Chamonix or Samoens?
Category: Locations > Samoens | 12th Nov, 2014
Rhiannon Cook looks at two ski resorts in the French Alps - I am the Chamonix representative for France Property Angels and have lived in Chamonix for almost ten years. During this time I have skied and spent time in many of the other ski resorts in the northern French Alps.
It's hard to compare Chamonix to any other ski resort or village really; it is a unique town with an incomparable spirit and enriched with a long history of mountaineering, alpinism and adventure. This has turned it into a multinational home to a large number of French, Italian, English, Swedish, Russian, Romanian, Slovenia and nationalities from all over the world, all with one common passion - the great outdoors! Whilst in Chamonix you still get the benefits of living in France, great wine, tempting cheese, lazy lunch breaks and a laissez faire attitude, you would not want to come to Chamonix to learn French! The young locals grow up speaking perfect English, the English all speak bad French, the Swedish better English than we do, and the Russians speak Russian and only Russian! All in all, a night in a bar in Chamonix is unlikely to get you immersed in a French lesson but it is more than likely that you will have a good time.
Over the mountain in the village of Samoens, they have managed to keep hold of their nationality a little more strongly. Walking into a bakery in Samoens you will most likely be at least greeted in French, if not be required to hold a full conversation if you are to get away with what you are after. You won't find a shop open between 12 and 2 (not even the bakery), and quite rightly no one is likely to pick up the phone, answer the door, right an email or generally do anything other than eat and relax between those hours. As for bar activity, you will more than likely be speaking French all night - but also more than likely be in bed by 10 o'clock! When you compare the skiing in Chamonix and Samoens you realise quickly that they are worlds apart.
Chamonix 5 resorts are spread out over the valley needing car access between them. There is a bus service, but if you want to get onto a bus in the busy period, you need to get a contortionist qualification. Its generally jam packed, and in fact you are lucky if it even stops for you. Having said that, they are trying to make public transport in the valley better with more frequently running trains and new electronic buses but I generally just see these buses stuck at the side of the road with their hazard lights on so I am not sure how well that is going!
In Samoens, you may be able to walk to your lift or if not there is a good free bus service running throughout the day. Once you have taken the lift you spend the rest of the day in the mountains away from any cars, buses or trains, enjoying what it is you came to do - ski, and get away from - traffic! When you do finally get to the skiing in Chamonix, it quickly becomes obvious why the queues are there. The skiing is world class, the terrain and elevation unbeatable. If you are prepared to venture off piste - you can live here for a life time and never get bored - I have only just scratched the surface in the ten years that I have been here, and I ski regularly. Whilst understandably not ideal for young families and beginners, there are baby slopes that are just fine to learn on, and you then have a never ending learning curve that will keep you entertained for ever. Whilst I am sure that the Grand Massif provides great skiing, it cannot be compared to the skiing offered in the Mont Blanc region.
The property prices in Chamonix are high compared to other resorts in the Haute Savoie, but for obvious reason. Chamonix might not be the easiest ski town to move around but what it does have is the Mont Blanc and that will never change. This simple fact means that the town will always be on the map, always visited, there will always be people looking for rentals, and always landlords making good investments. There is a supply and demand issue due to lack of land left to build on, also resulting in increased property prices - something that will also never change due to the nature of the valley. On top of that it is a great town, always vibrant, modern and somewhere you can find more than just cheese and potatoes in the restaurants. I have had some great meals in Samoens, and I know you can find a lot more for your money here in terms of property. It's a quiet life in the village of Samoens, and a beautiful one, but I am afraid as I am sure you can sense so far, I am completely biased towards Chamonix!
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