Chamonix is considered a paradise for skiing and snowboarding at an expert level. Its vast array of steep runs, awe-inspiring scenery and the fact that it is located near Mont Blanc (popular with mountaineers) has meant that Chamonix has grown into a busy hub for all things snow related.
Some of the most challenging slopes in Europe
Many of the slopes are underclassified in Chamonix, meaning slopes which are classified blue here would be considered red elsewhere. With 31 slopes classified as “intermediate” and 14 “Advanced” slopes, Chamonix is perfect for the very experienced visitor, and should certainly be considered alongside the likes of Val d’Isère in terms of difficulty. For snowboarders it is considered the apex of freeride resorts, which is really a reflection of the steep and wild nature of the terrain here.
Booming Après-ski & nightlife
Chamonix may be a major resort, but its also busy town. The busy Apres-ski spots aren’t as obvious here as they are elsewhere as a result, so the apres-ski is somewhat disguised, and you would be forgiven for thinking Après-ski isn’t a big thing in Chamonix; The place attracts many English and Scandinavian visitors (mostly men) who take partying as seriously as they do the piste.
Recommended spots for the Après-ski experience include:
Chambre 9 (located near the train station).
A coffee shop & restaurant by day, a live music venue by night, A very well rounded spot for entertainment, and a local favourite. Plenty of locals go here, so it can’t be bad!
Elevation 1904 ( opposite the Chambre Neuf)
A quieter and more reserved option to the Chambre Neuf
MBC (just outside the town centre)
A micro-brewery and a bar, well worth visiting for fans of French beer, it also has live music regularly.
“Le Garage” nightclub
Arguably the biggest nightclub in Chamonix, it stays open until the early hours of the morning.
Easy access via TGV and Geneva Airport
Chamonix is 80km southeast of Geneva Airport, Switzerland. This is the nearest airport by far, with Lyon in 2nd place over 200km away.
The journey can be driven by hirecar via the Autoroute Blanche motorway which takes about an hour. Transfers are a great option too, but prices vary greatly, so looking around makes sense. Cham-van.com offers transfers for under €30 per person, which is worth considering.
You may want to bring a camera! source:Flickr
Chamonix will probably take your breath away a few times on the slopes, but if somehow that doesn’t happen, some of the options below might be worth considering:
The Le Tour cable car takes you to the Franco-Swiss border on the mountains. The views can be amazing, so make sure to check the weather forecast and aim for a day of high visibility to check it out.
The Ice Sea Glacier (La Mer de Glace) can be reached via the Montenvers railway. The station at Montenvers offers views of the north Face of Les Grand Jorasses and also of the Ice Sea Glacier itself.
Other good viewpoints are The Brevent Cable car to view the Mont-Blanc massif, and the Aiguille du Midi cable car is worth visiting for the simple fact that it’s one of the highest of its kind in the world, spanning 2000 m elevation from beginning to end. Taking a camera is heavily advised for this !
Snowboarding Facilities / Snow-parks in Chamonix
Riders have plenty of reasons to visit Cham’. For starters, Les Houches has a great new snow park (Area43), and there’s a recently built snow-park at Grands Montets Ski Resort which has plenty of rails, boxes, jumps and half-pipes to cater for riders of all abilities. You can also enjoy some boarder-cross. Brévent and Flégère have endless natural hits that give a rider the feel of a park. Le Tour has a natural half pipe that has seen some great sessions but is often dependent on the weather. While the resort is not suited for beginners, there’s plenty of ski schools to choose from in Chamonixif you need to improve your riding abilty.
Exhilarating non-ski activities in Chamonix
Chamonix is a large town and quite unlike any other European ski resort. It is by no means a purpose built resort, and the region is steeped in history. While the area is well known among winter sports enthusiasts, Chamonix actually attracts more visitors during the summer months.
Chamonix’s reputation for extreme sports can mask an array of other activities and goings on – Chamonix is the perfect place to escape for a week no matter whether you want to ski or if you simply want a week’s holiday in spectacular surroundings.
Chamonix is widely regarded as being one of the best resorts in Europe for non-skiers, as there is a huge amount of things to see and do off the slopes. Even if you are a skier and simply fancy a break from the slopes, or there are bad weather days, you won’t be short of options.
The original ski lift! Before the days of mechanised tows, chairs and cable cars, the only way of getting up the hill was by walking or by using dogs or horses. Ski joering (Norwegian for driving) is suitable for all ages and rides can be tailored to suit all abilities. They can range from a gentle walk or trot through to a full gallop through the snow!
While it may sound fairly specialised, ice climbing in Chamonix is for everyone from complete beginners to expert climbers. There are many ice climbing spots along the valley, so why not try something new and have a go? Even for experienced mountaineers, taking a mountain guide is highly recommended.
What better way to see the area? Sit back and take in the breathtaking scenery from even higher than the Aiguille du Midi! Soar over the snow-capped peaks, glaciers and forests of the Haute Savoie – the natural beauty is awe-inspiring. Helicopter trips can be booked through a number of local flight companies and a few mountain guide companies.
Cross-Country Skiing (ski de fond)
If Alpine skiing isn’t your cup of tea and you prefer something a little less extreme, maybe cross country skiing could be your thing? Get out in the fresh air and discover the area. You have two options; classic style or skate – the latter being much more strenuous! There are lots of trails around Chamonix, with several cross-country schools to suit all levels.
A must see. The journey from Chamonix on the Montenvers railway takes just 20 minutes to reach 1913m, the foot of the Mer de Glace – the largest glacier in France. The “Grotte de glace” is re-sculpted every year and is a sight to behold.
There are lots of other activities that you’d expect to find in a town of Chamonix’s size, such as:
There is an abundance or cafés, bars and restaurants, and the shopping is excellent, too. There are the usual winter sports stores, souvenir shops and boutiques, but even some higher end fashion shops such as Chanel. You’ll find a market every Saturday that sells high quality regional produce – it’s always worth having a wander round the stalls.
There’s also a cinema in the centre of town which screens English films several times a week, and you’ll also find a number of museums and galleries.
Chamonix appeals to confident intermediates and experienced skiiers and snowboarders who want to test their mettle on some of the best powder in France. There are plenty of activities here for groups too, so it has lasting appeal. Families with young children may however prefer Méribel for its great facilities for kids, including widespread childcare facilities offered by chalet operators.