Chamonix

Ski Resort in France

Introduction

Chamonix is a famous resort in the Haute-Savoie. Chamonix and Chamonix Valley are located in south-eastern France in the French Alps. Lying at the foot of Mont Blanc, Chamonix is very close to the borders of Italy and Switzerland, it is regarded as the birthplace and one of the capitals of mountaineering. It was the site of the first Winter Olympics in 1924.

Chamonix is a winter wonderland! The Chamonix Valley is consistently rated as one of the top ten ski resorts in the world, catering for every taste and ability. Chamonix, is a city of 10,000 residents and the main resort in a valley dominated by Mont Blanc, western Europe's highest mountain (15,770 feet). Chamonix valley can boast of some of the best skiing and scenery in the Alps and a hard-to-beat list of winter sports activities. One of the world's greatest runs is the 13-mile journey down the Valle Blanche glacier and the Sea of Ice, a drop of 9,200 feet; highest lift-served vertical descent in the world. Chamonix has six separate ski areas in the valley. They have a total of more than 90 miles of prepared slopes and trails and 49 lifts. Particularly popular with powder skiers and snowboarders is Les Grands Montets, which rises above the village of Argentiere which is near Chamonix. Noted for its tough terrain, the area's 20 miles of groomed runs are 50 percent, serious, black and only 10 percent easy. The vertical is just short of 6,800 feet. No one gets bored.

If you ski or snowboard, Chamonix France should definitely be on your bucket list. Chamonix has an allure for the hard core and adventurous in particular, with world renowned off-piste skiing and riding. Some of the lines are so challenging that you might need to wear a diaper. 

If you’re not an expert mountaineer, Chamonix also has a softer side for those who just want a relaxed European ski holiday. The Chamonix ski areas have more than 170km of piste on which to cruise, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars to enjoy the famous food and wine. 

For skiers, a long season is guaranteed with lifts open into May; there are glaciers and permanent snow fields, ski runs with a vertical elevation of more than 2,000m (6,562ft) and the Vallee Blanche, the most famous (and crowded) off-piste run in the world. All this only one hour from Geneva airport; in many ways, Chamonix is a resort like no other.

Chamonix is not lacking in upmarket shops and good restaurants, such as Albert Premier with its two Michelin stars. For a more reasonable meal, head to La Maison Carrier (sister restaurant to Albert Premier) with in a lovely rustic chalet for fantastic regional dishes and views of Mont Blanc. 

MBC is a great microbrewery and restaurant for a fun evening out with live music on some evenings and a selection of ales and lagers brewed directly behind the bar. 

The centre of Chamonix is a pedestrian-only area and there is a good choice of interesting shops and galleries to explore. On bad weather days, wander along the River Arve and stop off for a hot chocolate at one of the cafes or pay a visit to the Alpine Museum to learn more about the area. There is a swimming pool at the sports centre along with a sauna, Jacuzzi and steam room; there is also an Olympic-sized covered ice rink here. Aiguille du Midi is home to the famous off-piste itinerary, Vallee Blanche.

There are no pistes on the Aiguille du Midi so this is expert-only territory, however anyone can enjoy lunch at the Restaurant Le 3842 and take in the views of the Mont Blanc Massif, the Mer de Glace and Chamonix valley. Beginners should head to Le Tour for gentle slopes after graduating from the nursery slopes at village level. There is a natural half-pipe at Le Tour, snowparks on Les Grands Montets and Les Houches and an air bag in the Brevent-Flegere sector. Les Houches is also good for intermediates with long tree runs and has views to Mont Blanc.

All this only one hour from Geneva airport; in many ways, Chamonix is a resort like no other.


Skiing in Chamonix

The Chamonix area offers a sensational amount of skiing and snowboarding terrain, both on-piste and off-piste. Chamonix has a network of more than 60 lifts, and it’s accessible with only one ski pass. Ninety percent of the skiing area is above 2,000 metres and a long season is guaranteed with lifts open into May to provide access to glaciers and permanent snow fields. 

Whatever sort of skiing you want and whatever your ability, you will find a suitable ski area in Chamonix. In the Chamonix Valley there are 8 varied ski resorts as well as easy access to others in Italy and Switzerland. 

The “Vallée Blanche”, the most famous (and crowded) 20km long off-piste run in the world, is accessed by a spectacular cable car up to the Aiguille du Midi (3,842 m), which when constructed in 1955 was the highest cable car in the world. 

Top class skiing can be found at Les Grands Montets (The Grand Montets) that features long vertical and exceptional snow quality. It’s primarily an advanced mountain with an abundance of steep terrain. The ski resort also has a snow park and a boardercross course. 

Sunshine abounds at Brevent-Flegere. With slopes for all ability levels, it’s an idyllic place to gently acquire a tan. Le Domaine de Balme has slopes for various levels, but it’s probably the best ski area in the valley for beginners and intermediates. Tree lined slopes can be found at Les Houches which is the home of the Kandahar World Cup skiing event, and a great spot if the foul weather sets in. 

For beginners and children there are four skiing areas in the Chamonix Valley that offer exclusive slopes for novices: La Vormaine, Les Chosalets, Le Savoy and Les Planards. 

Getting your head around the different types of ski passes for the Chamonix area is a complex task.


Beginners Skiing in Chamonix

Beginners in Chamonix can start on several short nursery slopes in Chamonix town then progress to a ski few nice blues in Le Tour, but Chamonix is not an ideal place for beginners most of whom will be better off learning to ski elsewhere.

Although there are several small nursery slopes serviced by short drag lifts in Chamonix town which are suitable for young children and novice ski classes, they are far from ideal and if you are in a mixed ability group, you will be split up which makes it difficult or impossible to meet up for lunch. Also, the nursery slopes can be very cold as they are shaded by the towering mountains that hide the sun from certain sections of the valley floor.

La Tour

Beginners are best served by Le Tour where the La Vormaine area opposite the car park is perhaps Chamonix's best beginner area - it's bathed in sunlight and is sheltered from the wind for a start. There are three lifts of increasing size with two green pistes and a longer blue to tackle before you muster the confidence to go up the mountain.

There is a nice network of progressive blues which have been further opened up by the link from Vallorcine; the 3.2km Foret Verte (T19) blue down through the trees is a fine option. Other cruising runs in Le Tour to consider are L'Arve (T4), Liaison Balme (T13) and Les Marmottes (T7) all good for improving beginners. 

Grands Montets

Don't even consider it if you have trouble on the easiest of blue runs. If you are meeting more experienced skiers for lunch at Plan Joran, the Marmottons (L7) blue is a possibility as the easiest piste in the area, but that's about it.

La Chosalets is a small beginners' area close to Argentiere. It is about 500m from the Lognan lift, so it's not easily accessible in ski boots. La Chosalets has two tiny pistes for beginners, which certainly are not worth the drive if you are not accommodated in Argentiere.

Le Brevent and La Flegere

At the bottom of the Planpraz telecabine there is a small nursery section for beginners before they consider going up the mountain. For the more adventurous who simply want to get up the mountain the 2000 green (B3) can be accessed via the Altitude chairlift after Planpraz. 

