Here is collection of general resort knowledge compiled from years of responding to email enquiries, getting ourselves lost, finding ourselves, late-night bar conversations, your feedback, plus translations of French brochures. We have put this resource together to help you out when you are planning a trip to the resort. Updating this section is a never-ending task so if we have missed anything out, or you spot that we are out of date or just plain wrong, please do let us know!
FAQs for Chamonix
Discover the top Chamonix
There are a number of childcare options available in Chamonix. Please be aware that booking in advance is always recommended and that nurseries may want to see medical records and vaccination certificates. Please see our Childcare Services section for further information and contact details.
Yes, there are 2 medical practices in Argentière and 10 in Chamonix. The main hospital and emergency treatment centres is in Les Favrands, just beyond Chamonix Sud. Most practices have at least one English speaking doctor, ask at reception when you make your appointment. For a full list of resort doctors and dentists please see Medical Services.
No, unfortunately not in the Chamonix valley. Everyone, even if it is your very first time on the slopes requires a lift pass. For adult beginners, Chamonix Le Pass is the ticket to buy. If you just want to do a few hours at one of the nursery slopes you can buy half and full day passes at the Savoy and Planards ski areas, both of which are at valley level so pedestrians can access them for free. Children under the age of 4 get a free lift pass, you just need to pay 3€ for the hands-free card; family passes are also a good deal, you just pay for one child and the rest (up to a maximum of 4 children) are included free of charge. The Tourchet piste in Les Houches holds a FREE night skiing session during peak winter weeks, you can find out what dates this is running on our Chamonix Events Guide.
If you're heading off to do the Tour du Mont Blanc, or are in Chamonix doing tours around the area, multi-day trips or longer stays, you can leave luggage with the Gite le Chamoniard for around €4-6 euros per day depending on the size and weight of your luggage.
Don't worry if the thought of going to bed early every night in order to be first up the mountain in the morning isn't your cup of tea! There is plenty in Chamonix to keep the night-owls happy, take a look at our Bars & Clubs in Chamonix Guide to find out where to party in resort.
Since January 2008 smoking has been banned in all bars, cafés and restaurants in France. Patrons are generally free to smoke on the terrace and during the winter months smokers are often catered for with outdoor heaters. Have a look at our Guide to Dining in Chamonix for suggestions of restaurants and bistrots in Chamonix.
There are a number of ski lockers underneath the restaurant at top of the Lognan cable car at Les Grands Montets in Argentière and underneath the Prarion lift station in Les Houches. There are two piste-side ski hire shops that offer free overnight storage to clients - Sanglard Sports in Argentière and Thierry Sports at Les Planards.
The Chamonix lift system operates during both summer and winter seasons and has different restrictions regarding access according to the time of year. Please see Chamonix Ski Lift Guide for further details.
Most ski teachers wouldn’t recommend starting skiing before the age of three or four at the earliest. The right age will vary from child to child, and depends upon the child’s strength, co-ordination and attitude. For this age group skiing should remain a play activity, so don't expect a young child to ski all day - a couple of hours is ample. For more information on ski school and children please read our Guide to Children's Skiing in Chamonix.
Cross-country skiing is a great alternative to regular alpine skiing if you fancy taking things a bit slower and enjoying the tranquillity of the surroundings. It is still a great form of exercise though, as it is more energetic than it looks! You can find out all about the cross-country trails in Chamonix in our Guide to Cross-Country Skiing.
Yes! Chamonix is a proper town with decent water treatment. The water can sometimes taste a bit metallic due to the high mineral content and during the melting periods some people prefer to switch to bottled water just in case the treatment plants are over-capacity. Generally though the water in the Alps is, on the whole, wonderful mountain spring water and Chamonix is no exception. It is perfectly safe to drink and tastes even better than the water at home!
Very easily! Always take precautions against the strength of the sun on a skiing holiday. At altitude and with the reflection off the snow, the sun’s rays can cause damage very quickly. Always, always wear sunglasses, even when the sun is not shining. Apply sunscreen, apply it thickly and keep applying it (you can still burn though cloud cover). Putting on factor 40 once in the morning will not protect you from burning. Reapply every hour.
Yes, you can... but it is not likely to be the best or cheapest option, as in every case you will need to change at least once. Your best bet is Eurostar from London (Waterloo) to Paris (Gare du Nord) and then changing to an SNCF TGV train from the other side of Paris (Gare de Lyon) to Geneva or Annecy. Read more about travelling to the Alps in our Guide to How to Get to Chamonix.
The indoor pool at the Richard Bozon Sports Centre is 25m long and also features a separate children's pool with bubble jets and a water slide; it is open all year round with the exception of a few weeks in spring and autumn. The sports centre also has a lovely outdoor pool surrounded by sunbathing terraces and a children's splash pool, open in summer only.
Picnicking is forbidden, or ‘interdit’, in most mountain restaurants. You may get away with eating your own sandwich if you buy some chips and a drink to go with it – but don’t be surprised if it is frowned upon. However, there are plenty of great places to eat al fresco in the mountains - as long as you don't mind nestling down into the snow or perching on a slab of rock! If the weather is too bad for eating outside then some mountain restaurants have a "salle hors sac" where you can tuck into your packed lunch indoors. For our recommendations, please see Mountain Restaurants in Chamonix.
Yes, you can take your baby to a ski resort but be aware that sudden changes in temperature and altitude are not recommended. For help on in-resort childcare, equipment rental and helpful tips go to our Tips for Families in Chamonix & the Valley.
