Chamonix hosted the first Winter Olympics in 1924, so it was a no brainer. We knew we had to go check it out. Unfortunately, we didn’t know much about it. The day before skiing Chamonix, I did a bit of research to figure out where to go.
Chamonix is a valley and there are many different places to ski. Unlike, Saas Fee, Crans Montana, or La Clusaz, there are separate ski resorts, each with their own characteristics and character.
Here’s more or less what I learned about them:
- Grands Montets – This is one world’s most renowned ski areas with runs for all levels. It is located on the southern side of the valley (translate that into it’s not too sunny). It is also means that its north face has good snow. It is one of the Chamonix’s most famous resorts. It has a snow park with a skier/boarder cross course with various tabletop jumps and rails. It is open all season. People go hard and fast here, really hard, really fast. Experts enjoy the lift that heads 10,820 feet (3 297.9 meters) to some of the world’s steepest, most technically demanding runs. We’re not that good yet, maybe next year.
- Les Houches – The upper part is sunny, glorious in the afternoon and good for beginners. The lower part, below the tree line, doesn’t receive direct sunlight, shielding skiers on windy days.
- La Flégère – Its location on the northern side of the valley ensures plenty of sun, attracting people on colder days. Its northern location also yields astounding views of the valley and Mont Blanc. This is a haven for snowboarders (freestylers will be very happy) and has great natural terrain for it. It has skiing for a variety lf levels and is a great starting point. The pistes are the valley’s best maintained.
- Le Brévent – Le Brévent is on the northern side of the valley above downtown Chamonix. Its southern face lots of sunshine and spectacular views across the valley to Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi. It has something for all levels of skiers and boarders. While it is not large, there is a cable car link to La Flégère. We skied both.
- L’Aiguille du Midi/La Vallee Blanche – The Aiguille du Midi is on of the most famous runs in the world, Valley Blanche. It is 10.5 miles (17 km) long with a decrease in altitude of 12601 feet (3841 meters) into Chamonix. The real star is the incredible alpine scenery. While this epic run isn’t appropriate for beginners, advanced, or even upper intermediate skiers who very fit can ski this piste. While guides are not required, they are recommended in this potentially dangerous environment to avoid danger. Snowboarders should seek advice on equipment before attempting this. You don’t want to be one of the ones that goes over the edge.
- Le Tour – Snowboarders (especially freestylers) go for its sunny, wide-open slopes that are well above the tree line, with varied terrain and have great powder. There are also runs for beginners and families. It is popular with locals.
- It was hard to get good information about Le Levancher (although it is slang for avalanche), Les Tines and Les Praz. Sorry. Perhaps someone will post it comments about them.
At the bottom of the valley, there are some slopes for children and beginners that present virtually no challenge. They include:
- La Vormaine
- Les Chosalets near La Tour
- Le Savoy in Argentiere
- Les Planards in the center of Chamonix by the cable car to Le Brévent
Chamonix is an adorable town. In addition to skiing, it is a mecca for extreme sports like mountain climbing, ice climbing, rock climbing, extreme skiing, paragliding, rafting and canyoning. Mountain climber Mark Twight christened Chamonix “the death-sport capital of the world” because of its base for the large number of dangerous sports practiced there. The less adventurous can take a cable car up, sit and enjoy the view.
- Now We Understand Why Everyone Likes Megève (schwingeninswitzerland.wordpress.com)
- Danger!!!!! What We’ve Learned About Avalanches (schwingeninswitzerland.wordpress.com)
- Paragliding, What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (schwingeninswitzerland.wordpress.com)