Flegere also has a few decent green runs, Trappe (F6) and Libellules (F7), which are accessible from the Flegere and La Trappe lifts. For those who have progressed beyond blue the Chavanne (F10) and the Liaison Chavanne (F11) and Liaison Flegere (F12) blues are easy enough.


Intermediate Skiing in Chamonix

Chamonix offers intermediates some really exhilarating skiing and most of them are able to ski the Vallee Blanche, but if you are looking for hundreds of kilometres of well-groomed pistes and high speed lift connections then look elsewhere.

Strong intermediates should be comfortable skiing all of Chamonix's different ski areas, but the fact that most ski areas are not lift connected means that Chamonix is not a resort for those who like to cover vast distances of well-groomed pistes. If you like hundreds of kilometres of well groomed pistes for high speed cruising all day, there are plenty better places to ski, but if you want to test your skiing ability and have to work on your technique as you descend steep and narrow reds and blacks, Chamonix is the right place.

Le Tour

The place to start is Le Tour which has the some of the easies intermediate terrain; the blues are enjoyable and the reds are far easier than those in the rest of the ski area. Bear in mind that the short runs from the top of Aiguillette de Posettes get the first sun of the day.The Belle Place (T16) red through the trees is good for better intermediates, while the Ecuries (T3), Chatalet (T2) and Caisets (T1) join up to make one long red at almost 3km in length. There is snowmaking at the bottom, where it can also get crowded at the end of the day. The Esserts (T17) blue offers outstanding views of Mont Blanc at the top before winding through the forest. It links up with Belle Place.

Grands Montets

The Grands Montets ski area is not for the faint-hearted, but intermediates can still have a wonderful time and make the step up when they are ready. La Pierre a Ric (L10) red is the ultimate carving piste with wide sweeping turns perfect for it up until mid afternoon when it starts to get busy. The Variante Hotel (L5) is an ungroomed red run that joins up with the Pierre a Ric. From there to the bottom it can often be one large mogul field so you had better like bumps. At the top of the Variante, the piste is a continuation of the Blanchot (L12) black, one of the easier black runs in Chamonix. It means that if you start at the top of Blanchots, which in turn is an extention of the black Pylons (L2), you can ski the whole of the Grands Montets descent. The twisting blue Les Arolles (L8) offers an outstanding view of the Chamonix valley and is perfect for those who want something a little less taxing.

Le Brevent and La Flegere

The slopes of Le Brévent have been redesigned to make them more intermediate friendly. The Combe de la Charlanon (B8) red at the top of the Col Cornu chairlift has a black variant and is perfect for intermediates looking to further their experience. La Flegere is home to many reds which would definitely be called blacks in most other resorts and the best runs are accessed from the top of the Index chairlift, with the Combe Lachenal (F12) red a particular favourite. The Crochues (F13) red is 4.5km long and is spectacularly free of human presence and stand opposite the Grandes Jorasses and the Mer de Glace, the longest glacier in France.

Les Houches

After La Tour's Balme area, Les Houches is the next best bet for intermediates. Les Houches has 12 reds and six blues which are set mainly within the treeline. The lower slopes are almost exclusively blues and there are long blues and reds from the top of the Bellevue & Prarion telecabines, where you get an extraordinary 360 degree view of the Mont Blanc massif.


Advanced Skiing in Chamonix

Most advanced skiers in Chamonix head for Argentiere’s legendary Grands Montets ski area, but Chamonix's other areas also provide testing skiing on piste and in good weather the off-piste skiing in Chamonix is virtually limitless.

Most of Chamonix's advanced skiing is off-piste but there are also some testing black pistes and ungroomed runs that are avalanche controlled, throughout Chamonix's different ski areas.

Le Tour

Le Tour is best for intermediates and often overshadowed by Les Houches in bad weather but it also offers some of the best tree skiing around including some advanced descents. What's more, Le Tour has historically one of the highest and consistent snowfall levels in France. The north facing flanks of Le Tour are home to another fabulous itinerary, the Emosson black (T18), while the red of Belle Place (T16) takes you over 2km to Les Esserts (T17). Both runs wind through pine and larch forest and provide some of the best tree cover in the Chamonix valley.

Grand Montets

Argentiere's legendary Grand Montets has the most advanced terrain in the Chamonix valley. The Grand Montets area is reached either by cable car to Lognan or the high-speed quad to Plan Joran. All of the runs here are steep and narrow at some point and are all worth close scrutiny. The dividing line between piste and off-piste becomes blurred very quickly and the whole mountain is quickly covered in bumps - it is very popular. 

The Bochard lift opens up much of the mountain including the Combe de la Pendant and Lavancher bowls, but be sure to ride the second stage cable-car to the top of the mountain 3,275m (10,742 ft) for spectacular views and the 100 metal step descent to the slopes. 

Here you have the 1,000 m (3,281 ft) vertical of the Point de Vue black (L1) itinerary and its views across the Argentiere glacier or Pylones (L2), a similarly long black run which is often icy and usually bumpy. Both of these are an absolute must, but do not stray off on to the glacier without a guide - you have been warned!

Other black runs in the Grand Montets ski area to consider are the steep and 3.4km Chamois (L4), which gives sumptuous views back into the Lavancher bowl and the La Remuaz (L14), which is often cut up into bumps. Both are entirely dependent on the Retour Pendant chairlift so check it is open at the top of the Bochard gondola before you embark on either piste.

Le Brevent and La Flegere

Brevent and Flegere also have some great pistes. In the Brevent area the Charles Bozon black (B1/B1b) is all about the pitch and there is truly testing skiing across the flank. The Nants (B10) black is thin and winds down through the trees to the Planpraz gondola. As a result, it can get very busy in the afternoon as a route home and it also suffers from poor snow quality at the bottom. Great views though. 

Flegere offers the Praz (F1) and Floria (F14) blacks, both long winding runs that are perfect for accessing some of Chamonix legendary off-piste. Praz takes you back to the valley floor. Although intermediate red runs, the Charlanon (B8) and Crochues (F13) are often ungroomed and provide a decent challenge. For those who like skiing in uncrowded surroundings, the Combe Lachenal (F12) red is the only run in the huge Lachenal gully that also provides good off-piste options.

Les Houches

The main draw for experts in Les Houches is the famed Verte black, which is the only piste approved for World Cup racing in the Haute Savoie. The Verte is surrounded by fir trees, which means the sun rarely gets to the snow making it icy. What's more, it is almost 3.5km in length, has an 870m vertical and a series of jumps including the well-known Cassure and the Goulet, but it's only difficult if you are skiing over 80kph like a pro. The likes of Didier Cuche and Alberto Tomba have done it in less than two minutes. Challenge accepted?


Chamonix Off-Piste

Skiing off-piste is a way of life in Chamonix with backcountry ski terrain to suit everyone from 'powder puppy' to 'extreme skier' including open slopes, couloirs, powder or spring snow (on the same day), cliff jumps, crevasses, the Valle Blanche and some of the most dramatic high mountain scenery imaginable, within an hour of Geneva airport.

