two skiers racing down the piste, smiling big
Featured Ski Resorts

Le Grand-Bornand, France: Where French Families Holiday

The Stats

Altitude: 1000m
Top Lift: 2100m
Ski area: 84km of piste
Adult lift pass: 174-225€ for six days 

site Official Site | site Ski Map | site Webcam

In a Nutshell

The name may not trip as easily off the tongue as Méribel or Tignes, but the French rate Le Grand-Bornand as one of the most popular family resorts in the country. It’s located a 15 minutes from the lakeside town of Annecy and less than 60 minutes from Geneva airport.

The Aravis mountain range lies close to Mont Blanc and Le Grand-Bornand benefits from a ‘fridge effect’ micro-climate. While the resort is relatively low, the snow cover here is remarkably reliable, with the kind of mid-winter depths you’d expect to find at 1800m in the Haute Tarentaise.  

Le Grand-Bornand shares a lift pass with better-known La Clusaz, which is a five-minute free bus ride away, and the little villages of St-Jean-de-Sixt and Manigod. Together they offer 230km of pistes for all standards.  

The resort has a life that extends way beyond skiing. Since the 13th century it’s been the home of Reblochon cheese, and you are never far from a cow here. The area is dotted with working farms and cows almost outnumber the 40% of annual tourists who hike and mountain bike here in summer.  

First up, you need to get to grips with local geography. The ancient village of Le Grand-Bornand with its fine church, shops, restaurants and chalets is the main summer bed base. However, this is also where we would choose to stay in winter. Chinaillon, at the far end of the local ski area, has more hotels and apartments, easy access to the slopes and ski schools and is the main ski hub.  

aerial shot of a top ski lift station
© J. Cathala – Le Grand-Bornand Tourisme

Guide to the Mountain 

If you stay in the old village, mountain access is by a pair of modern high-speed gondolas that rise sharply from the end of the village. A chair from the arrival point takes you on up to the summit of Mont Lachat at 2100m, the highest point in the ski area. Getting around the area can be a little confusing initially, but once you get your bearings it all hangs together. 

If you stay in Chinaillon a choice of chair-lifts take you up to a series of departure points all along the valley. Importantly, there’s a wide choice of return runs, some of them graded blue in order to open things up to less accomplished skiers.  

But the skiing looks a bit tame, doesn’t it? Well, that depends on your skiing level. You might imagine that with just three blacks it must all be a bit unchallenging. But the occasional piste-grading quirks might make you feel differently once you begin to ski some of the higher runs. Certain reds in particular are quite demanding, while even the occasional blue-graded piste will throw in something unexpected to keep you focused. So it’s not boring, and this may explain why so many enthusiastic regulars who learned to ski here retain a soft-spot for the place. You can start off gently, but there’s plenty to aspire to, and you’ll learn a lot along the way 

For advanced skiers there’s Espace Freeride at La Combe de l’Envers. This is an itinerary area that is avalanche-controlled, but not patrolled by pisteurs. The entry point opposite the arrival of the chair-lift can be tricky. But if you turn skier’s right and go down 200m there is an easier way in. 

The snowpark includes a 100m half-pipe, a 700m snowcross course, and rails catering for different abilities. The park sits on the slopes of Le Maroly at 1800m and has two dedicated drag-lifts. In addition to the downhill terrain, there are 60km of groomed cross-country pistes. 

Night skiing happens every Tuesday from the La Charmieux chairlift, with Thursday night skiing an extra during school holidays.

a ski slope lit up at night for night skiing

Where to Stay 

In Le Grand-Bornand, the elegant four-star Hotel Les Cimes has been run by three generations of the Hudry family and is a long-established fixture of the resort. Strato is its newly upgraded bar-restaurant with a terrace and a view over the ski slopes.  

Chalet Les Saytels, is a pleasant four-star built in typical Savoyard style. It has a hot tub on the terrace and two restaurants – one of them serving ubiquitous cheese dishes. 

