development of additional pistes and lifts, the purpose of which will be to facilitate a better flux of movement to and from Samoëns 1600m.  These new facilities will benefit the Grand Massif’s general ski public and, without the Club Med’s investment, such major changes would simply not be possible.

So what sort of changes might you expect to see in years to come?

  • Some 25 million euros worth of investment in improved piste and lift infrastructure is planned to significantly reduce lift queues during busy periods, offering the solution to what is currently a critical problem for Samoëns.
  • The Babuches button lift will depart from slightly higher up, making for a gentler embarkation and allowing skiers from the beginner zone to access it more easily.
  • La Char button lift and blue piste will be removed entirely to make space for Club Med’s 930-bed apartment complex, which will extend all the way from the GME to the road below La Char.  The resort is designed with an organically contoured, grassed rooftop designed to render the development less visible from the plateau.
  • Below Lou Caboëns restaurant, a privatised ESF children’s garden and ESF adult’s beginner area will be created for exclusive use by Club Med guests.
  • The TGD gondola will be removed to make space for a new multi-function building, which is to be constructed straddling the road (beside where the tunnel currently is and extending onto what was previously car parking space).  This building is currently planned to house seasonnaire accommodation, an ESF sales office, a picnic hall, ski lockers, public toilets and a lift pass office.
  • The Demoiselles lift (currently a 2-seat chair) is to be replaced with a 6-man chair.
  • The Grand Crêt chairlift (which brings skiers from Vercland to Samoëns 1600)  is to be removed.
  • The Plateau button lift (near l’Aero) is to be updated, with the line straightened and a new embarkation zone to be created above where it currently exists, designed to facilitate easy access from the beginner zone.
  • Snow canons are being installed down the Grand Crêt piste in Vercland (the goal being to encourage skiers to descend via Vercland rather than via the GME, in order to help ease end-of-day queues during peak periods).
  • La Lanche chairlift is to be removed.
  • Several pistes are set to be constructed in the Combe de Coulouvrier (between Samoëns and Morillon), along with a chairlift carrying skiers back to the Tête des Saix.  This new lift will be accessible from the Samoëns beginner plateau, the goal being to offer a new means for skiers to access the Tête des Saix (and thus reducing pressure on the Chariande Express).
  • Major earthworks will take place on the Tête de Saix to flatten the mountaintop and create a new plateau, facilitating smoother transition between Samoëns, Morillon, Les Carroz and Flaine resorts.

Further plans for exciting infrastructure changes are also currently under discussion and decisions are yet to be taken.

So how will Club Med’s arrival affect the average skier?  The downside is that it’ll mean a reduction in the size of Samoëns’ beginner zone as a result of the privatisation of the zone once occupied by the La Char and Babûches slopes.  In exchange however, the upside feels significant; an array of new pistes, new lifts and new snow canons that will encourage a far more fluid flow of ski traffic to and from Samoëns during peak periods.

The face of Samoëns is undoubtedly set to change and it feels as if the resort may be on the brink of an exciting new era.  We at ZigZag eagerly anticipate the fresh new look and modernised facilities set to be unveiled in years to come.

( This is non-official information as currently understood by ZigZag.  The idea of this post is simply to help inform the local non-French speaking community, as a helping hand.  If you choose to post a message below, please don’t shoot the messanger – we have no influence on any decisions, we’re just reporting the facts as we understand them! )

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Comments

  1. Susan Alton
    July 13th

    Thank you for sharing this with us. Clear and concise facts without the emotion which has gone into previous posts on other social media sites.

  2. Is there going to be a replacement chair for the Lanche chair to get back up to Morillon or over to Samoens?

    • ZigZag
      July 15th

      Hi Louise – new pistes will be created from both Morillon & Samoëns down into the Combe de Coulouvrier, from where skiers will ride a new lift up to the Tête des Saix. The idea is to create a lift better protected from wind so that links are more likely to remain open in rough weather.

  3. Very interesting but my question is will they replace the slow/outdated bubble lift from Vercland up to Samoens 1600?

    • ZigZag
      July 15th

      Hi Laurence – yes, the Vercland bubble is likely to be replaced as its warrant of fitness is due to expire. The Compagnie des Alpes is currently deciding what kind of replacement installation will best service skiers.

  4. Liz
    July 19th

    Hi,

    I have a question l’etelley environment will be affected with these new changes ?

