Chamonix ski holidays…
Sitting in the foothills of Mont Blanc, Chamonix is heralded as a mecca for skiers, snowboarders and free riders.
In Chamonix, there is a wide variation in slopes, from beginner-friendly slopes in Les Houches, all the way up to the Vallée Blanche descent from the Aiguille du Midi. Although Chamonix is the main town, ski areas of Les Houches, Les Grands-Montets, Argentière and Balme - Le Tour/Vallorcine are just a bus ride away. This is the ideal resort for those looking for a short break, or a resort with a short transfer as it is one of the closest ski resorts to Geneva airport . If you are an advanced skier or snowboarder this is the resort for you.
SKIING IN CHAMONIX
What to expect…
Chamonix has something to offer everyone, from non-skiers to advanced skiers. For beginners, Les Houches ski area is perfect, with gentle greens and blues, building towards reds and blacks as your confidence grows. For those looking for glacier skiing and more challenging runs, Les Grand Montets is ideal. If you want to try something extremely challenging and exhilarating, then book a guide who will take you down the 22km Vallée Blanche run.
"The Chamonix valley is a must-see destination for anyone looking quintessential alpine charm with an edge. For advanced skiers, the famous 20km off-piste run the Vallée Blanche, is a must. The ski season in Chamonix runs from early December to mid-April”.
LOCAL SKI AREA - CHAMONIX
Although it has a reputation for steep runs and extreme off-piste terrain, the Chamonix Valley has 155kms of piste with runs that cater for all abilities.
In addition to Chamonix main town, there are a number of small villages in the area that are encompassed under the Chamonix Valley title, these include Argentière, Les Houches, Les Bossons and many more. The main town it pedestrianised predominantly meaning that you can enjoy meandering through the town and sampling all that Chamonix has to offer. There is a shuttle bus that connects Chamonix with the surrounding villages and ski areas.
Chamonix has 4 main ski areas; Balme-Le Tour/Vallorcine, Les Grand Montets, Brévent-Flégère, and Les Houches-St Gervais. All are connected by local bus services and stretch the full length of the valley. The top of the Chamonix valley includes high altitude ski areas such as Les Grand Montets (1235m - 3300m) which features some of the greatest height losses in the world. There are 3 main slopes as well as world-renowned off-piste areas. For those who enjoy freestyle skiing, there is a snow park and boardercross in Loghan. Other ski areas at the top of the valley include Vallorcine/Le Tour and Argentière. These are fantastic for everyone from beginners to intermediates and advanced skiers with an array of black runs that will challenge even the most fearless of skiers and well as plenty of cruisy blues and greens to those just getting their ski legs.
In the middle of the valley, you'll find Brévent-Flégère ski areas, these are on the sunny side of Chamonix. The town is split by the L'Arve river, on one side is the gondola which takes you to the peak of the Aiguille du Midi, where you can begin your descent down the Vallée Blanche. The other side of the town you will find the Brévent cable car. The Brévent ski area features a freestyle area with 5 rails and is connected to Flégère by a cable car. Flégère has a new area called 'Explore Your Limits' which includes a 500m slope with 150m height loss complete with speedometers so you can show your friends how fast you were skiing when you return home. You can also access Flégère from the village of Les Praz.
For those looking for more of a village feel and lower altitude skiing, Les Houches is a family friendly village, just a 10-minute bus ride from the centre of Chamonix. Complete with its own bakery and chocolatier in the centre of the village there are 55km of slopes which wind through the forests, with a similar feel to Austria. Les Houches is a fantastic area for beginners and intermediates. If you want to challenge yourself, Les Houches is home to La Verte and the Kandahar, World Cup Downhill runs.
As you head beyond the village of Argentière, towards the Swiss border you reach the small village of Le Tour, where you will find a ski area linked with the village of Vallorcine. This is a great ski area for beginners and intermediates looking for gentle tree-lined slopes, open bowls and fantastic views.
Located at the far end of the Chamonix valley, Balme-Le Tour-Vallorcine is the ideal resort for leisurely intermediate skiers looking for good pistes without the heights of the Grand Montets. The slopes are similar to that of Les Houches but at the opposite end of the valley, right on the border with Switzerland. There are 29km of slopes of offer, with 13 lifts to transport winter sports enthusiast up and across the mountain. The skiable area sits between 1453m and 2270m.
The slopes include plenty of cruisy blues and greens. Domaine du Balme is great for beginners with three drag lifts that make up the Vormaine area, perfect for those who are new to skiing and snowboarding. This is very similar to the Les Houches nursery slopes at the other end of the valley. As you progress, or if you are travelling as a family the back-side of Le Tour offers plenty of off-piste opportunities and is a favourite with snowboarders. There is a great off-piste section which runs through the trees all the way down to the train station in Vallorcine. You can jump on the train into Chamonix for a few après drinks after a day on the slopes too. There are some fantastic views from Charamillon area where you can enjoy the wider slopes that overlook the Chamonix valley, while the Vallorcine side of the pistes are lined with trees and provide great shelter when the weather turns.
