Nestled high in the northern French Alps Chamonix is not only one of France’s top resorts but one of the World's best ski destinations. Commonly referred to as the "World’s mountain sports capital" Chamonix is famous for extreme skiing and snowboarding terrain set amongst amazing scenery and an exciting picturesque town.
Expect challenging breakneck powder filled terrain on some of Europe’s most spectacular slopes. Chamonix has it all: - powder fields, endless hiking opportunities leading to cliff drops and narrow hair raising steep chutes, glacier skiing and snowboarding, huge moguls and long intermediate groomed linking runs plus gentle sloping beginner areas.
Whilst trails are groomed they are not manicured like many other resorts in France. This is beauty of Chamonix and what makes it different to other resorts. Intermediates and beginners are very well catered for but it is the advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders that get the most out of the Chamonix Valley.
The skiing and snowboarding in the Chamonix Valley is divided across six main resorts each with its own specific feel and diverse terrain. The six resorts are; Brevent, Flegere, Grands Montets/Argentiere, Les Houches and Le Tour.
Together the six resorts cover over 140 kilometres of groomed runs and are connected by a free and efficient bus service. The Chamonix lift system is old yet efficient but on powder mornings the base queues can be enormous so try to get out really early.
The ski patrol in Chamonix does not discourage off piste skiing and snowboarding. They tend to have the attitude 'if you can get to it you can ski it’ however caution should always be taken when heading off piste anywhere. Off piste guides are readily available for hire at any of the six resorts in the Chamonix Valley.
The closest resorts to town are Brevent and Flegere which are lift linked. From the top of the Brevent Cable Car the mountainous views of Mt Blanc and the Chamonix Valley are breathtaking. On a sunny day you feel as though you are literally standing in a post card.
The two resorts have ungroomed powder filled terrain and long linking wide groomed trails.
For awesome off piste skiing and snowboarding head to the upper areas of Brevent for cliff drops and untouched open powder areas. Some hiking will be necessary but the reward of steep virgin powder snow is well worth it.
For a morning warm up run take the long fast and tree lined Les Nants run from Brevent 1800 all the way down to the base gondola station. In 2009 the Planpraz Gondola in Brevent was upgraded. The new faster gondola has increased passenger capacity from 1,350 passengers to 3,000 passengers per hour relieving congestion in peak periods.
Mogul lovers head to Flegere where huge moguls can be found in the upper areas below the Index.
Flegere is more open than Brevent with rolling terrain and open powder fields. It gets full sun all day so after fresh powder be sure to arrive early before the powder starts to soften.
The largest inbounds skiing and snowboarding area in the Chamonix Valley is Grands Montets/Argentiere.
It has the valleys most challenging inbounds terrain with hiking opportunities into off piste powder, steep fast advanced trails, huge moguls and intermediate well groomed pistes.
The exceptional Point de Vue run down the Argentiere Glacier is a particular highlight for advanced skiers and snowboarders. Accessed from the top Cable Car station the top half of the run is steep and fast then it starts to flatten out. Do not race down the glacier, take your time and look out for hidden crevices. It is a surreal experience and for those not up to the 22km long Vallee Blanche glacier run the Argentiere Glacier is an easier option. Guides are available to take you down but on a sunny day it could be negotiated in your own group quite safely.
Speed riding was introduced in the 2007/2008 winter season at Grands Montets and Le Tour. It consists of skiing down a very steep slope with a harness and a sail attached. Once a certain speed is reached the skier is lifted into the air; the object being not so much to fly but to glide down the slope in control of your skis. The paragliding school at Grands Montes, 'Les Ailes du Mont-Blanc' has lessons available for first timers.
Grands Montets/Argentiere has a boardercross course and terrain park however with so much naturally challenging ungroomed terrain around them they don’t see too much action.
The small sheltered resort of Les Houches is at the far west end of the Chamonix Valley. It has challenging and extensive skiing and snowboarding terrain on groomed trails of varying descents best suited for confident beginners and intermediates.
As most of Les Houches long trails are below the tree line, in blizzard conditions when the other resorts have poor visibility, the winding trails through the pine forests are very inviting.
The French National Ski Team frequently train on the internationally acclaimed Men’s World Cup downhill run La Verte-Kandahar the only black run at Les Houches.
