Long view of mountainside with ski lifts at Les Contamines

Les Contamines

Massif du Mont-Blanc, Savoie, French Alps

The village sits between the Chamonix Valley and the Val d’Arly, but unlike nearby Saint Gervais and Megève, Les Contamines is spared through-traffic, since the road stops at the far end of the valley.

Road access from Saint Gervais is simple enough, however, with no arduous mountain climbs.

The location is impressive, nearby Mont-Blanc providing visual drama along with healthy snowfalls, while over in the next valley lie Hauteluce and the Beaufortain.

Snowboarder and skiers at junction of pistes with mountain background.

The Ski Area

Two gondola lifts converge on Etape 1470, from which you either take an onward chairlift to ski a selection of tree-lined terrain (for competent skiers this means all the way down to the valley floor) or a gondola up to Signal 1900. Here you’ll find terrain for all abilities, novices included. Lovers of Blue-graded cruising have a good selection of quite long runs, including a couple of scenic swoops over into the Hauteluce sector.
It’s more competent skiers, though, who get to appreciate the full extent of just what Les Contamines offers. Red-grading tends to be more a reflection of gradient steepness than anything too daunting - and often you can change your mind along the way and switch to a Blue. For something altogether more testing, take the draglift up to Veleray 2450 for bracing drop down to 1577m on the Black-graded Rebans.

Resort Information

Altitude : 1164m - 2500m
Les Contamines
Pistes Total:
120 km
8 Green
12 Blue
18 Red
10 Black
Ski Resort Lifts : 24
12 Draglifts
12 Chairlifts
4 Gondolas
Evasion Mont Blanc
Pistes Total:
445 km
Bar chart of ski pistes in Evasion Mont-Blanc ski area
44 Green
63 Blue
82 Red
34 Black
Ski Domain Lifts: 105
50 Draglifts
36 Chairlifts
10 Gondolas
3 Cable Cars

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Chalet-style village centre with mountainside background.

The Ski Village

The old village has an appealingly authentic feel, and still has a reassuringly down-to-earth skyline. Les Contamines-Montjoie has been welcoming visitors since the first hotel opened in 1900, and founded its Ski Club just eleven years later. Chalet style still rules, with larger apartment developments only really in evidence (conveniently) closer to the Montjoie gondola. There’s also limited on-mountain hotel accommodation at Etape 1470. Shuttle-buses around the valley are free.

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

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Two snowboarders with big mountain view at Les Contamines

Best For

Confident skiers who value the purity of a back-to-nature mountain environment and a dramatic setting for their skiing experience. It’s friendly and although in the heart of Massif du Mont-Blanc, has a refreshingly tucked-away feel. Which is why if you want to explore the full extent of the Evasion Mont-Blanc lift pass you'll have to factor in transfers by road at the start and end of each day. But if you’re happy to stay put and explore the local terrain in depth then chances are you won’t be disappointed. Despite the image, the gentle beginner areas and choice of ski-schools (which offer English-speaking instructors) make learning here perfectly possible, and there’s lots of scope for improving intermediates...

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Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery


Cross-Country Skiing

Groomed cross-country trails for classic and skating style.
25km Cross-Country and Nordic Ski Trails

icon-smileyYes please...

  • Dramatic, away-from-it-all setting.
  • Some challenging but safe steeps for confidence-building.
  • Hauteluce sector adds variety and worthwhile extra mileage.
  • Capable lift system.
  • Convenient free car parking.
  • Cosy, welcoming village feel.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • Reassuring debutante areas, but relatively limited terrain for early intermediate skiers.
  • It can get windy here, and the Hautluce link is quite exposed...
  • No lift link to St Gervais/Megève - you'll need to take the bus or drive.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • La Gorge gondola offers ample parking plus a quicker ascent than Montjoie.

Practical Information

Getting there

By Car
For Dover-Calais ferry travel, other cross-channel routes, offers and bookings visit P&O Ferries

From the A40 l'Autoroute Blanche take the Le Fayet exit 21. Go through Saint-Gervais and follow signs for Les Contamines (12km).

By air
The nearest airport is Geneva (1 hour) which can be accessed by bus or taxi. Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc is about 1hour 15mins. For bus connections see SAT MONT BLANC which provides links between Geneva, Saint Gervais / Le Fayet and Les Contamines.

Jet2.comoffers low cost flights to the French Alps from 7 UK airports.

By train
This couldn't be easier - travel by TGV direct from Paris to Saint Gervais Le Fayet then take a bus or taxi (12km).

Book your TGV fast train from Paris or Eurostar’s ski train direct to the French Alps with OUI.sncf

Transfers
Visit Ski-Lifts for the best range of ski transfer destinations from airports and main rail stations.


Things to do

Nature Reserve

The Nature Reserve in Les Contamines-Montjoie is situated on the left hand side of the valley, between Dômes de Miage and Mont Joly. It was created in 1979 and covers more than 5,500ha at an altitude ranging from 1000 - 3900m. Forests, pastures, torrents, rocks, snow and glaciers offer a protected haven for diverse alpine fauna and luxuriant flora.

In the village centre next to the Tourist Office, the nature reserve information team provides activities, exhibitions, kids workshops, and library.
Maison de la Réserve Naturelle
Tel: +33 (0)4 50 91 51 36
www.maisonreservecontamines.fr
Open Mon-Sat 1000-1200 and 1530-1830, Sun 1600-1800.


