Chamonix is a well-known resort in Haute-Savoie. Chamonix and Chamonix Valley are situated in the French Alps in south-eastern France. Chamonix, located at the foot of Mont Blanc and close to the borders of Italy and Switzerland, is considered the birthplace and one of the capitals of climbing. It hosted the inaugural Winter Olympics in 1924.
Chamonix in the winter is a snowy paradise! The Chamonix Valley is routinely ranked as one of the top 10 ski destinations in the world, catering to skiers of all abilities and tastes. Chamonix is a city of 10,000 people and the principal resort in a valley dominated by Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe (15,770 feet). Chamonix Valley has some of the greatest skiing and scenery in the Alps, as well as a long variety of winter sports activities. The 13-mile trek down the Valle Blanche glacier and the Sea of Ice, a drop of 9,200 feet; steepest lift-served vertical plunge in the world, is one of the world’s best runs. In the valley of Chamonix, there are six distinct ski areas. They offer about 90 kilometers of groomed slopes and trails, as well as 49 lifts. Les Grands Montets, which rises above the hamlet of Argentiere in Chamonix, is especially popular among powder skiers and snowboarders. The location is known for its difficult terrain, with 20 miles of groomed routes that are 50 percent severe, black, and just 10 percent simple. The vertical drop is little about 6,800 feet. Nobody is bored.
If you like skiing or snowboarding, Chamonix, France, should be on your bucket list. Chamonix, with its world-class off-piste skiing and riding, entices the hard-core and daring. Some of the lines are so difficult that you may need to wear a diaper.
If you’re not an excellent climber, Chamonix also offers a gentler side for those looking for a laid-back European ski vacation. The Chamonix ski regions offer over 170 kilometers of piste to cruise on, and there are several restaurants and pubs to enjoy the famed cuisine and wine.
With lifts operational until May, skiers may enjoy a lengthy season; there are glaciers and permanent snow fields, ski routes with a vertical height of more than 2,000m (6,562ft), and the Vallee Blanche, the world’s most renowned (and busy) off-piste track. All of this is just one hour from Geneva airport; Chamonix is a resort unlike any other.
Chamonix has a plethora of upscale boutiques and restaurants, including Albert Premier, which has two Michelin stars. For a more affordable supper, travel to La Maison Carrier (Albert Premier’s sister restaurant) in a charming rustic chalet for wonderful regional food and views of Mont Blanc.
MBC is a fantastic microbrewery and restaurant for a fun evening out, with live music on certain nights and a variety of ales and lagers produced immediately behind the bar.
Chamonix’s center is a pedestrian-only zone with a variety of intriguing stores and galleries to visit. On rainy days, stroll along the River Arve and stop for a hot chocolate at one of the cafés, or visit the Alpine Museum to learn more about the region. The sports center has a swimming pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, and steam room, as well as an Olympic-sized covered ice rink. Vallee Blanche, a well-known off-piste route, is located in Aiguille du Midi.
The Aiguille du Midi has no pistes, so it is exclusively for experts, but anybody can eat lunch at the Restaurant Le 3842 and take in the views of the Mont Blanc Massif, the Mer de Glace, and the Chamonix valley. After graduating from the nursery slopes at village level, beginners should proceed to Le Tour for mild slopes. Le Tour has a natural half-pipe, snowparks on Les Grands Montets and Les Houches, and an air bag in the Brevent-Flegere area. Les Houches is also a fantastic choice for intermediates, since it boasts extensive tree runs and vistas of Mont Blanc.
All of this is just one hour from Geneva airport; Chamonix is a resort unlike any other.
Chamonix info card
|Directions of Slopes||N, E, S, W|
- Office de Tourisme de Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, 85 Place du Triangle de l’Amitié, +33 04 50 53 00 24, e-mail: [email protected]
Skiing in Chamonix
The Chamonix region has an incredible number of on-piste and off-piste skiing and snowboarding terrain. Chamonix boasts more than 60 lifts and is accessible with a single ski pass. 90% of the skiing area is above 2,000 meters, ensuring a lengthy season with lifts operational until May to allow access to glaciers and permanent snow fields.
