Chamonix

Historic 'must do' ski resort and haven for extreme skiers.

Chamonix Ski Holidays

Lying in the shadow of Mont Blanc and buzzing with activity year round, Chamonix is one of the oldest ski resorts in France, and holds a permanent position on the list of the world's top 10 ski resorts.

Chamonix is infamous amongst the thrill seekers wanting to push themselves ever further to the extreme. The resort is known for its world class back country and it's beautiful mountain scenery. It feels like no other alpine ski resort - more like a town, yet retaining it's charm, with great shopping and lively nightlife.

Off piste and expert terrain
Short transfers
Buzzing nightlife
Ski to 3840m.

Geneva, 1 hr

152km of pistes, 6 separate areas.

Ski from 1000m – 3840m.

Chamonix Ski Chalets


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Guide to Chamonix Ski Holidays

Chamonix is often described as the 'worldwide capital of alpine sports'. Agree or not, what is undeniable is it's permanent position on the list of the world's top 10 ski holiday destinations. The Chamonix Valley is divided into six different ski areas, and each of them are considered a 'must do' for skiers and snowboarders worldwide.

As one of the oldest ski resorts in France, Chamonix has a very grand and unique feel, especially when you look towards the North face of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe at 4810 metres. The tall buildings as you exit the train station make it feel more like a chic city than a ski resort. Chamonix hosted the very first winter Olympics, back in 1924 and the town has a permanent population of over 10,000 people.

Beginner
Some decent areas lower down, but better beginner resorts to choose from

Intermediate
You'll enjoy it if you're a good intermediate skier or snowboarder who likes a challenge

Advanced
An accomplished skiers idea of heaven

Snowboarders
Really good snowboarders will love it. Intermediates won't

Families
Some good family facilities but it's not the most convenient

High Altitude
1100m to 3840m including glacier skiing

Nightlife
A wide variety of bars, clubs and special events

Pretty Village
Historic town centre, less attractive outer suburbs

Cheap
Generally expensive, but it's possible to find budget alternatives within the resort

Large Ski Area
150km of pistes, mainly of the red and black variety!

Close to airport
1 hour by road from Geneva

In resort convenience
Chamonix is more like six separate resorts

So in sum,

Chamonix is great for:

  • Expert skiers and snowboarders
  • Intermediates looking to push themselves in the Alpine capital of the world!
  • An authentic Alpine holiday experience
  • Super quick access from Geneva airport

Chamonix is not great for:

  • Beginner skiers, who might struggle on the steep terrain
  • In-resort connections between the four ski areas
  • Relaxation if you stay in the centre of the town, which is always very busy!

Chamonix Skiing

Chamonix is best suited to the die hard skier and snowboarder. Its reputation as one of the most extreme Alpine resorts is well documented, and those freestyle ski and snowboard movies that you watch in advance of your holiday...? That's what the terrain is actually like in Chamonix.

It's also worth mentioning that if you're planning a ski holiday in Chamonix as part of a group of mixed ability skiers or snowboarders, you're likely to spend your holiday in very different sectors of the resort.

The ski terrain in Chamonix naturally splits into four distinct areas.

Grands Montets (1235m -3300m)

The epicentre of off-piste and freeride skiing. It has 28km of pistes - 6 black, 4 reds, 5 blues and 1 snowpark.

The brilliant and vast mountain of Les Grands Montets tops out at 3407m. This Chamonix ski area is a mecca for hardcore skiers with ski movies such as the legendary 'Blizzard of ahhs' shot here. The mountain is vast and generally steeper than the other Chamonix ski areas, offering glacier skiing at the very top and open bowls and gully's running into the treeline where some great tree skiing can be found.

Brévent/Flégère (1030m - 2525m)

The sunny south side of Chamonix. 56 km of pistes - 7 black, 7 red, 13 blue, 4 green

Opposite the Mont Blanc massif is the smaller but, no less impressive aiguille rouge hosting Le Brevent and La Flegere. These ski areas are more local to Chamonix town. Both are south facing and linked together offering amazing on piste and off piste skiing for all levels. Watch out if you are skiing off piste here in the afternoons as avalanches are frequent when the warm sun hits the slopes.

Balme/Le Tours (1453m - 2270m)

Best beginner/intermediate area, and the favorite for boarders. 29 km of pistes – 8 reds and 11 blues.

Le Tour (Domaine de Balme)

A great for beginners and intermediate skiers but attracts many expert skiers to practice high speed carving on the wide open well groomed pistes and huge open powder fields, while the back side chair lift offers access to amazing off piste descents into Switzerland.

Les Houches (950m -1900m)

The first resort as you enter the valley. 55km of pistes - 2 black, 12 red, 6 blues and 2 greens.

Often underrated this ski area boasts 95 km of pistes, its own snow park for freestyle skiing and the fearsome Kandahar men's downhill competition ski run.With days of skiing in Courmayeur (Italy) and Verbier (Switzerland) also included on the unlimited pass there really has never been a better time to come to the Chamonix valley and find out why it is such a cornerstone in the history of skiing.