    • ZigZag
      July 19th

      Hi Liz – at this stage no development has been announced affecting l’Etteley

  5. Mark
    July 25th

    Thanks for the information. Much appreciated.
    Do you know if the lift improvements and piste expansion are legally binding as far as Club Med are concerned? It seems that it’s full steam ahead with the hotel etc but do you know when they plan to develop the ski area? Without this expansion coinciding with the opening of the new resort, the Chariande Express queues will be almost comical come the February holidays. Moreover, the runs back down to Samoens will be even more crowded – and dangerous- than they are already.

    I have mixed feelings about the development as improvements are needed but the extra traffic up to 1600 cannot be a good thing. Also, encouraging tourists to come from other continents, as seems to be the plan, only adds to the resort’s carbon footprint. Given that ski areas will be at the sharp end of climate change this doesn’t seem very sensible. I have an apartment in the village so rising property prices and rental yields might seem like a good thing but it comes at a big cost. Higher prices drives out the locals which means that, during the off season, Samoens will become quieter and quieter.

    I’m not against development but we all chose Samoens because it wasn’t Morzine or Chamonix. Let’s hope this is all done sensibly and within limits.

    • ZigZag
      July 27th

      Hi Mark, I’m afraid we’re not in the loop in terms of legal contracts between Club Med and the CDA.

      All piste and lift upgrades mentioned are happening within the next few years (major projects take time) and all are designed to ease the congestion we currently experience during peak periods. Samoëns could never have afforded such development without Club Med’s participation. Even with additional skiers, the new lifts and pistes will reduce the bottlenecking problems we currently complain about, which feels like a win for all skiers.

      Public consultation has been underway for several years – you might like to join the Samoëns 1600 Amenagement association (http://samoens1600amenagement.fr/) to add your voice to the discussion.

  6. Mark
    July 25th

    Also, does anyone know if FuniFlaine is happening?
    If Samoens gets busier, more links to Flaine are needed.

    • ZigZag
      July 27th

      More links to Flaine are certainly being developed (with help from the funding provided by Club Med), meaning the links between all Grand Massif resorts are due to improve vastly in upcoming years. FuniFlaine is a funicular under discussion from Magland to Flaine, so it perhaps won’t really affect Samoëns directly.

  7. Wottie
    July 29th

    Hi, thanks for this update on the Club Med development and new investment in the GM Ski Area. Very helpful. There has been talk of a link from Samoens up into the Portes du Soleil ski area. Whilst unrelated to Club Med, do you know the status of this proposal or is it dead?

    • ZigZag
      August 3rd

      Hi Wottie, I’m afraid we don’t have any solid info on this, sorry.

  8. Paul Carter
    August 20th

    Really helpful info, thanks for that. Do you know if there has ever been consideration of extending the runs down to Vercland with new piste above Chez Renand to get all the way back down to the GME? It would need a fair bit of work but would solve a lot of the congestion problems at the top of the GME at the end of the day.

    • ZigZag
      August 22nd

      Hi Paul, no problem. We understand this has been on the table for a long time but a feasible solution has not been found yet. As we understand, short term, during peak periods skiers will be encouraged to descend into Vercland at the end of the day with regular buses back to the GME.

  9. Nigel
    August 21st

    I must be missing a trick. The new 6 man chair lift (Coulouvrier) will start at less than 1200m (at Echarny). A height of 1600m seems just about sustainable snow-wise throughout the season (who knows in the future with global warning). Tell me I’m wrong!

    • ZigZag
      August 22nd

      Hi Nigel, you might be right but I’m afraid we don’t have any solid info on this. I’m sure the development team has anticipated this and the project would only be validated if deemed snow-sustainable.

  10. John
    August 28th

    Hi I spend my winters and summers in samoens and love it for its natural beauty and its pledge to the environment. However, looking at the comments made and the plans submitted by Club Med it looks like on the surface that Club Med customers will be those that will see the major benefits, unfortunately to the detriment of other visitors who try to make it up or off the mountain. Changing and moving a few button lifts and a 2 seater chair lift which is vertually never used at the start of the process will make little or not difference to lift queues. Links into Flaine as we know are always an issue during Busy periods and with a further potential 1800 visitors the strain will be felt immediately and health and safety on the slopes must be an issue. I’m all for building local opportunities and the economy but being a self contained business model Club Med will use economy of scale to look after its own profit margin local business such as boulangerie tiffanie will not be providing their croissants!!! We have all seen big corporate giants making big promises and under delivering on those promises I hope Samoens is not going to regret their decision.

    • ZigZag
      August 31st

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts John. Public consultation has been undertaken at great length, with a great emphasis on environmental impact and on management of increased ski traffic. We certainly all love sleepy Samoëns just the way it is (probably much like the local farmers did before the first ski lifts were introduced!). Change is inevitable and its not all bad. Onwards and upwards – there are major infrastructure changes in the pipeline!