WIDER SKI AREA - CHAMONIX MONT BLANC
The Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix was established in 1821 and at that time was the first mountain guide company in the world, assisting the Victorian travellers of the day in their mountain expeditions.
Should you wish to explore the wider ski area, the Mont Blanc Unlimited pass covers all of the above as well as Megève, St Gervais, Verbier (Switzerland) and Courmayeur (Italy). Having a car is definitely useful if you do not want to ski in multiple areas. Although this is not essential as there is a free ski bus that links all the resorts.
Chamonix Mont Blanc:
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Approximate transfer times:
- Chambery: 2 Hrs
- Lyon: 2½ Hrs
- Geneva: 1 HRS
With the Mont Blanc towering behind as a backdrop, skiers are attracted by the challenging terrain and breath-taking glacial scenery of Chamonix.
Chamonix is a vibrant town, with over 70 bars and restaurants there is always somewhere to enjoy a coffee and a French pastry, and you're spoiled for choice with options of where to stay, from small boutique hotels through to 5* luxury. For those who enjoy shopping, Chamonix in recent years has developed its selection of shops, with a balance of high-end boutiques, and handcrafted artisan products. As you walk through the main street you will walk by some of the best delicatessens that the French Alps have to offer.
A short 10-minute drive in any direction will take you to beautiful little villages such as, Les Houches, and Argentiere. Filled with bakeries and artisan stalls, you will be sure to find a product you love. The farmers market in Chamonix takes place on a Saturday morning, be sure to arrive early to see the full range of produce on offer.
RESTAURANTS & BARS
With 165 restaurants for choosing, guests at Chamonix are spoilt for choice.
Each of the villages surrounding Chamonix has a decent selection of bars and restaurants, though most will be found around Chamonix's main high street.
Chamonix is a melting pot of Italian, French and Swiss cuisine due to its location. Speaking of melting, enjoy a sumptuous fondue at La Boccalatte. Aim to arrive before 8 pm to ensure that you can get a table.
La Caleche is a beautiful alpine restaurant in the centre of Chamonix, perfect for families. If you visit on a Tuesday evening you may be serenaded by folk singers. For haute cuisine visit La Maison Carrier, their high-quality service only accentuates the fantastic array of steaks and classic French wine. If you'd like to enjoy a drink with the locals visit Bistrot des Sports, the oldest bistro in Chamonix.
The Rider Café & Le Spot Restaurant, located at the mid station of the Grands Montets is perfect for a quick lunch, but its more attractive feature is its beautiful views of the Chamonix Valley and Mont Blanc.
There is an abundance of restaurants on the mountain. If you are skiing in Les Houches and you are on the Prarion pistes, La Cha restaurant can be found at the bottom of the Chamois blue run. This family-owned restaurant is split over two floors and now features an outdoor seating area with views of the St Gervais valley.
At the top of the Prarion piste is La Prarion restaurant, with its curved balcony seating area, you have panoramic views of Mont Blanc. Enjoy a warm bowl of French Onion soup or a mug of delicious chocolat chaud.
If you are looking for a more vibrant and exciting night, then why not try out the Chambre Neuf, a bar which hosts live bands and table. Here, happy hour starts at 8pm!
In addition to being one of the world's premier skiing destinations, Chamonix's reputation also extends to its nightlife and après scene. As a large resort, there is a bar for everyone, with endless choice of beverages or atmospheres, allowing guests to relax at the end of an exciting day on the slopes.
As one of the liveliest and most popular bars for après, Chambre Neuf is a place which you do not want to miss! With live bands on a regular basis, guests are dancing on the tables at happy hour, and the party scene evolves as the night goes on. Happy hour is offered at 8pm with cocktails and shots on for 2 for 1. For a more traditional bar setting, Micro Brasserie de Chamonix offers real ales, a variety of hearty beers and great live entertainment.
Whereas, L'Amesia nightclub offers a wild night, with internationally renowned DJs and a mixture of House, Electro and R'n'B played from 1am until dawn each night.
At 3840m the Aiguille du Midi is the highest cable car in the world, and even if you are a non-skiers, the gorgeous overlooking views are worth the ride!
One of the most popular attractions in Chamonix is The Void, a glass structure that is suspended on the edge of the Aiguille du Midi. This can be reached by Europe's highest cable car, reaching an astonishing 3,842m. This is also the starting point for those looking to take on the 22km Vallée Blanche. This is the most famous off-piste descent in the world and takes on average 3-5 hours to complete once you leave base in Chamonix village.
