Why intermediate skiers love Chamonix
Whilst known for being the extreme skiing capital of Europe, do not be daunted. There is plenty here for any intermediate skier to hone their skills.
Chamonix actually has a good split of blue and red runs, with 30 and 31 respectively, distributed throughout the five mid-high ski areas. So should you tire of one area, you can simply move onto the next one, ticking them off as you make you way around the valley.
Le Tour and Vormaine
Recently renamed as the Domaine de Balme, upon arrival head straight up in the Charamillon télécabine that whisks you up to 1850. From here take the chairlift Les Autannes, and head off to the left once you reach the top. At your disposal are a plethora of blue runs all snaking their way back down to the foot of the chair. You can lap these blues and reds numerous times before getting bored.
Once you have found your ski legs take the long winding Liaison Balme across to the Vallorcine side, down Esserts and to the foot of the Tête de Balme. Be warned this is a long, exposed chairlift, which on windy, cold days is not a nice ride...especially when it stops midway and you're left swinging in the wind.
In good snow conditions, don't stop at the Tête de Balme chairlift, but take the Forêt Verte red run that twists and turns all the way down to Vallorcine village. Expect skiing alongside rivers and streams, over bridges and through the trees, where at the bottom some great restaurants await. Once down here you simply jump back on the Vallorcine télécabine back up, where you can take the Tête de Balme back over towards the other side for more blues and reds leading down to where you started.
When it's time to head home, the home run Les Caisets is a fun, sometimes busy and choppy red run that finished at the foot of the Charamillon télécabine.
Brévent and Flégère
Located on the sunny side of the valley, there are pistes to suit every level of rider up here. Linked by a liaison cable car, the two resorts can be ridden independently or all in one day, if you get a shift on.
Blue pistes Vioz and Blanchets are accessed by the Parsa chair and are great for those lower-intermediates looking for more of a challenge as they are both long, slightly steeper slopes.
Here you have the Chavanne blue run from the top of the chairlift with the same name, the Retour Flégère blue will take you back to the cable car from where you can head back down the valley. Also Evettes blue is wide and cruisey and takes you back to the Brévent liaison, you can also lap this piste easily by taking the short chairlift at the bottom.
This is where you will find some of the most exciting steep skiing in the valley, but luckily for intermediate skiers and snowboarders there are also some blue and red runs that can keep you on your toes. Due to its aspect, runs here can be icy long into the day, so keep your wits about you.
The Plan Joran gondola will drop you off in the lower half of the slopes, where you can access blues and a red run down to the Bochard gondola, which gives access to wide and steep (in parts) red runs (and a few blacks you can ignore - for now), that are well groomed and fast. Or you can head over towards the Retour Pendant chair (just check in advance it's open as sometimes bad weather can mean it's closed, and it's the only way back).
Alternatively head over to the Herse chairlift from the bottom of the Bochard, from where you can take the only red up here (the rest are black runs). It's a winding red called Combes, which has plenty of scope for dipping on and off the piste and is great fun when there's been fresh snow.
Pierre à Ric is the home run here. A red run that is only really steep in some parts, so it's worth a go if your legs have anything left after a day at Grands Montets.
About 6km down the valley, this area is full of gentle tree-lined slopes, and is a perfect intermediates area. Not known for its extreme slopes, on a powder day the trees give great definition.
There are 13 red runs and eight blue runs here. We'd recommend you head down the back side to the Melezes chairlift which takes you to a variety of wide blue pistes. The slopes are quieter here, but don't go any lower than Melezes as you end up on a red piste with an incredibly long and difficult drag lift.
Whilst it's home to the famous World Cup black run, the Kandahar, there's no need to put yourself through that experience just yet. Instead take the alternative red run, Mur des Epines, which is the same length and provides a little more variety. Both take you down to the cable car. Or cut across half way and join the blue Aillouds that takes you to Prarion, where from the top you can join the Table d'Orientation red for another long descent back to the village.
When you're ready to go home, it's also possible to ski blue runs all the way to the bottom of the Prarion gondola and the Bellevue cable car.
Chamonix - Centre, Chamonix