There are lots of things that I look for when organising a family ski holiday but three things that top my list every time are great skiing, a pretty setting and snow-sure slopes. Admittedly, the latter is harder to guarantee with the world’s topsy-turvy weather but if I were to be granted my three wishes, this is what I would choose.
Welcome, then, to Les Carroz, a charming farming village turned ski resort that ticks all of my boxes – even guaranteed snow thanks to recent investment in some clever snow machines and being part of the Grand Massif, where the highest pistes are at 2,500m. The Grand Massif is France’s fourth largest linked ski area and is made up of five resorts: Les Carroz, Samoëns, Morillon, Sixt and Flaine meaning miles and miles of the French Alps to explore.
Les Carroz is arguably the prettiest of these five resorts, its older streets lined with traditional Savoyard buildings and the kind of picturesque boulangeries that you only find in France. A photo-worthy village and good skiing aside, Les Carroz also happens to be an excellent destination for families. Here’s all you need to know about visiting this alpine resort with kids.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Les Carroz Tourism for the purpose of this review. Please see my disclosure policy for more details.
Skiing in Les Carroz
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Of all the reasons why Les Carroz is a winning ski resort for families the location has to be at the top of the list. Located just one hour (yes, only an hour!) from Geneva airport, Les Carroz is so easily accessible you can even visit for a weekend of skiing.
The Grand Massif ski area covers 265km, which means you can ski for days and not have to do the same run twice. In Les Carroz itself, the nursery slopes are protected and there are lots of gentle blue runs nearby to move on to. Intermediate skiers will benefit from the whole Grand Massif area that has runs to suit all levels.
There are also some reportedly amazing powder bowels that we didn’t get the chance to try but I definitely want to next time I’m there as well as the moguls of the Diamant Noir (I love a good mogul run!). The only downside is that there is only one linking run between Les Carroz and Flaine – and the rest of the Grand Massif ski area – and it can get very busy. There are also snowparks in Les Carros as well as Flaine and Samoëns for boarders.
Ski schools in Les Carroz
There are two ski school options in Les Carroz, the traditional Ecole du Ski Francais (ESF) and ESI Grand Massif. Les Carroz also offers childcare options including La Souris verte nursery, for kids aged between 6 months and 3 years (pre-school age) that offers half- or full-day care. For children aged between 3- and 12-years, Le Loupiots offers half- or full-day child care that includes activities such ice skating and snow shoeing.
Even better, however, is the Kid ‘O’ Ski service. This service is available for children aged 4 to 12-year-old and is open from 8.30am to 5.30pm. It’s essentially a day care but one where staff take your kids to and from ski school and then look after them until you’re ready to pick them up. Other ski resorts take note, this is how you win over parents!
Other activities in Les Carroz
If your family is anything like ours you’ll spend most of your day on the slopes but if you do want a change of activity Les Carroz has lots on offer. One of my favourite things that we did was take a ride on the new Speed Dragoz, a type of alpine rollercoaster that runs on tracks below the Kédeuze gondola, the main ski lift in town. The sleds can fit 1 to 2 people and children as young as three can ride the rails although it does move at speed so it’s definitely better suited to mini-daredevils. Older kids, however, will love it!
Other activities include snow shoeing, dog sledding, and an ice rink. Ski Joëring is also an option, a winter sport whereby you’re pulled along on skis by a horse. For a post ski-soak there’s the Aquacîme, where you can swim in an outdoor pool that’s heated to 32C, which is hot although I would have happily had it even hotter given it was -4C outside. Indoors are steam rooms, saunas and a pool area with a bubble pool, massage jets and water cascades, almost like a grown-up splash park.
One evening activity that sounds particularly fun is learning how to be a Trapper. Families can learn the art of mushing through the snow, spurred on by the thought of dinner at the other end.
Ski touring in Les Carroz
Les Carroz offers plenty of downhill skiing terrain but there’s also the chance to walk uphill in skis. Every season, the resort hosts night-time ski touring events called Rando sous les étoiles (Starlit Trek). Held once or twice during the season, this local event sees ski tourers strap ‘skins’ onto the bottom of skis at dusk and hike from the village almost 650m up the mountain to the top of the main lift station. There, they are rewarded by a large pot of fondue before turning on their head torches and skiing back down again.
