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Chamonix #3 specific ski area reviews

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
We skied five areas in five days. Every day the forecast high in Chamonix was 56 degrees F. On our first day we made the long hard walk up the hill to Domaine Brevent. The tram runs right to the edge of town but it’s a steep three block walk to get the. This was our first day and we did not understand at that time how much the average Chamonix skier was willing to walk in their boots and carrying their skis. The French may not be great warriors but they will sure walk a lot farther in their ski boots than the average American. The lifts we observed were not placed as conveniently to the parking or the restaurants as they are placed in North America. The French and Brits just put their skis on their shoulders and walk wherever they need to walk. We got a late start plus the walk took longer than expected. We were surprised that there was a long line at the ticket window and at the tram. At least a third of the line consisted of sight seers and others riding the tram up for the view and a good lunch. One person from GB said the skiing was not the best but he always skied Brevent at least on day because the food was so good. Brevent faces south so the warm weather made the slopes slick in some places and slushy in others. Strictly spring conditions. Lots of variety. We spent most of the day on the high speed Cornu lift that rises over 1,500 feet along a ridge and allows you to ski down either side with everything from green groomers to chutes and a small bowl. That kind of extensive terrain served by one chair rising so far so fast introduced us to what’s different in the Alps compare to most of North America.
Day two we skied Grands Montets, which faces north. The snow at Grands Montets was remarkably better than the south facing Brevent. It was a week since the last snow and the weather was very warm but the snow was great. It wasn’t powder but it wasn’t hardpack either. The skiers were spread over a very big mountain with lots of space between lifts so the snow does not get skied off. I don’t why it felt different but I’ve never experienced such good snow in such warm conditions. Even lat in the day it never really softened up to the typical spring slush.
Day three was the Vallee Blanche, the longest lift served run anywhere. I’ll devote a full thread to Vallee Blanche later.
Day four we made the 45 minute drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Courmayeur Italy to ski and walk the village of Courmayeur. Courmayeur also faces south and had many of the same problems as on our first day. Courmayeur has a large off piste area that may have had better conditions but it was segregated from the main area by a ridge and we decided we should not commit to the unknown off piste area without a guide. There were ungroomed slopes mixed in with the groomers but the freezing and thawing made them too rough and nobody was skiing them. Food in Courmayeur was good and cheap. The walking village was beautiful and shopping was good. We enjoyed our day trip to Italy but if given the opportunity to do it again we would go to Grands Montets.
My last day I drove to LeTour and Domaine deBalme to try this popular family area. This was another south facing area that was mostly beginner and intermediate skiing similar to Courmayeur. I went straight to the top of the mountain and found it slick in the shade and slush in the sun so I skied back to my car and drove a few miles down the road to Grands Montets and had another great day with good snow.
post #2 of 8
Thanks for taking the time to make the posts on Chamonix. Loved the Plake story and your advice -just do it- about Vallee Blanche. It is an unrealized dream of mine.
How many Americans did you see/meet in Chamonix? What percent of the tourist population would you guess were American? I was told in Austria a few years ago it was only 5-10% there in a good year, and probably less since 9/11/01.
Do you think next time to Europe you'd go to a higher elev, purpose built area for skiing, then separately visit a non-ski town for some of the cultural activities?
post #3 of 8
Originally Posted by steveturner View Post
... The French may not be great warriors but they will sure walk a lot farther in their ski boots than the average American...
: It's always nice to hear some good ol' fashioned prejudiced cliché...
It was nice to see you, Steve. Come back soon.
post #4 of 8
Originally Posted by philippeR View Post
: It's always nice to hear some good ol' fashioned prejudiced cliché...
Americans just have a short or selective memory when it comes to stuff like that, don't mind us. I wonder how all the towns called Lafayette in the States came to be named that? Howe would have sounded so much better don't you think?
post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 
We met only few Americans, but a lot of folks from England, Ireland and Scotland. It's just an hour flight from Heathrow to Geneva and they said they have a favorable exchange rate so lots of Brits take long weekends to the Alps or even own small apartments at various resorts. Evidently Cham. is one of their favorites. Cham. has a reputation for tough skiing. That may scare off a few family vacationers. We could not have asked for a better overall experience than Chamonix so we would be tempted to go back there again and start working on the other 95% of the terrain that we did not ski this trip. At the same time it is tempting to try something different, particularly at one of the large ski circuses with over 100 lifts and multiple connected resorts. Frankly I'd just ask my teenagers where they wanted to go and if they said go back to Cham. that's great and if they said they wanted to see a little more Bavarian style I'd probably pick something in Austria. Elevation is no problem unless ski-in ski-out is a big issue. We thought the dry streets in town were a big plus.
I agree. My attempt to debunk a misconception some in the US have of Europeans was clumsy. It was originally part of a whole paragraph that compared our US lifestyle with the more active European lifestyle. Some folks here think the USA has a monopoly on macho. What I wanted to communicate was that the average visitor to, or resident of, Chamonix had physical activity integrated into their lifestyle more than their counterparts in the USA.
post #6 of 8
No offense.
I hate walking in my skiboots anyway.
post #7 of 8
Several years ago we needed ice skates to get around the town of Chaminox, especialy at night after drinking too much with the Aussies.
post #8 of 8
What I felt in Chamonix.

A lot of respect for those mountains.I skied in North America,Andes,Canada and I never felt such an intimidating feeling.Such a vertical: You are at 1000m and the Mont Blanc is 4800m.After a couple of days I got used to it,but at the beginning,my god!.Overwhelming place.
Strong mountaineering ambiance and heritage.I loved it!
It lacks the comfort of a North American resort,in terms of accesibility to lifts etc.IMO, I recommend hiring a car.If you want to go to Les Houches or Argentiere(Grand Montets)or also St Gervais or Megeve.
So authentic Alpine life!
I will miss Chamonix.Hope I can go again
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