Grands Montets,one of the world's top off-piste ski mountains, has plenty of off-piste terrain within easy reach of the pistes, but when venturing off-piste close to the pistes you still need to be aware of avalanche risks and other hazards. Les Houches is often best for skiing fresh powder in bad weather and Le Tour has some great terrain for learning to ski off-piste and includes some of the best tree skiing in the Chamonix valley. La Flegere has stupendous views of the Mer de Glace and the Grandes Jorasses and is worth visiting on busy powder days to introduce skiers to deep snow and when Grands Montets is too busy. Le Brevent has plenty of good off-piste skiing close to the lifts including short steep descents in the Brevent Col area which are great for practising your technique.


Snowboarding in Chamonix

Chamonix snowboarders and freestylers will like the natural jumps, quarters, and gullies of Le Tour and La Flegere, including the infamous Big Tit jump, but for boarders, as for skiers, Chamonix is not an ideal place to learn.

The gentler slopes of Le Tour are mostly serviced by draglifts though the rest of the ski areas are thankfully served by cable cars, gondolas and chair lifts, which offer relief from the draglifts except that most of the ski lifts are old and slow, and queuing is too often a problem. The infamous Big Tit jump at La Flegere, just off the side of the main red run from the top of the Darth Vader lift (L'Index), is reputedly the biggest natural kicker in Europe. Le Brevent (linked to La Flegere by a low-level gondola) has some good on-piste and steep powder runs, the best of which are accessed from the top of the Col Cornu chairlift, and the runs beneath the Parsa chair are good for fast on-piste riding. There is also a boardercross at Le Brevent.

There is a snowpark with a half pipe accessed via the Marmottons, Tabe and Plan-Roujon chairlifts in Grands Montets. It is quite extraordinary at almost a 1 km long with around 20 jumps, rails and a wall. Crucially, it has a beginners' area which is perfect for practising without the more proficient watching on.

There is a snow park south of Chamonix covering much of the small resort Les Bossons (one chair lift and 3 pistes) which is privately owned and not covered on the normal lift pass (open afternoons and evenings for around 10 Euros a session), but there are not many big jumps and with so much amazing natural terrain on offer in Chamonix it is not really worth the effort. 

For experienced boarders, however, the mountains of Chamonix open up like a picture book. While the infamous Vallee Blanche is mostly too flat for easy riding, there is plenty of good off-piste terrain; described in detail in Chamonix off-piste.

 

Chamonix info card

Resort Altitude1035m
Highest Lift3777m
Total Piste762km
Longest Run24km
Directions of SlopesN, E, S, W
Uphill Capacity52660
Total Lifts64
Gondolas/Cable cars13
Chairlifts18
Drag Lifts32
Snow Parks1

Tourist office

Transportation - Get In

Chamonix is connected to the valley by a highway and a small railway line. It is also connected to Courmayeur in Italy by road via the tunnel under the Mont-Blanc, and Martigny in Switzerland by road and rail.


By car

Coming from west (Geneva, Paris, Lyon) you can reach Chamonix by freeway A40. From central Switzerland, the freeway takes you to Martigny from where you'll take the smaller road across the mountain pass Col des Montets and the border into France. From Italy, take the Mont Blanc tunnel, whose French end is in Chamonix.


By train

The rail line between St Gervais and Le Fayet/Vallorcine Martigny in Switzerland pass through Chamonix. This is a line that runs around the year and also stops in places like les Houches, les Bossons, les Praz de Chamonix and Argentière.

In the winter there are TGV lines that go directly to St. Gervais-les-Bains (Le Fayet), where you can switch to a small local train to ride up into Chamonix. There is also a TGV that leaves directly from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Lyon, and you can transfer to St. Gervais-les-Bains (Le Fayet) from there. Via St. Gervais, sleeper trains to Paris are also easily accessible.


By bus

Chamonix is on the Eurolines European long distance bus network. It is on the Amsterdam to Milan route. Stops include Antwerp, Brussels, Paris and Geneva. SAT also operates buses to nearby towns in Haute Savoie and Geneva, Switzerland. From Geneva bus terminal, there are three daily buses to Chamonix, operated by Helvecie with one way tickets costing CHF34 or €25. SAVDA operates buses to Courmayeur in Italy. The stop for these bus services is outside the main railway station.

  • EBA Eurobus provides shared and private bus transfers between Geneva airport and the Chamonix valley from €10,67 per person.

By plane

The Haute-Savoie Mont Blanc Airport (NCY ) is located around 90km and can be reached from Paris-Orly Airport by Air France. In practice, Geneva is the most convenient and accessible airport for tourists travelling to Chamonix. If you plan to fly to Geneva and hire a car, the route to Chamonix is relatively straightforward, covering a distance of 88 km. Chamonix is located 80 km southeast of Geneva, Switzerland, and driving time is about one hour via the Autoroute Blanche (A40) motorway. Chamonix is 226 km from Lyon and 612 km from Paris.

  • Cham-van.com provides shared and private minibus transportation between Geneva airport and the Chamonix valley throughout the winter season from €25 per person.
  • Chamexpress runs a timetabled daily service to Chamonix from Geneva Airport every 45 minutes throughout the winter and summer seasons at €28 per person.
  • Alternatively Alpybus, which is based in Geneva offers a high frequency shuttle service to Chamonix with fares starting at €24.50 per person.
  • Deluxe transfers offer a private, chauffeur driven service between Geneva and Chamonix all year round.

By helicopter

Heli Securité. Luxury helicopters can also be chartered to transfer you and your friends and family from any resort in the French Alps. Pilots will pick guests up in VIP style and convey them to their luxury chalet in Chamonix, Megeve, Meribel, Val D’Isere, Tignes, Morzine or Courchevel, from the airport in time to catch their flights. Heli Securité can also arrange for inter resort transfers, so if guests are based in Chamonix but would like to try the slopes in Meribel Heli Securité can arrange a luxury helicopter charter to suit.

Transportation - Get Around

The Chamonix valley can be considered everything between Servoz and the Swiss border, or the towns of: Servoz, Les Houches, Chamonix, Les Praz, Argentiere, and Vallorcine. Visitors paying the tourist tax to the commune (this generally includes people on campsites and staying in hostels) get a Carte d'Hote which allows free travel on trains and buses between Servoz and Vallorcine. In winter holders of lift passes can also travel for free on the buses.

In the winter season there is a bus network operating in the valley.

Accommodation & Hotels


Located in the heart of Chamonix and set within a garden, Hotel Mont-Blanc offers upscale and stylish accommodation. It features views of the mountains and an onsite restaurant, bar and spa with a heated pool and an outdoor hot tub.

  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • Guests say the hotel is perfect for a romantic getaway.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • AC needs updating
    • Friendly service
    • Great view
    • Beautiful architecture
  • HÔTEL MONT-BLANC CHAMONIX SUMMARY
    • With an excellent TrustScore of 92, this hotel is one of the top 3% in its city. Guests highly recommend it because of its service, location and amenities.


Built in 1840 , the Grand Hotel des Alpes has always been a symbol of Savoy hospitality. Situated in the center of Chamonix, close to the Aiguille du Midi and the Mer de Glace, it gives its guests the opportunity to appreciate in any season the typical atmosphere of the town center as well as being within close reach of the many enchanting sites around. Entirely renovated in 2004, the Grand Hotel des Alpes welcomes you in an elegant and familial atmosphere. Enjoy its warm and elegant wood works, its comfortable lounge with view on the Mont Blanc or relax at the bar or by the fireplace.

