Chamonix Mont Blanc
Haute-Savoie, French Alps
Chamonix’s reputation attracts countless advanced skiers from throughout the world.
Its dramatic setting, dominated by l’Aiguille du Midi (3482m) is just a few km from Switzerland, while the 11.6km Tunnel du Mont-Blanc offers rapid access to Courmayeur in Italy’s Aosta Valley.
Road access from the UK is straightforward via Geneva, with a non-autoroute option from Lyon via Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc and Albertville.
The Ski Area
- Skiing to suit all levels but do your homework on where is best for you.
- Mixed ability/activity groups will find plenty to entertain everybody.
It’s big, and will both surprise and confuse you during your first visit. Thinking of it not as one ski area but several, spread along both north and south sides of the valley, will help you make sense of it all and find your ideal terrain. Here’s how it breaks down:
Aproach from Lyon, Geneva, etc., and the first area you’ll encounter is Les Houches. Hugely underrated, it offers lots of intermediate terrain, including some surprisingly long drops through the tree line, both back to the village and above neighbouring Saint-Gervais. Then there’s the legendary Kandahar World Cup Grand Slalom descent.
Next, and closest of all to Chamonix is the Brévent area, accessible via a gondola lift to mostly south-facing intermediate terrain at Plan Praz (1999m), with an onward cable car to Le Brévent (2525m) – for advanced skiers only. The same goes for the world-famous Vallée Blanche — a classic 20km off-piste descent with around 2700m vertical drop. It’s accessible via the sensational Aiguille du Midi cable car, on the opposite (south) side of the valley
Beginners aren’t forgotten, however. Les Planards (S of the village centre) and Le Savoy (just to the N., with a draglift to the Brévent gondola lift) are safe, dedicated debutant areas.
Next along the valley is the cable car serving the Flégère area (1877m), with an onward chairlift to 2525m. There’s also a cable car link to Le Brévent – useful when high winds have closed the Flégère cable car. The combined terrain is mostly red- and blue-graded, although there are a couple of greens.
Around 6km further on lies Argentière, whose new gondola lift provides a first-stage haul up to 2138m. Transfer to a cable-car and you'll be transported to 3275m to explore the world-famous (mostly ungroomed) Grands Montets area. The scenery is sensational and the terrain is graded red or black, so it’s strictly for advanced skiers or confident, experienced intermediates. If you don’t feel up to it there are some blues at Plan Joran plus an enjoyable (if occasionally icy) red back to the village.
Opening in Dec 2018, a new 6-seater chairlift "Tabé" will replace two former lifts and transport over 3000 skiers per hour up to the mid-station at Lognan (1900m). Here, Grand Montets have addressed the notable lack of beginners' slopes with the development of a new area which includes two drag–lifts and snow cannons.
Just beyond Argentière a right-hand fork is signed to Le Tour (1462m). Beside the village is a gentle beginner area (La Vormaine), while the Charamillon gondola will drop you 1850m. An onward chairlift heads up to the blue- and red-graded pistes of Les Autannes (2195m). One of the Blue links (Le Col) passes the Plan des Reines chairlift, which will haul you to Tête de Balme (2250m).
From here a red-graded zig-zag through the tree-line (or a nearby gondola descent) drops in on Vallorcine. The Chamonix valley’s final ski area is also the most recently developed, with lots of new skier accommodation. While its own gondola-served ski terrain is effectively return runs, onward lifts offer speedy access to many more between Tête de Balme and Le Tour.
To sum up: It all sounds spread out and it is, but getting around the valley is easier than you might imagine, thanks to efficient shuttle buses and a perfectly viable rail option — those staying in the valley are offered a Carte d’Hôte giving free travel on buses and trains.
Pistes Total: 56 km
1 Magic Carpets
2 Cable Cars
Pistes Total: >170 km
2 Magic Carpets
8 Cable Cars
- The Chamonix Valley has been awarded the Flocon Vert label for its environmental actions.
- Since February 2009, all the villages in the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Valley have been engaged in a voluntary initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapting the area to climate change. The Climate and Energy Area Plan has a total of 184 actions and was set up in consultation with major stakeholders in the Valley.
- Free public transport by bus and train throughout the Valley with a Carte d'Hôte pass.
- Chamonix is one of the closest resorts to Geneva airport.
- Travel by fast TGV train to St Gervais les Bains - le Fayet then take the Mont Blanc Express which serves all the villages in the Chamonix Valley.
The Ski Village
- With its dramatic setting, the glitz and glamour, Chamonix is like nowhere else.
- The other Chamonix Valley villages all have something to offer but stay in Chamonix at least once.
Once a humble farming community, Chamonix is today a medium-sized town, yet somehow the village feel lives on in the predominantly locally-owned businesses. Big-brand boutiques are there too (along with a slightly incongruous casino), but there’s also a tangible pride in being a part of this remarkable place. Chamonix is like nowhere else.
As it edges ever further upmarket property values climb relentlessly, thanks to an international reputation and an incomparable setting among some of the most dramatic scenery the Alps have to offer. Despite the glitz and glamour Chamonix remains above all the spiritual home of mountain activities with something for everyone, at all levels and whatever the season.
