Pros: Off piste terrain, cost, food, scenery, ambience, easy to get to
Cons: Hard to get around between the various areas. Easy to get killed if you don't know where you're going
Every serious skier should get here at least once. What makes Chamonix special is the serious off piste, often glacial terrain--not only the Aiguille du Midi/Vallee Blanche but the Grand Montets, Brevent, and Courmayeur in Italy (through the Mont Blanc Tunnel). The only safe way to experience this terrain, if you are the kind of skier who is reading this review, is with a guide--you can sign up the night before at the Compagnie des Guides in the center of town and ski with a group of stranger, or if you have a group hire your own. Guides will supply avy gear and harnesses--avalanches and crevasses are a significant risk, and off piste areas that North Americans who consider in bounds may not be controlled for avalanches. The glacial, high mountain scenery is breathtaking, and vertical is generally about twice that of major North American resorts--come in good shape. The scale of the Mont Blanc range is Himalayan. Try to get over to Courmayeur for the skiing and for the view of the massive south face of Mont Blanc. Affordable rooms are much easier to find than they are in North America and the food and lift tickets are also cheaper (get the Mont Blanc Unlimited pass--which includes the top of the Grand Montets, the Aiguille du Midi, the Montenvers train, Courmayeur, and for longer duration passes a day in Verbier. Buy rescue insurance when you buy your pass, unless you want to pay for a helicopter rescue.) The downsides of Chamonix--multiple ski areas spread out around town and up the valley (Grand Montets)--reachable by walking or free bus but not the same as staying in a village at the bottom of all the lifts with a short walk to the lifts. Not a great place for a party with skiers of different levels unless you plan to see each other only at the end of the day. Intermediate and below skiers would probably be happier elsewhere, although the Vallee Blanche can be skied by strong intermediates. It can be crowded but if you're skiing with a guide you get to bypass a lot of the lines. Easily reached by shuttle bus from Geneva Airport (45 minutes--less if the driver is Russian.) I don't know anything about the terrain park or nightlife (but I've heard rumors).