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Chamonix: Powder

The HQ of French mountaineering and skiing: a big, busy town in the shadow of Mont Blanc, with famously tough skiing.

Chamonix could not be more different from the archetypal high-altitude, purpose-built French resort. It hasn't been designed to deliver the smoothest possible experience to the widest possible market. It hasn't been designed.

You don't have to be an expert to enjoy the place - Editor Gill once took his blue-run-skiing wife and novice kids for a week here, and lived to tell the tale. But it is the expert and the adventurous would-be expert who really must give Chamonix a permanent place on their shortlist, despite its serious drawbacks.

Chamonix is a long-established, year-round tourist town that spreads for miles along the valley in the shadow of Mont Blanc.

On either side of the centre, just within walking distance, are base stations of the cable car to the Aiguille du Midi (for the famous Vallée Blanche glacier run) and a gondola to Le Brévent. A third high-altitude area, La Flégère, is linked to Le Brévent by cable car and reached by its own cable car from the village of Les Praz.

At the top of the valley are the villages of Argentière, beneath the Grands Montets and Le Tour, at the foot of the Balme slopes (with an alternative base at Vallorcine). These villages are described at the end of the chapter, but their slopes are taken in to the main part of the chapter.

Down the valley is Les Houches, with the most sheltered slopes in the valley. This is wholly described at the end of the chapter; its lifts are not covered by the normal Chamonix pass.

Free ski-buses link all these points but can get very crowded ('even in January') and be 'infrequent and unreliable'. Don't expect additional buses to meet varying demand (eg when everyone wants to get to Les Houches in bad weather). There are also hourly trains along the valley, free with a guest card, and usually recommended by reporters.

The Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass covers not only Les Houches but also Verbier in Switzerland and Courmayeur in Italy. The first is a major expedition; the second is of more practical use, not least because the weather can be good in Italy when it is lousy in Chamonix. And there are buses through the Mont Blanc tunnel several times daily. Having a car is useful in lots of ways, and makes that outing to Verbier a more practical proposition.

Opening times


  • 13 Dec to 6 May: 0800-1700 (peak); 0830-1630 (off-peak)

Getting there


  • Geneva airport - 1.5 hours

Pros

Cons

 

A lot of very tough terrain, especially off-piste

Several separate mountains, widely separated; bad for mixed abilities

 

Amazing cable car to the Aiguille du Midi, for the famous Vallée Blanche

Inadequate bus services

 

Stunning views wherever you are

Bad weather can shut the best runs

 

Other resorts covered on extended lift pass, notably sunny Courmayeur

Still some old lifts, and serious queues in key spots

Ski Club Freshtracks holidays to Chamonix

Chamonix Off Piste Improvement 1
Off piste zone: 7 nights, 16 Jan 2016
The Mont Blanc Valley - there’s nowhere quite like it for off piste holidays. Just the name conjures...
Chamonix Off Piste Improvement 1 - CO
Off piste zone: 7 nights, 16 Jan 2016
The Mont Blanc Valley - there’s nowhere quite like it for off piste holidays. Just the name conjures...
Chamonix Off Piste Adventure 1
Off piste zone: 7 nights, 23 Jan 2016
For the fit and daring amongst you, we have a week in Chamonix aimed at intermediate and advanced...
Chamonix Off Piste Adventure 1 - CO
Off piste zone: 7 nights, 23 Jan 2016
For the fit and daring amongst you, we have a week in Chamonix aimed at intermediate off piste...
Chamonix Off Piste Exploration
Off piste zone: 7 nights, 06 Feb 2016
If you’re an adventurous skier who wants to delve even further into the mountains, a ski touring...
Chamonix Off Piste Exploration - CO
Off piste zone: 7 nights, 06 Feb 2016
If you’re an adventurous skier who wants to delve even further into the mountains, a ski touring...
Chamonix Off Piste Adventure 2
Off piste zone: 7 nights, 20 Feb 2016
For the fit and fearless amongst you, we have a week in Chamonix aimed at intermediate and advanced...
Chamonix Off Piste Adventure 2 - CO
Off piste zone: 7 nights, 20 Feb 2016
For the fit and fearless amongst you, we have a week in Chamonix aimed at intermediate and advanced...
Chamonix Off Piste Adventure 3
Off piste zone: 7 nights, 27 Feb 2016
For the fit and fearless amongst you, we have a week in Chamonix aimed at advanced and expert off...
Chamonix Off Piste Adventure 3 - CO
Off piste zone: 7 nights, 27 Feb 2016
For the fit and fearless amongst you, we have a week in Chamonix aimed at advanced and expert off...
PE Chamonix Off Piste Improvement 2
Off piste zone: 7 nights, 05 Mar 2016
The Mont Blanc Valley - there’s nowhere quite like it for off piste holidays. Just the name conjures...
PE Chamonix Off Piste Improvement 2 - CO
Off piste zone: 7 nights, 05 Mar 2016
The Mont Blanc Valley - there’s nowhere quite like it for off piste holidays. Just the name conjures...
Chamonix Off Piste Adventure 4
Off piste zone: 7 nights, 12 Mar 2016
For the fit and daring amongst you, we have a week in Chamonix aimed at advanced and expert off...
Chamonix Off Piste Adventure 4 - CO
Off piste zone: 7 nights, 12 Mar 2016
For the fit and daring amongst you, we have a week in Chamonix aimed at intermediate off piste...

