Chamonix's ski area is unlike many other ski resorts in that it is made up of five different ski areas. Two are linked and the rest are separated along the length of the valley. Since the Chamonix valley is low and the ski lifts rise to over 3,000m, there are plenty of opportunities to ski 2,000m or more of vertical descent here.
The main things to know about the Chamonix ski area are:
It's only one hour from Geneva international airport, making it one of the most convenient resorts to get to.
Great for all levels and abilities
Spread across the Chamonix valley are areas for everyone from beginners up to extreme off-piste powder hounds.
Access to the Vallée Blanche
An item on many skiers' bucket list, make this the year to tackle this world famous 20km off-piste terrain.
- Chamonix ski area
- Brévent and Flégère ski area
- Les Grands Montets ski area
- Le Tour and Vallorcine ski area
- Les Houches ski area
- Vallée Blanche ski area
- Courmayeur ski area
- Evasion Mont Blanc ski area
- Beginner areas in Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley
- Advanced areas in Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley
- Snowparks in Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley
- Off-piste areas in Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley
- Bad Weather areas in Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley
- Ski Touring areas in Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley
- More inspiration...
Chamonix ski area
Situated in the Haute-Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region of southeast France, just to the north of Mont Blanc, Chamonix is one of the oldest ski resorts in France. The first 'official' tourists here were actually British, when in 1744 Richard Pococke and William Windham published a report of their 1741 visit to the Mer de Glace. The growth of tourism in the early 19th century led to the formation of the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix in 1821, and it was chosen as host of the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924, further cementing its reputation as an international tourist destination. It's popularity only grew, and by the end of the 20th century it was receiving around five million visitors a year. Popular both winter and summer, its sky line is dominated by Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi (3,842m). The cable car up the Midi was built in 1955, making it the highest cable car in the world at the time, remaining the highest vertical cable car ascent in the world to this day.
Chamonix-Mont Blanc is made up of 16 villages and hamlets, including the main ski areas of Le Tour (1,462m), Argentière (1,252m), Les Praz (1,060) and Chamonix Town itself (1,012m).
What's it like to ski and snowboard in Chamonix?
The pisted ski terrain in Chamonix ranges in altitude from 950m to 3,300m (see the piste maps), whilst the backcountry skiing offers much more in terms of altitude, vertical descent and of course, difficulty. If you're coming here piste skiing, there are around 150km of pistes, accessed by a total of 65 ski lifts split between the main ski areas and the low mountain beginner zones. It's a diverse, unlinked ski resort, that collectively has six green pistes, 30 blue pistes, 31 red pistes, 10 black pistes and two snowparks, distributed through the five mid-high mountain ski areas which you can read more about below.
The areas to know about are:
- Chamonix Town - two beginner areas with magic carpets, drag lifts, green and blue runs making them the perfect place to start.
- Brévent and Flégère - sunny south-facing side of the valley and the closest to the town centre.
- Les Grand Montets - freeride centre of the valley and home to the largest pisted area.
- Le Tour - cruisey blues and big backcountry. Also head here for great beginners nursery slopes.
- Les Houches - a 6km drive down the valley, full of tree-lined slopes with amazing views of Mont Blanc. Ideal for beginners and the whole family.
Brévent and Flégère ski area
Located on the sunny south-facing side of the Chamonix Valley, these ski areas are the closest areas to Chamonix town centre. Offering panoramic views of Mont Blanc there are pistes to suit every style and level of skier. Up here there are long flowing groomed runs, steep skiing routes and on powder days there's much fun to be had up here.
Linked in 1997 by the liaison cable car, access to Brévent is by gondola just above Chamonix town and Flégère is by a recently rebuilt cable car from the village of Le Praz.
For more detailed information on the areas and their slopes please visit our Brévent and Flégère ski areas page.
Les Grands Montets ski area
Sitting above the village of Argentière and known as the freeride centre of the Chamonix valley, it is one of the largest pisted skiing zones in the area.
It tends to be very cold here in the mornings due to its shady northwesterly aspect, which can mean it's prone to being quite icy. Sunnier later in the season, it preserves its snow until well into May.
Not the place to head to if you're a beginner, but read more on our Les Grands Montets ski area page.