Chamonix is very much a family-friendly resort and welcomes children of all ages. From things that you can do as a family to activities that the children can go off and do with their new 'holiday friends' you will find plenty to keep everyone happy. Please see our Chamonix Activities section for a few suggestions.
If you come to Chamonix in the summer (and between you and me, you really should) chances are you'll want to get your walking boots on and go on a ramble or two. Chamonix offers some beautiful walks for all standards, from gentle rambles to challenging hikes, you can enjoy the mountains just as much in summer as in winter. Have a look at our page on Hiking in Chamonix for further information.
Chamonix does have a good network of public transport, but the nature of the geography of the ski areas means that it can be useful to have a car. Parking in the centre of town can be notoriously difficult, particularly Chamonix Sud, and remember when the weather is bad, the going can be treacherous and you will need snow-tyres and/or chains. It is worth checking if you are travelling with a tour/chalet operator, whether or not they offer a free minibus service to their clients thereby saving on the need for your own vehicle. For more information have a look at our Chamonix Car Parking Guide.
Photographs are now ony required for passes of 10 days duration or longer. All passes (except cross country) require a hands-free card to operate the turnstiles. You will be issued with this when you purchase your pass and will have to pay a deposit of €3 which is refundable, or you can keep it as a souvenir! Don't forget you can now order your Chamonix lift passes in advance online, and have them sent to your home address or hotel / accommodation in Chamonix.
If you are from Europe, the chances are you will not require a work permit or "autorisation de travail" to work in France - Switzerland is a different matter. Please see our Working a Ski Season in Chamonix to find out more about visas and passports.
Yes! During snowy weather, resorts restrict access to vehicles with snow-tyres or chains, and sometimes traffic police will not allow any vehicle on to the resort access road without chains being fitted. Chains can be bought at any of the garages in the area or can be requested as part of a car hire package (if you are taking a car locally). We'd recommend that you buy them in advance at home though, to ensure the correct size & that they're actually in stock. The colour-coded 'quick-fit' variety are usually the best option and make sure you buy the right dimensions for you tyres - one size does NOT fit all.
Almost certainly – ESF instructors are mainly French but teach lots of English clients year after year, and so have a good understanding of the language. You will also find that many of the private schools in resort employ English instructors, so enquire when booking if this is important to you. When booking into a group lesson most ski schools will try and keep people of the same nationality together, to avoid confusion. During quiet times of the year you may find yourself in a mixed group, but the instructor will still try to engage with individuals in their own language. You can find details of all the instructors on our Ski & Snowboard Schools listings page.
There are a number of different approaches to finding work in a ski resort. The simplest way is to apply to season workers websites via our Job Finder. Many of the larger companies such as Tour Operators will recruit their staff long before the season starts, so if you fancy yourself as a resort rep then you’d better get in early! Take a look at our section on Working a Ski Season to find out lots of other useful information.
The internet is swamped with websites offering scheduled flight comparison searches. Our Flight Finder offers searches specific to airports closest to the ski resorts so you can quickly and easily see prices and availability. By going to the airlines directly the process is often simpler, however you don't get any comparison. The alternative to scheduled flying is to obtain seats on charter flights by contacting the major tour operators from your country (UK tour operators here). Through them, you may be able to arrange and pay for your flight (and transfer to Chamonix) in advance, although this is not always possible as flight seats are sometimes tied to beds and are therefore in short supply.
Although the different parts of the Chamonix Valley are fairly spread out, there are regular train and bus services that connect them all. These are free to holders of a Carte d'Hôte (guest card) and all buses except for the night bus are free with your ski pass. For more details on routes and schedules please see our guides to Chamonix Trains and Chamonix Buses.
Good transfer services exist at all the main airports for the Alps. A whole host of private companies offer minibus transfers (shared and private), or you can hire a car. Public transport using buses and trains are also available but can take a great deal longer to get to your destination. For more information on all these services, take a look at our Airport Transfers Guide.
There are many options for getting to Chamonix, from driving to flying to catching a train. To help you decide which is best for you please read our Guide to How to Get to Chamonix.
If you decide that buying your own kit is the way forward then buying in Chamonix is probably your best bet; you will find a wider choice of models and most shops give you the opportunity to test before you buy. There is more advice on what to buy in our Buying Skis & Snowboards in Chamonix.
Thanks to our handy real-time lift & piste information link you can access the conditions on the mountain without even having to poke your nose out of the front door! To find out what the weather in Chamonix is doing, take a look at our LIVE Chamonix webcam images, and to see which lifts are open please click on Chamonix LIVE Lift & Piste Info.
A DIY holiday offers a fully flexible package to suit your needs, however a tour operator package is quick and easy, and often cheaper. You can read more about the pros and cons of each kind of holiday in our Where to Stay in Chamonix Guide.
From Calais the journey takes from 7 to 10 hours depending on your speed. There is motorway or dual carriageway from Calais all the way to the foot of the Alps. The better route is via Reims and not via Paris; and then on past Troyes, Dijon and passing close to Geneva. Try using ViaMichelin to plan your route.
