If you like challenging steep runs that seem to go on forever then the Chamonix ski area has got plenty to keep your legs working hard.
Because the valley floor is low and the lifts rise to over 3000 metres there are plenty of possible runs offering 2000 or more metres of vertical. The largest amount of vertical is offered from the Aiguille du Midi, however the gradient on La Vallee Blanche is flat at times so it won’t offer you the high speed thrills that you’ll be looking for.
From the dramatic glaciers and peaks of the Aiguille du Midi and Grands Montets to the gentle rolling slopes of the Domaine de Balme, each unique skiing area in Chamonix has something different to offer skiers and boarders. One thing's for certain, skiing in Chamonix is unlike skiing any other French resort. It's variety on and off the slopes are almost guaranteed to keep you sufficiently entertained during your stay.
In summary, the differences between the two main categories of Chamonix ski area are:
Low Mountain : typically gentle slopes along the bottom of the valley with easy access for beginners. These areas are suited to youngsters and the less adventurous beginner skiers/snowboarders, once you've mastered the basics on these slopes you can progress to the higher and steeper areas. Snow cover is assured for most of the season by the use of snow cannons.
High Mountain : these areas are accessed via the lift system and offer a much greater range of pistes for all abilities from confident beginners to expert skiers and snowboarders, as well as being the gateway to the incredible Chamonix backcountry terrain.
Chamonix's different areas are linked by a regular bus and train system that is included with the price of your weekly or season lift pass.
Ski resort on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, included on MBU lift pass
Courmayeur, although not strictly part of the Chamonix valley, is worth a mention due to it's inclusion on the Mont Blanc Unlimited ski pass and quick access from Chamonix town.
The ski area offers spectacular views of Mont Blanc from the other end of the tunnel; a well-connected lift system operates from two locations on the valley floor at 1200m to the top of Helbronner at 3452m.
The main ski area offers some 29 pistes with a good amount of snow cannons for guaranteed skiing from December to around mid-April. The pistes are well-maintaned and there is a huge number of mountain restaurants to choose from, many offering typical homecooked Italian cuisine in a cosy atmosphere.
There are three main off-piste itineraries, the Arp Vieille, Cresta d’Arp and the Punta Helbronner - all of which should not be attempted without a guide or knowledge of the terrain. It is worth noting that some off-piste areas are forbidden altogether and the Italian mountain police are not averse to handing out hefty fines to people caught skiing or snowboarding out of bounds. However, there are plenty of easily accessible off-piste areas that are allowed and generally the area doesn't get tracked out nearly as fast as Chamonix, so you can still find fresh tracks even a few days after a big snowfall.
Access to Courmayeur is easily done form Chamonix via the Mont Blanc tunnel, and is worth remembering that the weather on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc can be quite different to the Chamonix valley. Check out our webcams to see live conditions.