Surrounded by some of the most magnificent scenery the Alps has to offer Chamonix is one of the most established French Alpine ski-resorts and certainly France’s best all-(year)round ski resort. There are few places to match Chamonix as far as the variety of terrain and snowconditions are concerned. Some of the finest expert terrain in the world -much of it off-piste, ski touring, gentle family tree-lined runs, and legendary glacier descents will keep everyone busy and excited, from novice to brain-dead daredevils.
The Chamonix Valley is home to five distinct ski areas amounting to over 100km of slopes. Le Brévent, La Flégère, Les Grand Montets, Domaine du Balme and Les Houches – each of the different ski areas is worth a visit
Le Brévent, close to the town center, can be accessed via the modern Planpraz gondola. Brevént is accessible from Chamonix town centre. Do not attempt to walk the hill from town to the ski lift – it’s a killer even without kids.
A new Funi 2000 lift on arrival at the ski station has transformed this mountain -previously only suited to intermediate & advanced skiers- to finally include beginners. Brevént is now a reality for family skiing of all levels of ability and allows beginners have a real, high altitude mountain experience, rather than being stuck in the depths of the valley on previous beginner slopes. The funicular lift connects novices to a dedicated beginners area on the Planpraz plateau full of gentle, easy greens accessed by the 2000 poma lift. It’s a little bit of a walk to the beginners area from the top of the Funi 2000 but the poma is a good speed for learners and there’s a liftie helping skiers on.
At the top of the gondola there are several blue runs with the Cornu chair accessing several reds as well. Advanced skiers will want to take the Cable Car to the top of Le Brévent to try out the tricky black run.
The ski area of Flégère is linked to Le Brévent at altitude via the Laison cable car or can be accessed at village level from the community Les Praz which is situated several kilometers outside of Chamonix itself. With unbeatable off piste terrain, ski obsessed members of the family can easily score some epic runs at La Flégère up the Index, La Floria or down the exceptional Lachenal bowl. At Flégèr is a greater range of runs for intermediates comprising of blues and reds, and the odd green run. Don’t be fooled however, as this area is not for individuals expecting easy, cruisey runs.
Les Grand Montets
Argentière, ten minutes up the valley from Chamonix is a cult ski area famed for its steep slopes and challenging off-piste at the Grands Montets ski area. Experts will relish the steepness of these slopes and the off piste possibilities. The 2039m vertical drop from the summit of the Grands Montets (3275m) to the village is one of the highest in the world. The majority of the skiing is on north facing slopes above 2000m ensuring good snow conditions from mid December to May. Grand Montets usually has the best powder, and is definitely the place to be after skiing opens up after a big dump.
Le Tour / Domaine du Balme
Le Tour is a traditional Savoyarde village situated 4km north-east of Argentière, right at the end of the valley. It’s the least intimidating mountain in the valley with plenty of blues and reds and a mecca for off-piste snowboarders powder hounds who love the natural hits. The slopes of Le Tour called the Domaine de Balme are often relatively quiet and are excellent for skiers and boarders of all ability. For beginners and less adventurous intermediates this area is perfect as the chairlift takes you to the top of a bowl full of nice cruising groomers.
Beginners can enjoy the nusery slopes of La Vormaine, before venturing to the higher slopes, while intermediates can focus on their technique on the wide, varied and easily accessible pistes which make up the majority of the area. Off the back-side of Le Tour there is plenty of off-piste – this is arguably the favourite area of boarder’s in the Chamonix Valley.
Les Houches is a large village situated 6km down the valley from Chamonix. Les Houches is accessed by two cable cars, Bellevue and Prarion. It’s an excellent family ski area at a much lower altitude with 55 kilometres of easy, gentle slopes, perfect for beginners & intermediates. The ski resort offers tree-lined pistes and delightful cafes and mountains restaurants and access to the vast Mont Blanc Ski Area. Most of the skiing in Les Houches is through pine forests. Les Houches is the only ski area in the valley below the tree line and offers more protection when the winds are high and visibility is poor, so it’s a good call on bad weather days. Most runs here are flanked by trees and so it’s incredibly beautiful with fresh snow.
Novices should feel comfortable here, while intermediates can explore a surprising variety of long, varied runs down through the forest to the village. Advanced skiers will also enjoy the challenge of La Verte, a relentless, black-graded descent world famous by the annual Kandahar World Cup Downhill Skiing events. Les Houches is a worthy daytrip for those looking for relaxing skiing amid glorious mountain scenery.
Aiguille du Midi
The Aiguille du Midi cable car is one of the highest in Europe and takes you to the top of the Aiguille du Midi mountain peak (at 3777m) in 20 minutes. The cable car station can be reached by a 10 min walk from city center / gare.
From Aiguille du Midi, there is also a cable car that takes you to Helbronner on the Italian side. Unfortunately, this part was closed during our visit. In general, the cable cars are often not running due to high winds or general bad weather conditions. So it is good to have a look at the extended weather forecast before heading up there.
Chamonix ranks 3th place on our ranking of ski resorts with the best skiweather and snowconditions. Chamonix’s altitude means that it can extend its ski season longer than many other Alpine resorts, so you can enjoy the slopes from December to May.
Snowreport and historical snowdata Chamonix
Direct trains run from Paris to La Fayet. La Fayet train station. The nearest airport is Geneva (1 hour) which can be accessed by bus or ski transfer company. Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc is about 1hour 15mins.
By plane fly to Geneva with Swiss, British Airways (ba.com), easyJet (easyjet.com), Flybe (flybe.com) or Transavia (transavia.com). EasyJet offers the widest choice of UK airports. Swiss flies from London City airport, Flybe from Exeter and Southampton, BA from London Heathrow, Gatwick and City airports and Transavia from Rotterdam – The Hague airport.
The transfer from Geneva airport is serviced by mini-vans and private taxis. One of the best is Cham-Van which offers affordable and reliable transfers.
Hire the latest award-winning 2019 skis from rental chain Intersport, including touring skis, powder skis and the new Nitro Q Series retro snowboard shapes. All from www.intersport-rent.fr/en/
For more information on Chamonix valley please visit the official website of Chamonix or the Compagnie du Mont Blanc.