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Europe skiing advice March 18-26 (Chamonix?)

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

G'day Mates,


A few of my buddies just decided to pull the trigger on a ski trip to Europe from March 18-26. We are thinking of flying into Geneva and hitting up Chamonix (though we could be persuaded to look elsewhere, like St. Anton). It's gonna  be 3 or 4 guys in their mid-30s, who are all strong skiers and spend most of the day on blacks and double blacks. We LOVE powder!! I've only skied in Europe once, and so any advice would be greatly appreciated. A couple of questions:


1) How is the skiing in mid-late March in Europe? Are any mountains usually better this time of year (I figure we should look for the highest elevation)?

2) Any suggestions on how to get around or where to stay (hotels, rent a chalet, hostel)?

3) Has anyone hired a guide to show you around the mountain? How much does that usually run and do you think it is worth it?

4) Anything else we should know or do?






post #2 of 17

well the week I spent in Chamonix was the best week of skiing I ever had.

post #3 of 17

I live in Scotland and we were talking about Chamonix the other night... 


saying with the place it is and the reputation... if you were to go there... we would make sure there are 4 good skiers and then would get a guide for a couple days and make it a trip of a lifetime... then from there use the knowledge he gives you to allow you to explore the mountain properly... Just watch The Ordinary skier and you certainly will make you just want to jump on the plane... I have never been but would save it for that kind of trip - what you have sounds like that kind of trip... 


On the St Anton side... friend was there last week... arrived the saturday - fly geneva then train to there... it snowed the sunday and monday... he then had 4 bluebird days in a metre of pow on the 5m base they already had... he said it was the best ski trip he has ever had!!! I have been there and it was a great place and the nightlife was awesome!!! 

post #4 of 17

For that time of year, you'll want to go somewhere snowsure. Both Chamonix and St Anton would fit the bill. For St Anton, you would want to fly into Zurich or Innsbruck though, as it would be a long train from Geneva. For St Anton from Zurich, train is best and you won't need a car there. For the French resorts from Geneva, you'd either rent a car or arrange transfers. If you rent a car in Geneva, make sure it's from the Swiss side of the airport, as snow chains come with all car rentals on the Swiss side. 


For skiing, both are classic expert destinations. But you really should hire a guide for at least a few of the days. If you don't you'll miss out on the classic ski routes and terrain. A guide will be pricey - it depends, but maybe 100 euros per person per day, but just do it. 

It's a tough call between the 2 places. I think the mountains around Chamonix are more dramatic and there's so many classic descents, but in St Anton you can go ski Lech and Zurs 1 day, and the apres ski is some of the best in the world. If partying is part of your agenda, then I would veer towards St Anton. 

post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all of the great advice. My buddy found great flights to Geneva, so it looks like it's gonna be Chamonix. I can only think of one word: EPIC!!


Any suggestions on places to stay, guides, places to check out on the hill and off, drink, be merry.


Until March 18th, here's to living the dream....

post #6 of 17



If you arent locked yet with flight/hotel reservations i would suggest that you check out Verbier. It is among the abolutly most epic destinations in Europe and have a strong heritage of serious sking. Transfer time from Geneva is about 2 hrs, and you could either use train or Taxi transfer. (with cost divided by 4 pax, taxi should be resonable).


The ski system is different from Chamonix, as it is more compact, and the need for bus transfer between the system is not needed.(as it is in Chamonx) The skiing is world class!! Hiring a guide isent cheap, but joining other skiers so you are a total of 7-9 pax makes it more affdordable. This can be organised by the skiguide office, so you just sign up. Verbier is also one of the few places in Europe where Heli skiing is permitted !!


Whatever you deside, have a great trip:-) 



post #7 of 17
Originally Posted by onepiece View Post

1) How is the skiing in mid-late March in Europe? Are any mountains usually better this time of year (I figure we should look for the highest elevation)?

2) Any suggestions on how to get around or where to stay (hotels, rent a chalet, hostel)?

3) Has anyone hired a guide to show you around the mountain? How much does that usually run and do you think it is worth it?

4) Anything else we should know or do?


1) This season? If it carries on like it has, you should be able to ski pretty much everywhere: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Chamonix... biggrin.gif I doubt elevation will be an issue this year, and it's generally more of a concern at the start of the season anyway (when there's no established base). Last year the snow was crap, but we were still skiing in April (in T-shirts, in streams!).

2) Depends where you go: check out transport options listed on my Combloux page, as they will work for Cham too. Chamonix is 1 hour's drive form Geneva airport. Cham can be a bit of a pain to get around as it's very spread out - typically you'll pick an area (Brevent/Flegere, Grands Montets, Les Houches, Le Tour etc) and stick with it for the day. Dunno about accomodation, however, I'd advise you to sign up for the ChamShare mailing list on ChamSocial.com and post your requirements - you'll often find last-minute stuff on there.