  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • Guests say the hotel is perfect for a romantic getaway.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • AC needs updating
    • Friendly service
    • Professional service
    • Accessible parking
  • GRAND HÔTEL DES ALPES SUMMARY
    • This hotel has an excellent TrustScore of 92. Guests highly recommend it because of its service, location and Vibe.


  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • Guests say the hotel is perfect for a romantic getaway.
    • This is a wonderful boutique hotel, as guests say.
    • Guests think this is a family-friendly hotel.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Pleasant hotel grounds
    • Spacious rooms
    • Impressive bathroom
    • Friendly service
  • LE HAMEAU ALBERT 1ER SUMMARY
    • With an excellent TrustScore of 92, this hotel is one of the top 7% in its city. Guests highly recommend it because of its rooms, service and location.


Property Location: When you stay at Hôtel Hermitage in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, you'll be near ski lifts and minutes from Chamonix Olympic Stadium and Planards Adventure Park. This 4-star hotel is within close proximity of Chamonix Leisure Park and Richard Bozon Sports Complex.

Rooms: Stay in one of 28 guestrooms featuring flat-screen televisions. Rooms have private balconies. Complimentary wireless Internet access keeps you connected, and satellite programming is available for your entertainment. Bathrooms have hair dryers and bathrobes.

Amenities: After a day on the slopes, enjoy recreational amenities, which include a sauna. Additional amenities at this hotel include complimentary wireless Internet access, ski storage, and tour/ticket assistance.

Dining: Take advantage of the hotel's room service (during limited hours). Quench your thirst with your favorite drink at a bar/lounge.

Business, Other Amenities: Featured amenities include a business center, multilingual staff, and luggage storage. Planning an event in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc? This hotel has facilities measuring 25 square feet (2 square meters), including a meeting room. Free self parking is available onsite.

  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Friendly service
  • L'HERMITAGE HOTELS-CHALETS DE TRADITION SUMMARY
    • This hotel has a very good TrustScore of 85. Guests recommend it because of its location, amenities and Vibe.


Stop at Heliopic Sweet and Spa Hotel to discover the wonders of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. The hotel offers a high standard of service and amenities to suit the individual needs of all travelers. 24-hour room service, facilities for disabled guests, Wi-Fi in public areas, car park, room service are on the list of things guests can enjoy. Some of the well-appointed guestrooms feature television LCD/plasma screen, internet access – wireless, internet access – wireless (complimentary), non smoking rooms, heating. Entertain the hotel's recreational facilities, including ski equipment rentals, ski lessons, hot tub, sauna, golf course (within 3 km). A welcoming atmosphere and excellent service are what you can expect during your stay at Heliopic Sweet and Spa Hotel.

  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • Guests think this is a family-friendly hotel.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Modern Hotel
    • Nice building
    • Clean rooms
    • Friendly service
  • HÔTEL L'HELIOPIC SWEET AND SPA SUMMARY
    • With an excellent TrustScore of 90, this hotel is one of the top 8% in its city. Guests highly recommend it because of its location, service and wellness & sports facilities.


Property Location: With a stay at Le Jeu de Paume in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (Le Lavancher), you'll be convenient to Retour Pendant and Sea of Ice. This 4-star hotel is within close proximity of Evettes and Chamonix Golf Club.

Rooms: Make yourself at home in one of the 23 guestrooms featuring minibars. Rooms have private balconies or patios. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available to keep you connected. Private bathrooms with bathtubs or showers feature complimentary toiletries and hair dryers.

Amenities: After a day on the slopes, enjoy recreational amenities including an indoor pool and a spa tub. Additional amenities at this hotel include complimentary wireless Internet access, babysitting/childcare (surcharge), and ski storage.

Dining: Satisfy your appetite at the hotel's restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner, or stay in and take advantage of room service (during limited hours). Quench your thirst with your favorite drink at a bar/lounge.

Business, Other Amenities: Featured amenities include a 24-hour front desk, multilingual staff, and laundry facilities. Guests may use a train station pick-up service for a surcharge, and free self parking is available onsite.

  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • Guests say the hotel is perfect for a romantic getaway.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Friendly service
    • Bathroom could be optimized
    • Comfortable beds
    • Great menu
  • HÔTEL LE JEU DE PAUME SUMMARY
    • With an excellent TrustScore of 89, this hotel is one of the top 20% in its city. Guests highly recommend it because of its rooms, service and food.


This large Savoyard style chalet hotel is soaked in sunshine and harmoniously mixes a warm welcome with its range of services, all aimed at your complete well-being. For sporting enthusiasts or those who simply prefer to relax, with the family or on business, the Prieure hotel and its team offer you an infrastructure of the highest quality. All year round discover the warm chalet atmosphere, around the fireplace in the omnipresent wooden surroundings. The lounge with its chimney just next to the bar, is waiting to offer you a convivial moment of relaxation. This hotel resort of grand standing is an ideal setting in which to relax, enjoy some sport or to mix business with pleasure (Seminar hall for up to 440 people and 7 meeting rooms in an independent building beside the hotel).

  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • Guests recommend this for traveling with friends.
    • Guests say it is the perfect hotel for a city trip.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Great view
    • Stylish hotel
    • Nice building
    • Parking is rare
  • CHALET HÔTEL LE PRIEURÉ SUMMARY
    • This hotel has a very good TrustScore of 84. Guests recommend it because of its rooms, location and service.


Best Western Plus Excelsior Chamonix Hotel & Spa is perfectly located for both business and leisure guests in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. The hotel has everything you need for a comfortable stay. All the necessary facilities, including free Wi-Fi in all rooms, 24-hour front desk, facilities for disabled guests, Wi-Fi in public areas, car park, are at hand. Designed for comfort, selected guestrooms offer television LCD/plasma screen, internet access – wireless, internet access – wireless (complimentary), heating, wake-up service to ensure a restful night. Access to the hotel's sauna, golf course (within 3 km), outdoor pool, spa, children's playground will further enhance your satisfying stay. Best Western Plus Excelsior Chamonix Hotel & Spa is an excellent choice from which to explore Chamonix-Mont-Blanc or to simply relax and rejuvenate.

  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Great view
    • Comfortable beds
    • Friendly service
    • Modern Hotel
  • BESTWESTERN PLUS EXCELSIOR CHAMONIX HÔTEL & SPA SUMMARY
    • This hotel has a very good TrustScore of 84. Guests recommend it because of its rooms, service and location.

Ski Area

Chamonix's ski areas do not form a completely seamless web. Of the six ski areas in the Chamonix valley only Le Brevent and La Flegere are lift-linked. The remaining four areas – Les Grands Montets, Le Tour, Les Houches and the off-piste skiing accessed from L’ Aiguille du Midi – are linked only by road.

The Chamonix valley is a narrow yet profound trough through Europe's highest mountains and glaciers, measuring 23 km (14 miles) from the Col de Voza to the Col de Balme and separating the Aiguilles Rouges to the north from the Mont Blanc massif. The valley was created by an immense glacier at a time when the entire region was glaciated, with the present site of Chamonix buried under at least 1,000 m (3,281 ft) of solid ice. Glaciers, along with their dangerous crevasses, remain a striking feature of the Chamonix ski area and it comes as no surprise that the biggest of them, the Mer de Glace is the second largest glacier in the Alps after Switzerland's Aletsch glacier. For this reason, any serious off-piste skiing should not be considered without a guide.

