I recently enjoyed a ski trip in super snow to Chamonix. Read about it here. I have also written some of the main pros and cons of a ski holiday in Chamonix.
I have taken these points from the well-researched website Where to Ski and Snowboard and then added my opinion.
Pros of skiing in Chamonix
- A lot of very tough terrain, especially off-piste
- Amazing cable car to the Aiguille du Midi
- Skiing the famous Vallée Blanche
- Stunning views
- Other resorts covered on extended lift pass, including sunny Courmayeur
- Town steeped in Alpine tradition
- Lots of affordable hotels – and many will take short bookings
Cons of skiing in Chamonix
- Several different mountains areas, widely separated
- Not good for mixed abilities
- Inadequate bus services
- Bad weather can shut the best runs
- Still some old lifts
- Serious queues in key spots
- A busy town, with lots of road traffic
- Not a relaxing place
- Shady and cold in midwinter
My views on Chamonix skiing
I agree with some of these points but also disagree with others. For example, I did not spot many affordable/ cheaper lodgings or shorter bookings. However, we were looking last minute and for the Christmas week so that will affect prices. I would advise a search of AirB&B and Booking.com, as well as other independent accommodation providers, for some cheaper deals.
In the end, we were very fortunate to be able to stay in a friend’s apartment in Chamonix Sud, which proved to be the perfect location for enjoying Chamonix town and making use of the bus services to visit all the ski areas.
In terms of the advantages of Chamonix for skiers I would say this:
- A lot of very tough terrain, especially off-piste – yes there is and it is marvellous if that is your level of ability. G was certainly delighted by all he experienced and fancied doing. I am a less skilled skier but I found I was able to ski most of the pisted terrain and enjoy off-piste skiing in lovely snow.
It is worth noting that the areas of Brevant, Le Tour and Les Houches offer some easier skiing too so it is not all expert skiing in Chamonix area. Plus there is access to Courmayeur with the Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass and that boasts a range of skiing.
- Amazing cable car to the Aiguille du Midi – we enjoyed a half day of skiing at Le Tour on Christmas day and then took advantage of clear skies and sunshine for the cable car ride to the Aiguille du Midi. It was a superb thing to do and made all the better by a descent as the sky was lit up by a beautiful sun set.
- Skiing the famous Vallée Blanche – conditions did not allow for this (again) so G says he will be going back to tick this off his bucket list. I am less sure about whether I will ever do it. The snowy hike from the Aguille to the start of this infamous off-piste ski run looks exposed and very scary, let alone the thought of the unknown skiing on steep off-piste.
- Stunning views – totally agree. My favourite views were the Aiguille du Midi cable car, Grand Montets generally and from Chamonix town looking up at the Aguille du Midi and Mont Blanc.
- Other resorts covered on extended lift pass, including sunny Courmayeur. It was not cheap for a six-day pass (€306) but it did offer access to all the ski areas and plenty of extras.
With regards to the disadvantages of Chamonix for skiers I would reply:
- Several different mountains areas, widely separated – I rather liked the idea of an adventure to visit each place on different days and the change of scenery, runs and atmosphere in each place. A car would make it a lot easier to get around although we found the buses to be generally fine.
- Not good for mixed abilities – there are areas such as Brevant and Les Houches would be perfectly fine for a few days of skiing in a mixed ability group.
- Inadequate bus services – I thought there were a lot of buses and while they were often very busy they did run very regularly along the valley. Could there be more buses and more buses on time? I guess there could be but I thought the service was generally adequate if crowded.
- Still some old lifts – I agree. Some of the chairlift were very slow and when it was cold a few of these were tortuous. However, I did not find the lift system to be vastly different from many other resorts I have visited and there were plenty of faster lifts and gondolas.
- Serious queues in key spots – I agree with this. The queue at the gondola to reach the top of Grand Montets was utterly ridiculous. It took a full hour to even board the lift. However, there is a way to speed this up. You can reserve a place on the gondola if you book on line.
- A busy town, with lots of road traffic – we stuck to the more pedestrianised areas of Chamonix Sud and town centre so I didn’t feel it was too busy. The road next to the Chamonix Sud bus station was busy but that was filled with buses offering services to the resorts. I agree and disagree in part with this point.
The busy nature of Chamonix also means there is plenty to see and do. We enjoyed some great pubs, especially the Monkey Bar in Cmahonix Sud, and restaurants. We also wondered in and out of many great outdoors stores (although the price made us wince!).
- Not a relaxing place – I love Chamonix for its vibrant atmosphere. If you want quiet and relaxing go elsewhere but I really appreciated the busy town filled with outdoors people being outdoorsy.
- Shady and cold in midwinter – it was and it wasn’t. There were plenty of places to ski that were sunny when the sun was out. When it was snowy there were benefits to the shady tree areas. It was very cold at times but the same would likely be true of anywhere in the Alps when the temperatures dip to -20C.
The height of some of the ski areas added to the cold but we liked that these were high because they offered some superb skiing opportunities.
Find out more about skiing in Chamonix on the official website. Sometimes I found the website difficult to understand and some of the very relevant info is buried so deeply we didn’t read it until someone told us a tip. I wish the website was a bit clearer.