  11. Jas
    September 3rd

    Thanks for the good information on this. Do you know what the impact will be for this season (2016-2017)? Will they be building over the winter, during the weekends etc? We are considering staying in Samoens 1600 this winter but noone at the Tourist Office could tell us if construction is happening this winter or not. Will the plateau be fully operational (restaurants, nursery slopes etc)? Many thanks.

    • ZigZag
      September 5th

      Hi Jas, our understanding is that the Club Med will be doing interior work over the winter and that this won’t affect anything else on the plateau. All restaurants, nursery slopes and other businesses will certainly be functioning as normal. The Club Med is required to have returned the plateau to a ski-ready state before the lifts open, so rest assured you can go ahead and book your holiday!

  12. Freestyle
    October 1st

    Hello Zig zag! Thanks for all this information and you are good to answer everyone’s queries with great positivity. We wonder if it’s possible to open the GME much earlier in the mornings during busy periods? It is quite the struggle to get small children to the zig zag lessons on time considering the GME queuing time (and the children need the toilet by the time they get to the plateau having queued for so long) and the inadequate numbers of toilets mean more queuing at the top for the loos. 4 female toilets for hundreds of people is just not enough.
    Possible solutions:
    Earlier GME opening
    More toilets close to meeting points on the plateau
    Later ski lesson start times
    I see too many stressed parents chivvying their children along and the children are anxious before lessons even start. And this is supposed to be a holiday – and an expensive holiday too – so it would be good if zig zag has a voice with any GM management people who might be able to make a difference and make some changes to improve customer experience? All the infrastructure improvement is great but for many people it is the small things that make a big difference – especially when choosing to return to a report or not.

    • Freestyle
      October 1st

      *resort not report

    • ZigZag
      October 9th

      Hi Alison, glad you liked the article.

      We at ZigZag are conscious that getting to morning lessons on time during busy periods can be a struggle, which is why our earliest lessons begin at 09h15, which is 15 minutes later than other local schools. We also offer a range of lesson hours, so you can always sign up for a later start if the morning session feels too early.

      The good news is that new public toilet facilities are planned as part of the redevelopment of Samoëns 1600m in collaboration with Club Med.

      In terms of resort opening hours, its important to remember that the lift system can only open once all the pistes have been made safe for the ski public. The safety patrollers start work at dawn and work as fast as possible to get the resort open in a safe manner. You can contact the Grand Massif directly via gmd.service-clients@compagniedesalpes.fr or via this online expression form to put forward your suggestions directly.

  13. Alison Wood
    October 16th

    That’s great news – thank you for such comprehensive feedback! ????

  14. Richard
    October 17th

    Controlled Development that contributes to the environment and allows more visitors to wonder at the delights of the mountain are always welcome . Sleepy Samoens needs awakening people are on holiday they want apres ski , good restaurants, nice shops , lively bars etc. If the resorts of the GM stand still we will just perish and become run down with no investment and guess what people will complain ! If you don’t like the lift que start cross country skiing or ski touring or avoid peak times. The lift from Samoens/verchaix to Morzine/let’s Gets has been whispered about for over 30 years I don’t see it happening in the next 30 ???? (Even though the commune of Verchaix owns much of the land in Les Gets) Let’s all just hope we get plenty of snow this season and a little earlier than last season. The corbalanche 6 person chair lift is another great addition and long overdue .

  15. Tracey
    October 23rd

    Thanks ZigZag for the information, really helpful to have a better understanding on what is happening. Having owned in Samoens for 15 years now, we do feel sad to see such major development taking place, the village feel that prompted us to buy here has gradually been changing and MGM properties are certainly having an impact already on that – in fairness to Club med due to nature of their offering if the other lift investment follows this is likely to bring better things that MGM have to the village, although I worry that the skiing will just become too busy all the time rather than the peaks and flows we currently see.

  16. Lynne
    October 30th

    Thank you Zig Zag for this great update – we were very concerned in July this summer after visiting 1600 as it’s an absolute mess and we couldn’t see how skiers would exit the gondola and get onto the pistes. The beginner area will be completely different.
    Having skied in Samoens for 23 years and owning a property for 12 years – Samoens is not the place we first visited and fell in love with – locals were against the new gondola and development in the village 15 years ago.
    Our property was a year late so not too hopeful that things will be completed on time at 1600, as most developments seem to run right up to the wire. We have embraced the changes to date but fear this is a step too far.
    Long term the resort needs more development for the ski area – its far too congested peak times, so much so that we chose not to ski during these periods, however in the short term we are concerned how the resort will cope in peak periods until the new ski areas are upgraded.
    As everyone is saying it’s arrived and we need to embrace the change! We are grateful for the past 23 years and hope that we will love the new changes – only time will tell!

