Chamonix is one of the world’s great ski towns. Sitting underneath the glaciers of Europe’s highest mountain, Mont-Blanc, it is home to five world class ski resorts and if you’ve ever watched a ski movie (Blizzard of Aahhhs anyone?) you will almost certainly have seen footage taken on one of the local hills. It is also home to the Kandahar World Cup Downhill, held on the slopes of Les Houches, next due to race in 2015. Whilst the steeps are legendary, Chamonix does have a wide range of skiing options. What makes it such a great place to improve is that access to amazing slopes and chutes are made in minutes from the main lifts. Whilst the back country seems almost infinite in its possibilities, staying close to the major runs gives you access to terrain that the vast majority of mountains could only dream of. It was discovered about 250 odd years ago, when a couple of Englishmen came to Chamouny (later changed to Chamonix), and grew from there. It was the site of the first winter Olympics in 1924 (the amazing bobsleigh track can still be seen if you know where to look) and is now a mecca for alpinists and skiers alike. Unlike many ski towns the summer season is huge meaning that there is perhaps less pressure on accommodation than you might expect in winter. There are five ski areas in the Chamonix Valley (piste map);
- Le Tour with its rolling slopes and superb back-bowls towards the Swiss boarder.
- Les Grands Montets, in Argentière, known for its glacier skiing, masses of off-piste and open bowls.
- La Flégère whose sunny side skiing is perched on the side of the Aiguille Rouges and looks across at Mont-Blanc. A fantastic ski area of roll-offs and bowls. This has a liaison with Le Brévent, the only two areas linked in the valley.
- Le Brévent’s lifts (including its recently updated access gondola) rise out of Chamonix town and make a quick lunch-time ski now a real possibility for those working in town. Together with La Flégère (to which it is linked by a horizontal cable car) they offer excellent off piste and couloir skiing.
- Les Houches, 4km down the valley toward Geneva, is home to the World Cup Downhill and whose tree-lined runs are popular on storm days when the visibility may not be perfect ‘up top’.
Check out the and in Les Houches
The official Chamonix and a pretty good smartphone app too for or .
In Chamonix there are 152 kilometres of pistes and there is something for every skier. Beginners have no worries on Le Tour’s friendlier slopes and The Grands Montets (despite its initial steep appearance) is ideal for getting skiers of an intermediate level and upwards to ski off-piste. Many of the small bowls dotted around the mountainside are easy to get to and offer varying pitches to get the skills honed.
Chamonix Lift Pass Options
There are three options for 2013-4.
CHAMONIX UNLIMITED which gives access to everything in the valley (including the top section of the Grands Montets, l’Aiguille du Midi, Les Houches) and, outside of the valley, Courmayeur and Verbier.
CHAMONIX LE PASS which gives access to the main skiing areas of Brevent-Flegere, Le Tour and Grand Montets which are where most skiers will spend most of their time in Chamonix.
LES HOUCHES which covers the wonderful slopes of the smaller resort at the Geneva end of the valley. Les Houches is covered by the UNLIMITED but not LE PASS. Whilst it is excellent skiing (and Powderama’s office is in Les Houches) this probably isn’t the pass for most visitors to Chamonix.
Whether you want LE PASS or UNLIMITED really depends on how much you want to use the top lift at Grand Montets, if you want to do the Vallée Blanche and whether you’ll be popping through the tunnel for a day in Courmayeur. If you are at all uncertain, feel free to drop us a line.