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Ski 5~7 days in France on mid March: Chamonix or 3 Vallees.

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
I am planning to mix my business trip with some skiing in France this coming March.

After doing some digging on the Eurozone, Chamonix and 3 Vallees are on the top of my list. Val Thorens will probably be the town to stay because I am concerned of the snow condition. But Chamonix seems too good to miss for the Alps first timer, plus I have already found ~100 euros per night accommodation at the heart of Chamonix...

I understand snow condition is unpredictable but has anyone been to these two resorts around the same time of the year before?

Currently I'm more inclined to Chamonix, possibly signing up a glacier tour... So any pointers for the apres ski, restaurants or some local attractions?

Thanks guys~
post #2 of 35
Chamonix should not be missed; I've been there around ten times. March is prime time. You will ski far more interesting terrain with a guide than on your own, and a day trip skiing the Vallee Blanche will be the highlight of your trip; I've met folks who've done it over 100 times, and say that every time is different and wonderful.  Have a blast, and post a TR afterwards.
post #3 of 35
Just back from Chamonix, a little disapointing as the weather conditions were pretty torrid so didnt get much action on the slopes :-( I guess thats to be expected as Europe is having a pretty harsh winter. By the time you get out there, it should be much more stable in terms of conditions so i'd highly recommend it. Also, by then the Euro shouldnt be quite as strong as it is now and things wont be as expensive as they are:- $10 beers?!?!!?!
post #4 of 35
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the suggestion! I guess I will ditch 3 Vallees for Chamonix then~

Do you guys have any suggestion for glacier tour guide or website for reservation?

As if right now, I have found two options for accommodations:
EUR100~150, depending on how many days and whether breakfast or not.

I'm not sure yet of its convenience and location~ If I find something cheaper or more centrally located, I will post it here! But a lot of hotels have this 7-night rule or Sat arrival restriction....:(
post #5 of 35


I will be in Chamonix for 16-23 Jan and will update you about it..


post #6 of 35
Thread Starter 
Thanks:) and hope you have a blast on the slopes~

post #7 of 35
Go Chamonix when you want to make tours. There's a famous one from Chamonix to Zermatt (CH) but that will cost you about a week... For piste skiing I would recommend Les Trois Vallees. Val Tho is a good (the best?) option then.
post #8 of 35
Thread Starter 
AAhhh... you are right on the money. I'm actually more of a ski resort type!

Hoping to try the glacier one-day ski tour if I go to Chamonix, or maybe sign up something like this Chamonix off piste skiing 5 days Consolidation; but I might not have enough time to do so...

So now I'm confused again: 3 vallees vs chamonix.... :(
post #9 of 35

Now it's up to you... do you want to go tourskiing or enjoy the resort. As I said; for the resort LesVallees (also good for some nice tracks off piste if there's fresh snow). For touring Chamonix is the capital of Europe.
post #10 of 35
But if I where you. I would go to a resort. That's better to compare for you. Start touring, as a new experience in your home country. Thos way you will have two great new experiences.
post #11 of 35
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice. I will look into these two mountains and compare a bit of the resort type~
post #12 of 35
3 valleys is hard to beat for variety of piste-skiing albeit if you're really looking for a top-notch resort, then i would strongly recommend you look into Val d'Isere - it's a bit of a trek from Geneva (2.5 hours on a good day) but is a lovely drive and not much further on from 3 valleys (Val Thorens being the farthest away with Courchevel and Meribel closer). Val D offers very challenging steep piste skiing and stunning scenery at the highest lifts (gentler slopes the higher you go, typical of the area). Val offers a gigantic and fully linked lift system, with masses of runs available as well as some good off-piste. The night life is also excellent. As well as this, you also get a free day sking at another local resort included within the lift pass albeit Val is so good you may not want to leave (Val links to Tignes). 

I'm off to Chamonix at the beginning of Feb so will post back on conditions - however, it is noted mostly as an off-piste mecca within Europe, and as others have commented, is superb for touring. The piste skiing is also excellent, but if you want an extended piste-based blast over a huge linked area, it can be tricky as the nature of the resort has 4 or 5 lift systems that are not interconnected (free bus service operates between) directly, which is quite rare for a French resort.

