EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › EpicSki Community › International Zone › Verbier or Chamonix, or perhaps Val d'Isere
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Verbier or Chamonix, or perhaps Val d'Isere

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

I am trying to weigh the pros and cons with these and they all sound pretty spectacular.  Chamonix seems a bit more mountaineering based while Verbier and Val d'Isere seem more skiing based.  I would love to learn mountaineering but am more focused on skiing at this point.  I am going to Europe to learn a new culture, hone my French language skills, and ski couloirs. 


Any recommendations bewteen these three French speaking resorts?

post #2 of 28

If I were going to live I'd rule out Verbier. Not real fond of the town, though there are a lot of foreigners there (and in Cham, too; lots of Brits, Aussies in both). Val d'Isere has more scale than the other two. They all have great skiing. Cham may be weaker on the snow quality front than the other two. Val d'Isere has the best easy-access ski touring in the Alps (eg, short tour/long descent), maybe anywhere. Cham is the coolest town of the three, IMV.

The gnar vibe is probably stronger in Verbier and Cham than in Val.


Also, because it's fall, and I'm bored, I'm gonna say something that'll piss some people off:
Cham is overrated
Val is underrated
Verbier is as good as what you've heard

(again, they're all great...)

post #3 of 28

I'm not annoyed by your rating of Chamonix, just surprised. Why do you think Chamonix is over-rated? Surely not with respect to the quality of its climbing routes? If Val d'Isere has superior off piste access I'll definitely have to give it a try. It's hard to imagine easier access to spectacular terrain than that from the Aiguille du Midi, Grand Montets, Brevent, Flegere, etc. lift systems.


Three weeks is the longest single period I've spent in Chamonix. I have been mightily impressed, but I may be attending to different features of the place and its mountain terrain. While in the valley I tend to stay on the outskirts, around Les Gaillands, where there is less noise and congestion. (Less attitude, as well.)


I will admit I wasn't impressed with the restaurants I visited, though I only visited a few of them. I can't comment on the night life; I'm usually asleep by 10 pm. Though opinions can reasonably differ on this point, I think the Mt. Blanc massif offers some of the most beautiful ski touring/ski mountaineering terrain in the world.


For me, it's a huge thrill to find myself walking the same streets as did Rebuffat, Couzy, Terray, Bonatti and the other legendary figures in the history of mountaineering. I'm a sucker for history.


What tours do you recommend out of Val d'Isere? I'm currently making my plans for this spring, and aside from a detour to the Otztaler, I'm headin' for France. Fromage, anyone?


post #4 of 28

I've not been to verbier so can't comment on that.


But.. Cham is hardcore. Really hardcore. from more of a mountaineering aspect. At the end of the day you see dudes with their skis, ropes, crampons etc. You ski to the glacier and climb the thing. the off piste is massive but you really need a guide to get through the glaciers.


However - you need a car in cham to get around because otherwise its a wait for the bus, and the resorts are really spread out.


Val is massive. I skied from Val to Tinges (another part of the same resort) and it took me all day to get there. I had to get the bus back because it was too late to ski back. Spending a whole day in Tinges is good too, as you can see the whole way around the Tinges valley without hitting the same run twice. Val is better set up than Cham in that the accom is at the bottom of the piste. Nightlife is comparable at both, although Val has a more party vibe.

post #5 of 28

Been to Val, while staying in Tignes.  Loved it, skiwise.  Maybe a few too many drunk Brits, but that's just me looking out my window every night.  Thinking of Verbier this winter, but my geezer ski group is leaning towards Austria.  Would be very interested how you make a choice, Pendleton.


I took a helicopter tour at Tignes - hiked to the top, then coptered out at the bottom by the lake.  They do it backwards, apparently.


And while we're at it, welcome to Epicski.

post #6 of 28

Although I go to Val almost every year for early season skiing (so I clearly like it at least a bit), I have to say it's not going to be the best place to go for practicing your French. Most of the time, I struggle to find anyone who speaks the language other than the restaurant staff. It also gets a bit crowded, even off peak.


This is due to the massive number of tour groups from the UK. There are several UK tour operators running trips to Val and Tignes all winter, as well as groups like the Ski Club of GB that have a number of trips there each winter. Since many Brits apparently aren't aware that there ski resorts outside of France, this is one of the top destinations (along with the 3 Valleys, Paradiski, and Les Deux Alpes).