For reasons of local politics Les Houches is not available on the main Chamonix ski lift pass and is often overlooked as a consequence - a shame because it offers some good tree-lined skiing, though its low altitude - 1,000 m (3,281 ft) rising to 1,900 m (6,233 ft) - can mean poor snow cover. If it were included on the main lift pass, it would serve as a nice alternative to Le Tour at the other end of the valley.

The diverse and separate nature of the ski areas does not really pose a problem as they are all worth skiing in their own right, unless you are in a mixed-ability group when you are likely to want to ski different ski areas. There is no doubt that the skiing in Chamonix is more heavily skewed to strong skiers than practically any other resort. Intermediates looking for lots of piste mileage will not find it here as in most areas the marked trails are kept to a minimum in order to preserve the off-piste terrain.


Le Tour

The predominately west-facing slopes of Le Tour are generally regarded as having the best intermediate pistes in the valley which have been further enhanced by the lift from Vallorcine. The tree skiing on the north/north-east face down towards Vallorcine is also well regarded, though it can be avalanche prone. One of the best runs in this area is the blue Liaison Balme (T13) which is a lovely long run from which you can either follow the circuit back to Charamillon or carry on down the T17/T19 through the trees to Vallorcine for an epic 8,000 m (26,248 ft) long run.


Les Grands Montets

Les Grands Montets above the village of Argentiere is the heart of the Chamonix ski area. Its steep, wide flanks are fantastic in powder and within a week will be covered in moguls to make it one of the best areas for bumps in the Alps. The skiing rises to a height of 3,275 m (10,745 ft), though access to the final cable car requires a small payment for every journey (you get two free uplifts on a six-day pass). It is becoming quite a popular option to stay in Argentiere and many people ski Les Grands Montets more than anywhere else. Most of the slopes face north or northwest and have the best conditions in the valley.


Le Brevent and La Flegere

The most scenic skiing in the valley is at Le Brevent and La Flegere, as from here you get sublime views of Mont Blanc and the Chamonix peaks. Even skiers who are not strong enough to make the descent from the top of Le Brevent (the run down is one of the steepest in the valley) should take a ride up the cable car on a clear day to check out this most iconic vision of the mountains. The two areas are linked along a south-facing flank and the skiing takes place above the tree-line between 1,900m and 2,400m. There are several picturesque runs hidden in the bowls: check out Combe de la Charlanon (B8) and Crochus (F13), a 4,500 m (14,764 ft)-long red which has been opened up by the addition of a short drag at the top of l'Index 2,385 m (7,825 ft) and drops down 750 m (246 ft) of vertical. Note that the cable car linking the two areas can be closed in high winds and there is a daily free bus links between Le Brevent and La Flegere, every half hour from 3:30 pm.


Les Houches

Les Houches, at the opposite end of the Chamonix valley to La Tour, is a honeypot for skiers in bad weather. It is the only area in the valley where there is treeline skiing. Surprisingly, it is the biggest single ski area in the area but as it is owned separately it is not covered by the standard Chamonix ski pass. Les Houches has some of the easier runs in the Chamonix valley, and has the best nursery slopes in a resort renowned for its difficult runs. At the other end of the scale is the legendary Verte run, which hosts Chamonix's Kandahar World Cup Downhill race every January.


The Vallee Blanche

The final ski area comprises the off-piste routes down the famous Vallee Blanche from the top of Aiguille du Midi. It's one of the most common reasons for people to come to Chamonix and, despite the crowds, is certainly a must-ski. More information on this can be found in the off-piste section.

Ski lifts

The Compagnie du Mont-Blanc lift system comprises 41 ski lifts carrying up to 58,000 riders per hour and is busy all year round with a reported 1.36 million skier days in winter and 1.1 million days in summer. Chamonix's ski lift system leaves a lot to be desired and although improvements are underway, progress is slow and queuing is a major problem. The lift system includes 7 cable cars, 4 gondolas, 17 chairlifts (including 10 older fixed-grip chairlifts) and 13 surface lifts. Most of the lifts are old and slow; nowhere near the standard of other leading ski resorts such as Val d'isere or St Anton, and yet Chamonix lift passes are relatively expensive.

Most Chamonix ski lifts open in early December. Le Brevent, La Flegere and La Tour generally close by the end of April, with the lifts on Les Grands Montets staying open into early May if snow conditions are good. Skiers and snowboarders invariably grumble about the long queues found at the bottom of the four base stations (Le Brevent, La Flegere, La Tour and Les Grands Montets). While the Compagnie du Mont-Blanc has begun an overhaul to replace slow lifts and put in new links to ease bottlenecks, progress is slow and the fact that there are still too many old slow lifts is a problem.

Le Tour at the far end of the valley is reached by gondola from the small village, as well as from Vallorcine (a small village beyond Argentiere and over the Col de Montets). There are seldom queues other than on bad weather days when the whole valley descends to make the most of the tree-lined slopes.

Les Grands Montets base station is in Argentiere - catch the bus there or drive, though the free car park fills quickly. There are two lift choices - the busier cable car up to the Lognan mid-station or the Plan du Joran chairlift, which starts to the left of the cable car. The latter is always quieter, and colder, but often beats standing in line for the very popular cable car. One of the worst queues up the mountain is found on Les Grand Montets, for the Lognan-Grands Montets cable car - when this opens, there is a rush to be in line.

Le Brevent and La Flegere the only lift-linked areas are connected by a cable car on the mountain. Le Brevent is the only ski area accessible from Chamonix itself - and surprisingly has the shortest queues, except at ski school rush hour. The base station is a short (uphill) walk from the town centre or drivers can pay to park in the multi-storey nearby. The base station lift to La Flegere is an old, slow cable car (which often closes in high winds) just a short walk from the small village of Les Praz or a bus ride from elsewhere in the valley. When queues snake inside the base station building the wait is at least half an hour and sometimes an hour or more.

The Vallee Blanche is reached by riding the Aiguille du Midi cable car up from Chamonix which takes you to the start of the infamously long off-piste descent..

Les Houches, a 10 minute drive from Chamonix, has its own ski lift system which has been improved by the installation of a modern gondola but the Bellevue cable car is still inadequate and both access lifts suffer from queuing in bad weather when Les Houches tree-lined slopes are especially popular. The chairlifts on the mountain are also slow.

Ski Pass

Chamonix now uses an electronic “hands free” ski-pass system to operate the turnstiles. The Hands Free Badge costs €3 which will be refunded when you return the badge (unless you want to keep it as a trophy!). The majority of ski passes are available via the internet. You can buy via the web for the day itself (recharging a badge). You can buy a badge online – the charge badge will be sent to your home address (takes around 8 days) or can be picked up from the central cash desk (takes 24 hours). 

The Chamonix Le Pass” is for good quality pistes in a controlled safe terrain up an altitude of 2,700m. If you generally prefer to stay on the groomed runs or venture off-piste within a secured area, then this is the pass for you. The “Chamonix Le Pass” gives access to all of Chamonix’s ski areas; Les Grand Montets area (excluding the upper Grands Montets lifts), Brevent-Flegere, Domaine de Balme, and lower down La Vormaine, Les Chosalets, Le Savoy, Les Planards. Access to the upper Grands-Montets cable car costs €10 and a reservation is required. The daily rate is approximately 40 Euros. 