Whatever kind of skiing you choose and whatever level of competence you have, Chamonix has a ski area for you. There are eight different ski resorts in the Chamonix Valley, as well as easy access to others in Italy and Switzerland.
The most renowned (and busiest) 20km off-piste route in the world, the “Vallée Blanche,” is reached by a stunning cable car up to the Aiguille du Midi (3,842 m), which was the highest cable car in the world when it was built in 1955.
Les Grands Montets (The Grand Montets) offers world-class skiing with extensive vertical and great snow quality. It’s mostly a difficult mountain with a lot of steep slopes. There is also a snow park and a boardercross circuit at the ski resort.
Brevent-Flegere has a lot of sunshine. It’s an ideal spot for a gentle tan, with slopes for all skill levels. Le Domaine de Balme features slopes for all skill levels, although it is most likely the valley’s greatest ski resort for beginners and intermediates. Les Houches, the location of the Kandahar World Cup skiing event, has tree-lined slopes and is a fantastic place to go if the weather turns bad.
There are four ski areas in the Chamonix Valley that provide special slopes for beginners and children: La Vormaine, Les Chosalets, Le Savoy, and Les Planards.
Getting your mind around the many sorts of ski passes available in the Chamonix region is a difficult undertaking.
Beginners Skiing in Chamonix
Novices in Chamonix may start on many small nursery slopes in town before progressing to a few beautiful blues near Le Tour, but Chamonix is not an ideal destination for beginners, most of whom would be better off starting to ski elsewhere.
Although there are many tiny nursery slopes in Chamonix town served by short drag lifts that are good for young children and rookie ski courses, they are far from perfect, and if you are in a mixed ability group, you will be split up, making it difficult or impossible to meet up for lunch. Furthermore, since the nursery slopes are covered by the high mountains that obscure the sun from some portions of the valley floor, they may be quite chilly.
Beginners are best served by Le Tour, where the La Vormaine area across the car park is possibly Chamonix’s greatest novice spot – it’s bathed in sunshine and shielded from the wind, for starters. Before you can generate the courage to climb the mountain, you must first conquer three lifts of increasing size, with two green pistes and a longer blue to conquer.
There is a beautiful network of progressive blues that has been expanded by the Vallorcine connection; the 3.2km Foret Verte blue down through the forests is a good choice. Other cruising routes in Le Tour to consider include L’Arve, Liaison Balme, and Les Marmottes, all of which are excellent for developing novices.
If you’re having problems on the simplest blue runs, don’t even think about it. If you’re having lunch with more experienced skiers at Plan Joran, the Marmottons blue is the simplest slope in the vicinity, but that’s about it.
La Chosalets is a modest beginner’s zone near Argentiere. It’s roughly 500m from the Lognan lift, therefore it’s difficult to get to in ski boots. La Chosalets features two little beginner pistes that are hardly worth the journey if you are not staying in Argentiere.
La Flegere and Le Brevent
There is a tiny nursery portion at the foot of the Planpraz telecabine for novices to use before venturing up the mountain. The 2000 green may be reached by the Altitude chairlift after Planpraz for the more daring who just want to climb up the mountain.
Flegere also features a few of good green lines, Trappe and Libellules, that are accessible via the Flegere and La Trappe lifts. The Chavanne, Liaison Chavanne, and Liaison Flegere blues are simple for individuals who have gone beyond blue.
Intermediate Skiing in Chamonix
Chamonix has some pretty exciting skiing for intermediates, and most of them can ski the Vallee Blanche, but if you’re hoping for hundreds of kilometers of well-groomed pistes and high-speed lift connections, seek elsewhere.
Strong intermediates should be able to ski all of Chamonix’s many ski areas, but since most ski areas are not lift linked, Chamonix is not a destination for skiers who like covering long lengths of well-groomed pistes. There are lots of better destinations to ski if you enjoy hundreds of kilometers of well-groomed pistes for high-speed cruising all day, but Chamonix is the place to test your skiing abilities and improve on your technique as you descend steep and narrow reds and blacks.
