When you’re out shopping in the town centre, wherever you are look up and you’ll see ‘it’ there… 4,810 metres of rock, snow, ice and dreams of things to come.
With a resort height of 1,035m and a top lift at 3,842m, the range at Chamonix is exceptional and versatile – long runs below the tree line offer good sport in bad weather, and big glacier runs at high altitude are often at their best in April. This is a landscape built on a heroic scale that makes other resorts seem tame by comparison.
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.
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.
MONT-BLANC NATURAL RESORT
35 Place de la Mer de Glace
7440 CHAMONIX MONT-BLANC France
Tel. +33 (0) 450 53 14 14
Fax: +33 (0) 450 53 92 44
ski runs: 73
Skipass Mont Blanc – UNLIMITED
Trasy: 998 km
ski runs: 501