Baroque Heritage

Baroque Eglise, Les Contamines

The heart of the historic village is 
dominated by its Baroque église. Baroque art originated in Rome, and in the high valleys of the Savoy region became a means of creative expression for many otherwise modest alpine communities. See:

  • • Church of the Holy Trinity in the village centre, built in 1759.
  • • The Church of Notre Dame de la Gorge situated at the end of the valley.
  • • 14 Oraticals (or chapels) dot the path leading to the Church of Notre Dame de la Gorge.

Local heritage guides can help you discover one of the Baroque churches, cost from €5.


Insight: Les Contamines

Wide view past ski school signs to mountains and pistes at Les Contamines

Insight: Les Contamines

The weather forecast isn’t overly encouraging when we set off for Les Contamines, but we’ve heard so much about this place for so long that we’re not going to pass up an opportunity to ski here at long last. The drive round from our base in Combloux proves to be undramatic, unlike the scenery which greets us as we make our final climb to the village. We normal resist using words like ‘cute’ to describe ski villages but in this case there’s no escaping the fact that this is how it looks and feels at a first encounter. Judging by the beautifully-restored Baroque church rising from the skyline, it’s also very much a living and working mountain community with a lot of history. For now, though, we press on, driven by a desire to get up the mountain to the ski area and cram in what we can before a fast-approaching depression stops play.

It all adds up to the kind of tantalising glimpse into just what this place offers skiers with the desire and imagination to try something just a little away from the mainstream.
ESF monitor, Les Contamines
Skiers at Les Contamines

Going up

We have no problem at all parking at La Gorge, and are soon riding the gondola on a steep haul up through the forest to Etape 1470. From the top a Red-graded return run drops through the trees back to the base of the lift, but we transfer to a second gondola for a gentler ride up to Signal (1900m). So far there’s little more than a gentle breeze, but we know it isn’t going to last, so we ski down to take the Roselette chairlift to head up for a look at how the liaison with the Hauteluce sector works. At the top there’s a stiff breeze building, but the scenery falling away before us is even more breathtaking, so we decide to take the plunge and go for it on Choton, a steep but wide Blue cruise which we follow down to La Ruelle (1600m).

Away from it all skiing at Les Contamines

It’s in every sense a blast – all the way down we’re skiing against a strong, bitterly cold headwind. When we reach the bottom we decide to take a chocolat-chaud break, thaw out and make the most of the views. Just above us across the valley we can make out the fortress-like dam of the Lac de La Girotte, whose frozen surface had been far below as we left the Col just minutes earlier. As soon as we’re suitably revived we snap into our skis once again and schuss sedately down to the welcome sight of the Col chairlift. In better conditions we’d have continued all the way down to Belleville 1200 for a return gondola-ride, but with hostile-looking clouds rapidly heading our way we don’t hang around before taking the high-speed four-seater for a glacial haul back up to the Col du Joly. At the 2000m ridge the wind is blowing harder, and the lift operator at this remote spot must be in no doubt that this will be a short day for him and his companions spread around the mountain. From our point of view, we’re just glad that we did at least manage to see something of the Hauteluce sector, an area we usually approach from Les Saisies on the far side of the village itself. The Beaufortain looks a picture in fine weather, but as today has already proved, sometimes the sense of adventure of skiing in less-than-perfect condition brings its own rewards.

The Roselette chairlift providing access to the Hauteluce sector.
Hauteluce sector, Les Contamines

Aiguille Croche

As we drop back down from the Col visibility comes and goes, but so far hasn’t decided to clamp down altogether. Taking this as a good omen, we join the Jonction four-seater chairlift at its low mid-station (the lift operates in both directions) for the first stage of a ride all the way up to Aiguille Croche, at 2487m the highest point in the ski area. The next is the four-seat high-speed Tierces lift, which, believe it or not, replaced an almost 2km-long haul by drag-lift (originally a T-bar). In 1995 the new lift finally opened this rewarding area up to intermediate skiers, along with the topmost terrain served by a four-seat fixed chairlift.

Impressive terrain

At the top we get to see little more than fleeting glimpses of the vastness all around us, but it’s still hugely impressive. It’s also becoming windier by the minute, so the nearby drag-lift up to the Black-only terrain below Veleray (2450m) is closed. In these conditions we’re hardly complaining, and set off on a long Red- and Blue-graded descent which eventually brings us right back to the Col lift mid-station. This time we join in the opposite direction and find ourselves heading calmly back up to Signal (1900m).

At the top it’s still sunny and feels a lot less exposed but gusting winds have nevertheless closed the gondola which runs along a ridge. Sadly we haven’t managed to take in the Gentianes piste we’d planned on skiing to explore the gully between here and the Aiguille de Roselette, but on the gentle cruise back to Etape 1470 we know we’ve crammed a lot into a very unpromising morning’s skiing.

During the gentle gondola ride back down to La Gorge our cheeks are burning and our hands tingling. But it’s as nothing compared to the highlights we replay in our minds – it all adds up to the kind of tantalizing glimpse into just what Les Contamines offers skiers with the desire and imagination to try something just a little away from the mainstream.MountainPassions heart icon