The best spot to start is at Le Tour, which has some of the easiest intermediate terrain; the blues are fun, and the reds are much gentler than those in the remainder of the ski resort. Keep in mind that the short runs from the summit of Aiguillette de Posettes get the first rays of sunlight of the day. The Belle Place red through the forests is ideal for better intermediates, while the Ecuries, Chatalet, and Caisets combine to form an almost 3km long red. Towards the bottom, there is snowmaking, although it might become crowded at the end of the day. The Esserts blue has spectacular views of Mont Blanc before meandering into the woodland. It connects to Belle Place.
The Grands Montets ski region is not for the faint of heart, but intermediates may have a great time and advance when they are ready. La Pierre a Ric red is the ultimate carving slope, with large sweeping bends ideal for it until midday, when it begins to become crowded. The Variante Hotel is a rough red run that connects to the Pierre a Ric. From there until the bottom, it’s usually one big mogul field, so you’d better enjoy bumps. The piste at the summit of the Variante is a continuation of the Blanchot black run, one of Chamonix’s milder black slopes. It implies you can ski the whole Grands Montets descent if you start from the top of Blanchots, which is an extension of the black Pylons. The twisty blue Les Arolles gives an excellent perspective of the Chamonix valley and is ideal for those looking for something a bit less strenuous.
La Flegere and Le Brevent
Le Brévent’s slopes have been renovated to be more intermediate-friendly. The black form of the Combe de la Charlanon red at the top of the Col Cornu chairlift is ideal for intermediates wishing to expand their expertise. La Flegere has numerous reds that would be classified as blacks in most other resorts, and the greatest routes are accessible from the top of the Index chairlift, with the Combe Lachenal red being a particular favorite. The Crochues red trail is 4.5 kilometers long and is alongside the Grandes Jorasses and the Mer de Glace, France’s largest glacier.
Les Houches is the next best bet for intermediates after La Tour’s Balme region. Les Houches includes 12 reds and six blues, all of which are mostly placed inside the treeline. The lower slopes are nearly all blue, and there are lengthy blues and reds from the tops of the Bellevue and Prarion telecabines, which provide an incredible 360-degree perspective of the Mont Blanc massif.
Advanced Skiing in Chamonix
Most expert skiers in Chamonix visit Argentiere’s famed Grands Montets ski region, but Chamonix’s other sections also provide challenging on-piste skiing, while off-piste skiing in Chamonix is nearly endless in excellent weather.
The majority of Chamonix’s difficult skiing is off-piste, however there are several challenging black pistes and ungroomed lines that are avalanche managed throughout the ski regions.
In severe weather, Le Tour is typically overshadowed by Les Houches, but it also has some of the greatest tree skiing anywhere, including several challenging descents. Furthermore, Le Tour has traditionally had one of France’s highest and most regular snowfall amounts. Another fantastic route, the Emosson black, runs around the north facing sides of Le Tour, while the red of Belle Place takes you over 2km to Les Esserts . Both trails travel through pine and larch forests, offering some of the greatest tree cover in the Chamonix valley.
The renowned Grand Montets of Argentiere have the most demanding terrain in the Chamonix valley. The Grand Montets region is accessible by the Lognan cable car or the high-speed quad to Plan Joran. All of the courses here are steep and tight at some point, and they are all worth paying great attention to. The boundary between piste and off-piste gets extremely blurred very fast, and the whole mountain rapidly becomes covered in bumps – it is highly popular.
The Bochard lift opens up much of the mountain, including the Combe de la Pendant and Lavancher bowls, but make sure to take the second stage cable-car to the mountain’s 3,275m (10,742 ft) summit for superb views and the 100 metal step drop to the slopes.
The 1,000 m (3,281 ft) vertical of the Point de Vue black route with its vistas over the Argentiere glacier or Pylones, a similarly lengthy black run that is often slippery and typically rough, are available here. Both of these are essential, but do not go up the glacier without a guide – you have been warned!
Other steep and 3.4km black routes in the Grand Montets ski region to consider include the Chamois, which provides exquisite views back into the Lavancher basin, and the La Remuaz, which is often split up into bumps. Both are fully reliant on the Retour Pendant chairlift, so make sure it is operational at the top of the Bochard gondola before attempting either slope.
