Chamonix

Introduction

Chamonix is a large French ski town beside Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in the Alps.

The Village

The centre of the town is pedestrian only (along “Rue du Dr Paccard”) with a number of restaurants that are generally very touristy (we found it better to stick to smaller and often cheaper restaurants). There are a number of “Casino” convenience stores (small supermarkets) throughout though there is also a large “Carrefour Market” just out of town.

Non-skiiers are catered for with the tourist alpine train to a glacier (“Train du Montenvers-Mer de Glace”; quite expensive) and the gondola to the top of Mont Blanc (see “L'Aiguille du Midi” below).

Skiing

The trail ratings are: Green (easy), Blue (moderate), Red (difficult) and Black (deadly). All of the ski areas are very old-school with generally narrow, steep runs throughout. Though there are some easier trails mostly it is reds and blacks (with many of their “blues” very “red” if you know what I mean). There are still a number of drag lifts so if you don't like them…The resorts are all fairly low which can be good in bad weather but not good if it is warmer.

There are free buses that run on a series of routes up and down the valley as well as a free train pass (for skiers) to/from a station very close to “Les Grands Montets”. These are complicated to figure out so best check with your hotel or the resort to figure out where and how to catch.

Ski Areas

There are a number of resorts in the area of Chamonix. There are two general passes available: The “Mont Blanc Unlimited” (10 ski areas) and “Le Pass” (local area only; Brevent/Flegere, Balme and Grands Montets - except the highest lift). We used the “Le Pass” as we only had a few days in the resort. All resorts offer resort or region day passes.

The lower resorts are:

  • La Vormaine (1480m) - In Le Tour
  • Les Chosalets (1230m) - In Argentiere
  • La Poya (1120m) in Vallorcine / Le Buet
  • Le Savoy (1049-1125m) - In the centre of Chamonix by the bottom of the Brevent gondola (just a couple of runs)
  • Les Planards (1062-1242m) - Near the town centre and Montenvers train
  • Le Tourchet (1000m) - In Les Houches next to the outdoor ice rink

The “middle mountain” resorts are:

  • Les Grands Montets (1235-3300m) - The most popular and highest ski area here. Mostly serious reds and blacks. Lower runs in the trees are quite narrow with sharp turns.

  • Brevent/Flegere (1030-2525m) - Still quite low with many runs below the tree line and can be very busy as it is right in the Chamonix town itself. A gondola takes you between the two areas (Brevant and Flegere). The higher runs all tend to be reds and blacks. The blues are very much like the reds and there are even a few greens…

  • Le Tour/Vallorcine/Balme (1453-2270m) - Lots of wide open pistes so not great when overcast (white on white) with a lot of drag/pummel lifts. The resort is spread out over a wide area with lots of tracks between areas.

  • L'Aiguille du Midi/La Vallee Blanche (1030-3842m) - This is not a ski area but rather the trip up the top of Mont Blanc for the views (there is a restaurant and viewing area) as well as a gondola trip at the top across from one side of the mountain to the other (ok, “Vallee Blanche” is the run from the top of Mont Blanc down into the city).
  • Les Houches (950-1900m)

Further Information

For further information please see:

Pictures