One word of caution - expect it to be very busy at that time of year, you will queue for lifts but the new generation of 6 and 8 seat lifts mean you shouldn't be waiting long to get altitude. As for the conditions, March should be awesome and is usually warm and sunny - take your shades! I have often seen locals skiing in March wearing jeans and sweaters - gotta love the French!
post #13 of 35
Thread Starter 
You gotta love Epicski forum!! What... another recommend ski resort?! Well, I guess I will need to toss a dice to help me decide~:)

Personally, I am just there to chill and relax, not looking for fancy restaurants, high-end hotels, or to challenge my physical limitation. My friend is more of a on-piste type, for the breathtaking view and decent quality of snow. So I will probably sign up the one-day Blanche Vallee guide by myself, the rest of days we will just explore what each resort has to offer~

So please correct me if I'm wrong: Chamonix on-piste skiing is not as good as 3 Vallees? If not touring, you might as well go to 3 Vallees or Val d'lsere?!

I understand we will have to to take shuttles from one ski area to another, but great sightseeing I suppose! I might go to Italy side just for the fun of it~ But regarding to ski touring you guys are referring to, is it literally "tour" or also including "off-piste skiing"? Because I only have snowboard and downhill skis/boots, not sure if I'm able to do anything touring with those:(

There is not such a easy chart to list all the pros and cons of each resorts! But I guess all these replies just try to let me know all those destinations have their own charm and I wont regret for any of them... I will do more digging; hopefully I can find the perfect destination to meet both my friend's and my need.
post #14 of 35
Val D is another very good resort. It is part of Espace Killy. Part of this is also Tignes.
Ski-areas like Espace Killy or Les3Vallees are way bigger then areas I know from the states. That's because they are all connected (sometimes by free busses). You can't go wrong when you choose between those two. Both are high and have an glacier. So you can ski 100% sure.
Also nice is Portes du Soleil. But; that's not so high. If there's enough snow it's one of the largest (they claim the largest) areas. You would be able to ski two countrys then. Franc and Swizterland. Nice :-) Good place to stay would be Avoriaz, high and pretty centrl in the area. Or Chatel LINGA. I would not ski Superchatel.
Tip: always make sure you can ski the whole areas. Not only part of it. Not so much more expensive but always WAY more fun. Part of PdS would be SuperChatel. Not advisable. Too much crowded, kids, south side (often slush or icy) and to many draglifts.
post #15 of 35

It seems to me you now have loads of info about 4 different areas. Up front I'll have to admit I've never been to Chamonix, but the friends I ski with have. I have skied all of the others & worked in one.

The biggest thing that you'll notice about the French resorts is their size. While in the US you generally measure resorts by acreage, in Europe we measure trail length. In all but Chamonix the lifts are linked and the areas are truly huge, even in comparison to Vail.

Many european ski resorts grew up around mountain villages in valleys but in the 50s & 60s, purpose built resorts started to be built up above the tree-line, where the snow was more guaranteed. The down side to this is that the purpose built villages are often made up of high rise apartment blocks, quite soul-less &  when compared to the original villages lower down. You generally have a choice: lower price, self-catering, ski in/out, purpose built "boxes", often only bookable by the week, or more picturesque resort, hotels, restaurants, a bit of a walk to the lifts & flexibility in trip duration.

Portes du Soleil (Gates of the Sun) is the lowest of the three & spreads over 12 villages across the French/Swiss border. The southern edge (Morzine/Les Gets) doesn't link directly by lift, but a short walk across Morzine town centre to the superMorzine bubble, or a three minute bus ride to the les Prodains Cablecar takes you directly into the rest of the area. I've skied Les Gets/Morizine the last two years & there's been plenty to keep us occupied, but Avoriaz (the imposing purpose built bit) and beyond is a great area that includes the world famous Swiss Wall - once rated as one of the ten toughest runs in the world along with the likes of Corbet's Couloir at Jackson. This area is only an hour or so from Geneva and boasts over 600 kilometers of trails.

Espace Killy (Val d'Isere.& Tignes) is another huge area. Tignes accomodation will be more affordable than Val, with the same ski area that includes a smattering of Olympic ski venues, but as it's the purpose built bit, it's not as pretty. Tignes is made up of three "villages" Lavachet, Tignes le lac & Val Claret. Val Claret is the most village-like and is also the highest so most snow-sure.

The 3 Vallees is the highest skiing in Europe with Val Thorens as the highest accomodation. Both it and Les Menuires are high up & purpose built on the right of the area as you look at the map. Meribel, in the middle, is more traditional and has a lot of smaller chalets while Courchevel (split over 4 levels) covers the left of the map. Courchevel 1650 would be my personal favourite - close enough to the glitzy 1850 for you to mix with the "beautiful people" & the jet set, not too purpose-built and fairly accessible to the skiing. More reasonable accomodation can be had further down the valley in the historic spa town of Brides-les-Bains, with 2 VERY long gondola lifts straight up to Courchevel.