Other activities that are popular in Chamonix include fat bikes (thick tyre mountain bikes), parapenting and ice climbing. For those who enjoy viewing the slopes from above, Chamonix is famous for its stunning vistas. Parapenting is not for the faint hearted as it requires running off the edge of a cliff with your instructor strapped to your back, but once you are airborne you will be amazed by the beauty of the French Alps.
For those looking for more water-based activities, you will find a number of rafting and canyoning businesses in Chamonix that will take help you navigate your way down the River Arve safely.
A visit to the Alpine Museum, which displays the history about Mont Blanc mountaineering, winter sports & culture, brilliant for a poor weather day or non-skiers!
Due to its location, Chamonix is perfect for non-skiers. You can enjoy all that the village has to offer, whether it be discovering the boutiques on the high street, or sampling local produce at a local artisan produce store.
If you want to explore the local area, there are organised tours that can take you to a number of towns and cities. From Chamonix, you can visit Italy, via the Mont Blanc tunnel. Enjoy freshly baked pizza in Courmayeur or try the best fondue in Martinique, Switzerland.
If you enjoy history and culture, the city of Annecy, just 45 minutes from Chamonix, and often regarded as the 'Venice of the Alps', is worth a visit. Walk the historic streets, and take in the amazing views of Lake Annecy. There is also a 12th-century prison in the centre of the town that is worth visiting.
WHO IS CHAMONIX SUITABLE FOR?
Here are the highlights...
There are parts of Chamonix that are profoundly challenging to even the most proficient skiers!
Chamonix is renowned for its extensive steep terrain and deep snow in the higher altitude resorts. If you want to take on the Vallée Blanche is it advised that you book a guide, the terrain can be treacherous due to its glacial formation. There is an array of terrain that is great if you are looking to take on some ski touring with skins.
Grands Montets offers stunning views of the Mont Blanc Massif. The Bochard gondola provides access to a challenging red which winds back to Lognan and a black to either the Plan Jordan or Retour Pendant chairlift. At Le Brévent there is more than meets the eye. Deceptively it looks more like a beginner/intermediate ski area but there are a number of challenging runs that can be very steep and icy in the shadows. There are off-piste options should you decide to make your own path down the mountain. Flégère is connected by a cable car to Le Brévent, here you will find a handful of challenging runs including a tricky black run that takes you back into the town (snow permitting).
For intermediate skiers, stick to Les Houches and Balme depending on which ski area you prefer. Le Prarion (Les Houches) sits at around 1900m and is the training ground for the French national ski team. It is also home to the Men's World Cup downhill slope, the Kandahar. This is a fantastic red that leads into a black and runs back into the village (snow permitting). If you want to take on the Women's World Cup downhill slope head to the Bellevue ski area, this black can be quite icy so consider trying it after lunch rather than first thing in the morning.
The Balme ski area above Le Tour has excellent steeper, shady runs and at the lower end of the ski area, you'll find a lot more tree-lined slopes. The other areas have some blue and red runs. Grands Montets has a decent area of blues at mid-mountain level. There is quite a jump between blues and reds here, so ensure that you are confident before progressing.
Most lifts are cable cars, gondolas and chairs, giving perfect access for snowboarders!
Chamonix is a haven for advanced snowboarders who want to tackle the steep and wild terrain, especially popular areas include the Grands Montets. This does have a knock-on effect, you will find that these areas tend to be crowded peak season so expect to queue for the lifts. The terrain is not best suited for beginners but is excellent for those who enjoy all-mountain riding. If you are a beginner stick to the Balme or Les Houches ski areas. If you are an advanced snowboarder or use a split board, and you want to take on the Vallée Blanche, be warned that there are multiple flat areas where you might have to scoot a for a while. There are some fantastic off-piste areas in Vallorcine/Le Tour which boarders love, you can find your way back down to the train station in Vallorcine where you can head into Chamonix for a few drinks after a day on the slopes.
SHORT TRANSFERS & SKI WEEKENDS
Why not visit the local market before or after skiing? The local market is every Saturday morning from 8am.
Chamonix is a fantastic option for those looking for a short break or a resort with a short transfer. Chamonix is one of the closest ski resorts to Geneva airport , just a 1-hour drive from Chamonix, with multiple flights from the UK daily it means that you can spend more time on the slopes and less time on the roads. Chamonix has a population of 10,000 but the capacity to accommodate 60,000 people in peak season. There are multiple self-catering apartments which are ideal for those looking to stay 3 or 4 nights, Chamonix town centre has an array of small supermarkets, bars and restaurants which are always full after a day on the slopes.
Keep an eye on the weather conditions...
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MAP OF CHAMONIX
Find your way…
Here's our map of Chamonix showing you the key hotels, chalets and apartments as well as some of the main points of interest.