Les Houches has its own chalet-style charm, steadily-growing accommodation but limited dining-out potential (so you’ll end up heading into Chamonix). Beyond “Cham”, rubbing shoulders with the Golf Club de Chamonix is Les Praz, with a pleasing village feel and access to the mountain via the Flégère cable car.
Further up the valley, Argentière has a friendly, self-contained vibe which has many aficionados, particularly among advanced skiers. Le Tour is predictably slightly more remote-feeling, but preserves a pleasingly down-to-earth Savoyard identity. Much the same can be said for Vallorcine, which despite the volume of recently-added apartment accommodation, remains a year-round working community.
See Practical Information below for accommodation suggestions.
Why go skiing in Chamonix ?
Chamonix is infectiously cosmopolitan and attracts skiers from throughout the world, keen to ski in the birthplace of winter sports. You can ski (or shop) to your heart’s content here, although if you’re really going to get the best from the lift pass you’ll need to be a confident all-mountain skier. Locals will tell you that it’s not overly demanding, but piste grading here can sometimes be optimistic, some blues having red-style challenges. Chances are you’ll return a better skier.
That said, there are some super-gentle debutant areas, and at the other end of the scale, endless off-piste opportunities.
SnowboardingBoarder cross, speed-riding and Mont-Blanc legend family area at Flegere, Big Air Bag at Brevent.
1 Snowboarder Cross
Cross-Country SkiingRed, blue and green pistes starting a few minutes from the town centre. Ski Pass gives entry to ice-skating or swimming pool.
20km Cross-Country and Nordic Ski Trails
- Les Houches is a popular destination for Handiski, with wide slopes and relatively quiet pistes. One of the first schools to teach Handiski, ESF Les Houches offers lessons for any age and disability, in partnership with the Loisir Assis Evasion association.
- Chamonet.com offers guides for lift access etc.
- ESF Chamonix extends a warm welcome and has a full range of equipment plus specialist instructors.
- Chamonix town centre is mostly pedestrianised. The Mulet shuttle bus, ski buses and trains are wheelchair accessible.
- No-limits skiing for those with the skills and the nerve.
- Free wi-fi access at key locations.
- There are lots of other activities and sites to visit.
- Dedicated beginner areas close to the town centre, plus a safe freestyle area at La Vormaine.
- Skiing to suit all levels but do your homework on which area will suit you best before you book.
- Easy transfers from Geneva airport or TGV high-speed rail connection into Saint-Gervais Le Fayet, then Mont-Blanc Express.
- Chamonix itself is a premium destination, with premium prices.
- Although well-connected, the valley covers a large area and most ski areas are not linked, something to bear in mind when choosing your accommodation.
- Chamonix is susceptible to high winds and subsequent lift closures.
- Ski buses can get overcrowded at peak times of the day.
- You'll find free parking in the Planards car park, near the Montenvers Tramway station.
- Use your Carte d’Hôtes (available from your accommodation provider) to enjoy excellent free public transport to access ski areas throughout the Chamonix Valley.
- Check there’s a convenient bus stop near your accommodation.
- Visit the Tourist Office to get information about events, guides, places to visit and transport timetables.
- Buy the right Chamonix ski pass for you - there's a useful guide to all lift passes and what they include on Chamonet.com Buy online to avoid the queues.
- To avoid disappointment, visit the Aiguille du Midi on a fine, clear day — and book your visit in advance to avoid queues.
179 rue Mummery
74400 Chamonix Mont Blanc
Les Balcons du Savoy occupy a commanding position 5-10 minutes walk from the north of Chamonix town centre. There are nursery slopes very close to the residence with drag-lift access to the Brévent gondola lift. Given the right conditions, there’s doorstep skiing. Nearby bus stops (short uphill walk back to the residence) bring access any part of the valley skiing without driving.
We stayed in a one-bedroom apartment with a panoramic view across Chamonix to the Aiguille du Midi. There’s a separate kitchen with microwave, hob and dishwasher plus adequate pans and crockery. The lounge has a sofa bed, TV (English channels available) and DVD player, plus access onto a balcony equipped with table & chairs. There’s a separate WC and bathroom with bath and overhead shower. Free WiFi access throughout the residence.
If you wish you can order a buffet breakfast, served in the bar next to reception, cost 12€ per person/8€ child. Massage and beauty treatments plus hammam are available in the spa & pool area.
It’s a 5 minute walk to a supermarket, and there’s an excellent boulangerie a couple of minutes’ walk away.
Underground parking has lift access to all apartment levels.
Situated right next to the Aiguille du Midi cable car and just a short walk from the centre of the town, these luxury apartments are on of the most conveniently sited places to stay in the resort. There are 50 luxurious apartments in 3 chalets, combining traditional alpine architecture with high standard and modern facilities. Within the leisure centre you can relax in the free private indoor heated pool as well as a Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and fitness room. There’s 1 free car parking space per apartment. Besides all this, you will find all the day to day services you require at Le Cristal de Jade, built for the 16/17 winter season by acclaimed Savoie based mountain architects MGM.
Le Cristal de Jade is offered by Alpine specialist Ski Collection as part of its’Premium range.