Green skiing in the Alps

Test out a more environmentally friendly holiday in Flaine, to see how to lower your carbon footprint on the slopes


There’s always a buzz of excitement when you board a morning train headed for the French Alps, knowing that by dinner time you’ll arrive in the snow-covered mountains.

As I trundle my skis and bag onto the Paris-bound Eurostar at St Pancras, I can’t help feeling an added sense of elation knowing there’ll be no waiting around for my luggage at Geneva Airport, no stress of renting a car, and no lengthy (and costly) coach transfer to the slopes either.

But the biggest satisfaction is the fact that this route is a far more environmentally friendly option than the usual short flight; if you needed any added incentive to find greener ways to ski, the 2023 season’s shaky start, thanks to a lack of snow, was a stark reminder of climate change.

Settled into my seat in standard premier with a complimentary breakfast of fruit salad, coffee and pain au chocolat included in the ticket price, it certainly beats the packet of pretzels and bottle of water I was offered by British Airways on my previous ski trip too.

After sitting back and relaxing with my book, two and a half hours later I arrive in Paris, catch the Metro underground to Gare de Lyon — a quick two stops down the line — and board the TGV to Cluses for a three-hour journey with one stop at Bellegarde. What could be easier?

The train arrives at 6.52pm and as there’s no bus, I swap public transport for my pre-booked taxi to Flaine — but still feel slightly self-righteous, after being told the carbon equivalent (CO2e) of our train journey is 14.7kg compared to 139.8kg for flying. And by 8pm, I am enjoying a cold beer in the hotel bar, 11 hours after departing from St Pancras.

Environment still in mind, we are staying in a self-catering apartment in Les Terrasses d’Eos, a Pierre & Vacances residence that has been awarded the Green Key label for its commitment to reducing impact on the environment.

During our week’s stay, the sheets and towels weren’t changed, and no cleaning products were used so according to the carbon consultancy ecollective (, which calculated our overall emissions, this choice used 3.2kg CO2e per night — whereas a five-star hotel costs 12.1kg CO2e per night.

Flaine is also keen to reduce its environmental impact and since December 2022 has been fuelling piste groomers with vegetable oil — their vehicle emissions had previously been the biggest carbon cost in the resort.

Flaine no longer offers free paper piste maps either; skiers can use an app instead, or if they prefer paper there is a 1 Euro charge, while some ski lifts are running at slightly slower speeds to reduce electricity consumption. Everything runs on renewable energy too.

After unseasonably warm weather had caused temperatures to reach 20C in parts of the mountain range, closing pistes due to lack of snow just a few weeks earlier, I had wondered nervously how much skiing I’d be able to enjoy in Flaine.

But a subsequent heavy snowfall meant 155 of the 181 ski runs were open and there was even some off-piste skiing to be had, although a guide is essential because of the hidden crevasses and potholes.

Flaine resort village falls into two main sectors, Flaine Forum and Flaine Forêt. The former is based around a big traffic-free square, while both have easy access to the lifts to the slopes.

Two funicular-type lifts running all day and all night link the two sectors, and both areas have a share of restaurants and bars. The original mainly ski-in/ski-out Bauhaus blocks designed in the 1960s form the core of the resort village.

Flaine was created in 1969, when big concrete blocks of apartments were considered stylish, even in the mountains. These original blocks still form the core of the resort village and have the undeniable advantage of mainly ski-in/ski-out convenience.

The architecture is a matter of taste — many find it hideous — but others admire its Bauhaus heritage and the outdoor sculptures by Picasso, Vasarely and Dubuffet.

Meanwhile, our more traditionally Alpine apartments, the Pierre & Vacances Premium Les Terrasses d’Eos residence, are located in Flaine Montsoleil, an entirely car-free hamlet where all the buildings have direct access to the pistes and the chairlift links it to the vast ski area of Flaine and the Grand Massif.

The residence consists of a group of 145 self-catering ski apartments spread over two buildings. Located in a spruce forest, the stone and timber chalets are lit by large bay windows with a warm and elegant interior finish.

The apartments have their own wellbeing area too, featuring a spa with a panoramic Jacuzzi, outdoor swimming pool, sauna, steam room and a gym. Guests can pamper themselves by indulging in the on-site spa services, including massages, while it’s also equipped with a Turkish bath/hammam.

There is a small but excellent restaurant, l’Eterlou, serving tasty European cuisine including gnocchi with chanterelle mushrooms, and Flaine itself has a number of good-value restaurants serving reasonable food to a largely family clientele.

But as a resort with more apartment accommodation than hotels, it’s largely geared towards those who prefer to eat in. If you do want to self-cater, the residence home-delivery service is excellent; just do your shopping online and it is delivered to your apartment on the day you arrive.

For those focused on the skiing, you’ll find around 165 miles of varied terrain for all levels across the Grand Massif ski area.

But there’s more to keep you entertained than hitting the slopes; snowshoeing and dog-sledding are among the other snowy fun, along with ice-driving and ice quad-biking for die-hard thrill-seekers.

Locals claim that Flaine’s ski area sits within a vast natural basin, creating meteorological conditions that guarantee great snow for much of the winter, giving the area its name.

“Flaine has the best snow in France — that’s a fact,” insists Clément, our ESF ski instructor when we meet him at the Grandes Platières lift station at 1,600m, in the centre of the resort.

And after a 12-minute cable car ride I see his point as we step outside at 2,480m to a stunning view taking in the Aiguille du Midi (3,842m) to Mont Blanc (4,810m), while the entire Grand Massif ski domain is sprawled beneath.

It is at the apex of the fourth-largest ski area in France, linked with the villages of Les Carroz, Morillon, Sixt and Samoëns. Forests surround the slopes up to 1,900m, which are varied and fun, from the Gers bowl to a network of blues that criss-cross the domain from top to bottom.

There are some lovely places to ski too, such as the forest-fringed Marvel run and the 14km Piste des Cascades, one of the longest blue runs in France that leads through a nature reserve to the historic village of Sixt.

Later, we head to the top of Flaine’s bowl to tackle the narrow Diamant Noir black run. As we weave our way down through the trees pausing occasionally to admire the panoramic views, it’s not hard to fall for this particular ugly duckling.

Getting There

Seven nights at premium residence Les Terrasses d’Eos costs from £338 per person, based on four sharing a two-bedroom self-catering apartment in March, booked through Pierre et Vacances.

Return fares for the Eurostar between London and Paris cost from £78 in standard class. Return fares for the TGV between Paris and Cluses cost from around £90.

For more information about Flaine, visit

Like this? Sign up for more with our JC Life newsletter here.

From fabulous recipes to parenting tips, travel and West End entertainment; insightful interviews and much more: there’s more to the JC than news!

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive