Chamonix. If ever a resort's reputation preceded it, it is this one. This iconic French resort and its surrounding ski areas are some of the most iconic names in winter sports, with masses of aspiring advanced skiers and snowboarders coming here each season, intent on proving they are up to the challenge of some of the Alps - and the world's – most hyped high-mountain descents, including the most emblematic of all, the famous Vallée Blanche.
But the Chamonix Mont Blanc ski area has much to offer all skiers. There are more conventional ski areas in the Chamonix Valley, although only the linked Brévent and Flégère areas are directly accessible by ski lift from Chamonix itself; the others, including Les Houches, Balme (Le Tour-Vallorcine) and Les Grands Montets (Argentière) are all separate and situated above the resorts of the same name. All areas are served by a free bus service and/or the superb valley train. Balme ski area is getting a brand new 10-seater panoramic gondola running up from Le Tour for December 2022.
And let's not forget, Chamonix isn't all about the on-slope action. You can explore the stunning mountain terrain by trying winter hiking, follow in the footsteps of mountaineers, find some exceptional mountain restaurants, take day trips to numerous attractions or simply taking in the stunning views.
So, here's why, whatever your level or interest, Chamonix is still one of the best ski resorts in the world:
An exceptional location
The valley extends over 28km and is flanked by the superb peaks and needles of the Mont Blanc massif and the Aiguilles Rouges. The historic town of Chamonix sits in the middle of the valley surrounded by mountains, a mere 30 minutes’ drive from both the Swiss and Italian borders and just one hour’s drive from the nearest airport, Geneva. Access, then, is easy. Airport transfers will not break the bank or waste valuable slope time.
An authentic Alpine Town
Yes, a lot of mountain resorts say this, but authenticity sits easily on Chamonix's shoulders. It's an alpine town where modernity and tradition live harmoniously side by side, giving the place a unique vitality and character. Its colourful history and architectural heritage offer an extraordinary journey through time!
From the first explorers in the 1700s to the technical prowess of one of the most remarkable cable cars in the world (Aiguille du Midi - 1955) Chamonix has never ceased to pioneer mountain tourism. The first Winter Olympic Games, hosted by the town in 1924, promoted the development of winter sports. Today both summer and winter seasons are equally popular and it is not without reason that Chamonix Mont-Blanc is hailed as birthplace of mountaineering and world capital of skiing.
Heart and soul of the Alps
It may sound pretentious, but when people speak of Chamonix, they often say it is a place with a soul! The valley is home to 13,000 permanent residents of all nationalities. Their strong attachment and passion for this valley is indeed contagious and readily shared with all those who visit (and often return).
Chamonix is cosmopolitan, an international melting pot offering an eclectic choice of everything which reflects the people who live here and the people who visit: from luxury hotels to backpacker’s gîtes, from Michelin-star restaurants to Savoy food trucks, from attractive boutiques to hi-tec sports outlets, from sunny street cafés to lively clubs and bars…
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A world-renowned ski destination
This is the big one, of course. Proud to be member of the 'Best of the Alps' resorts, Chamonix offers outstanding skiing from December to May with reliable snow-cover and excellent springtime conditions. And while the destination is best-known for its iconic descents such as the Vallée Blanche (a 20km long glacier itinerary), its free-ride spots and vertical drops, the Chamonix valley also offers gentle tree-lined slopes, wide open panoramic pistes, snow parks and nursery slopes for beginners and children just starting out in the mountains.
The Aiguille du Midi is the area's lift-served highpoint, reached via the world's highest vertical-ascent cable car, and is the starting point for the Vallee Blanche descent. The ski routes off the Aiguille du Midi are accessed via an exposed arete. They are totally off-piste, and shouldn't be attempted without a mountain guide.
If asked to name one iconic Chamonix piste run, it would have to be the famous 'Verte' des Houches which hosts the legendary Kandahar Alpine Skiing World Cup. Dates for the 2023 race agenda are 4th and 5th February.
To best discover the Mont-Blanc region, the “Mont Blanc Unlimited” pass enables visitors to enjoy 1,000 km skiing at liberty in 3 countries: Chamonix Valley, Megève, Saint-Gervais, Courmayeur (Italy), Crans Montana (Switzerland)… as well as the sight-seeing excursions of the Aiguille du Midi, the Mer de Glace and the Tramway du Mont-Blanc.
Nordic skiers may enjoy more than 40km of scenic cross-country slopes, a perfect way to discover the valley. Other winter sports activities include dog-sledding, ski-touring, snowshoeing, ice climbing, scenic flights, tandem paragliding and the Alpine Coaster luge.
A paradise for sight-seeing
Even a ski holiday needs to offer more than skiing these days, and the Chamonix Valley delivers, even for non-skiers. From the town centre, explore the wonders of an incredible high-mountain environment by riding the famous Aiguille du Midi cable car up to 3842m. This is the closest most people will ever get to the summit of Mont Blanc and the sweeping 360° view of the Alps is breathtaking.
Plus, thrill seekers will love the newest attraction at the top of the Aiguille du Midi cable car - You are invited to 'step into the void' and stand in a five-sided glass box with more than 1000m of air beneath you. A great chance to enjoy a unique perspective on the stunning views surrounding you, but it's not for the faint-hearted!
To discover the valley’s outlying villages and hamlets, hop on the panoramic valley train (free of charge) or take one of the many lifts accessible to pedestrians and lunch in a mountain restaurant. For something different, visit the Crystal Museum, which has tripled in size, to become a mineralogy museum of international standing. The exhibition rooms occupy a space of 700 m² with no less than 1,800 remarkable pieces.
Or embark on the romantic Montenvers rack and pinion train to the Mer-de-Glace glacier (largest glacier in the Alps) and visit the Ice grotto and the historic Grand Hotel at 1,913m. An ambitious €53 million Montenvers-Mer de Glace project is underway, which involves replacing the existing gondola with a new installation further up-glacier, as well as the creation of an international glacier and climate interpretation centre. The gondola will be operational in December 2023 and the Glacier interpretation centre in December 2024.
Is relaxation your thing? Discover QC Terme, the most scenic spa in the Alps! Embark on a multi-sensory journey offering over 30 wellness practices, relaxation rooms, gardens and terraces, a panoramic restaurant and an incredible infinity pool at the foot of Mont Blanc.
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