If you like your skis and are travelling by air, it is imperative that you pack them in a ski or board bag for protection. Most airlines will still take your skis if they are not in a ski bag; just don’t be surprised at the condition they arrive in at the other end of your flight. A ski or snowboard bag can also be packed with soft items (ski trousers, jumpers, etc) around your skis or board to give them added protection. Just be careful if the equipment is covered in storage wax. If driving to resort, the most convenient alternative is a roof "coffin" style box that will carry several pairs of skis/boards, boots and poles. A roof rack is also a handy alternative and can be rented from many ski shops. If using a roof rack, try to cover the bindings to prevent them getting coated in grit and salt from the road. Roof boxes and roof racks should be lockable and secure from thieves.
Chamonix has plenty to offer if skiing and snowboarding aren't your cup of tea. From a range of alternative mountain pursuits to more sedate cultural options you can make it as action-packed or as relaxed as you like! You will find a few suggestions in our Chamonix Activities section.
Well, we rather like it! It is a great resort all year round, the scenery is magnificent and there is plenty to see and do. If you want to get a taste of what Chamonix has to offer please read our About Chamonix section where you will learn about the town, ski area, history of the resort and where to go for dining and nightlife.
Yes, there are two churches. The most central one is the Catholic church of St Michel on Place du Triangle de l'Amitié (by the tourist office). Services are held every Saturday and Sunday, as well extra ones throughout the week on special days - a weekly timetable can be found either at the church itself or in the tourist office next door. The church also hosts frequent organ recitals and choral performances, have a look at our Chamonix Events Guide to see if there is anything scheduled for this season. The Protestant church, Eglise Réformée de la Vallée de l'Arve, is tucked away on Pass Temple - just behind the gardens and war memorial on the junction of Avenue Michel Croz and Rue Whymper. They have a lively community group with a strong anglophone influence, with regular events such as parent groups and carol concerts - call inside to enquire and to pick up a timetable for church services. There are also a number of smaller churches in Les Praz, Les Houches and Argentière - details of which can be found in the respective tourist offices on arrival.
Just in case all that skiing, mountaineering, climbing and mountain biking isn't enough for you - yes, there is a gym in Chamonix! Take a look at our Fitness & Sports Centre page for more information.
There are a number of launderettes spread out throughout the valley. Self-service launderettes can be found on Avenue de l'Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix Sud and on Passage du Poilu (a little side street behind the war memorial on Rue Whymper). There is the Cham'Laverie drop-off laundry service on Via d'Aoste (behind the Spar in Chamonix Sud). The Les Houches self-service launderette is on Avenue des Alpages and not only can you do your washing, but you can also hire bed linen and cots. NB The French word for launderette is 'laverie'.
Every Saturday morning there is a local market on Place du Mont Blanc (the open area near the Galerie Alpina). Here you can expect to find local seasonal produce such as fruit and vegetables, meat, cheese, honey and wine. There are also stalls selling herbs and spices, flowers, natural soaps, fresh fish and other goodies. On the other side of the square is a more random section selling everything from hats to crockery. Les Houches holds a similar but slightly smaller market every Monday morning and additional markets take place in Chamonix Sud and Argentiere during peak times of the year. As well as the regular markets there are occasional 'bourses' (ski sales), 'brocantes' (bric-a-brac), 'braderies' (clearance), 'vide greniers' (attic sales) and 'marchés aux puces' (flea markets) where you can often pick up a bargain - keep an eye on our Chamonix Events Guide for dates of all markets.
The Chamonix valley has a few snowparks and boarder cross tracks across the various ski areas; to read more about where they are and what they’re like please go to Chamonix Snowparks.
As well as an abundance of natural rock Chamonix has one of the largest indoor climbing walls in France - which means that you can climb whatever the weather! Located in Les Houches the indoor wall is open year round and if you don't have your own kit, you can rent it there. There is also a smaller climbing and bouldering gym at the Richard Bozon Sports Centre. You can find more information on all Chamonix climbing walls in our Indoor Activities Chamonix Guide.
Not in Chamonix itself, but the Tourchet piste in Les Houches holds floodlit sessions on certain nights of the week during winter. Completely free and with a great atmosphere, they are open to all abilities and make a fun evening out. This winter's night skiing dates can be found on our Chamonix Events Calendar.
If you are coming out at the weekend which day should you travel? Traditionally Saturday-Saturday travel to France has been the main option. However, Sunday-Sunday is becoming ever more viable an alternative to the near total saturation of Saturdays. Typically Sunday travel has been the preserve of smaller, more exclusive operators but now more companies have added these products into their brochures via their committed bedstocks. Choice of day will of course be determined firstly by your commitments back home and then availability.
However, thinking that with Sundays you won't have a 'day at home to recover' should not be a reason not to seek out this alternative. The significant advantages being:
- An extra day to prepare/shop before you come out
- Ease of travel - less congestion with less chance of delays
- Ease of access to equipment and lift-passes after the rush
- Empty pistes on the final day (Saturday when everyone else is travelling)
- A much more tranquil return home meaning less time needed to recover from the journey
- Potentially lower prices as demand is lower
These factors should definitely feature in your considerations.
Insurance is a must when going up the mountain. Should you have an accident, rescue fees (especially if by helicopter) are very expensive and medical costs can end up costing an arm and a leg (sorry!). Even if you have an EHIC Card you should still make sure you are properly insured by taking out an appropriate winter sports policy. One thing to be aware of is when buying your lift pass you are likely to be asked if you need insurance, this is a separate policy to your travel insurance and is well worth taking out. The Carre neige insurance policy costs only a couple of euros per day and will assist if you ever have an accident on the piste. If you have taken out carre neige the recovery team will just want to see your policy card given when purchased and you will be whisked down the mountain to the medical centre without paying a penny. If you have not taken out the carre neige the recovery team will need to be paid for taking you off the mountain. You can recover this from your insurer but it is much easier to take out the policy, especially if you do not have helicopter recovery fees in your bank account! You can see more advice by reading our articles on Travel Insurance and Ski Insurance.