The Mont-Blanc Unlimited pass allows you to discover the diversity of all the ski areas in the Chamonix Valley as well as access to Italy and Switzerland. If back country exploring is your thing and you want the maximum variety of terrain available, look no further! In addition to areas accessible with the “Chamonix Le Pass” (see above) you can also access the upper Grands Montets area, Aiguille du Midi and Helbronner cable car, Montenvers train & Tramway du Mont Blanc, Les Houches ski area, Courmayeur ski area & Funivie Monte Bianco (in Italy) and Verbier & the 4 Vallees (in Switzerland). 


Choosing a lift pass in Chamonix

With so many options available, choosing a lift pass in Chamonix is a complicated business, but for experienced skiers wanting to ski the whole area the most popular ski pass is Mont Blanc Unlimited and the more extensive Ski Pass Mont Blanc is valid for ski lifts in all resorts throughout the Mont-Blanc region.

Mont-Blanc Unlimited
Gives unlimited access to the same areas as the Chamonix Le Pass plus the Lognan-Grands Montets cable car, the ski area in Les Houches, the Aiguille du Midi and Helbronner cable cars, the Montenvers train and one day's skiing in Courmayeur. 

Ski Pass Mont-Blanc
Gives the same access as the Mont-Blanc Unlimited pass plus access to all other ski resorts in the Mont-Blanc region, including Combloux, Cordon/Sallanches, Les Contamines, Les Houches, Megeve, Passy, Praz dur Arly, Saint-Gervais and Courmayeur. 

Chamonix Le Pass
Gives access to all of Le Brevent, La Flegere, La Tour and Les Grands Montets, except the Lognan-Grands Montets cable car), and to the valley floor beginners' lifts. 

Multi-day, non-consecutive passes
Allow access where and when you want it and are valid from the start of each ski season to the end of the calendar year. Available in packs of 5, 10 or 15 days, these passes are not specific to an individual and can be shared between family and friends.

Chamonix day lift passes, half-days, single and return trips
Available for Le Brevent, La Flegere, La Tour and Les Grands Montets (separately), on the Aiguille du Midi cable car and the Montenvers train. 

Activities & Things to do


Cable cars

In general, the climate at the upper cable car stations is different from the valley. Powerful winds, rapidly changing weather, fog and sudden thunderstorms or snowstorms are possible around the year and even in the summer the temperatures are remarkably lower than in the valley. A windproof jacket or anorak and a pullover should be brought by everyone who wants to spend time outside the cable car station, also in the summer. These can also lead to temporary shutdowns, or simply zero visibility at the top. In the latter case you can take the ride if you wish but once at the top you are not going to see anything but the station itself and a lot of fog. They will let you know about it at the ticket counter so you won't waste your money but it's still not fun to hear if you've come on a daytrip from Geneva.

The cable cars are quite popular in the tourist seasons, so reserving your places beforehand can be a smart idea.

  • Compagnie du Mont-Blanc S.A,  +33 04 50 53 22 75Operator of the cable cars in the region. If you consider taking the more than one cable car trips for sightseeing or skiing, you should seriously consider buying Mont-Blanc multipass. They sell passes for 1–10 days at very good prices. Also, their website provides very good information on possible activities and hikes from the cable car stops.
  • Aiguille du Midi (Téléphérique de l'Aiguille du Midi). Opened in 1955 as the highest cable car in the world it's still one of the highest apart from a few in South America. It consists of two cable cars, starting at 1035 m at the valley bottom to an intermediate station, Plan de l'Aiguille at 2310m. From there another car takes you up to a staggering 3810 m over the sea level and you will traverse a 3 km stretch without pillars which is the longest in the world! From the bottom to the top, it has the greatest vertical range in the world, and the ride up takes about 20 minutes. At the top there is a restaurant and many viewing platforms, and you can take an elevator to the summit at 3842m. Bring warm clothes. as the temperature is always cold even in mid-summer, also sunglasses are good to have. These are the closest viewpoints of Mont-Blanc and also provide different views of Mont-Blanc. From here you can continue towards Italy with another cable car or descend on skis into Vallee blanche (something for experienced skiers only). €55 as of July 2014.
  • Brevent cable carOn the other side of the valley, at 2525m this peak of the Aiguilles Rouges massif provides the best views of the Mont-Blanc massif. A round trip adult pedestrian (not skier) ticket is about €18. The other option is to take the cable car with a change at Planpraz (1999m) from Chamonix. If you are fit there is a path can walk back down to Chamonix.
  • BellevueIn Les Houches you can take the Bellevue cable car (Telepherique de Bellevue) for another view of the Chamonix valley, with Mont Blanc to one side and the Brevent to the other. A short walk will allow you to see the other side of the mountain towards St. Gervais, Sallanches and the glacier de Bionnassay. In August 2005, a round-trip pedestrian adult ticket was €12.10. Another option is to take the Montblanc Tramway from St.Gervais Le Fayet that goes up to Nid d'aigle. It stops at Bellevue on the way. There are beautiful views over the valley from Nid d'Aigle also.
  • Cable cars to ItalyDon't miss the exhilirating 5 km Vallée Blanche cable car ride over snow capped mountains from Aiguille du Midi in France to Helbronner in Italy. You will get to the other side of the Mont Blanc massif, crossing through a region of high alpine glaciers and mountains over 4000m high. The ride takes around half and hour. The route almost exactly the Mont Blanc tunnel, a few kilometers below. €70.
  • Funivia Monte BiancoIf you still want to continue, the Monte Bianco cable car takes you to Courmayeur. To complete a "vertical circuit", you can travel back to Chamonix by bus.
  • Le Tour cable carYou can take the Le Tour cable car to the Franco-Swiss border on the mountains and also for an hike to the Le Tour glacier.
  • Mer de glace (Ice Sea). from spring to fall, depending on weather conditions7km long, 200m thick and covering 40 km², this is France's biggest and one of the biggest glaciers in continental Europe, accessible by the Montenvers rack railway (Chemin de fer du Montenvers), opened in 1909. The ride up takes about 20 min. From the Montenvers Station one has great views on the glacier but also on the north Face of the Grand Jorasses, one of the three most famous North faces in the European Alps. At the mountain station you can also visit an ice cave inside the glacier itself (accessible by a short cable car ride), a cave serving as a small crystal museum, a small glacier museum in a hut and a historical grand hotel part of which also functions as a museum. All these sights are free. €29,50 return as of July 2014.

Snowsports

The town is a world renowned center for winter sports, and there is a wide array of skiing areas to choose among. As most of the pistes are located at over 2000 m over the sea level, snow is practically guaranteed every skiing season.

Three skiing sites can be accessed directly from Chamonix; the White Valley, Brevent and Flegere. The two latter are the easiest skiing areas to get to and on those two you will also be skiing on the sunny (southern) side of the mountain. There are no pistes connecting the different skiing areas, but the cable car stations in the valley are connected to each other by bus.

