Photo: Le Grand Bornand – © Pascal Lebeau
Le Grand Bornand is the quintessential traditional French ski resort. It is the ideal destination for skiers that want world-class skiing without eye-watering prices and concrete high-rise buildings.
In this ultimate guide to Le Grand Bornand, we will give you all the information you need to determine if this is the place for you and how to get the most out of it once you arrive.
Le Grand Bornand is a traditional mountain village brimming with charm. It has over 400 wooden chalets that have retained their Savoyard style, providing the backdrop for an authentic French ski holiday. The oldest chalet was built in 1664 and still houses the same family.
To give you more of an idea of how unspoiled Le Grand Bornand is, there are nearly 40 farms still in operation. Many of the farms are situated in the Col des Annes pastures, famous for producing Reblochon cheese since the 13th century. The majority of Le Grand Bornand’s residents live and work there all year round.
Le Grand Bornand’s location makes it very convenient. It is only one hour from Geneva airport, making it one of the quickest ski resorts to get to. This is very welcomed after a long flight, especially if you have kids.
Staying in this area gives you the opportunity to choose between two villages, Le Grand Bornand and Le Chinaillon, which sits at a slightly higher altitude in the next valley.
Even with its traditional mountain village atmosphere, Le Grand Bornand is where most of the action happens. But, both villages are bustling all year round, thanks to their farming communities. The architecture of both villages are similar in their traditional style; even the more modern developments are in keeping with their surroundings. A reliable and very useful shuttle bus connects the two villages, which skiers and locals can use free of charge.
Le Grand Bornand Chinaillon is a traditional Savoyard village dotted with wooden chalets, the oldest of which was built in 1664.
ON THE MOUNTAIN
Le Grand Bornand is linked with La Clusaz, Manigod and St Jean de Sixt to create the Les Aravis ski area.
Most of the terrain actually lies on the slopes above Le Chinaillon. These varied pistes are directly accessible from the village via the high-speed La Floria chairlift. There are also some alternative chairlifts all over the valley. If you base yourself in Le Grand Bornand village, you can choose between two gondolas. The Le Rosay gondola is the longer of the two and gives you access to more challenging and steeper slopes.
At the highest point in the area, Mont Lachat (2100m), you will find a dedicated freeride area, which is spectacular on a powder day. If you want to feel like you are in the wilderness, head to the far end of the Vallée du Maroly. Here, you can also have lots of fun in the large snowpark, ranked as one of the top 5 best snowparks in France.
Less experienced skiers will enjoy the gentle novice areas just above Le Chinaillon. There is some easy stuff at the top of the La Joyère gondola too, which is ideal for those staying in Le Grand Bornand village.
The local ski area of Le Grand Bornand is going through a gradual modernisation program. In recent years we have seen the development of a new beginner’s area at the bottom of the slopes, while a couple of older lifts have been replaced with modern high-speed versions.
You can buy a full Les Aravis lift pass that allows you to explore the whole area. However, beginners and families may want to just buy the Le Grand Bornand pass. This will save you some money if you are not going to ski the whole area.
One of Le Grand Bornand’s advantages is that even though it only sits at 1,300m, it gets excellent snowfall each winter. This lower altitude also means that it doesn’t get too cold, and the air isn’t as thin as higher resorts. This makes it more pleasant for beginners and kids trying to get to grips with their skis or snowboards.
Le Grand Bornand is a family-friendly resort situated in the Aravis mountains behind Lake Annecy
Le Chinaillon is the best place to stay out of the two villages. It doesn’t have any five-star hotels, but there are some fantastic four-star self catered apartments. Here are our favourite ones in the resort.
Le Roc des Tours is a wonderful residence consisting of 39 apartments that comfortably sleep 2 to 8 people each. The spacious rooms are designed in a contemporary but cosy style. The cosiness is enhanced by the underfloor heating and the exceptionally comfortable beds.
Le Roc des Tours sits in a prime location at the bottom of the pistes. It is directly opposite the lifts of Chinaillon, making it super easy to get on the slopes quickly in the mornings. This is especially useful if you need to get your kids to ski school in the mornings. To add to the convenience of Le Roc des Tours, the residence team offers a range of services. Pastries, a selection of wines and champagnes and even shopping can be delivered to your apartment ready for your arrival. There is also an option to order a raclette grill, fondue set and a pierrade. This will allow you to enjoy local specialities on your balcony overlooking the dramatic alpine landscape in the true French style.
