Winter activities in the Chamonix Valley
As the Valley cuts through the highest mountains in Europe, the skiing in Chamonix has a reputation for being among the best available. Regarded as the extreme skiing capital of the world, Chamonix's reputation often unfairly precedes itself. However, its mountainous terrain is an enticement to adventurous skiers and boarders who are attracted the steep and long runs which provide some of the best high altitude skiing in Europe. This reputation is built on the fact that Chamonix Mont Blanc has the world's biggest skiable vertical drop that is served by lifts (2807m). It also boasts one of the world's longest runs - 22 km through the Vallée Blanche - and staged the World's first Winter Olympics in 1924. People have been skiing here since 1893 and one of the first cable cars in the world opened in 1907.
The skiing in the Chamonix Valley is spread over 5 separate areas which are linked by a regular and efficient bus service included in the lift pass (see Ski Passes). At the base of the Valley is Les Houches, with Brévent close to Chamonix centre, in turn linked to La Flégère. Up the Valley is Les Grands Montets at Argentière and finally La Domaine du Balme, otherwise known as Le Tour.
The area has a reputation of excellence for advanced and intermediate skiing and the off piste opportunities seem endless. However, there are also plenty of pisted slopes to suit skiers of all levels. Les Houches and Le Tour in particular are ideal pistes for beginners with nursery slopes on the Valley floor at Les Planards and Savoy (Chamonix), Les Chosalets (Argentière) and La Vormaine (Le Tour).
Intermediate and Advanced Skiing
Chamonix has a reputation for challenging slopes. Les Houches and Le Tour provide a vast range of intermediate runs, while the slopes at La Flégère and Le Brévent are more challenging. Experienced skiers can head for Les Grands Montets where you will find dramatic black runs passing sections of glacier as well as countless runs of exhilarating off piste. There is also the Aiguille du Midi sector with the infamous Vallée Blanche, an off-piste run that demands the attentions of a Mountain Guide. For freestyle skiiers and snowwboarders, there is a terrain park and half pipe at Les Grands Montets.
For those who somehow manage to exhaust the skiing in Chamonix itself, there are many other areas covered by the Mont Blanc ski pass including Courmayeur in Italy, Les Contamines, St Gervais, Megeve and Praz sur Arly. There are also a number of ski areas within an hour's drive including Verbier, Flaine, Les Carroz and Samoens.