The "Mont Blanc" ski pass is valid for a total of 700 km of pistes, including the neighboring valleys as well as Courmayeur in Italy.

  • Vallée blanche (White Valley). Needs a full day from the Aiguille du Midi cable car. From the cable car station you take a path - dangerous when covered by ice - to the glacier located 300 m below. That's the starting point of the piste leading down through the Vallée Blance and Mer de Glace. The easiest route can be skiied by someone who is confident on red runs, although a guide is highly recommended due to the glacier on which you would be skiing. This is not something to attempt in bad weather.
  • The Brevent (west of Chamonix). You can walk to the ski lift at le Brevent, or take a shuttle from a number of different drop of points. Skiing for all levels, but mostly mid- to extreme ski. Good for ambitious and experienced skiers.
  • La Flégère (north of Chamonix). For the most part easy pists, a suitable resort for families.
  • Les HouchesSouth of Chamonix, this is likely the best choice for families, and often has the best low-altitude conditions. It is the only ski area with slopes below the treeline, so it is a good place to go when there is a lot of fog. It's green piste is used at the alpine skiing world cup competitions.
  • Le Tour (at the far end of the valley, towards Martigny). It has many easier slopes for beginners, but also some out-of-bounds skiing if you are willing to hike up with your skis. The front side of Le Tour is also a good place to go if you don't like being cold, because most slopes are in the sun (although it can still be very windy, especially on the back side down towards Vallorcine).
  • The Grand Montets (north of Chamonix). Has the most extreme and highest altitude slopes, and can be accessed from the town of Argentière. Starting from the mountain station of Grands Montets at 3200m, you will be skiing down the Argentière glacier, descending 2000m. This piste is for experienced skiers only.

Mountaineering

  • Mont-Blanc
  • Private High Mountain GuideAvailable for off piste skiing, mountaineering, Vallee Blanche, climbing, walking, ski touring and via ferrata - Steve Hartland.

Hiking

The hiking paths offer splendid views of the highest massif in Europe. Tour du Mont Blanc is a classic hiking trail that takes about ten days to walk. For shorter visits, take the telepherique to the top of a nearby peak and hike down. Or try hikes between two telepheriques, for example between the Brevent and la Flegere or between the Mer de Glace and the Plan de l'Aiguille

There is a fantastic view on both the Mont-Blanc/Aiguilles de Chamonix range, and the ribbon of the Fiz limestone range. Take the Brevent telepherique, then walk down the crest to the Bel-Lachat mountain hut, then walk down to the Rocher des Gaillands or (if slightly more courageous) to the Aiguillette des Houches and down, or walk up the steep lane from the Gaillands to Plan-Lachat, then Bel-Lachat, then on, up along the crest to the Brevent (about six hours and rather hot in summer: start early, but it is really worth the effort).

Several great glacier hikes exist. Even if you can't get right up to the glaciers and touch them, you can still get close enough to get some amazing views.

  • Glacier des Bossons - depart either from Les Bossons (at the base of the ski jump) by foot or by chair lift, or drive up to the entrance of the Mont Blanc Tunnel for a shorter, flatter hike. Warning, do not attempt to "touch" the glacier here, it is possibly the most dangerous place in the valley.
  • Glacier d'Tour - depart from the town of Montroc, near the ski resort "Le Tour".
  • Glacier de Trient - depart from the top of the Col de la Forclaz, in Switzerland (before descending to Martigny). One hour, flat.
  • Glacier de Bionnassay- depart from the top of the Bellevue cable car.

The first three could feasibly be done in one day if you are up early and have a car, but Bionnassay will require a half-day.


Events

  • World cup of alpine skiingArranged every year in late January or early February.

Other

Sights & Landmarks

  • Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice), one of the biggest glaciers in continental Europe, accessible by the Montenvers rack railway. From the Montenvers Station one has great views on the glacier but also on the north Face of the Grand Jorasses, one of the three most famous North faces in the European Alps.
  • Aiguille du Midi cable car, one of the highest cable cars in the world, apart from a few in South America. In fact the Aiguille Du Midi starts at 1035 m and finishes at a staggering 3810 m! From the bottom to the top, it has the greatest vertical range in the world. Bring warm clothes. as the temperature is alway cold even in mid-summer. Don't miss the exhilirating 5 Km cable car ride over snow capped mountains from Aiguille du Midi on France to Helbronner on Italy. These are the closest viewpoints of Mont-Blanc and also provide different views of Mont-Blanc. A 3 Km stretch without pillars is the world's longest cable car ride without pillars.
  • Brevent cable car, on the other side of the valley, provides the best views of the Mont-Blanc massif. A round trip adult pedestrian (not skier) ticket is about €18. The other option is to take the cable car with a change at Planpraz from Chamonix.
  • In Les Houches you can take the Bellevue cable car (Telepherique de Bellevue) for another view of the Chamonix valley, with Mont Blanc to one side and the Brevent to the other. A short walk will allow you to see the other side of the mountain towards St. Gervais, Sallanches and the glacier de Bionnassay. In August 2005, a round-trip pedestrian adult ticket was €12.10.
  • Another option is to take the Montblanc Tramway from St.Gervais Le Fayet that goes upto Nid d'aigle. It stops at Bellevue on the way. There are beautiful views over the valley from Nid d'Aigle also.
  • Musée des cristaux[www] (crystals museum), a very nice museum, exhibiting an impressive collection of crystals, mostly from Chamonix, but also from the rest of the Alps and worldwide. Created and maintained through a partnership between the city council and the local Mineralogical club [www], it is both very aesthetic and scientific, displaying pedagogical posters. You will find it just behind the Maison de la Montagne and the church.
  • You can take the Le Tour cable car to the Franco-Swiss border on the mountains and also for an hike to the Le Tour glacier.

If you consider taking the more than one cable car trips for sightseeing or skiing, you should seriously consider buying a Mont-Blanc multipass [www]. There are passes for 1-10 days. Also, the website provides very good information on possible activities and hikes from the cable car stops.

Restaurants & Nightlife

Chamonix has an abundance of bars and a huge variety of restaurants serving every food type including Italian, Japanese, French, Tex-Mex, Indian and fine dining.


Restaurants in Chamonix

The Gault Milau-rated Le Chaudron is probably the best for local specialities though it is very small, so book ahead. Alternatively try La Bergerie or Le National. If you have overdosed on traditional Savoyard cheese dishes,Munchie is the perfect restaurant to visit excellent for Thai and modern European fusion that won't hurt your wallet. The fresh sushi served at Satsuki is another good alternative to Savoyard overload - the lunch-time menu is a bargain. The cooking at the Maison Carrier, the non-Michelin starred restaurant at the Albert Premiere, is also extremely good. For excellent fish dishes try the French formality of L'Atmosphere restaurant.

The Micro Brewery de Chamonix (MBC) is a good choice for more casual dining with a menu of burgers, Thai curry and pleasing appetisers. Often overlooked by the tourist crowds it is well-known by the guiding community and seasonnaire population so book a table before you go. Back in town Casa Valeria is the top choice for pizzas and pasta - the Dolce Vita next-door deals well with the over-spill of customers unable to get a table. If you can't quite handle a fondue for lunch the popular Bistrot des Sports does a good menu of salads and simple French dishes including a reasonably priced 'plat du jour'. There are plenty of places to take-away: from toasted sandwiches from Belouga, burgers and chips at Poco Loco, pizza from Pizza Salsa and kebabs at Cappadoce.