tour operators in Chamonix

Exodus
10% discount for Ski Club members
Exodus Winter Activities - Do Something Different This Winter! Ski Club of Great Britain members can...
Club Med
10% discount for Ski Club members
INCREASED MEMBER OFFER FOR 2016/17 BOOKINGS with CLUB MED At Club Med you can expect style and chic...
Erna Low
6% discount for Ski Club members
Erna Low is an independent ski specialist offering the widest range of self-catered and hotel...
Travel Club Elite
6% discount for Ski Club members
Travel Club Elite are an Awarding Wining Travel Agent. We are an ABTA member (82689) of 30 Years...
Ski Solutions
5% discount for Ski Club members
Ski Solutions is Britain's original and largest specialist ski travel agency and tailor-made...
flexiski
5% discount for Ski Club members
Flexiski are tailor-made ski holiday experts with over 20 years experience in planning ski breaks to...
Crystal Ski Holidays
5% discount for Ski Club members
For us, the mountain is everything. We love it as much as you do. Since 1981, we’ve been finding the...
Crystal Finest
5% discount for Ski Club members
Treat yourself to something extra special where luxury accommodation, amazing food and impeccable...
Inghams
5% discount for Ski Club members
With over 80 years experience in ski, offering holidays in 91 resorts in 9 countries, Inghams offer...
Ski Independence
5% discount for Ski Club members
Ski Independence is the UK's leading tailor-made ski specialist offering the best hotels,...
Lagrange Holidays
5% discount for Ski Club members
Lagrange specialises primarily in self-catering ski holidays to France, featuring accommodation to...
The Oxford Ski Company
5% discount for Ski Club members
With over fourteen years of experience, some 450+ personally inspected luxury ski chalets and 90...
IGLU.COM
5% discount for Ski Club members
Igluski.com is an award-winning ski travel agency, working with over 70 tour operators to offer ski...

ski accommodation in Chamonix

Nomadic Ski Holidays Ltd
10% discount for Ski Club members
Nomadic Ski Holidays has been providing luxury chalet holidays and short breaks in Chamonix, France...
Erna Low
6% discount for Ski Club members
Erna Low is an independent ski specialist offering the widest range of self-catered and hotel...
Chaletsante
5% discount for Ski Club members
Chaletsante Chaletsante is a luxury chalet located in the Chamonix valley in les Iles, Argentiere...
PowderBeds.com
5% discount for Ski Club members
PowderBeds is an online Ski Accommodation Retailer, offering a huge range of hotels, apartments and...

member discounts in Chamonix

Skiset
60% discount for Ski Club members
N.B. Online bookings will vary depending on resort and seasonal time. However Ski Club members will...
Evolution 2
10% discount for Ski Club members
Winter activities include: Ski & Snowboard courses, Husky rides, Ice Climbing, Snow-shoe tours,...
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