A day pass must be purchased to ski or snowboard at Les Houches as the Chamonix Ski Pass is not valid there.
Confident beginners and intermediates love the smaller resort of Le Tour with the wide open free rolling gentle terrain littered with natural gullies and halfpipes.
In fresh snow the gentle off piste opportunities are great fun and perfect for learning and improving deep powder turns.
The extreme 22 kilometre Vallee Blanche is Chamonix’s most famous run. From the top of the Aiguille Du Midi Cable Car at 3,842 meters skiers and snowboarders can experience a thrilling 9,200 feet descent on ungroomed and unmarked powder fields down the Vallee Blanche over the top of the Mer de Glace glacier.
The Vallee Blanche is not just for expert and advanced skiers and snowboarders, confident intermediates could enjoy the run with an experienced guide. A guide is highly recommended as they know the safest way down in ever changing conditions through the glacier fields.
While the six Chamonix resorts have some beginner runs on the lower slopes first time skiers and snowboarders are better off learning on the specific uncrowded beginner only areas of Les Planards and Le Savoy. Both are located within easy walking distance from the town centre.
Les Planards behind the Chamonix Train Station has four slopes; three beginner and one intermediate all serviced by a chairlift and magic carpet.
Le Savoy at the base of Brevent has a very gentle gradient with two drag lifts best suited for young children.
The seven ski and snowboard schools at Chamonix offer group, private and day long lesson with bilingual instructors for all ability levels and age groups.
Chamonix has many activities both on and off the snow to enjoy. Go snowshoeing, paragliding, speed skiing, cross country skiing, hiking, ice skating and romantic horse drawn sleigh rides. Off the snow go swimming at the indoor pool or play indoor tennis or squash, go tenpin bowling or watch a movie at the cinema.
Catch the Aiguille du Midi Cable Car for an amazing panoramic trip to the Plan de l’Aiguille located at 3,842 meters above sea level. It is the lookout point for Mt Blanc the highest mountain in Western Europe. The view of Mt Blanc and the surrounding mountains is unforgettably breathtaking. A café, restaurant and souvenir shop is located within the complex.
The Mer de Glace rack railway train departing from Chamonix Station goes up 1,913 meters to Montenvers at the base of the Mer de Glace glacier, the largest glacier in France. Chose to explore inside the glacier in a man made tunnel or just sip hot chocolate in the lookout restaurant and absorb more breath taking scenery. More activities at Chamonix France
The Chamonix Town has all the top name skiing and snowboarding equipment and rental stores; Peak Performance, Helly Hansen Quiksilver, Intersport, Cristal Sports and The North Face are just a few.
The main street is lined with high fashion label boutiques, children’s boutiques, eyewear shops, beauty and makeup shops, souvenir and gift stores, homeware shops, photography galleries and art exhibitions.
The town has supermarkets, magasins de fromage (cheese stores), patisseries (bakeries), butchers, wine shops and delicatessens. A traditional food market selling cuts of meat, vegetables and cheeses is held every Saturday morning from 8am until 12pm in front of the station.
Chamonix has more than 90+ restaurants all serving delicious cuisine. They range from fine dining restaurants to family bistros, pub meals, cafes and takeaway outlets. Cuisine served is classic French food, Italian, Swedish, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Irish and even Australian.
The Michelin rated Restaurant Atmosphere is sensational; the dining room is built over the river and in the evenings the tables are candlelit. The restaurant has a set menu and an a la carte menu serving traditional French and local Savoyard dishes.
For a delectable Italian meal go to Casa Valerio serving fresh pasta, steak and fish dishes and award winning gourmet wood fired pizzas all complemented by an Italian and French wine list.
Go to The Jekyll for a pub meal of pan seared scallops followed by duck breast or grilled tuna steaks.
A favourite family dining spot is La Caleche Restaurant. It is old but cosy serving Savoyard bistro style meals; a must try is the fondue, raclette and fillet of beef.
Don’t go past the sweet delights in the bakeries. If you are a cheese lover go to L'Alpage des Aigilles in the main street they have not only beautiful French cheeses but cheeses from across Europe.
Takeaway snacks, baguettes, toasted sandwiches and crepes are sold in the main street from little hole in the wall stores. They all remain open late into the night.