New for winter 2023/24 is the MGM Les Chalets de Joy, high above the traditional town, a walk or bus-ride into the village centre and the starting place of the gondolas. The luxury apartment building houses a spa and swimming-pool, as well as apartments that are extremely well kitted out.  

a ski village from above, shot at dusk
©T. Vattard – Le Grand-Bornand

More of a choice in Chinaillon 

Four-star Le Village de Lessyin Chinaillon is a smart complex close to the slopes, with all the usual CGH Residences touches – substantial and attractively decorated apartments with indoor swimming-pools, hot tubs, saunas, steam and fitness rooms. And the whole chalet-style building is dressed in traditional Savoyard stone and timber. Understandably, it is by no means a budget option (secure underground car parking adds a hefty sum to a week’s stay here), but nevertheless it represents good value for this pleasant level of self-catering accommodation. 

La Ferme de Florentis an 18th-century wooden farmhouse set at the foot of the ski slopes in Chinaillon. It has six en-suite bedrooms and an open-plan top floor. 

Hotel la Cremaillere is a charming family-run hotel with just 15 rooms, two apartments and a recommended restaurant. 

Hotel Beau Site in Saint-Jean-de-Sixt is committed to green issues and uses technology such as solar panels and wood chip generators to minimise its impact on the environment. The bedrooms all come in different shapes and sizes.

an ESF ski instructor is shot from behind, facing his two adult clients standing on skis on the snowy mountain
© C. Hudry

Where to Learn 

We’re in the French heartland here and, not surprisingly, the ESF dominates the learning business with branches located at Le GrandBornand tourist office and at the foot of the of the slopes in Chinaillon. 

They offer lessons in six languages and teach all disciplines, including Handiski for disabled skiers. The ESF also has a separate school for cross-country. The only real competition to the ESF comes from ESI Starski, which operates from the Residence Le Montarquis at Chinaillon. It takes children from three years in groups limited to five. The school offers instruction in English and has a booking system in English on their website. Aravis Ski Conceptoffers tailor-made lessons for individuals or groups, with meeting points to suit. 

As one of France’s Famille Plus resorts, Le Grand-Bornand is certified as having met the stringent standards required to provide everything a family needs for an enjoyable, trouble-free ski holiday. However, to get to grips with the intricacies of childcare here you first have to master a couple of formidable French tongue-twisters. 

The village creche Les P’tits Maringouinscares for children from three months to five years. There’s also a branch at Chinaillon for children from eight months to six years. It is essential to reserve places before your arrival in the resort. Les Mom’en Ski, situated at the top of the Rosay gondola, is a club for four- to 12-year-olds. It provides ski lessons and lunch, as well as plenty of other on- and off-snow activities. Contact the ESFin the village (or at Chinaillon for details and bookings. Once on the slopes, your kids will find they have plenty of space to learn in three specially-created debutant areas, plus a Jardin de Neige for the littlest ones, expertly run by the ESF and ESI Starski ski schools. 

a church of a ski village under heavy snow
© P. Guilbaud – Le Grand-Bornand Tourisme

Where to Party 

Le Grand-Bornand is hardly the après-ski capital of the Alps and, if you’re expecting somewhere like Chamonix or even Les Deux Alpes, you’ve come to the wrong place. Nevertheless there are some 36 bars in the resort and surrounding villages.

Les Deux Guides (+33 450 02 23 65) has a typical British pub atmosphere, and Le Thovet (+33 899 02 28 14) has a good selection of wines.

La Floria Cafe Givre (+33 450 02 00 85) is a snack-bar-pub which hosts torchlight descents and karaoke in the evening.

The Green Monkey (+33 450 69 76 55) is a popular bar in Chinaillon with a good atmosphere.

The resort has a 800-sq-metre covered ice-skating rink, and other non-skiing activities include sleigh rides, snowshoeing, paragliding, hot-air ballooning, and a cinema.  

three adults enjoy a drink outside in village square, an out-of-focus church steeple rises above them
© T. Vattard-Le Grand-Bornand Tourisme

Where to Eat 

Wherever you eat in Le Grand-Bornand it is difficult to escape traditional Savoyard ambience and pungent-smelling melted cheese. But why would you want to? The village is as authentically montagnard as it gets – and the food follows. However, after a full week of fondue, raclette, and tartiflette you may want to impose a moratorium on dairy products and air-dried meat. 