Absolutely! Anyone can benefit from having lessons and it is the best way to improve and get more out of your time on the mountain. It is essential for beginners to have correct instruction for the first week or two and group lessons are a great way to learn. There's a load more information in our Chamonix Ski Lessons Guide.
For a beginner it is probably best to hire equipment; if you buy equipment straightaway you quickly outgrow it as your skiing level improves. The cost of hiring skis and boots for 6 days (adults) varies from around €90 - 110 for beginners, to around €110 - 150 for experts/top of the range equipment. Wait until you have done a few weeks’ skiing or boarding and make sure that this is a sport you will practice regularly, and then consider buying - for more advice see our pages on Buying the Right Skis & Snowboards. The cost of purchase will pay for itself over 4 or 5 weeks, so if you are doing a season or visit the mountains a few times a year then it is a good investment to have your own kit that you know you are comfortable with. There are a wide range of Ski Rental and Sports Shops in Chamonix where you can hire and buy the latest kit.
The 10 FIS rules for the conduct of skiers and snowboarders
1. Respect for Others: People using the pistes must behave in such a way that they do not put other people in danger or harm them, either by their behaviour or with their equipment.
2. Speed & Behaviour: People using the pistes must adapt their speed and behaviour to suit their personal abilities as well as the general ground and weather conditions, the state of the snow and the density of the traffic.
3. Choice of Direction by the Person Uphill: A skier who is uphill is in a position which enables him to choose a course; he must therefore make this choice so as to preserve the safety of anyone downhill.
4. Overtaking: Overtaking can be done from uphill or downhill, on the right or on the left, but the person overtaking must always allow a margin for the movements of the person he is overtaking.
5. Where Pistes Cross & When Starting Off: After stopping, or where pistes cross, all users must, by looking uphill and downhill, make sure that they can start off without endangering themselves and others.
6. Standing: All users must avoid standing in passages which are narrow or where there is no visibility; in the event of a fall, they must get off the piste as quickly as possible.
7. Going Up & Down on Foot: People who are obliged to go up or down a piste on foot must use the edge of the piste, taking care that neither they nor their equipment is a danger to others.
8. Respect for Information, Markings & Signs: Users must take notice of information about weather conditions and about the state of the pistes and snow. They must respect markings and signs.
9. Assistance: Anyone witnessing or involved in an accident must give assistance, particularly by raising the alarm. If need be, and at the request of the first-aid people, they must put themselves at their disposal.
10. Identification: Anyone witnessing or involved in an accident must make themselves known to the emergency service and/or third parties. Swapping details with eachother must take place.
The type of injuries you may sustain can depend on what your chosen mountain discipline is. Skiers knee ligaments (anterior cruciate ligament in particular) take the most injuries. Make sure your ski bindings are adjusted correctly for your weight and level of skiing. Over 80% of accidents to skiers which result in sprained knee ligaments resulted from skis not coming off during a fall.
Snowboarders tend to suffer more upper body injuries such as broken collarbones, dislocated shoulders and head and wrist injuries - so a helmet and wrist protectors are a must.
Should you be unlucky enough to get injured whilst on holiday and find yourself hobbling around on crutches – do not despair! Make the most of your situation and check out this fun website: Cool Crutches! Injury rates for skiing are much lower than most people imagine, at between 0.2 and 0.4%. The French Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggests the following eight points to reduce your risk:
- Improve your physical fitness before your holiday
- Ensure bindings are correctly set for your ability, weight and height
- Choose the correct equipment for your level
- Wear a helmet (especially in a snowpark)
- Warm up before setting out
- Make sure you take enough food and liquids
- Take a rest or cut short your day when you start to feel tired
To this we would add:
- Follow the piste safety code (see FAQs Skiing & Snowboarding)
- Hire equipment from a specialist sports shop rather than borrowing from friends - there are plenty of Ski Hire Shops in Chamonix that can give you expert advice on what you need
- Stay within your own limits and don’t try to keep up with more experienced friends - even if it's not your first time, you will benefit greatly from ski or snowboard lessons with a qualified instructor
- Bring non-slip boots for walking around the resort as pavements can be icy
For more information on skiing and snowboarding injuries, see this Ski Injury website.
Chamonix is split up into four main ski areas: Brévent/Flégère, Les Grands Montets, Domaine de Balme (Le Tour & Vallorcine) and Les Houches - with the addition of the Aiguille du Midi for the Vallée Blanche off-piste route. Please go to Ski Areas in Chamonix to read more about what you will find there.
Although not as renowned as the haute cuisine of Paris or the fine bistros of Lyon, the Alps do have a number of tasty treats in store for those who like to sample some regional specialities and Chamonix has a good selection of restaurants. Meat and cheese feature heavily in Alpine cooking – so it’s just as well there are plenty of mountains where you can work off the extra pounds! To learn more about typical dishes, cheeses and what wines to try please read our article on Where to Eat . You can find details of all Chamonix eateries on our Chamonix Restaurants or Chamonix Gourmet Restaurants listing pages.
The Chamonix ski area normally opens in early December and runs through into late April or early May, although exact dates are dependent on snow conditions. You can get a good idea of what to expect by having a look back over our Chamonix Snow Reports from previous winters. Exact dates for this year's ski season can be found under Chamonix Ski Lift Opening Dates. During the summer, the lifts are open from mid-June, providing access to hiking, biking, climbing, paragliding and a whole load more summer activities. This year's dates can be found under Chamonix Summer Lift Opening Dates.
If you want to know the difference between a freestyle and a freeride board, have a look at our article on All You Ever Needed to Know About Snowboards. It includes a review of this season’s latest kit and explains all the jargon that previously went right over our heads!
You need to know that your skis & snowboards will benefit from regular waxing and servicing, whether you do it yourself or take it to a shop is up to you. You can read all about how to care for your skis and boards in our Guide to Ski & Snowboard Maintenance.
Ski lifts are marked on the Chamonix piste map using straight black lines. There are 4 different types (button tow/drag, chair, telecabine, telepherique) and they have the corresponding abbreviations:
The colours represent the scale of difficulty of the pistes in Chamonix:
- Green: Very easy, corresponds to a beginner level and nursery slopes.
- Blue: Easy, although the gradient has increased there may be a few bumps and dips to test your balance. Great fun once you are a little more confident.
- Red: Steeper slopes, suitable for intermediate or above, can pose a challenge in places.
- Black: Technically difficult and steep. Advanced levels only.
The scale applies to whichever activity you are doing in Chamonix - skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, or mountain biking. Each piste has the colour marked at the beginning and the poles along the sides of the piste will correspond. Take a look at our Guide to the Chamonix Ski Area to find out more.
When driving in France, it is important that you are aware of any road laws and restrictions that may differ from home. For starters, UK licence holders must be 18 years or older in order to drive a temporarily imported car on French roads. For everything you need to know about driving in France, take a look at our page on Driving to Resort
Any exercise you can do before your holiday which increases your level of fitness, develops the muscles in the leg, and improves your balance, will be beneficial. Not only will you tire less easily, and slide better, but you will also be helping to protect your body from injury. The ligaments in the knee are particularly vulnerable to injury from skiing - make sure you build up the leg muscles to help protect your knees. You can read a bit more about exercise training in this article on Pre-Season Ski Fitness, written by Mike Halsall of Magic Hands Physio.
Most ski resorts now offer lessons by specially qualified ski instructors and the opportunity to hire out adapted equipment that allows people with disabilities to enjoy the mountains safely. To read more about what Chamonix has to offer, please read our page on Handiski & Disabled Skiing in Chamonix.
The French still maintain fairly traditional opening hours, with only the bigger shops or out-of-town shopping centres staying open all day long. Generally speaking supermarkets will open between 8am and 7pm. Other shops tend to open at 10am, closing at 12.30pm for a lunch break until around 3pm. They then reopen until 7pm or 8pm. Most shops in Chamonix remain open 7 days a week during the winter and summer seasons, including Christmas, New Year and other bank holidays. During peak season some shops may remain open throughout the day without stopping for lunch but don't rely on it. During the interseason periods of spring and autumn many shops in Chamonix close altogether. Read Shopping in Chamonix to find out more about the type of shops you'll find in resort.
Carré Neige is the basic insurance policy that covers you whilst on the mountain and is recognised across all French ski resorts. You can purchase it for a few euros a day when you buy your Chamonix ski pass or take out cover for the whole season. It is reasonably inexpensive and provides good basic cover. Please read our article on Winter Ski Insurance to find out more and see how it compares to other policies.
Paragliding, or 'parapente' as it is called in French, is the popular sport of taking off from a high point and gently floating down to earth attached to a parachute. Safely strapped into a tandem harness, your instructor will show you how to control your 'wings' while you admire the mountains from a birds-eye perspective! To find out where and how you can do this activity please go to Paragliding in Chamonix.
The range of skis on the market is vast and many of them are used for different variations of the sport; regular Alpine skiing is the most common and is where most people start out. To read more about the differences between the skis and what they are used for please read our article on All You Ever Needed to Know About Skis.
Chamonix is not just a winter resort. Every summer the lifts crank back into action and are used by hikers, climbers, mountain bikers, paragliders and those who just like to enjoy the view! There is plenty to do down at resort level with golf, swimming, archery and white water sports all attracting plenty of visitors. Our guide to Summer Activities in Chamonix will tell you all you need to know about what the resort has to offer.
Chamonix in summer has just as much to do as in winter - if not more! There are a number of lift passes available, depending on how you want to explore the mountains. Please see Chamonix Summer Lift Passes for more information.
It’s a sad fact that in this day and age, we can no longer leave our skis outside as we enjoy a warming hot chocolate, après ski, or a leisurely lunch at the side of the piste. “Prevention is always better than cure", so be very careful about how and where you leave your skis unattended. Should the worst happen and you can’t find your kit where you left it, follow these points:
- Before you panic, double-check the area where you left them, just in case. It is possible they have fallen over and/or have been put back in a different location.
- Report the theft to the police as soon as possible. Don’t be fobbed off by the lack of interest by the local police force. They see this type of incident all the time, and are therefore not always the most helpful. Be persistent, this is necessary and required by all insurance companies.
- If applicable, tell your resort representative. If they were rental skis, you'll probably have to deal with the shop, and they may be able to provide some assistance. When hiring the skis, some rental shops will offer additional insurance to protect you against theft. If you choose not to take this option, or the rental shop doesn’t provide this service, you will probably have to pay for the skis (to the replacement cost value) and then claim on your insurance.
Theft tends to happen when you least expect it. Speaking from personal experience, even placing your skis directly behind you as you sit in a café or bar can be a mistake… BE AWARE!! Here are some tips to minimize the risk of having your skis/snowboard stolen:
- Never leave your skis unattended for a long period of time outside a bar or restaurant. Some bars may offer a “ski monitoring” service.
- Avoid leaving skis on your balcony, even if your apartment is located on the higher floors of the building (thieves have been known to scale up to four floors for the latest skis and snowboards!)
- Always keep your skis in your sight line.
- Swap a ski with a friend when going into a mountain restaurant or bar; but don’t put the unmatched pairs next to each other!!
- Where you have rental skis, ask the rental shop to write your name on the skis as many people will have the same or similar pairs, and may take yours by accident.
- Use ski lockers where provided.
- Invest in a ski/snowboard lock. Although it won’t prevent the determined thief, it may deter them.
- Check your insurance policy to see what’s covered should your own skis, or rental skis be stolen.
Chamonix has many different trails which are suited to different types of mountain bikes, from cross-country to downhill. You might choose to bring your own bike with you, or hire one in resort and try something new. Take a look at our Guide to Mountain Biking in Chamonix to help you decide.
Pretty much anything you can think of relating to hospitality and tourism! Tour operators in Chamonix are a good place to start as the larger ones will need a range of winter staff from chalet caterers, to cleaners, to accountants, to bar managers. To get an idea of what is on offer, check out our Guide to Season Work Jobs in Chamonix. NB Most tour operators won’t employ anyone under 21, and none employ those under 18.
In winter the ski lifts operate from between 8am and 9am and close about 4pm due to daylight hours. The exact times vary according to time of year and weather conditions, but daily updates can be found at the lift stations. Note that each lift may have a different closing time! Make sure you know what time the last lift stops so that you do not end up stranded on the mountain at the end of the day. In summer the lifts generally open around 9am and close around 6pm, again they will vary according to weather and hours of sunlight. You might also find that some lifts close for lunch! You can check which lifts are open right now with our Live Lift Status in Chamonix.
There really is something for everyone – you can find out all about ski areas, snow parks, cross-country skiing, handiski and more in our Skiing and Snowboarding in Chamonix section. You will also find information on avalanches and mountain safety, as well as links to ski schools and ski rental shops.
French and British school holidays often coincide, making ski resorts extremely busy for certain weeks of the year. If there is a period when you can take a holiday and avoid the school break you should find lift queues, restaurants and other attractions much more tranquil. Plan ahead by checking out French school holiday dates for the next few years.
There are many mountain huts in and around the Chamonix Valley and Mont Blanc region that offer a resting place and sustenance for the weary traveller. A large proportion of them are closed in the winter, although some may still offer shelter for back country tourers and climbers. The seasonal opening and closing dates are governed to a certain extent, by the severity of the winter and how quickly the snow disappears. Current season dates can be found on the Office de la Haute Montagne website. You can also find listings for individual huts and contact details for the Club Alpin Français on our Mountain Huts listings page.
The main summer season in Chamonix is during July and August, however the trails can be busy and bikers may find that some of them are closed to make way for hikers. Weather permitting, June, September and up to the end of October are good months to mountain bike as trails are quiet and the temperatures are cooler. If you want to hammer the downhill then you'll need to come when the summer lifts are open, if you're more of a cross-country fan then you can benefit from coming out of season when flights are cheaper. You can find out more by reading our Guide to Mountain Biking in Chamonix.
This is very much a matter of personal preference. Snow-wise, December can be fantastic or a flop. If you can book last-minute then come when, and if, the snow falls (keep checking our Chamonix Weather Forecast and sign up for our free Dump Alert for the latest news of snow falls). Empty pistes are guaranteed and bargains can be snapped up on our Chamonix Special Offers page.
- Christmas and New Year are very popular so the resort and pistes will be busy and prices much higher. However, Christmas in the snow is magical, especially for families.
- January is much underrated. Many people are back at work or school, so the pistes are virtually empty with no lift queues. The weather can be very cold but this makes for excellent snow conditions and we often enjoy blue skies and sunshine in January.
- February is when the French school holidays start, you can check the dates in our Guide to Family Holidays in Chamonix. If you have children then you'll also be restricted to the school holiday dates of your own country. Chamonix is always extremely busy in February and Children's Ski School places are often booked up months in advance. Avoid February if you don’t like being out-skied by 7 year olds!
- March is when the sun starts to shine for longer and longer each day and temperatures are usually kinder to lunching out-of-doors. The snow quality may start to decline - hard in the morning and slushy in the afternoons. This is a popular month with the British and other nationalities, so it can still be quite busy, but the February madness will have eased off.
- April is often the snowiest month of the season as spring showers bring fresh snow to the mountains. In fine weather it is perfect for lazy long lunches in the sun, and the pistes are once again quiet. It is also a good month for picking up some end-of-season deals and special offers.
- The resort will go quiet during May and June, but spring in the Alps is beautiful and if you don't mind not being able to take the lifts it can be the nicest time for hiking. The weather can be changeable, as it can anywhere, but it is often more comfortable for outdoor sports than the heat of summer.
- July and August are the busiest summer months and there are loads of outdoor activities, as well as plenty of hiking trails to explore. The climate during the daytime will be much as for the rest of France but the evenings will be cooler - so you can sleep well after the day's exploits.