Before we set off we had a crash course in how to use our touring skis – the difference compared to downhill skis is that the bindings allow your heels to be free for hiking upwards and then are secured in place for skiing downhill. This was the first time I had ever tried ski touring and it was both exhilarating and exhausting.
As I trudged up the slopes with all the grace of a baby elephant I was passed by nearly all the locals who bounded up the mountain at double, if not triple, speed. Still, there’s something very special, and almost meditative, about hiking up a mountain on skis as the daylight fades and the stars appear.
What I really loved about this experience, however, was that it was a big local shindig, not just an event put on for visitors. The fondue party in restaurant Le K at the top of the mountain reminded me why I really love skiing in local villages that have a heart and soul rather than large purpose-built ski resorts. The next starlit walk takes place on March 20th 2019 although it’s only open to those aged 18 and over (find a babysitter for the kids!).
Where to stay in Les Carroz
There are lots of great family-friendly accommodation options in Les Carroz.
If you like your design with a Scandi edge then you’ll love the Milk Hotel. Located on the slopes for a perfect ski-in-ski-out holiday this hotel definitely boasts the best lounge in town with huge sofas, faux fur throws and a roaring fire. Rooms are comfortable and the family rooms have cleverly-designed bunk beds (although if you’re a family of five, like we are, then you’ll most likely have to take two rooms). A three-course dinner is included in the full-board rates and the food is very good. Rates are from €124 per night per person half board.
CGH Les Chalets de Leana
A good option for families are these simple but spacious apartments positioned two magic carpet rides away from the slopes. Some apartments have huge balconies overlooking the mountains and there’s a large swimming pool in the apartment complex that kids will love. The only downside is the patchy WiFi but if you’re on the slopes all day it’s not really a problem. Rates for CGH Les Chalets de Leana are from €868 for a week for a two-bedroom apartment.
Les Servage d’Armelle
The four-star Les Servages d’Armelle has the most incredible penthouse suite as well as a separate two-bedroom chalet to hire that is beautiful. Expect plenty of Savoyard charm as well as a huge living room with a sofa bed if you wanted to squeeze in a few more bodies. Rates start from €250 for a double room in the hotel.
When I go back to Les Carroz I would like to stay at Chalet Ascensus. The 16-bed chalet sits on the outskirts of town and is run by Xavier and Richard for whom nothing is too much trouble. They’ll ferry you in and out of town and will even book your ski passes in advance as well as arrange your transfer from Geneva.
The old farmhouse has been beautifully decorated with rooms that are bright and fresh and some fun original features highlighted such as the trough where the animals used to feed. The chalet can fit three to four families or a maximum of 13 adults and costs from €6,000 for the whole chalet, or €500 per person per week, including wine with dinner. Weekend and mid-week breaks from €125 per person per night.
Where to eat in Les Carroz
Dining options in Les Carroz are plentiful with lots of hearty Savoyard fare on offer – I practically ate my own body weight in cheese while I was here.
At the top of the gondola lift in Les Carroz is Le K, a lovely restaurant that’s also the setting for the post-ski touring fondue party. It’s a good lunch option although trying to ski after eating the croûte (bread soaked in white wine and topped with ham and melted cheese) was nigh on impossible.
Les Servages d’Armelle
Arguably the best restaurant in town, Les Servages d’Armelle is the place to come if you’re looking for something a little more upmarket. I enjoyed a meal of monkfish, calamari and chorizo and it was amazing.
Chalet Les Molliets
Housed within an old family farm this traditional mountain restaurant was one of my favourites. They also make a tasty croûte but their real speciality is the reblochonade, half a wheel of reblochon cheese served on an iron skillet and your very own table-top grill. Watch the cheese melt and then pair it with smoked salmon, cured meats and potatoes. Delicious.
Located in the centre of Les Carroz, Le Marlow is a lively restaurant and bar with a cheerful menu that includes kid-favourites such as omelettes and pizzas.