Otherwise, the lifts are good, the whole Espace Killy area is huge and varied, and they usually get a decent amount of snow.

Edited by CerebralVortex - 9/10/10 at 2:37am
post #7 of 28

Yeah, I haven't spent enough time in Val to know, but for sure this is the case in Cham and Verbier. I couldn't find anyone in a shop in Verbier who spoke French.

post #8 of 28

when I took my tour through the alps, i started in Chamonix & ended in Chamonix & its the only area that I visited twice. When I went to Verbier, the conditions were good (not great) and I hung with a bunch of skiers, so it felt to me more of a skiers place. When I was in Cham, i stayed right next to Le Brevant and the guesthouse had a much bigger variety of winter enthusiasts: skiers, climbers, snowboarders, tele etc. So the feeling to me was that Chamonix had a more mountaineering attitude. However, its possible I  felt that way since those are the people I was staying with and exchanging stories with.


You didn't mention where you wanted to stay, either a guesthouse or renting an apartment. If its a guesthouse, then you can go to all three towns & see which one you like best as it doesn't take too long to go to each place. I'm sure you can find all the adventure you want at any of those places. I didn't go to Val, so I can't comment on it, but I'm sure it can't be bad for mountaineering.

post #9 of 28

If you climb in summer and are competent with rope work go to Cham. Otherwise Val, unless you already ski alot off piste and couloirs and are only looking to hone steep skills, in which case Cham. If you are newer to couloirs Val.


Verbier is good, but I prefer the other two. During winter nowadays I live in a village between Verbier and Chamonix, with Verbier slightly nearer. Remember that although Verbier is nominally French speaking it is in Switzerland, so culturally Swiss, which is different from the other two which are in France.


To learn the language and pick up French culture, don't live in any of these three. Live outside the resort in a village down the mountain. It will be less convinent. It will be cheaper. It will be more french. You may well need a car depending how far down you go.


All three are very good.

post #10 of 28

Agree with the comments on all 3 but would particularly agree with seasonticket about staying outside the main resort. For example if staying in the Val d'isere area (which I know the best) I'd suggest staying in Tignes Les Brevieres rather than Val d'isere. Les Brevieres is a lovely (and by far the most French IMHO in Espace Killy) village lower down the Tignes lift network which is in turn linked to the Val d'Isere network, from there you can take a gondola higher up to the main pistes very easily and ski over to Val D with ease in my experience, go further afield on touring skis or just head off piste from the lifts.


Les Brevieres also tends to be a bit cheaper (Val isn't what I'd call value for money!) and has some decent places to stay. Personally I'm happy with reasonably basic accommodation as long as it's comfortable and have stayed in Chjalet Chardons a couple of times - it is British run though which seems to be something a few people here wanna avoid (as a Scot I blame the English ) but it's used by DIYers rather than the package holiday crowd. Anyway they have a website here if you want more info (and I hasten to add I have nothing to do with the company, I've just stayed there and enjoyed it).

post #11 of 28

Go to val d'isere then you have tignes, les arcs.la plagne, la rosiere all nearby as well. Even Three Valleys just down the road.

post #12 of 28

I believe these are accurate observations. Chamonix is only over rated in the same way Vail, Whistler and Aspen may be over rated. Unless you are a very sophisticated world traveler who has been everywhere but the French Alps you will have a great experience at any of these choices. You can get along in Cham without speaking French but it will certainly be VERY helpful.

post #13 of 28

If I remember correctly, the locals pronounce Chamonix as Cham-o-nix, like "New York Knicks."

post #14 of 28
Originally Posted by prickly View Post

If I remember correctly, the locals pronounce Chamonix as Cham-o-nix, like "New York Knicks."

Yes, you do remember correctly.

post #15 of 28

All are good picks, the each have their pros and cons.


The suggestion about staying away from the bigger parts of the resorts is a good one...spent time in Les Brevieres last winter and it was great...had everything but was cheaper and less overrun by the Brits.


If I had to pick I would get a place between Chamonix and Verbier.  That area just has so many incredible opportunities for crazy fun.  The Chamonix area can be kind of crowded because it is so popular, but I have has some of the best ski days of my life there...inbound, touring, or mountaineering you can do it all.

post #16 of 28
Originally Posted by prickly View Post

If I remember correctly, the locals pronounce Chamonix as Cham-o-nix, like "New York Knicks."

