As Rafael is a real winter maniac, every winter, we try to we go on holiday somewhere snowy. After Füssen and the Taunus Mountains in 2018, Oslo in 2019, and Chamonix in 2020, we decided to go to the French Alps (again) last year. We stayed in the La Clusaz area for a week but decided to visit Le Grand-Bornand!
Le Grand-Bornand is a charming Alpine town located in the Rhône-Alpes region. This Grand-Bornand travel guide is designed to give you a glimpse of what to expect from this ski resort in just a single day by showcasing some of the best clichés we took of this town. Whether you're willing to go on a stroll through the streets of the village or looking for an unforgettable ski experience, we've got you covered!
Le Grand-Bornand is a charming Alpine town that won't disappoint you! It is a singular kind of place encircled with mountain tops which gives it a magical and enchanted atmosphere. Le Grand-Bornand is easily accessible by car, located 30 minutes from Annecy and only 1 hour from Geneva in neighboring Switzerland. Located on the western slopes of the Aravis massif, Le Grand-Bornand is both a summer and winter tourist resort that has developed around an old village. As is the case for most Alpine ski resorts, its population exceeds 20.000 during the high tourist season (compared to the 2.200 registered inhabitants).
Among the most beautiful resorts in the French Alps, Le Grand-Bornand cultivates the charm of its four-century-old chalets combined with the modernity of a dynamic destination that has retained its authenticity. The commune of Grand-Bornand comprises three areas: the Bouchet valley, the Chinaillon valley and the Grand-Bornand village itself which is located at the crossroads of these two valleys. As you can imagine, these three areas constitute a great playground in both winter and summer that is just waiting for you!
The history of Grand-Bornand goes back a long way. In 1218, the village was offered as a dowry to Beatrice de Genève, daughter of the Count of Geneva, upon her marriage to Thomas the First. During most of the Middle Ages, Le Grand-Bornand was the subject of numerous property disputes. During the 15th century, the village came under the Duchy of Savoy (Italian state) before it was annexed to France in 1792. However, after the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815, the Savoies were again taken over by the kingdom of Italy and it was not until 1860 that the Savoyards were called upon to decide their fate and voted unanimously for the attachment of Savoy to France.
Until the first half of the 20th century, most of the economic activity was based on agriculture, mainly on the breeding and production of Reblochon. Even if at the beginning of the century there was a growing interest for the mountains of the area, it was only between the two world wars that skiing really began to attract young locals as well as a few tourists. In 1945, the Société Anonyme du téléski du Grand Châtillon was created by local people: a snow line was put into service but quickly abandoned five years later. This experience did not discourage the inhabitants who persevered and built a new site: the Chinaillon. The Outalays ski lift was built in 1953; the Grand-Bornand ski resort was born. This period was essential for the village as it put an end to the process of exodus and began a movement of demographic recovery. Besides the traditional agriculture, the village's tourist vocation is now part of the local economy. Since then, Le Grand-Bornand has become a must-see destination for winter sports enthusiasts and mountain lovers.
The main village of Grand-Bornand, located at an altitude of 952 meters (3.123 ft), is a typical Savoyard village with its covered market, its square, its church and the shops that surround it. This is the kind of atmosphere and setting that one appreciates when going on holidays in the mountains! One of the most emblematic buildings in the main village of Grand-Bornand is undoubtedly the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, it is indeed difficult to miss! It was first built and then rebuilt during the 19th century. The reconstruction took more than 60 years, starting in 1817 and ending in 1877, when it was consecrated. The church is in the neo-Gothic style and has a rather unusual format, being large and elevated to allow as much daylight as possible to enter.
Another emblematic and somewhat unusual feature for a small mountain village are the various works of art scattered around the village. These works are part of an tour entitled the "Cow Art Tour". It is a permanent and temporary exhibition of many different kind of works (sculptures, paintings, photos, etc.) on the theme of the cow. This exhibition takes place throughout the year at different locations of the village. It is in 2000 that this exhibition was born, at the time, Le Grand-Bornand counted 2.000 inhabitants, 2.000 cows and mountain pastures at an altitude of nearly 2.000 meters, Le Grand-Bornand has thus naturally become the capital of cow art. The map of the trail is available here but for more information, it is possible to get in touch with the tourist office of Grand-Bornand.
