Known for it’s traditional atmosphere, beautiful backdrop and wide meandering slopes Les Houches is often under-rated as a ski destination in Chamonix Valley. However, if you prefer a slower pace of life away from the hustle and bustle of Chamonix, enjoy breathtaking scenery, yet still have a good selection of challenging slopes then head to Les Houches at the bottom of the valley. Les Houches is perfect for families, progressing beginners or cruising intermediates as there are many mellow runs descending through magical snow covered fir forests. Moreover, Les Houches is your best bet for open lifts on a powder day.
The village of Les Houches sits at an altitude of 1002 metres. It’s the lowest ski resort in the Chamonix valley and the first ski resort you’ll reach as you drive up and enter the valley from the motorway. The Les Houches ski resort, with over 55km of beautiful tree lined runs, stands at the foot of Mont Blanc offering a spectacular backdrop to your ski experience.
Perfect for families with it’s wide, blue pistes and it’s dedicated kids Ski Camp play area, it also has enough reds, twelve in total, to keep intermediate skiers happy. Beginners will love the gentle beginners area at the Prarion and more advanced skiers can try their hand on the famous world cup black run – the Kandahar.
The Bellevue Cable Car in the centre of Les Houches brings you to the Bellevue plateau (1800m). The Prarion gondola, further on through the village, takes you up to 1900m. The Prarion lift shunts you up to the heart of the ski area. It’s here you’ll find the beginners slope accessed by the Ecole 4 man chair, lots of gentle blue graded pistes and the Ski Camp play area for kids. Five lovely broad blues meander tamely down through a ‘forêt du sapins’ on the Saint Gervais side of the mountain. With plenty of easy blue pistes, Les Houches is much less intimidating than the rest of the valley and a great place for beginner skiers to progress up from the Espace Debutant.
For intermediate skiers Les Houches offers a whopping 12 red pistes. Access via Bellevue leads you straight onto three short reds down to the Grands Bois drag lift. On the Saint Gervais side, at the end of both the blue graded Chamois and the Abbaye pistes, there’s the option of further vertical decent via two red pistes, the Plan du Crêt or the Plancerts. Both take you to the base of the long, 40 year old Plancerts drag lift (1370m).
With a vertical drop 900 metres, the home runs back to the village are quite long, and unlike any other ski mountain in Chamonix, Les Houches has not one but three different home piste gradients. Take your pick from blue, red or black pistes to get you home. You can ski down to either car park, Bellevue or Prarion.
Les Houches is renowned in the valley for being excellent on bad weather days. Because so many of Les Houches’s runs are in between trees, it’s a great place to ski when visibility is low or during high winds. Also if there have been high amounts of snow falling, and avalanche risk is high, many or sometimes all of the other Chamonix lifts may be closed. This is when Les Houches champions. It is rarely closed. Les Houches is relatively snow sure for it’s altitude. All the runs are mainly north facing and hold the snow really well. Lower slopes are prone to rain when temperatures soar.
It takes around an hour to transfer from Geneva to Les Houches. From Geneva airport, either organise a direct resort transfer through one of Chamonix’s many transfer companies. We had a very good experience with Chamonix-based Cham-van.