3) This is Chamonix! By saying 'mountain' (singular), you're giving away your origins! While there are plenty of good pisted runs in Cham (though nowhere near as many as say the trois vallees), there are plenty of astounding places you can go around Cham that you really shouldn't go without a guide, but you really should give it a go as that's what Chamonix is all about. Guides can be expensive, so you might like to try to hook up with others to split costs (Chamshare is good for that). I had a very good day on the Vallée Blanche with dream-guides.com last Friday, but there are many other providers too.

4) Alpine12 mentioned Verbier, and that's definitely a cool place to go - it would make a good day trip from Cham as it's only an hour away via the awesome Forclaz pass. Another place worth a go is Courmayeur in Italy; weather tends to be a bit better there, and the town is rather more charming than Cham. It's only about 45 mins away through the Mont-Blanc tunnel.


Have fun!

post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 

Wow, this advice is super helpful!! Chamonix is a bit far afield for most of us Yankees, and a little advice from my friends on the other side of the pond goes a long way. So far, we are trying to nail down an apartment/flat. I posted a note on camsocial.com, and the responses on starting to pour in. Any advice on locations. I am guessing we want to stay close to the center of town and near the bus stop so we can hit up a few of the different mountains (we are traveling sans car).


This is looking to be an epic trip...can't wait!!

post #9 of 17

Chamonix is pretty big; there are bus stops all over the place - see the bus info site. You'll probably have the most fun if you stay somewhere central, it's easy to walk most places. This PDF map is pretty clear. More snow due tomorrow!

post #10 of 17

If you hook with one of the guide companies - as I did - they will pick you up from your hotel/apartment. I was there in Mar 2008 - for 4 days. signed up with a group guide - for valle blanche one day and the Grand Montet the next day. Unfortunately I fell on my second day - so instead of skiing - rested my knees the third day. I was heading for a 7 day ski safari - after that - so really wanted to make sure I could ski. 


 Love their health care system. Walked into an ortho pedic surgeons office - there are as many ortho pedic surgeons in Chamonix as there are hookers in Vegas -:) - he twisted and turned my knees around - and pronounced me ready to ski. It cost me 30 Euro. Came back to the US after successfully completing my ski safari - and went to a local Orthopedic just to double check. 2 visits, 1 xray and 1 MRI, and $2000 later - he gave me the same verdict. 


Anyway - stay close to the main drag and the bars. don't want to miss the party scene.

post #11 of 17

Chamonix definitely requires a guide if you've not been before, but the skiing is truly awesome (little bit scary too... but good scary). The main groomers are good, but the off-piste near the glacier (argentiere - probably spelt that wrong) makes me drool even thinking about. I'm going about a week after you, I would help with accommodation, but I'm going with my Uni. so obviously the housing situation will be a little bit different. I would also recommend St. Anton if you decide to return to the Alps, as it means a week of Wiener-Schnitzel, made the correct way.

@Marty: That's 'evil' healthcare for you. :)


post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 

Just checked the weather report and it looks like most days will be around 50 F (10 C) and possible raining the first few days of our trip. Has anyone been skiing in the past few days? How are the conditions? Is it possible that the temperatures I am seeing are for the valley and the weather may be colder on the hill (hopefully with snow instead of rain).?

post #13 of 17

The place to check the weather is Chamonix Meteo. That's currently saying it's going to be sunny all this week. Both on and off-piste will be typical spring condtions: icy in the mornings, slushy after lunch. Off piste will be prone to slab avalanches on sunny slopes. A fœhn (warm) wind is due too, so things will be warming up further. les grand montets is fun when it's really warm - last April I was skiing there with streams running down the pistes! Still plenty of snow though.

post #14 of 17
post #15 of 17

Good news for you guys is that it has started snowing here with it due to continue tomo and get a bit colder.  It has been really really warm though so you'll need to be careful with conditions off piste.  Use a guide you'll get so much more out of your trip!  Enjoy.

post #16 of 17
When I was in Cham the same week in 2004, conditions were warm and the best snow was up on the glacier at Les Grande Motets
post #17 of 17

Just returned form a week of spring skiing in Chamonix.  Best snow in Chamonix areawas on les Grand Montets especally off the top of the upper gondola along the Argentiere glacier.  We also had a trip to verbier Switzerland where the snow was even bettter.  Verbier is highly recommended.  Massive mountain, intersting terrain.  There is something for everyone.  Check with hotels or the local guide companies on tripes to Verbier.

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