Beginners

It would be wrong of us to recommend Chamonix for beginner skiers. There are a couple of nursery slopes at either end of Chamonix town, but both are difficult to reach on the local bus and because they're nestled in the bottom of the valley, they are very cold and very dark in the deep mid winter.

The Balme ski area is probably best for beginners skiers, but snowboarders will face drag lift after drag lift, which isn't much fun. Les Houches is the most beginner friendly area in Chamonix.

Intermediates

As you've probably gathered by now, everything about Chamonix is extreme. So if you're still reading this guide, you've probably got the guts to give the resort a go as an intermediate skiers. There's nothing 'cruisey blue' or 'wide and gentle' about Chamonix, which means that if you're up for it, you'll probably progress a lot.

Once of the most challenging and satisfying intermediate experiences you can have in Chamonix is skiing off the Vallee Blanche. Accessed from the top of the Aiguille du Midi at 3842m, the Vallee Blanche descends 9200 feet over 13 miles and good intermediates with good snow conditions on their side should give it a go with a guide.

Experts

Most expert skiers and snowboarders in Chamonix head straight for the Grands Montets. Ascent in the cable car, climb 121 steep steps, and there you'll find un-groomed black pistes that are long and hard, passing sections of glacier and crevasses on the way. From personal experience, we've found that the top lift on the Grands Montets often closes in bad weather. The Combe de la Pendant blow from the Bochard gondola is also a must do, as are the runs from the summit of Brevent.

Most experts employ the knowledge and experience of a mountain guide from a company such as Mountain Spirit (mountain-spirit-guides.com) for their first time in Chamonix.

Freestyle

Expert freeriders come to Chamonix for the glorious off-piste opportunities, the really steep terrain and the amazing snow. It's maybe because of this that Chamonix's snow park isn't all that highly regarded. The Snow Bowl on the Grands Montets has a few kickers, rails and a boarder cross. Over on Brevent there's a mini park with five rails and an airbag.

Snow Conditions

Chamonix gets a lot of snow, and because 90% of the runs are above 2000m, it stays in tact until the very end of the season. The same cannot be said for the lower runs and beginners areas unfortunately, which suffer towards the end of the winter season. Snow making is generally ok, but not as good as in other French ski resorts.

A snow history of Chamonix is coming soon!

Chamonix Resort Facts

Resort altitude: 1035m, in Chamonix centre

Highest lift: 3840m (Aiguille du Midi)

Lifts/Drags: 64 in while area

Total km of slopes: 762km, across the whole Chamonix Unlimited pass area, or 152km within the Chamonix Valley

Chamonix Le Pass

  • 16 green
  • 18 blue
  • 27 red
  • 8 black
  • 1 1/2 snowpark

Open: 1st December to 12th May (Limited to the Grands Montets at the start and end of each season)

Cost of lift pass: (Winter 2013 prices – Winter 2014 have yet to be released)

Chamonix Le Pass = Brevent-Flegere, Grands Montets (summit not included), Balme Tour Vallorcine, Vormaine, Chosalets, Savoy, Planards

Chamonix Unlimited = Brevent-Flegere, Grands Montets, Balme Tour Vallorcine, Aiguille du Midi, Montenvers Mer de Glace train, Tramway du Mont-Blanc, Les Houches, Courmayeur, Verbier

Day

Adult: Chamonix Le Pass = €43.50 / Chamonix Unlimited = €54.00 Child: Chamonix Le Pass = €37.00 / Chamonix Unlimited = €46.00

Week (6 Days)

Adult: Chamonix Le Pass = €218.00 / Chamonix Unlimited = €266.00 Child: Chamonix Le Pass = €185.30 / Chamonix Unlimited = €226.00

Piste map

You'll find both the Chamonix and Chamonix Mont Blanc piste map to download here - http://www.chamonix.com/maps,14,en.html

Chamonix Ski Schools

Evolution 2 (evolution2-chamonix.com) offer ski lessons throughout the winter season.

Amenities

Being the large town that it is, there's a lot going on in Chamonix centre. You'll also find great events, apres parties and restaurants in the outlying villages, such as in Argentiere.

Chamonix has a large market each Saturday, where you can rub shoulders with the locals and pick up some traditional souvenirs to take home with you. For a bit more culture, the Chamonix Alpine Museum charts the history of the resort, covering the birth of winter tourism and the significance Mont Blanc.

A popular pass time in Chamonix is people watching from one of the very chic pavement cafes in the pedestrian area, which is where you'll also find designer shops such as Moncler and Luis Vuitton.

Pamper Yourself

You'll find one of the most luxurious Chamonix spas at the Hotel Faucigny (hotelfaucigny-chamonix.com), in the centre of the resort. It's recently been renovated and has a spa, sauna and treatment rooms where you can enjoy a facial, a massage, manicures, pedicures or a relaxing massage.

