A guide to what skiing in Chamonix is really like for a weekend.
Leading the wave of all-mountain adventure since its discovery in 1741, Chamonix held the first Winter Olympics in 1924, a ski and snowboard Mecca long before the bars and clubs put its après on the map. The sheer meteoric scale of the landscape has elevated Chamonix to one of the greatest alpine capitals. Dwarfed by huge rugged cliffs and groaning glaciers of the Mont Blanc Massif the setting is simply remarkable.
Known for its extremes, Chamonix has worked tirelessly to create its vibrant cosmopolitan feel. Victorian buildings line a bustling pedestrianised centre adding to the alluring nature of the beast. The countless hotels are constantly improving to provide heavenly spas and relaxing wellness areas to accommodate for, and welcome, those who love a little luxury.
Sprawling down the valley the resort is definitely not ski in, ski out; buses, queues and a little planning are part and parcel if you want to enjoy some of what many regard to be world-beating skiing. Having a car here can take much of the stress away and allow you to visit sunny Courmayeur (the other side of Mont Blanc) on a bad weather day in Chamonix – Yes Italian skiing is included on your ‘Mont Banc Unlimited’ lift pass.
Of course, there are beginner slopes in multiple areas, more than you’d need to learn to ski, as well plenty of cruisy pisted runs but Chamonix is a bucket list destination to test your metal for many ski and snowboard enthusiasts among us.
You will find largely gentle runs above the village of Le Tour as well as the sunny slopes of Flégère and the town-side Brévent. Chamonix’s pisted runs are, after all, 42% blue. Even famous 22km Vallée Blanche glacial run would be largely categorised as green if it was pisted – you definitely don’t have to be an expert to enjoy skiing in Chamonix.
That said there are some of the world’s biggest lift-served verticals via dozens of access points – long runs below the tree line and huge glacial descents that often offer their best conditions in April. A devil may care attitude about “le grand ski” can permeate the town, creating a macho-competitive atmosphere which can lead to unnecessary risk taking so hire a guide to get the most out of this all-mountain capital.
You’ll need patience and planning to get the best out of Chamonix with queues and bus rides part of the package, but you’ll be begging for a decent queue for a breather after some of the leg burningly long descents.
Chamonix’s après scene starts before the lifts close and carries on until the early hours. It’s such a large town there’s plenty to sample whatever your tipple. Whether it’s a quiet drink in the last rays of sunshine, table dancing to rowdy bands or the breakfast-dodgers partying the night away – Chamonix has got what you’re looking for.