La Flegere and Le Brevent
Brevent and Flegere have several excellent pistes as well. The Charles Bozon black in the Brevent region is all about the pitch, and there is some very challenging skiing over the flank. The Nants black is narrow and winding as it descends through the forests to the Planpraz gondola. As a consequence, it may get quite congested in the afternoon as a way home, and it also has poor snow quality at the bottom. However, the vistas are spectacular.
Flegere has the Praz and Floria black routes, both of which are lengthy, meandering slopes ideal for reaching some of Chamonix’s famed off-piste. Praz returns you to the valley bottom. Although intermediate red courses, the Charlanon and Crochues are often ungroomed and provide a good challenge. For those who prefer to ski in less crowded conditions, the Combe Lachenal red is the only line in the massive Lachenal valley that also offers superb off-piste alternatives.
The legendary Verte black, which is the only slope permitted for World Cup racing in the Haute Savoie, is the major lure for specialists in Les Houches. Because the Verte is surrounded by fir trees, the light seldom shines on the snow, keeping it frozen. Furthermore, it is about 3.5km long, with an 870m vertical, and a series of jumps including the well-known Cassure and the Goulet, but it is only tough if you are skiing at speeds of over 80kph like a pro. Didier Cuche and Alberto Tomba, for example, have done it in under two minutes.
Off-piste skiing is a way of life in Chamonix, with backcountry ski terrain to suit everyone from “powder puppy” to “extreme skier,” including open slopes, couloirs, powder or spring snow (on the same day), cliff jumps, crevasses, the Valle Blanche, and some of the most dramatic high mountain scenery imaginable, all within an hour of Geneva airport.
Grands Montets, one of the world’s best off-piste ski mountains, offers lots of off-piste terrain within easy reach of the pistes; but, while traveling off-piste near to the pistes, you must be careful of avalanche threats and other hazards. In severe weather, Les Houches is typically the greatest place to ski new snow, and Le Tour offers some wonderful terrain for learning to ski off-piste, including some of the finest tree skiing in the Chamonix valley. La Flegere provides spectacular views of the Mer de Glace and the Grandes Jorasses and is worth a visit on powder days to acclimate skiers to thick snow and when Grands Montets is too crowded. Le Brevent features a lot of fantastic off-piste skiing near to the lifts, particularly short steep descents in the Brevent Col region that are perfect for practice.
Snowboarding in Chamonix
Snowboarders and freestylers will enjoy the natural jumps, corners, and gullies of Le Tour and La Flegere, including the classic Big Tit jump, although Chamonix is not an excellent spot to start for boarders or skiers.
The milder slopes of Le Tour are largely served by draglifts, while the remainder of the ski areas are happily supplied by cable cars, gondolas, and chair lifts, which provide respite from the draglifts. However, most of the ski lifts are old and sluggish, and waiting is often an issue. The notorious Big Tit jump at La Flegere, located just off the side of the main red line from the top of the Darth Vader lift (L’Index), is said to be Europe’s largest natural kicker. The routes under the Parsa chairlift are suitable for quick on-piste riding, while Le Brevent (connected to La Flegere by a low-level gondola) offers several outstanding on-piste and steep powder runs, the finest of which are reached from the top of the Col Cornu chairlift. Le Brevent also has a bordercrossing.
Grands Montets has a snowpark with a half pipe that can be reached by the chairlifts Marmottons, Tabe, and Plan-Roujon. It’s over a kilometer long, with roughly 20 jumps, rails, and a wall. It also features a beginners’ section, which is ideal for practicing without the more experienced observing.
There is a privately owned snow park south of Chamonix that covers much of the small resort Les Bossons (one chair lift and three pistes) and is not covered on the normal lift pass (open afternoons and evenings for around 10 Euros a session), but there aren’t many big jumps and with so much amazing natural terrain on offer in Chamonix, it’s not really worth the effort.
However, for skilled snowboarders, the Chamonix mountains unfold like a picture book. While the renown Vallee Blanche is largely too flat for simple riding, there is lots of fantastic off-piste terrain; see Chamonix off-piste for more information.