- From September onwards things cool down again, and life is much calmer. You can enjoy excellent weather at this time of year and the temperature is much better suited to outdoor activities, although the rain may come at this time (as elsewhere).
- October and November are when many places are closed to take a break or prepare for the following winter season. You can expect the resort to be very quiet during these months, which may suit some people but bear in mind that mountain access will only be on foot as the lifts will be closed and the weather will be turning colder and wetter.
Take a look at our Chamonix Snow Reports from previous winters to see what to expect from the weather and snow conditions throughout the season.
The easiest way to find a flight to the Alps is to use our Flight Finder. With our search engine, you can search for flights to all the airports closest to your ski resort. You'll find a choice of airlines, and of course, the best prices.
There is a Bureau de Change located on Place Balmat, the main square in the centre of Chamonix, as well as several banks and a Post Office where you can change money. Cash points in the centre of town are numerous and in Les Houches and Argentière this is one of the easiest ways to obtain Euros using a credit or debit card. Please note that most banks in France close on Sundays, Mondays and all public holidays. They also take the traditional lunch break of 12am to 2pm, so if you need to speak to a cashier make sure you have checked their opening times first. This should not affect the availability of cash points.
The Mont Blanc Tunnel links Chamonix (France) to Courmayeur in the Aosta Valley (Italy). Scroll to the bottom of our Driving to Chamonix page to find out more about the Mont Blanc Tunnel including information on tolls and temporary closures.
Restrictions apply to flying leisure or professional drones in the Chamonix Mont Blanc valley, at certain times of the year. Find where and when you can fly drones in Chamonix.
Right here! You will find all Chamonix and the Valley maps, including piste maps at Chamonix Maps. You can also pick up paper copies in resort at the Tourist Office, lift stations and most hotel receptions.
It is important to arm yourself with as much information as possible on the terrain, the weather and the conditions before heading out into the mountains. The single most important resource is the Office de Haute Montagne, either on line or at their office in the centre of Chamonix, near to the church and the tourist office. Visiting their study room, open everyday from 9:00-12:00 and 15:00-18:00, will help anyone planning activities in the region. There you will find fact-files, maps, 3-D models of the landscape, and a weather office with computer data and explanations of common conditions. You can also get daily weather forecasts from the Tourist Office and the Club Alpin Français is a good resource for finding out about mountain refuges and routes.
Chamonix wouldn't be the resort that it is without a good dose of après-ski to end the day on! There is no shortage of places to go for a few drinks and some live music after a day on the mountain, have a look at our Bars, Clubs & Apres Ski guide for our pick of the best. You can keep up to date with all the goings-on in Chamonix by following the exploits of our intrepid Chamonix Apres Ski Reporter; weekly reports telling you all about the best parties, live music and après fun!
Mountain biking (also known as MTB or VTT) is very popular in the Alps and the amount of facilities, marked trails and competitions are increasing year on year. To find out about the best places to go in Chamonix and other top mountain biking tips please take a look at our article on Chamonix Mountain Biking.
Most sports shops in Chamonix restock their shelves in the summer, replacing skis and snowboards with all the latest kit for mountain biking, hiking, climbing and the like. Please go to Bike Hire in Chamonix to find out where you can rent some wheels.
There are many ski rental shops in Chamonix, many of which offer an online booking service. As well as saving you time once you arrive in Chamonix, online booking is often rewarded with a nice discount on the cost of your kit! Even if you have booked your gear online, you can still try it on in the shop and change it for another size/model if it does not feel right. Most ski & snowboard hire shops in Chamonix will also have transceivers and avalanche safety kit to rent - make sure you know how to use it and that you test it before you take it into the mountains!
WiFi is pretty much everywhere these days and Chamonix is no exception. Most bars, cafés, restaurants, etc are happy for you to log on as long as you buy something - even if it's just a coffee. Find out where you can grab a drink and upload your holidays selfies at Bars in Chamonix.
The easiest place to find a parking space is in the large outdoor car park at Le Grepon, behind the Aiguille du Midi cable car station. Prices range from free for under an hour to 13.50 for 24 hours. From there it is just a short walk to Chamonix centre or you can pick up the Mulet bus, a free shuttle that circulates every 10-15 minutes. There is a limited amount of free parking in Chamonix, you can try the small car park beside the bowling alley in Chamonix Sud or opposite the Montenvers train station at Les Planards. Otherwise, there are a number of paid car parks dotted all around the town - some covered for which you can buy a weekly pass. For more information, please see our Chamonix Car Parking Guide.
The Municipal Police in Chamonix are responsible for taking in and handling all lost and found items.
Items are kept for one year before being destroyed, so if you've lost something you can drop into their office opposite the main train station, email them on Pm.Accueil@Chamonix.Fr or give them a call +33(0)4 50 53 75 02. If you don't have any luck at the police station then it can also be worth checking at the tourist office and at the nearest lift station, as things often get handed in there as well.
It’s all very well having a Chamonix piste map but without a bit of local knowledge you’ll never find the hidden gems that we all head straight for! If you’re looking for a quiet slope to practise your parallel turns, somewhere to escape from the bad weather, a great off-piste powder stash, or even just a nice spot for lunch be sure to check out our guide to Chamonix Skiing.