On the mountain, L’Igloo (+33 450 27 02 67) overlooks Chinaillon and is recommended for its views and the good value traditional cuisine. Non-skiers can also reach it by car. Le Chalet Venayhas been in the same family for over 100 years. It specialises in simple mountain dishes at sensible prices – fondue, homemade sausages, and local trout. 

A La Ferme du Pepe (+33 450 02 76 63) is a wooden chalet offering cheesy Savoyard cuisine at sensible prices. La Duche (+33 450 27 02 23) is another traditional place at the foot of the slopes. Le Chatillon (+33 450 27 02 76) offers Savoyard specialities such as tartiflette, crepes and home-made tartes. Le Roc des Arces (+33 450 27 03 43), near the Rosay gondola, serves traditional cuisine and has a good sun terrace.La Bournerie (+33 450 27 00 28) is a lovely ancient farmhouse – built in 1805 – that serves regional produce. New is Papi Jo (+33 4 50 44 18 44) a tiny cabin with a touch of Ralph Lauren style, located underneath the green Serpentine slope. The kitchen uses fresh produce, combined with a good selection of wines, coffees and juices, which you can enjoy either indoors by the stove or around the fire pit on the terrace.  

In the resort, Hotel Chalet Les Saytels (+33 492 47 24 72) is particularly recommended for the quality of the food and modest prices. Other rustic offerings include L’Arpege (+33 450 02 73 93), and La Table du Chalet (+33 450 02 20 16). Cent 74 has an accessible bistro menu based on fresh produce, a third of which is updated each week by its young chef, Morgane Souffront. Owners, Lydie and Jim have given Shed Café a touch of the Rockies with a log cabin setting and a small terrace. Lydie uses her grandmother’s recipes for the cookies, vegan banana bread, iced cinnamon rolls and gluten-free carrot cake – accompanied by a wide selection of coffees, teas, and herbal potions.

Le Strato is a new gourmet alpine refuge adjoining the four-star Les Cimes hotel. The renovations went hand in hand with a new organic look for the menu, giving pride of place to young winemakers from Savoie Mont-Blanc. On the food front, the focus is on smoked freshwater fish and exceptional charcuterie, all organic, and with a preference for local produce.

La Cremaillere is a hotel restaurant serving traditional dishes with a twist: warm goat’s cheese salad with blueberries, and breast of duck with honey from the chef’s hives are just two of the dishes. 

Up at Chinaillon, there’sL’Alpage(+33 450 27 00 49) has a warm atmosphere and serves regional cuisine with an original twist.


We Love

We Hate

tick The real-world, friendly atmosphere
tick The spectacular scenery – particularly the Aravis mountains at sunset
tick The improved lift system, which largely dispenses with queues
tick The quick transfers from Geneva and Chambery
tick Accommodation for all tastes
cross Some piste-grading inconsistencies
cross The absence of any truly challenging skiing
cross The overall lack of après ski and nightlife
cross The low altitude, which means that decent snow-cover is a lottery

About the author

Felice Hardy

Felice was one of the founders of Welove2ski and regularly contributes, as well writing for a range of other publications including The Evening Standard, The Guardian, Conde Nast Traveller, Tatler, Harpers Bazaar, Country Life, BA Highlife and House & Garden. She started skiing at the age of three. She also enjoys hiking with her dogs and mountain biking in the Alps.


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  • Hello
    We have booked flights to marseille for feb half term as Genova and Grenoble flights are extortionate.
    Could you recommend any ski resorts for intermediate skiers that love a bit of off piste and high altitude.
    We are contemplating orcieres merlette as we went there years ago but would like to try somewhere new.

    Many thanks!

  • Road trip to Le Grand Bornand in campervan a while back and stayed at the campsite in the village. The campsite provided electric for heating and the facilities were very good. Planning another campervan trip hiring a van from Vanquest (, will be heading back next year.