Situated under the Mont Blanc mountain (4,408m), Chamonix is situated at an altitude of 1,050m and has long been one of the world’s most famous, and much loved, ski and snowboard destinations.
The highest lift station is 3,842m (Aiguille du Midi) and is the start of the Vallee Blanche off-piste route (more on this later). Those who prefer their pistes, the Grands Montets rises up to 3,275m, ensuring Chamonix is one of the Alps premier snow sure destinations. Famous for its off-piste, visitors shouldn’t however be fooled it is a resort just for experts as there are 207km of pistes, 15 Green Runs, 40 Blue Runs, 28 Red Runs and 12 Black Runs. There are also 4 parks situated around the valley.
But even in winter Chamonix is much more than just a ski and snowboard resort. A vibrant town, the centre has a vast array of shops to suit nearly all tastes (gifts, mountain equipment outlets, clothing and designer boutiques), as well as many bars and restaurants to enjoy and marvel at the views by day, and atmosphere at night. Adrenalin junkies and fitness lovers who still have itchy feet will also appreciate the vast array of sports facilities (swimming pool, ice rink, luge run, and so much more (see full list below).
So lets firstly start with the skiing and snowboarding and the main areas people head for:
A beautiful village that nestles at the bottom of the Mont Blanc Massif. Les Houches is a great favourite with families, beginners and intermediates with its fabulous selection of wide and flattering blue and red pistes to keep most skiers very happy throughout their stay. Experts are not however left out as this is the home of the FIS Chamonix World Cup Race, the Kandahar which takes place on the Piste Verte. Dropping 1,000m towards the valley floor it is considered by many racers to be one of the most challenging courses on the circuit and close to the Hannenkham in terms of technical challenge.
With many of the runs being south facing, this is the area that sun enthusiasts always head for. This said, the skiing and snowboarding comes a pretty good second too so if skiing rather than sun is your preference you still shouldn’t be put off!! Very much an intermediates paradise on the piste, experts will love the off-piste options too.
In fact, the Flegere area has two of our favourite runs, the Chrocues red which has a backcountry feel, and Lachenal for its stunning scenery and the challenge this red presents.
Probably the most challenging pistes you will find in the valley (and in many other ski resorts too), here the emphasis is mainly on pushing the outer edges! The reds are relatively steep, the blacks generally mogulled, steep and aggressive. Whilst at first it can seem somewhat humbling, as you progress through the week you soon start to realize how easy and insignificant other resorts have been in comparison, and how Chamonix is pushing you on to the next level.
Le Herse has some great moguls to be tested on, also some steep reds too. Then there is our favourite, the Bochard, dropping into the Lavancher Bowl via the Chamois Black. Stunning scenery, even when you are on-piste it feels off-piste!
Something for everyone. A great beginner area is situated at the bottom, early intermediates runs a little further up, reds slightly further away, and if the pisted runs aren’t enough for experts, some challenging off-piste off the back (into Vallorcine) for competent skiers and snowboarders if properly equipped and capable.
And our favourite, ski over the back and under the Valloricine chairlift on a powder day! Challenging, but not to steep, and fresh tracks throughout most of the day!
A must visit for skiers, snowboarders and non-skiers (vertigo sufferers aside). The Aiguille du Midi is situated at 3,842m and is the start of the world famous Vallee Blanche off-piste route that, when conditions permits, involves 17km of skiing and a vertical drop of around 2,750m!
For non-skiers it is definitely a trip to consider, the views at the top are stunning, with panoramic views of Mont Blanc and the snow capped alpine landscape around. And don’t forget the Void, a glass-viewing platform that you stand on with a 1,000m vertical drop below.