Bottom line, as you've already said, you won't be disappointed with any of them, as long as you do a little homework. With the size of the ski areas, and if you're on a typical American couple of day trip rather than a typical European one, you may not even cover the whole area in your vacation. You might consider a day in Morzine/Les Gets then a day in Avoriaz, or a day in Courchevel and a day in Meribel/Val Thorens. If that was you thing, the n Cham would be equally as good as you could ski a day in each distinct area and you wouldn't waste time moving from area to area.

I also post on a European forum that's similar to this one - www.snowheads.co.uk It's definately worth a look.

Hope the snow gods are kind & don't forget your shades & sunscreen.

CW :-)
post #16 of 35
There is plenty of very good On-Piste skiing around Chamonix. My experience there was as a family of four with two teenagers in early March. We had a great trip including a day on the Valee Blanche. The Gran Montets piste is probably the best on-piste skiing and it's a short shuttle ride from town but that's no problem. I have only skied Chamonix and Lendzerheide so I am no expert on the Alps but I could not have asked for a better trip overall than our trip to Chamonix. The town of Chamonix is great, the skiing is great and one day on the Vallee Blanche is worth flying to France on it's own. that said, I don't think there are any bad choices for a fist trip to the Alps. All the major resorts are GREAT. It's like Aspen vs Vail vs Whistler. It's all good an you will have a great time regardless of which location you select. One last thought. Do not assume your friend would not enjoy the Vallee. If they are a strong intermediate you can find a guide who will take you down on a path you will both enjoy and remember for a lifetime. Vallee Blanche is not Experts Only.
post #17 of 35
Thread Starter 
Much obliged to all the inputs and reviews:) I will definitely go check the snowhead website~ One thing definitely play a big factor for my decision is what cardweg pointed out: purposely-built town... Not so much a fan. As for my personal preference, skiing in Europe is more to relax and explore the culture and Alps magnificent view, hopefully along the way God will gimme the right amount of fresh snow:)

Yeah, I notice all my European friends take a week off for ski trip (jealous:Q); I, however, need to wait and see how soon the meeting will be over, then I can carry my snowboard to one of those aforementioned mountains.

I am kinda concerned with snowboarding down on the glacier guide tour: Vallee Blanche Accident

"...... their friends were on skis and so were able to "pole" themselves across the terrain. Mr Tate, however, was on a snowboard and climbed off, intending to tackle that section of the route on foot. The resort Vallée Blanche in the French Alps where a British snowboarder plunged to his death But as he stepped off, the snow and ice beneath him suddenly gave way, sending him tumbling into a previously unseen crevasse as Ms Grimshaw and the couple's two friends watched in horror."

After reading all those reviews and warning online, I cannot in good faith ask my friend to join me when I know the potential risk involved... but I will definitely do some searching and write to those mountain guide for advice and schedule.

Thanks again for sharing all those valuable experiences~
post #18 of 35

I agree totally with everything cardweg writes.
Personnally I am also not such a big fan of puposely-built-towns. Only exception would be Avoriaz as this is an automobile free town with one-horse-slays running through it. Nice. But the appartements are typical French. Very basic and very small. But that's just another reason to stay more time out there in the snow :-) Yep, the glass is always halffull, nerver half empty :-)
Let me know when you will go and where. Curious also how your experience will be.

post #19 of 35

i think the bottom line here is that wherever you go, you will no doubt get the same breathtaking scenery and not be far from a relaxed traditional village - the French don't really do anything else.

Don't be put off by horror stories from the Vallee Blanche - it is basically the equivalent of a blue/red run and no worse (once you have got past the first couple of hundred yards, which admittedly are a touch dicey). As long as you have your head screwed on and follow the guide (i.e. stay in his tracks) at the very top then you will be fine - there are crevasses to catch you out if not!

I didn't mention Morzine / Avoriaz because both times I have been there wasn't any snow on the Morzine side. That said, I have only heard great things about it and Morzine itself is a very nice village (albeit probably big enough to be a town now). The Avoriaz side of the valley offers great skiing, that is to be sure.

I still say Val d'Isere or Courchevel (3 Valleys) offer more variety though.

Can't wait to head to Chamonix myself and if you're not concerned with covering huge distances every day, then the fact the lifts aren't directly linked may not bother you as you could stay in one area for each day - could work out perfectly.