The residence has a wonderful wellness centre to help you relax and recuperate during your stay. The wellness centre has a calm atmosphere and includes an indoor swimming pool, sauna, hammam, hot tub and a fitness area. There is also an excellent range of massage treatments available to get you ready for the slopes.
Le Village de Lessy is a large residence of self-catered apartments. Even though it is one of the more modern buildings in the area, its design is still in keeping with the local style.
It is a four-star residence located in the centre of Chinaillon village, giving you easy access to the slopes. The building is incredibly convenient for its self-catered guests. On its lowest level, there is a mini-market and a few shops, including a well-equipped ski hire shop. It is also just across the road from the Tourist Office, which has a lift that takes you down to the slopes.
Guests of the residence can take full advantage of the private indoor heated swimming pool, which has panoramic views of the ski slopes and mountains. There is also a hot tub, sauna and steam room for relaxing and a fitness room to keep up your exercise regime.
In addition to all this, O des Cîmes Spa Centre is the perfect place to be pampered during your stay. Here you can choose from a selection of massages and beauty treatments from skilled staff members.
With a unique location next to the slopes, “Le Roc des Tours” favours intimate atmosphere with its 39 apartments with comfort and authenticity that can welcome from 2 to 8 people
EATING AND DRINKING IN LE GRAND BORNAND
Le Grand-Bornand is famous for serving traditional Savoyard food. One of which is péla, which is considered to be the “true” tartiflette. There are a few fantastic restaurants in Le Chinaillon and Le Grand Bornand villages and on the mountain. Here are some of our recommendations for lunchtimes and evening meals.
La Taverne is a restaurant set in a converted alpine barn. It serves fantastic local cuisine with epic views over the valley. It is located at the top of the La Taverne ski lift, making it very easy to find. The sunny terrace is a beautiful place to enjoy your lunch, but the cozy and welcoming interior is excellent on colder days.
The Auberge du Croix
The Auberge du Croix is a converted 18th Century chalet owned by the Angelloz Pessey family. Gisele, Jean-Pierre and Raphael welcome diners to sample traditional dishes either in the cosy authentic interior or on the terrace overlooking the Aravais landscape.
Along with traditional specialities such as grilled Reblochonnade farmer, Manigodine, Croziflette and fondues, you can expect other local dishes, such as Savoyard Omelettes, braised Diots, trout marinated with herb sauce with saffron risotto.
During the winter, the Auberge du Croix is a 15-minute walk on a groomed trail in the evenings. But during the day, it is just a 5-minute walk from the Joyere gondola.
Le Panoramic 1800
Le Panoramic 1800 unsurprisingly gives diners spectacular views at lunchtime. The restaurant is located at the top of the la Floria chairlift and has an excellent terrace for soaking up the sun while refuelling for your afternoon on the slopes. You can expect traditional dishes, barbecued meat and fast food options to suit your mood and appetite.
Le Panoramic is a convenient mountain restaurant serving great food that suits most people’s tastes.
In Resort Restaurants And Bars
L’Arpège is a lovely restaurant not far from the church in the centre of Le Grand Bornand. It specialises in serving Savoyard specialities either in the large interior or on the terrace. The terrace is a great spot to eat, especially towards the end of the season when temperatures are mild. The interior is cosy, with authentic decor, so you can get a genuine Savoyard dining experience.
Casanova is also located in the heart of Le Grand Bornand, close to the Church. It is open every day of the week during the winter and summer. This is a more contemporary restaurant that serves fantastic pizza, but you can also choose from a range of local dishes from the menu.
Confins des Sens
Confins des Sens is the gourmet option in Le Grand Bornand and is recommended in the Michelin guide. This is the place to go when you want a change from the traditional dishes served in other establishments.
Owned by Jean-Sébastien Faber and Anthony Barrucand, Confins des Sens are dedicated to serving gourmet and innovative cuisine with value crafted from seasonal ingredients. The interior decor blends traditional and contemporary design to create a cosy atmosphere. You can also choose to dine on the gorgeous terrace on sunnier days.
Le Grand Bornand has one of the top 5 best snowparks in France which has something for everyone: small and big, young and old, beginner to experienced professional.