A few years ago while on my way to the Aletsch glacier I shared a dining table with young woman from San Francisco who had traveled to Switzerland in the hope of seeing the Eiger. We were both staying at a hotel near Kleine Scheidegg. While in the dining room she pronounced Chamonix just as you have suggested (i.e. rhyming with 'Knicks') Several other patrons burst out laughing. I guess they weren't French and didn't know any better.

post #17 of 28


Crucially, how long are you going for? A week? a season? a year? None of them will be much good for your French as they are so full of Brits, Aussies and Americans. I recommend Val over the others for the skiing. Alternatively I'd pick somewhere, smaller and more 'French', find someone with a car and explore some of the great lesser known and uncrowded resorts. If you're out for a longer period maybe base yourself in a town like Grenoble or Briançon.


The French may pronounce is ChamoniX but the locals pronounce it Chamoni.

"Les Chamoniards rappellent également que leur ville se prononce [chamoni], et non [chamonix]. "




post #18 of 28

Quite agree, if you are coming for a week's holiday or even a couple of weeks you are not going to learn any French and will be surrounded by British and Australians in all these resorts. if you are coming for the season live down the valley a bit. I live in Bozel, just under Courchevel in the Three Valleys. There are a few Brits live here but no-one in the shops or restaurants etc speaks English. You need French here and it is still very much a French village. And of course much cheaper than up in the resorts. 

post #19 of 28

The choice is like picking diamonds of similar quality. Pick one, go and have fun. Logistically - Chamonix and Verbier are nice day trips from each other for a little variety.

post #20 of 28

Agree with most of what has been posted and will expand on what Volf asked regarding time period- if you are planning on staying winter into summer (or vice versa) you will find Val to be very quiet in the off season.  I've never been to Verbier, but Cham is a real town with a year round population (about 10 K IIRC) while Val is a winter resort town with a 2 month summer season.  I see this mostly as a disadvantage although the dead season will be the one chance you might actually have to use your french and get to meet some of the locals (but not many year round).


As others have said, I would go elsewhere if climbing isn't as important and you want to be forced to speak french more.  My recommendation would be Bourg St. Maurice were I spent 9 months. Some Brits, but not overrun.  Very few Americans.  It looked as if they had some sort of climbing club that had a wall set up in the old gym.  If the climbers are anything like the guys on the basketball club I played with, joining up with them will help with your french and might yield some skiing partners who know the off piste terrain (which is as important as good BC partners in the States).  Quite a few of the french towns, inlcuding BSM have government sponsored french lessons.

post #21 of 28

Verbier and Val D'Isere are expensive the way Aspen is. Chamonix is not.But if skiing is your thing not mountaineering and you fancy learning some French.


Then as oMEfree30 said Bourg St. Maurice is as  good a place as any. You are in easy reach of more miles of skiing  than most countries. The resorts around have more skiing each than summit county Co.


A big bonus is most are populated by holiday makers only - no real competition for big or steep lines.


Chamonix on the other hand (where I live) you need mountaineering skills and to ski untracked fresh you have to lucky and / or reckless. You don't need any French to survive - even prosper in this town but it helps.

post #22 of 28

The original poster never came back.  I hate that......grrrr.

post #23 of 28

I was thinking the same thing, but maybe someone else will get some benefit from it...

post #24 of 28

Don't we just write this stuff for ourselves though?

post #25 of 28

ha, ha 25 replies and no one read it!

actually I did, thanks, much appreciated.

post #26 of 28


Me I prefer to chamonix. Chamonix, can do a lot of thing like skiing in the mountains of the Alps, and even you could learn to speak the french while traveling. All this with aelm-chamonix.
post #27 of 28

mod note: This is a 4 year old thread. The last post is probably just spam, but I'm going to allow it for now. Je suis doux cœur. Peut-être que Gabi prouver le contraire.

post #28 of 28
Originally Posted by TheRusty View Post

 Je suis doux cœur. Peut-être que Gabi prouver le contraire.


Pardon your French.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: International Zone
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › EpicSki Community › International Zone › Verbier or Chamonix, or perhaps Val d'Isere