  17. Colin Chapman
    October 31st

    as an owner in Morillon, any creation of new pistes and facilities is wholly welcomed…………

  18. The slopes at Samoens1600 to Tete de Saix and to Morillion, Les Carroz and Flaine are already crowded enough during the peak season.The thought of another 1800 people on the slopes will make them very dangerous. Also how 1800 guests are going to be transported from the valley to 1600 does not bear thinking about. The road is narrow and has many hairpin bends. The whole concept is complete madness and is purely driven by greed. I have been skiing at Samoens for 20 years and have seen a great deal of gradual change. This Club Med plan will kill Samoens.

    • ZigZag
      November 8th

      Thanks for expressing your thoughts Rupert; let’s hope you’re wrong !

      • I am not sure how well you know Samoens but the access to 1600 by road is not at all good. Even out of season, the slopes at week ends get used by locals and the Swiss because of its proximity to Geneva. Sundays can be mad. I agree that aspects such as the Tete de Saix need improvement but by upgrading a couple of lifts and perhaps creating a new piste to Morillion from Tete de Saix is not going to absorb 1800 people. The Grand Massif Express as good as it is, came at a price and that is the new houses (Mainly holiday homes) on the Sixt side of the village. In the last 20 years, the village has lost some of its charm with the demise of some shops. The only plus is that not many Club Med guests will venture into the village because of the road and GME not running at night. Once they are at 1600, they will probably stay there. Also how will Club Med be serviced by suppliers? Not very easily I can assure. The whole concept has not been properly thought through.

        • ZigZag
          November 10th

          Thanks Rupert, your concerns are certainly valid (and you can rest assured, we know Samoëns very, very well!). I can confirm that the issues you raise and many others have been discussed at length during the last few years of planning and public consultation. Let’s hope that the development’s positives outweigh the negatives!

  19. Rich
    December 30th

    Hi
    Any update on the current status of the development?
    Which pistes are closed for this season and which, if any, new lifts are operational?
    Has the top of Tete de Saix been significantly improved?
    Is the new hotel open?

    Thanks

    • ZigZag
      February 28th

      Hi Rich, all development is paused during the winter season so that the ski resort can operate. Works will begin afresh in earnest this Spring.
      – Pistes removed since last year : La Char
      – New lifts operational in Samoëns since Dec 2016 : Saix Express, Demoiseilles, Damoiseaux
      – It is our understanding that redevelopment of the Tête de Saix will begin in the spring/summer 2017
      – The Club Med opening is scheduled for December 2017

  20. Rupert Ballantyne
    February 28th

    I returned from Sameons a month ago and saw the monstrosities that Club Med are building. Yes there have been some lift improvements but on Sunday Feb 5th, when it was snowing heavily and it was also the first day of the French half terms, the pistes were very busy. Tat was just a taste of what it will be like everyday once Club Med opens in December 2017. It would appear that many locals are very unhappy with the development. No wonder that Patrick is selling up in the Aspen Bar in town. Samoens will soon lose its delightful charm which was the reason that it has many stalwart regular visitors. Those regular visitors including myself will now look elsewhere. In response the above question, the tete de Saix has not as yet been leveled out. However the new lift from Les Molliets to tete de Saix is large and quick.

    • ZigZag
      February 28th

      Hi Rupert, yes the February holiday weeks are always peak period. The development of the Combe de Coulouvrier will offer new pistes and a fast new lift to drain traffic from Samoëns, which will be a real game-changer. Hopefully like many locals you’ve signed the enquête publique to show your support in order to ensure the Colouvrier piste and lift developments are able to proceed. All these works are an important part of the larger project, which may take a couple of years to come to fruition. In the meantime, personally we love Samoëns more than ever and will do all we can to actively participate in ensuring a bright future for the local community.

  21. Hello Zig Zag,

    I did not hear about the enquete publique when there. Can I sign on line? Also where is the new piste/lift Colouvrier starting and finsihing?

  22. Thank you Zig Zag but my school boy French struggled with the document. Can you tell me where the combe de Colouvrier will start and finish. Also what grade run is it likely to be. Its good to hear that the redevelopment of Tete de Saix. That narrow section down to the 3 electric pylons gets so busy at times. Has Patrick now left the Aspen Cafe? I heard that he was leaving in Mid March.

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