Chamonix has its own hospital, just five minutes drive out of the centre of town. It specialises in trauma injuries, bone surgery and has a general practice clinic. If you need an Accident & Emergency ward you are more likely to be taken to Sallanches, a town about 25 minutes outside of Chamonix. Details of both hospitals can be found on the Chamonix Doctors & Dentists page.
- 15 - for urgent medical attention you can call 15 free of charge from any landline or payphone, this will put you through to Samu, the French ambulance service. This number is usually only used for serious medical emergencies. You can find more information on the Samu (English Version) Website.
- 18 - if the situation requires first aid, rather than paramedic treatment you can call the Pompiers (fire service) free of charge on 18. They are qualified and equipped to deal with most minor injuries.
- 112 - this is the European Emergency Call Number. It can be dialled from any mobile telephone and will put you in touch with the emergency services switchboard from anywhere in the European Union.
The Mont Blanc Express runs from Saint Gervais les Bains through Chamonix to Martigny in Switzerland. The ride is truly breath-taking and is free with your guest card (Carte d'Hôte) between Servoz and Vallorcine. The train stops at a number of villages on the way, including Servoz, Les Houches, Les Bossons, Les Gaillands, Chamonix Centre, Les Praz, Les Tines, and Argentiere. Check out the latest timetables in our Chamonix Train Guide.
Chamonix caters for all sorts of visitors - from families with children, to groups of skiers and snowboarders, to hardcore alpinists - and the choice of lift passes reflects that. To weigh up your choices and see which lift pass best suits your needs please go to Chamonix Ski Lift Pass Options and Chamonix Summer Lift Pass Options for more information.
There aren’t many restaurants in France where children are not welcome; it is a much more common sight to see children dining out with their parents than in the UK. Most restaurants in Chamonix offer a children’s menu; they tend to be in the region of 10€ and usually consist of omelette/ham/burger/chicken with chips/salad or a pasta option such as spaghetti bolognaise. Please read our Guide to Dining Out in Chamonix for our top recommendations of where to eat with children in Chamonix.
If you aren't arriving by private plane or helicopter the four main airports for the French Alps are: Geneva (Switzerland), Chambery, Lyon St-Exupery Airport, and Grenoble. You can find out more about the closest airport and the onward travel in our How to Get Here Guide.
Lunch is a well-earned meal when you’re up the mountain all day! There are a range of restaurants to try from self-service snack bars to wooden chalets with roaring fires and waiter service. See Mountain Restaurants in Chamonix for our favourites.
There is no ‘right’ answer to this as Chamonix has a number of different ski schools, all offering different services. ESF is the Ecole du Ski Français, a national ski and snowboard school that has a base in every resort. Their instructors are mostly French, but speak a wide range of languages including English, Russian, Italian and Swedish. They teach children and adults and offer group or one-on-one lessons. There are also a number of private ski and snowboard schools in Chamonix, some of which are British-run, offering everything from complete beginner lessons to advanced master classes. These are more likely to be able to offer you individually tailored lessons, but may be more expensive. Visit Chamonix Ski & Snowboard Schools to find out more.
There are a number of companies in the area who can take you on a white water adventure. The rivers run fastest at the start of summer when they are fed by all the melting snow and ice from the mountains, while the smaller streams and waterfalls are great fun for canyoning. You can find details of all companies that offer these trips under Watersports in Chamonix.
Although Chamonix is not an especially high resort (~1000-1200m) the skiing reaches up to 3842m (Aiguille du Midi). In fact, the rapid ascent to this height by cable-car (taking less than 30 minutes) means that you might feel giddy when you get to the top and move around - and not just because of the sheer drops on either side! Altitude sickness most commonly occurs above 2400m.
Some of the lifts up to the higher peaks do ascend rapidly, which means that you might feel giddy when you get to the top and start to move around. Just take a moment to get your breath and steady yourself. Being more out of breath than usual and finding exercise slightly more tiring are not uncommon when unaccustomed to being at altitude.
Common symptoms include lack of appetite, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, light-headedness, insomnia, pins and needles, shortness of breath, rapid pulse, drowsiness/malaise, slight swelling of extremities. Many people will not be affected by any of these symptoms; altitude sickness affects everyone differently and some people not at all.
However, if you are embarking on a high mountain expedition there are some symptoms that may indicate a more serious problem, for which you should seek immediate medical attention. These include a persistent dry cough, fever, shortness of breath that persists when resting, headache that does not respond to analgesics, unsteady gait, vomiting, loss of consciousness. These symptoms can be indicative of either fluid in the lungs or swelling of the brain, however as they affect very few people (fluid=2%, swelling=1%) they are worth knowing about but not worrying over.
Tips to Avoid Altitude Sickness:
- Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration – the air at altitude is thinner and your lungs lose a higher rate of water vapour the higher up you are. The additional exertion of skiing/boarding (not to mention clumping round in your boots) may be more than you are used to and could add to your potential for dehydration. If you reward yourself with a lunchtime pint or vin chaud, make sure you take plenty of water on board as well.
- Be careful of the strength of the sun – it is much stronger than you realise and the extra body heat you work up combined with the glare of the sun off the snow could add to a headache or feeling of dizziness.
- Take it easy – we know you can’t wait for that first run of the holiday, but don’t dash out of the lift and go steaming down the mountain straight away! Take a few deep breaths, cruise the first few runs and let your body adjust.
Take a look at our Guide to the Chamonix Ski Lift System to find out what altitude the various lifts go up to and if any are not recommended for babies or elderly people.