The village of Chinaillon, located at an altitude of 1.300 meters (4.265 feet), is home to the old village (dating from the 17th century) and to the main ski resort of Grand-Bornand. One of the most important building and most representative of the old village is the Chinaillon Chapel. The chapel was founded in 1677 under the patronage of Notre-Dame du Puy, to protect the people of the village from fires. On the façade, on either side of the portal, one can see two original windows crowned by a small niche in which there is a Virgin and Child. It is since 1977 that the chapel was placed under the patronage of Our Lady of the Snows.
This old village is the soul of Grand-Bornand, it is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes with alpine pastures because it is important to know that the village has developed around agriculture, still today, out of the 2.200 inhabitants of the village, 10% live from agriculture. There are dozens of typical old chalets with accommodation for people and stables for animals living next to each other, however, the current farms have been extended and modernized over the years. During the summer months, the cows are put on the mountain pastures to make the most of the available grazing before coming down for the colder months of the year. Guided tours of the old village of Chinaillon are available, for more information, get in touch with the tourist office of Grand-Bornand.
GRAND-BO SKI RESORT
Since the growth of tourism in the 20th century, Le Grand-Bornand received more and more tourists every year. Today, the Alpine Ski Resort of the Aravis massif comprises four distinct ski resorts with a total of 230 km of slopes. The first ski resort in the massif to develop is located in La Clusaz, which currently extends over four different massifs spread around the village. It is linked by cable-car to the ski resort of Manigod, which makes it the second ski resort of the area. It is not possible to link the La Clusaz and Manigod resorts to the other two ski villages, which are also separated from each other: i.e. the ski resorts of Saint-Jean de Sixt and Grand-Bornand.
Le Grand-Bornand ski resort comprises two distinct areas, the Chinaillon valley which is dedicated to downhill skiing and the Bouchet valley which is dedicated to cross-country skiing. It is worth noting that a special ski bus service, called the inter-station bus, runs between the three ski resorts, both in summer and winter, to ensure mobility for skiers and pedestrians. There are also shuttle buses operating within the resorts during the season, which make it easier to get around between the different sectors and hamlets of the communes (check here for more information, incl. timetable and stop locations).
Opening hours - daily from 8.50 a.m. - around 5 p.m. | Admission - 39.80 EUR (one-day pass)
The Grand-Bo ski resort has 84 km of ski runs, 46 slopes in total: 5 black, 13 red, 13 blue and 15 green (check map of the ski resort here). Needless to say that it is a good resort for beginners like us! The highest point of the resort is the Mont-Lachat at an altitude of 2.100 meters (6.890 ft). As we mentioned it earlier, the ski resort is mainly located in the Chinaillon village, however, it is important to note that the ski resort is accessible via the main village of Grand-Bornand by cable car: Le Rosay cable car and La Joyère cable car. Another point of interest of the Grand-Bo ski resort is the #mongrandbo (see photo above) which is located at an altitude of 1.800 meters (5.905 ft) and offers a breathtaking views on the Aravis mountain range.
The Grand-Bo ski resort comprises many different areas and also include a snowpark which consists of 4 jump lines for all levels, multiple rails, a free big airbag and many other things. As we mentioned it above, the resort is very good for beginners as it also includes three areas for beginners. Finally, there are plenty of rest and relaxation areas located all over the resort: we had lunch at two different locations: one restaurant called La Taverne which is located at the top of La Taverne chair lift in which you'll be offered with traditional and homemade food such as tartiflette and omelets; the view on the main village of Grand-Bornand will leave you speechless. The other place in which we had lunch is called Les Terres Rouges and is located at the top of Les Terres Rouges chair lift; this place looks more industrial as it is a self-service restaurant, we had a delicious burger with raclette cheese, the view on the Aravis mountain range is also spectacular!
Visiting Grand-Bornand during a stay in the Aravis massif is an absolute must! The views that this Alpine village offers are absolutely breathtaking! If you are looking for a mountain retreat and/or for a skiing destination, think no further and book your trip there! As mentioned in this post, Grand-Bornand has a lot to offer, whether it is skiing, snowshoeing or just walking in the beautiful snowy nature, there is always something to do! You won't forget your stay there!
And now it's your turn to share your experience, thoughts and also tips to visit the ski resort of Grand-Bornand. Have you already been there? We look forward to reading your comments in the section below.