Le Grand Bornand is not particularly well known for its vibrant après scene, as it is popular with French families. You will notice that French families will simply return to their apartment after a day on the slopes. They will often eat out once or twice per week, but they won’t be dancing on tables in their ski boots all evening.
Still, there are many bars and restaurants to celebrate a day on the mountain with a drink or two. You don’t have to have a full meal to enjoy a drink in the restaurants. You may want to check out The Green Monkey, though, which is an Irish pub in Chinaillon. This is regarded as the best après ski bar in Chinaillon, where you can enjoy great bar food and a relaxed atmosphere.
Discover an authentic French traditional market held every Wednesday morning since 1795 in the village square next to the church.
NON-SKIING ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS
There is more to a Le Grand Bornand than just skiing and eating. There are plenty of other things to do when you want a rest or experience what else the area offers. Here are some of our favourite non-skiing activities to enjoy in Le Grand Bornand.
The Local Market
There isn’t much more authentic than a traditional French market. Every Wednesday morning, Le Grand Bornand’s village square plays host to the market from 8am to 12:30pm. This has been a tradition since 1795 and is a great place to find local ingredients for self-catered holidays. It is also an excellent way to soak up the local culture. You will often see local chefs buying ingredients for their plat du jour wandering around the market too
Take A Drive
Annecy is just a 45-minute drive to Annecy. Annecy is known as the Venice of the Alps, thanks to its network of canals. It sits on the banks of one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe. The narrow cobbled streets of the old town are lined with boutique shops, bakeries, bars and restaurants. While the more modern part has many shops with big brands and is perfect for buying new ski clothing and equipment.
Geneva is about a 1-hour drive from Le Grand Bornand. Not only does this give you a short transfer time from the airport, but it gives you a chance to see somewhere different during your stay. Here, you can see the famous Lac Leman (also known as Lake Geneva) and check out the various designer and jewellery shops.
Try Cross Country Skiing
Cross country skiing is very popular in the area. There is 68km of routes winding through the forests around the Aravis mountain range. Le Grand Bornand is also home to the Sylvie Becaert international Olympic biathlon stadium, the venue for the Annecy-Le Grand-Bornand French round of the Biathlon world cup. You can try your hand at biathlon yourself at the stadium, which combines cross country skiing and target shooting.
Snowshoeing is an excellent way of exploring the area while being able to take in the scenery. There is 81km of snowshoe trails and 18 km of marked-out hiking trails too. Hire the equipment, follow the marked routes solo, or hire a guide to take you to the best places.
See Les Aravis From The Air
Seeing the French Alps from the air is an incredible experience. You can do this during a tandem paragliding flight. This allows you to sit back and enjoy the view while your pilot steers you over the peaks and valleys below. If you manage to get to Annecy, the paragliding is spectacular there too.
Another way to fly over the Alps is to take a speedriding course. Advanced skiers can fly around off-piste areas under their own miniature paraglider. This gives you the ultimate rush while providing access to places nobody else can get to.
However, the most accessible way to see the mountains from above and the most magical, is in a hot air balloon basket. Silently drifting over the spectacular landscape is an incredible experience that will create lasting memories.
Let The Animals Do All The Work
If you want to experience the area with a little less effort involved, there are a few methods for animal lovers. Take a horse sleigh ride that will allow you to take in the mountain atmosphere while you sit back and relax. Alternatively, put your skis back on and let a horse pull you along while ski joering. Ski joering is a fun experience suitable for kids and adults.
Around Le Grand Bornand, there are several frozen waterfalls in winter. These waterfalls are perfect for trying your hand at ice climbing. Book a guide to teach you the correct techniques for using the equipment and to stay safe. Ice climbing is a very different experience for many people visiting a ski resort.
Kids love to go ice skating, and Le Grand Bornand has an 800m2 ice rink. Ice skating is an ideal activity to do on bad weather days or in the evenings.
Why Book your Ski Holiday to Le Grand Bornand
For an authentic French family ski holiday, Le Grand Bornand is an excellent choice. It is easy to get to, is in a great ski area, and has many other things to do. Le Grand Bornand and Le Chinaillon are not purpose-built ski resorts and function all year round to serve the local community. This means that visiting the area gives you a true taste of the French Alpine lifestyle and its characterful atmosphere.