WEsayA resort best for good intermediates and experts looking for a challenge. This is a strikingly beautiful location with glacial scenery and rugged off-piste.
Chamonix is set at the foot of Europe's highest mountain, the Mont Blanc, which stretches an awesome 16,000 ft into the air. This resort is part of the Mont Blanc region that covers 13 resorts with five main ski areas. One of these resorts, Argentiere, lies just 8kms further up the valley from Chamonix and is linked by an efficient bus service that is free with your lift pass. The key feature of this area is the 24km Vallee Blanche run, which starts at 3842m and delivers you all the way back down to the resort. Access to the top of the slope is somewhat treacherous; therefore it is essential that you take a guide with you. This being said, the Vallee Blanche is not famous for its difficulty, it is well within the capabilities of any competent intermediate. Its popularity is due to its being the most accessible ice wilderness in the whole of the Alps. For more exciting variants on a theme try l’Envers du Plan and la Vraie Vallee Blanche.
The main skiing is on the other side of the valley. Plan Praz and la Flegere are great for beginners who want to progress beyond the nursery slopes which are based at le Savoy in the centre of the town. Some good red runs are found just further up the mountain from le Savoy whilst several blacks descend steeply immediately below and as a result beginners would do well not to stray too far from their patch. As the whole mountain is basically a snow park, boarders do not really need a man-made one, but someone built one anyway and it features a half-pipe and a variety of jumps.
The resort is a couple of hundred years old and its history is chronicled at the local museum. Heritage tours of the local area are also available. Less cerebral activities can be found at the sports centre which has a pool, gym and fitness suite. Or for something a bit different head to Huskydalen and learn how to run a dog team. The nightlife is one of the busiest in France and caters admirably to a range of punters, although the emphasis as ever is on the more hardened revellers.
New for 2016/17
The slow Parsa quad chair, which serves easy blue and green runs at mid-mountain on Le Brévent, is being taken place by a fast six-pack. This will have a capacity of nearly 3,000 people per hour in comparison with the 1,800 an hour of the old lift. The two drag lifts serving the same area will be replaced by one modern draglift.
New for 2015/16
Les Houches will hold the Men s World Cup Downhill in February 2016.
New for 2014/15
The ancient Plan Joran chair at the base of Les Grand Montets is due to be replaced by a 10-person gondola. This should greatly reduce the queue problem and increase efficiency there.
New for 2013/14
Step into the Void, a thrilling enclosed glass viewing area (including a glass floor) above a 1000m precipice , opened at Aiguille du Midi. A new 4-star hotel, the Héliopic, opened at the foot of the Aiguille du Midi cable car.
New for 2012/13
The 4-star Mont-Blanc hotel was revamped and reopened as a 5-star. At Balme, a new mountain restaurant opened, the Ecuries de Charamillon. The Mont Blanc wing of the Aiguille du Midi top station has been refurbished and fitted with panoramic windows. At Les Houches, new signposting has been installed on the slopes and a new toboggan run and boardercross built. Snowmaking was installed on the Col de Voz red.
- A lot of very tough terrain, especially when off-piste
- Excellent cable car to the Aiguille du Midi, for the famous Vallée Blanche
- Many other resorts are covered on the extended lift pass, notably sunny Courmayeur
- Immerse yourself in Alpine tradition
- Plenty of reasonably priced hotels