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Chamonix offers a multitude of slopes for all levels, each ski area having its own merit. Tremendously long slopes, skiing through the trees, freeride and off-piste, beginners slopes offer an infinite number of possibilities for snowriders and mountain lovers alike.

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Pros: Potential quality of skiing if weather is just right, views, altitude at highest points, vertical drop, food, atmosphere and history.

Cons: Lack of ski-in ski-out, disjointed ski areas, some old infrastructure, variable weather, outrageous prices, busy and lack of time on snow.

Visiting Chamonix could potentially be the highlight of any skiers career. The Aguille Du Midi and Vallee Blanche is genuinely an amazing place to ski, one that you'll never forget, skiing on a glacier with a guide is something unique for the average skier. The Grand Montets ski area is also simply one of the best in the world with a 2000 meter vertical drop and some 55 degree black runs and challenging reds, but a can of cola can cost 5.50 Euros! If the weather is right the areas of Les Houches and Brevets/Flegere and Le Tour can provide some great skiing too, for maybe a day.

However in terms of time on snow it falls so short. Chamonix is amazingly busy even outside school holidays, to get to the 3800 meter Vallee Blanche and 3,300 meters at Grand Montets you must pre book a cable car number, there are numerous ski areas above 3000 meters in Europe with so much annoyance. Chamonix is a low altitude town the ski areas are far apart so you need to rely on the local buses. Hours can be spent queuing, sat on buses and on very slow lifts. Many lifts don't open until 9 and many close at 3.30, making an incredibly short ski day compared with other European areas. Chamonix valley due to it's location is prone to some of the most inconsistent weather in the Alps, any snow or high winds can see entire areas closed off for the day, and many of the smaller ski areas are lower down often meaning the lower slopes are closed in warmer weather.

To be honest if you only have the average 6-10 days skiing a year I would avoid Chamonix, especially if time spent skiing, improving technique or daily vertical drop are important to you. Sure The Vallee Blanche is unforgettable, but you'll probably only ski an hour and a half over a 1600 meter vert the whole day. If I was an expert skier particularly someone that was looking for a vibrant town in Europe to spend a season then Chamonix would be the top of the list, or for someone that has become bored of the average black groomer and was trying to get into ski mountaineering.

In short it's a great ski area, but it's hardly a secret. It doesn't need you to visit or care about your time or money because it's already so popular it can't keep people away. Whether or not it's the right place for you comes down to many factors; money, time, experience and patience.


Pros: Great town, huge variety of terrain, extreme skiing

Cons: Crowds

I cannot believe there was no review posted for Chamonix....perhaps it's just too well known to even bother?  If you are a US skier planning a trip to the Alps, there is probably no better place to start than Chamonix.  It is the heart of the French Alps, and situated such that you can ski 3 countries with ease. In fact, a Chamonix Mont Blanc Unlimited pass is valid at Courmayeur (Italy) and Verbier (Switzerland), both close enough for a day trip.


Chamonix has all the glitz you would expect from France's most famous mountain town....expensive hotels and restaurants, upscale shops, and the like.  But the elite class in Chamonix are those sporting well worn soft shells, battered packs, fat skis and ice axes.  Extreme skiing was born here, and Chamonix still attracts many who are drawn to this huge, high altitude playground with few, if any, rules. Intermediate skiers can still find much to like, with plenty of groomed runs offering spectacular mountain views.  Chamonix is not a great place for beginners, however.  


Strong intermediates (who are comfortable skiing powder) and experts should definitely consider hiring   a guide and skiing the famous Vallee Blanche, quite possibly the most famous off-piste ski run in the world.  Although it may appear as a ski run on the piste map, make no mistake....this is serious off-piste terrain, and hiring a guide is a must.  The guide will probably provide the avalanche beacon, probe, shovel, and climbing harness that you need to this kind of skiing.  Don't think that you can ride the cable car to 3800m and just follow the crowd....that's courting disaster.


If you want to learn more about Chamonix, there's a ton of information on the web (try www.chamonet.com for starters), but I highly recommend the ski documentary "Steep", which will acquaint you with some of the town's ski history.