Chamonix Mountain Restaurants

Chamonix focuses on skiing, not eating on the mountain, and the choice on any given day is limited partly due to the distance between the various ski areas and partly by the poor quality of some mountain restaurants.

Given the wide separation of the major ski areas, you have to make do with the restaurants in the area you are skiing on any given day. The logistics of a group skiing the Grands Montets and meeting for lunch with an intermediate group skiing Le Tour are impractical, even though these areas are relatively close. Perhaps surprisingly in a resort that is a member of the Best of the Alps and so focused on the skiing, the mountain restaurants are often disappointing. 

Most of Chamonix's mountain restaurants are self-service but there are some notable exceptions. 
The Plan Joran is the Grand Montet's best restaurant though the Cremerie du Glacier, off the side of Pierre a Ric (L10) in the trees above Argentiere is a traditional small mountain restaurant that also offers excellent local food. The Chalet-Refuge off the beaten track at Lognan is also worth visiting and La Bergerie is your best bet in Le Brevent. The Col de Balme refuge offers a fine Plat du Jour in Le Tour, though there is a short but worthwhile walk to get there, and an even longer wait for service.


Restaurants and bars in Argentiere

Argentiere's few restaurants and bars heave in the peak season weeks and it is best to reserve a table at popular places such as The Stone Bar, which a popular choice for good pizzas and pub games with beer. The Office Bar by the Tourist Office is another hub of apres ski resort life in Argentiere, with the emphasis on beery socialising. The Rencard in the Commercial Galerie appeals to seasonnaires with its down-at-heel charm - and hot sandwich counter for lunch on the go - while The Rusticana, better known as Rusty, has a welcoming feel and also serves good food. For a slice of local life check out the traditional La Savoie Bar.


Other restaurants and bars elsewhere in the Chamonix Valley

Some of the best eating experiences are found away from Chamonix's town centre, in the outlying villages of Vallorcine, Le Buet and Les Praz. One of the nicest is La Ferme des Trois Ours over the Col des Montets in Vallorcine. Still a working farm - the cows live beneath the restaurant - diners choose between Savoyarde favourites and excellent beef dishes. Another good choice is Sarpé, tucked away in the woods behind Les Praz, and known by a lucky few for its wonderful menu, including a daily selection of fresh fish. Also in Les Praz, the restaurant at the Hotel Eden has a loyal following.


Bars in Chamonix

There are over 30 bars open from late afternoon until the early hours. During the peak weeks of the ski season, the bars are full to over-flowing: at other times nightlife can be a surprisingly quiet affair. The Rue des Moulins was the centre of Chamonix's night-time entertainment until a fire in 2006 destroyed the popular Cybar and the Dick's T-Bar nightclub, as well as damaging the Queen Vic. Le Privilege escaped the fire and has established itself as the top choice for apres-skiers looking for a more refined place to drink. Bar'd Up, further down the Rue des Moulins, draws in the younger tourist crowds while Mix Bar has emerged from the ashes of the 2006 fire and serves good cocktails in a small but stylish property.

Away from the Rue, the cocktail bar at the Clubhouse is very laid-back chic but is members only, so either join up or befriend a member. Its main competition is Alpes Angels (formerly No Escape) which used to be a slick operation but is now a lap dancing venue that turns into a nightclub - great for stag and hen parties. The lovely art deco architecture of La Terrasse's first floor gives the bar a classier feel, in contrast to the more grungy ground floor. Along Rue du Docteur Paccard The Pub doesn't try too hard to be anything but is a pleasant place for a beer and a chat. Le Choucas just across the road has a very different feel to it altogether with a very male clientele. The South Bar is the heart of Cham Sud's social scene famous for its Swedish contingent and one of the few bars in the valley to have a more equal male to female ratio.


Chamonix nightclubs listings

Nightlife dies down from about 1am unless you venture into one of Chamonix's nightclubs - with nothing much beyond 1am in Argentiere or the other smaller villages. Le Garage in Cham Sud is the biggest nightclub in the ski resort where it is easy to stay until the small hours. The music is what matters at La Cantina and it attracts a clubbier crowd than a typical ski resort nightclub. Another late night option is BPM.


Chamonix Après-Ski

The apres ski scene in the Chamonix valley has an international flavour, but unlike many resorts most of the action takes places in Chamonix town or Argentiere rather than on the mountains.

Chamonix's apres ski has a metropolitan feel, with English, Swedish and French bars. This is not the lively ski-boots-on apres ski scene found in Austria - the detached nature of the ski areas means there is no natural meeting point for drinking at the end of the day's skiing. 

Chamonix really wakes up later in the evening when ski boots are off. In the meantime Chambre Neuf, near the SNCF train station is the best bet for happy hour prices, live music and a pub atmosphere. Take a break from the relentless partying to enjoy the sunset visible from the terrace outside. Elevation 1904 across the road from Le Neuf is also popular. 

The Canadian-owned Micro Brewery de Chamonix (or MBC), a five minute walk from the town, is another popular apres ski stop. All beer is brewed on the premises and they do a nice line in bar snacks and live music.

Despite its party reputation, apres ski in Chamonix also has a quieter side. The Italian-run Lapin Agile is a charming wine bar on two floors, with a predominantly Italian wine list, decent beers and tasty free tapas from 6:30pm. 

Grand Central opposite, on the ground floor of the Hotel Pointe Isabelle, has a lengthy menu of coffees and smoothies to drink and delicious bagels, muffins and carrot cake to munch on. L'Atelier Cafe just off the Place Sassure has a pleasant location by the river. 

There are also relaxed end of day drinks at the restaurants and bars at the foot of the Grands Montets ski area as a last stop before heading back into Argentiere or Chamonix. In Argentiere village the Office Bar gets the bulk of the apres ski drinkers. In Le Buet, the bar at the Hotel Buet is popular with thirsty ski-tourers, while L'Arret Bougnete at the Vallorcine train station does probably the best vin chaud in the valley.

Stay Safe

Climbing the Mont Blanc is popular among alpinists. The climb should however not be attempted by people lacking mountain climbing experience and equipment, even using the easiest route (voie royale).

More generally, all high mountain hiking, climbing, and skiing, is potentially dangerous. Bad weather may turn an otherwise easy hike into a strenuous and possibly fatal journey ; weather in the mountains can change at short notice and you should always inquire about the latest forecast. Always carry a cell phone, should you need to call for rescue, though there is no guarantee it will work everywhere. Keep it turned off unless needed, so as not to drain its batteries needlessly.

After snowfalls, in some areas, avalanches can be expected — either natural or triggered in order to prevent further avalanching. Always inquire about avalanche hazards before embarking in hikes in the snow or off-track skiing. Even if you do not fear for yourself, please show consideration for the people who may be underneath you.

Altitude sickness may also be an issue. Using aerial lifts, one may get very fast to high altitude areas. For instance, when going up the Aiguille du Midi, you get lifted from around 1000m altitude (Chamonix) to 3840m in a very short time. You may experience shortness of breath and other symptoms.

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