Skiing is excellent in Chamonix. But off-piste skiing is what gave it its reputation. The off-piste is limitless and incredible, especially if you go with a guide.
Although Chamonix is not very populated, there are a few places scattered across the valley and a free bus that connects them. Depending on your skill level, each of them is suitable for a full day of piste skiing.
It would be best if you had the “Chamonix le pass,” and you can find a list of ski locations and maps here: https://www.chamonix.net/english/lift-systems.
The Chamonix valley has four separate ski resorts for piste skiing that are connected by shuttle bus:
- 29 kilometers of pistes make up Grands Montets‘ top advanced/expert terrain. Although it is the valley’s primary ski area, its most significant appeal is it’s excellent off-piste. Not for beginners. A ton of exciting terrain is reachable from the middle two lifts (Bochard and Herse), but it gets tracked out rather quickly. The top lift provides access to the glacier d’Argentière, which is straightforward and beautiful, and to Pas de Chèvre, a form of Vallée Blanche on steroids (couloir to 35º on the simplest run). Super entertaining, but you must know where you’re going because the exit gully is infamously challenging to locate.
- The slopes at Brévent Flégère total 56 kilometers. Many flat terrains are excellent for beginners and intermediates. The most straightforward access from the town. Also a starting point for a lot of fantastic traveling in the Aiguilles Rouges, with Crochues-Bérard, +480m/-2000m, being the most well-known. Off the top lift of Brévent, there are a few great couloirs, most notably Couloir de l’ENSA (42º/200m). Flégère is excellent in deep powder and typically opens very fast after a significant snowfall.
- There are 55 kilometers of slopes at Les Houches, with a mix of easy and challenging terrain. Les Houches is a couple of miles down the road from the main area. Although it offers a variety of terrain suited for most skiers, there are limited slopes for beginners.
- The length of the pistes in the Balme-Le Tour is 29 kilometers. Less intense and suitable for beginners, even though the lifts are mediocre. Gives access to a ton of extraordinary wilderness. Still, logistics get more difficult because you land in valleys and must find a way home, generally by bus that only operates occasionally.
Despite having a good 169 km of total slopes, the ski area is dispersed and needs either driving/parking (not advised) or a shuttle bus.
Fair enough, skiing in Chamonix is a thrilling experience. Some of the most fantastic continuous fall line skiing is near Les Grands Montets. Additionally, Chamonix is a busy, enjoyable town. Remember to secure a seat on the bus for the day excursion to Courmayeur. But you must weigh the good against the bad. The negatives include the shuttle bus and the long line for the tram up to Brévent Flégère.
You may hire a guide to ski the Aiguille du Midi if you wish to ski off-piste. 20 kilometers run from top to bottom.
Plan de l’Aiguille, the Aiguille du Midi middle station, has some excellent off-piste skiing (Pré du Rocher and variations). However, it gets tracked out rather rapidly and is only truly enjoyable when there is a lot of snow. However, the forested area makes it less vulnerable to avalanches, making it a suitable choice after a significant snowfall.
The renowned Vallée Blanche begins at the top station of the Aiguille du Midi. If you’re feeling confident, only attempt the Vallée Blanche rundown
- if the weather is favorable,
- there hasn’t been recent snowfall,
- you’re taking a guide,
- and you’re physically fit.
It’s a beautiful run. Skiing is not tough, but you will never forget it since it is so beautiful. Because it is lengthy and you’ll take a while to get down and back up on the train, you should start early. It’s a long hike from the glacier up the steps.
To get to the beginning, one must traverse a quite exposed ridge but is outfitted with ropes. A harness, ropes, crampons, local knowledge, and previous expertise skiing in badly crevassed terrain are all required. The classic path is relatively simple and not particularly steep for skiing. The variations at Petit and Grand Envers are trickier, steeper, and often have better snow. It is recommended for exceptional skiers only.