Known for its steep runs, off-piste powder, and epic mountain scenery, Chamonix is a favourite of adventurous skiers the world over. Steeped in history, even before it hosted the 1924 Winter Olympics (the first ever!), the resort is one of the most popular in Europe. Here is our spotlight on Chamonix...
Chamonix is a large town that incorporates several smaller villages along a 12km-long glacial valley. The region has a prolific mountaineering history that it owes to its location at the base of Mont Blanc. The ski areas' range is exceptional, providing long runs below the tree line that offer plenty of good skiing in bad weather, as well as large glacier runs at higher altitude, though these are often at their best in April. The landscape offered by Chamonix is truly epic, and has plenty to offer skiers of all levels.
Chamonix has five main ski areas: La Flégère and Le Brévent (which are linked by lift), L'Aiguille du Midi (ungroomed terrain only), Grands Montets, and Le Tour. This provides some real variety, though it does mean that visitors need to plan their days skiing carefully, and many opt to hire a car during their stay.
'The Mont Blanc Unlimited pass' also includes the Les Houches, which sits 6km further down the valley from Chamonix, which is definitely worth a visit. In recent years the the valley's lift station and lift at Brevent has been completely updated with a new gondola, dramatically speeding up the journey time.
The resort's website notes that Chamonix boasts a total of 106 runs and 65 lifts, with 14% of its skiing suitable for beginners, 34% to intermediate level skiers, and 54% best suited to advanced or expert level skiers.
Chamonix is a big, but picturesque town that offers great skiing, nightlife and plenty of traditional charm. Though not exactly a quiet Alpine village, Chamonix’s setting beneath Mont Blanc's cliffs and the glaciers of the massif is truly fantastic. The town's older buildings have maintained their Victorian look and, with a traffic-free centre, Chamonix makes for a very pleasant stroll, with plenty of cafes, restaurants, galleries and shops to explore. As one of Europe's most popular ski resorts, there are plenty of accommodation options at all star ratings, but it can help to book early - as the resort's hotels do fill up in the heights of the ski season!
Chamonix is approximately 100km drive from Geneva airport, mostly by toll motorway, and around 900km drive from Calais via Reims, Troyes and Bourg en Bresse. Chains are not often needed for access to or getting around the valley, though they may be necessary for getting to Vallorcine or Verbier.
When visiting Chamonix, it is well worth riding the funicular railway to the Montenvers station, which sits on a ridge at 1913 metres. Here, there is a restaurant with terrace which is a great vantage point for taking in views of the peaks of Les Grands Jorasses and Les Drus, as well as the Mer de Glace. The historic Montevers Railway has been running since 1908 and remains an ever popular attraction.