Whichever way you decide to go, enjoy it and remember to tell us how it went! Oh, and at least try to speak some French greetings otherwise the service may be less than first class, as some of my idiotic British compatriot friends have found out to their cost! 

post #20 of 35
 If you want miles of ski runs or controlled ski areas stay away from Chamonix (see 'Steep') if you however think Jackson hole is small, tame and full of restrictive rules you will enjoy Chamonix. If you want ski in ski out convenience look elsewhere. But if you want varied and have a sense of adventure you will enjoy. If the weather is not behaving or you just fancy a good cup of coffee Courmayeur Italy is just 25min away.
post #21 of 35
Two cents more. Remember the distances to the slopes from the middle of Chamonix are something like Vail to Beaver Creek or Aspen to Snowmass. As Idris mentioned Courmayeur is an entirely different ski area in another country for gosh sakes and it's still close enough to easily day ski it - we did!
post #22 of 35
 By the way if you go for picture perfect and good skiing: then travel a little further: Zermatt.
post #23 of 35
Originally Posted by cardweg View Post

...Avoriaz (the imposing purpose built bit) and beyond is a great area that includes the world famous Swiss Wall - once rated as one of the ten toughest runs in the world along with the likes of Corbet's Couloir at Jackson. This area is only an hour or so from Geneva and boasts over 600 kilometers of trails.

Sorry for the hijack, but do you know the other 8 (besides Swiss Wall and Corbett)?
post #24 of 35
Thread Starter 
Darn it... Zematt?? Now I have a feeling the list will go on and on... :)

So I did some search on the forum, one of the bears posted:
Zermatt- Not my kind of skiing
After reading all the replys in that thread, I realize there is no such a thing of perfect ski resort for everyone. Whilst it's his all time favor, it might be not your cup of tea. All these 5 (6?? or 7?? :Q) ski resorts you guys suggest are definitely worth a visit but it is just a matter of where I wanna start as my first stop for French skiing/boarding.

I should've just made up my mind on one mountain, and searching for the guide/tour, hotel and transportation, checking the town info of where to eat and go, just in case the weather turns skiing day into sightseeing one.

Thanks once again:)
post #25 of 35
I have been to chamonix, 3 Valleys, ValD and Zermatt.

3 valleys and ValD - is most similar to US resorts. just bigger. 
Zermatt - more romantic.
Chamonix - adventure, inexpensive, closest to airport. Lot of great bars and restaurants and Lots of english speaking people compared to others.

If you are going with a buddy - go to Chamonix. you will have more fun.
post #26 of 35
oh ! wait - why han't anybody suggested St Anton in Austria !!! From what I read it has everything they all have and more. That is next on my list of places to go to in Europe.

Sorry could not resist confusing you even more -:)
post #27 of 35
Originally Posted by dirksuchy View Post

Sorry for the hijack, but do you know the other 8 (besides Swiss Wall and Corbett)?

The list was published in Ski & Board magazine (or maybe its predcessor, Ski Survey) but it was several years ago. I have to say they were the only two I'd heard of.

Sorry can't be of more help.

CW :-)
post #28 of 35
Hi Brian,

Just turned back from Chamonix.. first of all it was a great week with lots of snow, sunshine and blue sky.. I was lucky :)
I liked chamonix, huge town with a lot to do.. much more bigger than valdisere.. skiing was also nice.. only problem areas were not linked with lifts and not possible to ski from one to another.. it is a bit tricky to reach by bus ( for example 20 minutes to le tour from chamonix ) but once you start skiing it worth it.. also very nice place to find powder by easy access from lifts.. there are 4 main areas end except Le Houches I liked all.. also it is possible to ski in verbier ( one hour from chamonix ) and courmayeur ( 30 minutes from chamonix ) with unlimeted chamonix ski pass and there is a shuttle service to courmayeur every day.. for verbier you must hire car or join ESF's daily trip for 78 euros per person..
if I compare to valdisere I think I still like the valdisere best but chamonix is also very good and you won't regret with both of them..

post #29 of 35
Thread Starter 
Hey secevit~

Sounds like you had a blast out there! Thanks so much for the review~

The fact that it's a huge town perfectly plays out in my situation... so my friend will have something to do/sightseeing when not skiing!

Would you still recommend if one does not join the tour guide, but only skiing in the on-piste runs for the whole trip? I am still looking for some info of one-day Vallée Blanche, with intermediate level route...

post #30 of 35



Sure that an intermediate just on the slopes will also enjoy Chamonix.. especially Le Tour and Brevent-La Praz areas are great.. Grand Montet is a bit hard work..
Courmayeur and Verbier are also fine for intermediates.. Courmayeur is great for delicious and also cheap food on the slopes and verbier even only the town worths a visit..

For the Valley Blanches tour, you must be experienced on off piste to be on the safe side.. I did not have a chance to make it, my other friends were surfers and not recommended with snowboards so I was not able to do it.. with private guide it is like 350 euros and with group it is about 75 euros.. if you never tried off piste before it is better to join a half day off piste lesson and ask the instructor if you can do it or not.. what they said is the danger is creavesses and you have to be able to fallow the guides line and be able to stop when he stops..

hope this helped..



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