1000 Km+ (Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass covering all Chamonix Valley, Courmayeur, St Gervais, Megève and Verbier)
1,035 M – 3,842 M
3,842M, Aiguille de Midi Cable Car
Green 16%, Blue 36%, Red 32%, Black 16%.
Geneva 1 hr
Although world-famous for its challenging terrain there are plenty of gentle slopes and nursery ski areas in the Chamonix Valley like Les Houches and Brevent. Whether this is the best place for you to learn probably depends on how close you stay to those nursery slopes and whether you’d prefer a smaller, peaceful, compact resort to start your life on skis or are happy starting from day one in one of the biggest and best.
A wide choice of childcare and ski school options available but Chamonix is a busy town and its ski areas spread out around the valley so the most important thing here is to be sure what you book is close to where you stay and easy to get to. We are always happy to help organise childcare for you.
One of those resorts every skier must pay homage to at least once in their lives and many end up returning to year after year, Chamonix has been drawing mountain sports lovers to its spectacular location with Mont Blanc towering above, for more than 200 years. Its popularity is such that it has grown to be one of the largest resorts in the Alps, in fact a small town, with a permanent population of 10,000 multiplied many times by the number of guests. It has also spread out along the valley floor to encompass a dozen or so neighbouring villages and hamlets in the wider ‘Chamonix Valley.’ Skiers, boarders and climbers visit from all over the world, all year round, giving the village much more of an international, cosmopolitan feel than most others.
Chamonix is one of the quickest and easiest ski areas to reach from Geneva in just an hour, making it popular for weekend breaks as well as the traditional ski week. It’s a busy resort town with hundreds of shops, bars and restaurants as well as facilities like sports centres, swimming pools and museums, so is a good choice if there are non-skiers in your party.
Chamonix accommodation is varied and plentiful and there is a great selection of luxury chalets in Chamonix. Our catered chalets in Chamonix are extremely popular and get snapped up early, however there is also a great selection of self-catered apartments and smaller Chamonix chalets, so there is something to suit groups of all shapes and sizes.
It also has an enviable snow record, thanks in large part to its proximity to Mont Blanc. It typically stays open in to May with the snow still lying deep and ski tourers still up on the mountain long after the lifts finally close in spring. In terms of spectacular ski states, Chamonix is home to the biggest lift-served vertical on the planet up the Aiguille de Midi (a year round visitor attraction in its own right) and that helps the 20km long spectacular Vallee Blanche off-piste route be the longest lift accessed ski run in the world too.
Chamonix is one of the world’s original ski resorts and Its ski area has grown through the decades in to a collection of separate areas through the Chamonix valley which altogether add up to some 400km (250 miles) of runs – one France’s biggest. Various lift pass options are available covering part or all of this, indeed the biggest also includes skiing at neighbouring St Gervais and Megève as well as in Courmayeur in Italy, just on the other side of the Mont Blanc tunnel, and Verbier in Switzerland – altogether more than 1000km of runs. There’s a good ski bus service linking the various ski areas (Grands Montets, Les Houches, Le Tour/Balme, La Flegere and Le Brevent) but having a good shuttle service from your chalet is definitely a big plus factor – both for skiing and apres skiing.
There are more than half-a-dozen separate ski areas of various sizes in the Chamonix Valley accessing some of the most amazing skiing on the planet. The main sectors include Le Tour and Les Balmes, one of the biggest with lots of easy and intermediate terrain; then Grand Montets up near Argentiere with its amazing snow record and great freeriding terrain, particularly on the upper mountain. The Brévant-Flégère and les Houches sectors also have their charms, not least that they’re usually quieter than the rest.
Intermediates will find plenty for them in almost every sector and can tackle the famous Valley Blanche, an off piste run accessed via a rather fearsome arette traverse in your ski boots from the top of the Aiguille du Midi cable car – so a head for heights is more important than ski ability to some extent. The glacier views as you make your way down through this vast area are amazing, just make sure you go with a guide.
It’s expert skiers who will get really hooked on Chamonix however with its legendary off piste terrain. Famous groomed runs like World Cup descent ‘La Verte’ in Les Houches can also be ticked off your ‘must ski’ list.
Chamonix’s size and global popularity, plus its international clientele, means there’s a great choice of nursery and nanny services available in the valley. However opinion is mixed on how good a choice Chamonix is for families, particularly with young children, due to the very fact it is a busy resort with its ski areas are spread about around the valley. So it’s worth being very careful in your chalet choice – looking for a base that’s close to one of the family-friendly sectors such as La Balme, Le Tour or Les Houches, or has a good chauffeur service to take you there. In chalet-childcare would be a big plus too of course. The same logic really applies to beginners too.
In terms of public childcare facilities provided in the resort there’s a long-established kids club, the Panda Club, which takes children aged from three years. Above that age various ski school classes and ski kindergarten are available. At least half-a-dozen different nanny agencies operate in Chamonix such as Baby Cham or Oui Care and there are also several holiday-tutoring services for slightly older children looking to keep up to date with their studies while on their ski holiday.
If you’re looking for good nightlife, particularly in the French alps, Chamonix is hard to beat. There’s a big selection of bars, from the very lively where you have the battle to get a round in to the most sophisticated cocktail lounges.
Central Chamonix is pedestrianised and usually lively from mid-afternoon as skiers return from the various sectors and congregate in the heart of the resort. Le Chambre Neuf is great for apres ski and live music, whilst down by the river you’ll find a line of cheery bars including the sophisticated Bar Social and Cap Horne, perfect for cocktails.
Many have live music and typical closing time is 2am, but of course plenty of venues stay open later still. You can dance till the small hours in Amnesia or Le Terrace.
As with most things Chamonix, a driver service from your chalet to collect you at the end of the evening is a big help.
In Le Brevent the Bergerie de Planpraz (www.bergerie-restaurant.com) is one of the best options in the Valley. A pleasing wood and stone Alpine building with great views of Mont Blanc and a choice of self and table service with good food from either.
The large Plan Joran (planjoran-restaurant.com) in the Grand Montets sector also offers a choice of self-service or table service. It has a wide-ranging menu and despite its size booking a table is strongly recommended to be sure of a seat.
The rustic Chalet-Refuge de Lognan (+33 6 88 56 03 54) also in the Grand Montets with great views of the glacier. It’s standard French mountain cooking, just done very, very well.
With two stars the Michelin Guide rates Albert 1er (38 route du Bouchet; hameaualbert.fr) as the best in town. If you can’t decide what to have perhaps opt for the 11 course tasting menu.
Munchies is hugely popular with the locals. Located on the Route du Moulin in the centre of Chamonix it has a good mix of traditional French and scandinavian cooking, spiced with asian influences, they guarantee a dinner that will exceed your expectations.
Le Cap Horne is a great place for elegant dining by candle light and comfortable surroundings. Seafood takes the starring role on the menu although you can choose from a selection of contemporary style dishes.
The British Alpine Ski School (basschamonix.com) began in Morzine nearly 30 years ago but now operates in many of the top French resorts, with a sizable operation in Chamonix. They teach private and group classes in all areas of snowsports learning.
Ski Sensations (ski-sensations.com) is the Chamonix branch of the International Ski School and also offer a mountain guide’s office. Teaching everyone from beginner to expert, child or adult in skiing, snowboarding, freeriding, telemarking, off piste skiing or ski touring.
Evolution 2 Chamonix (evolution2.com) have more than two decades of experience offering private and small group lessons with experienced English speaking mountain guides and ski instructors. They can also organise adventure activities like dog sledding, ice climbing or paragliding.