All the ski resorts have on mountain dining restaurants most with large sundecks scattered with deck chairs and tables. Life doesn’t get much better than when after a long morning skiing or snowboarding in fresh powder you get to sit in the sun munching on a warm baguette or enjoying a local French speciality while absorbing magnificent views.
Chamonix’s nightlife is vibrant with many pubs, intimate bars and nightclubs scattered throughout the Town all crowded with guests from around the globe.
The Chambre Neuf Brasserie is a busy meeting place for après ski drinks while the Micro Brasserie De Chamonix brews five of its own beers open for tastings daily from 4pm onwards.
Bar Le Brevent is one of the most popular bars in Chamonix serving tasty bar snacks and drinks accompanied by the latest music.
For a quiet drink go to the candlelit Clubhouse Bar; they serve the best cocktails in town and have a wide selection of French champagnes, scotch and Armagnac available by the glass.
Chamonix has two nightclubs Le Tof and Le Garage open until 4am everynight. They both have theme nights, international DJs and live music performances throughout the winter season.
Rachel Lievens, Canada. Chamonix has exceptional skiing terrain. Much of the most challenging terrain requires good mountaineering skills or the presence of a qualified mountain guide. The steeps are awesome. Even when weather is bad, there is good tree skiing to be had. The ski lift pass, although quite expensive 47 EURO, gives unlimited access to the whole Mont Blanc range - Italian side included. I skied with Peakpowder, and more specifically, Fred Bernard was my guide. I am a strong skier, but my legs have never felt so tired...it was a fun packed day with over 10 000 vertical metres of skiing. For those of you wanting to do some serious skiing, check this outfit out. As for restaurants, there is such a choice of international and French cuisine, the list is endless...but here are a few spots: Cremerie, hidden in the forest in Argentière, La Cabane, Maison Carrier, MOJO's, MBC
Caroline Pitt, Australia. Chamonix is the best of the best, I would name it as number 1 in the world. When I was there I skied the Vallee Blanche and the glaciers at Grand Monte as well. The most exhilarating experience ever! Also whoever said the French have bad attitudes hasn't been to Chamonix, it's the Poms that piss the French off with their winging, the French love the Aussies! I would recommend anyone to go to Chamonix, you don't have to be an extreme skier there is plenty for beginners and intermediates. It's also one of the places that isn't just a ski resort, if you had a partner or friend who didn't ski they could do all sorts of other things, there's a gym, ice rink, walks to do all sorts of stuff. The shopping isn't bad too, there are heaps of shops, some really expensive ones as well as markets and CHEESE shops. The cheese is unbelievable, I tried every cheese ever made I think. The shop stunk, it smelt like old socks, but once you started tasting you couldn't stop! Restaurants vary from ultra expensive to pizza places and get really busy, if we liked the look of a menu we would book a couple of days in advance. We went to one called Restaurant Atmosphere for my Hubby's birthday, it cost an arm and a leg but by george it was worth it! I had a beef stew in a pot that was the best thing I have ever eaten. Hubby had pasta carbonara sprinkled with cheese and truffles, damn good!!! We stayed in an apartment in Chamonix South, we would have been about 5 minutes walk to the main street and a 2 minute walk to the bus stop to get to the ski areas. In summary, in case you did not get the picture, I just adore Chamonix and one day I want to go and live there.
Chris Symons, UK. Le Brevent is where my day starts on some of the fast steep pistes then when I feel able I go hunting for the deeper snow areas. It's never that hard to find, at Chamonix you can go anywhere, as long as you don't die, the snow patrollers don't care! I like to have lunch on a sunny day at La Flegere for a bit of talent spotting then just cruise around the place. My advice for the apres skier is to start at the outside bar in the town center followed by 'The Pub' then head to 'Cantina' for the rest of the night. The downside to Chamonix is the buses are always packed, the drivers have no concept of over full, they just keep squeezing them in! That's why I walk to Brevent.
|Top 10 Resorts||Top 5 Videos|
|1) Vail||1) Aspen Terrain Park|
|2) Aspen Snowmass||2) Kitzbuhel movie|
|3) Whistler Blackcomb||3) Hakuba Japan review|
|4) Chamonix||4) Steamboat Worldcup|
|5) Hakuba Japan||5) Chamonix Resort|
|7) Squaw Valley|
| 9) Zermatt
|10) St Moritz|
Trails - view map