If a sports massage is more your thing, Progression Fit Massage (progressionfit.com) are based in the Clinique du Sport in the centre of Chamonix, where they offer deep tissue massages. They also offer a mobile treatment service too.

Other Chamonix Activities

Being a relatively large resort, Chamonix offers a number of now related activities, other than skiing and snowboarding. Thrill seekers can enjoy heli-skiing trips offered by a number of local companies, and they fly you over the boarder into Switzerland or Italy for their drop points. Ice climbing on the glacier is also not for the feint hearted, but can be organised at a number of different sites across the resort.

More sedate activities in Chamonix include a horse-drawn tour around the town with the famous Dr Zhivago, or a whizz around the local snowy hills with a team of husky dogs.

Chamonix Childcare

There are a number of children specific ski schools in Chamonix, in addition to the regular nanny and childcare companies that you might find in other ski resorts. Le Petit VIP Kids Club (lepetitvip.com) offer something very different indeed. It's regular childcare as you know it, combined with arts and crafts projects for children aged three and over. They provide a mobile service, and come to your holiday accommodation for childcare too!

Eating out

You'll find dining options a plenty in Chamonix, as befits a town of its size. Many of the large luxury hotels have beautifully decorated and well established restaurants and dining rooms, which are a great experience.

Fine Dining Le A Restaurant at the Hotel Les Aiglons in the centre of Chamonix is a very modern affair and there's a chic, sunny terrace for long spring time lunches too. Despite offering a real fine dining experience, the menu isn't as pretentious as you might expect and the service is genuinely excellent. The Hameau de Albert Premier is another option for real occasion dining, though because of it's Michelin star, you'd better book in advance!

Local Food Les Planards is a traditionally Savoyarde restaurant in the centre of Chamonix, offering all those varieties of cheese that you long for after a day on the mountain. The restaurant is also conveniently close to the beginner slopes in Chamonix and they serve a pretty tasty vin chaud and chocolat chaud to warm up cold hands!

Pizzas, Pasta and Grills The majority of restaurants in Chamonix have a pizza or pasta option on their menu - you are almost in Italy after all! We're particularly fond of the light, crispy pizzas Le Caveau, which is a locals favourite with a very charming atmosphere. Maison Moustache is another fun option in central Chamonix. The portions are huge and the steaks mouthwatering.

Cheap On the main street of central Chamonix you'll find a number of takeaway restaurants and snack bars. We always make a bee line for Poco Loco, where the burgers are delicious and the price minimal. They also serve paninis and take away salads too.

Drinking and Dancing

A couple in Chambre Neuf, just opposite the train station in Chamonix centre is usually how a good night out in Chamonix commences. During apres they have some of the region's best bands playing and the food menu is pretty good too. If you're staying in the south of the resort, Monkey Bar is an equivalent starting point.

Chamonix has a very lively bar scene, and there are many newly refurbished bars to choose from. Le Priviledge attracts a very up market, cocktail crowd and although there isn't a formal dress code, you probably wouldn't get it wearing ski boots. A more relaxed vibe can be found at Mix Bar, where the owners are the DJs and the cool kids hand out.

Chamonix also has no less than five nightclubs - we're not counting but that could be a record for a ski resort. Alpes Angels is probably the most famous (read: notorious) of Chamonix's nightclub offerings. It's actually a strip club dressed up as something much chic'er. L'Amnesia is a huge club which plays host to a number of international DJs during the course of a winter season, while the White Hub is still pretty new and developing. Le Choucas is Chamonix's oldest nightclub and although there's been speculation that it'll be closing down for some time, we're letting you know about it in case it doesn't! And that leaves Le Podium, and when you land in Chamonix you'll find out pretty quickly whether it's a clubbing option during your holiday. It's only really used for one off gigs and events, bit it's worth going to, nonetheless.

Travel Info

Getting to and from Chamonix

Chamonix is one of the most convenient ski resorts to travel too, and many hardcore skiers use the resort for weekend breaks. It's just a one hour drive from Geneva airport, a journey best taken using one of the local airport transfer companies in the area. Holiday makers often have the chance to use an airport transfer service booked by their accommodation provider too. The road to Chamonix is also one of the most stunning journeys in the French Alps. Mont Blanc looms, bold and bright in the distance.

Getting Around Chamonix

Regular buses link all of the ski areas in the Chamonix valley, but they are unreliable by ski resort standard, and typically crowded from first bus to last. Consequently lots of people take taxis to get around the resort, which we're not particularly keen on! The centre of Chamonix is busy and there is a lot of traffic.

Green Chamonix

  • The four communes of the Chamonix Valley had their environmental policies approved and ISO14001 status awarded in 2009.

  • Property owners in Chamonix receive tax incentives to construct energy efficient properties and undertake environmentally friendly property renovations.

  • Chamonix town council measures and surveys the quality of the air in the valley

  • Urban planning favors accommodation within the existing confines of the resort one in the outlying villages, rather than in new building area