Le Tour and Vallorcine ski area
Recently renamed as the Domaine de Balme, these two villages are the place to head to if you're a beginner. The nursery slopes at La Vormaine at the foot of Le Tour are the largest in the Chamonix area and it's the perfect place to learn your turns and perfect your skills.
A mixed terrain, this area is full of wide cruisey blues and easy intermediate reds, with access points from either Vallorcine or Le Tour village. There's some great fun off-piste skiing to be taken here, and it has a pretty respectable snowpark.
For more detailed information on the area visit our Domaine de Balme ski area page.
Les Houches ski area
About 6km down the valley from Chamonix town, this area is full of gentle tree-lined slopes and is also the home to the World Cup downhill run The Kandahar.
A great family resort, the are three nursery areas and slopes perfect for beginners and intermediates. Whilst not known as an 'extreme' area for the advanced skiers and snowboarders, on a powder day it's the perfect option with tree-lined slopes helping give some definition. There's also a great snowpark here for those who like to jib, olly, nolly, and all that jazz.
Find out more on our dedicated Les Houches ski area page.
Vallée Blanche ski area
This famous 20km off-piste route is on many skier and snowboarders 'to do' list, and any sunny morning after a good snowfall sees the queue for the lift snaking round Chamonix Sud. It's an early start, but definitely worth it for a day you'll never forget.
You can read more on our dedicated page to the Vallée Blanche.
Courmayeur ski area
Courmayeur, although not strictly part of the Chamonix valley, is included on the Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass and is easily accessible from Chamonix through the Mont Blanc Tunnel (journey time 30 minutes).
Read more in our detailed guide to the Courmayeur Ski Area.
Evasion Mont Blanc ski area
The Mont Blanc Unlimited ski pass might only be the size of a credit card, but with the addition of the Evasion ski area (Megève, Saint Gervais, Les Contamines, Combloux, St Nicolas and La Giettaz), it gives you access to a large and wonderfully varied ski area.
Read more in our detailed guide to the Evasion Mont Blanc Ski Area.
Beginner areas in Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley
First time skiers and snowboarders and those looking to improve their technique will find plenty of good areas to practise in Chamonix. There are a total of six different nursery ski areas in Chamonix as well as six green pistes and 30 blues pistes for those who are looking to progress on the mountain.
You'll find lots of gentle slopes along the bottom of the Chamonix valley with easy access for beginners. These areas are suited to complete beginners or those looking to get their ski legs back before heading up onto the higher mountain.
- La Vormaine (1,480m) in Le Tour.
- Les Chosalets (1,230m) in Argentière.
- La Poya (1,120m) in Vallorcine / Le Buet.
- Le Savoy (1,049-1,125m) in the centre of Chamonix by the bottom of the Brévent gondola.
- Les Planards (1,062-1,242m) near the town centre and Montenvers train.
- Le Tourchet (1,000m) in Les Houches next to the outdoor ice rink.
For those that have exhausted the beginner zones and are now looking for something a bit more challenging, our recommendation would be to head up to Le Tour for some nice cruisey wide blues, or down to Les Houches for some sunny sliding.
Advanced areas in Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley
If you like challenging steep runs that seem to go on forever then Chamonix has got plenty to keep your legs working hard. The Chamonix valley is known for its steep pistes and challenging slopes making it a mecca for advanced skiers and snowboarders. Grands Montets is the area known for its steep piste and off-piste skiing, so head here if that's what you're looking for. But there is something for everyone at all of the areas, take a look at our dedicated page for more information.
All of these areas are accessed via the ski lift system and offer a much greater range of pistes for all abilities, as well as being the gateway to the incredible Chamonix ski touring terrain. (Read our dedicated guide to ski touring in Chamonix).
Snowparks in Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley
If you're new to the slopes there's a good chance that you'll be wanting to try your first kicker or rail soon. Freestyle is great fun and if you want to learn there is no better place to head than a Chamonix snowpark. As well as the natural gullies and half-pipes in the Chamonix valley, there are also a growing number of snowparks, boardercross and freestyle zones for you to try out and a handful of fun zones for children.
The biggest snowpark is at Le Tour, named the Summit Park, it is one of the biggest in Europe. Elsewhere there's a small area at Les Grands Montets, a boardercross and airbag at Brevent, and a funzone/snowpark in Les Houches. You can read more on our dedicated snowparks page.
Off-piste areas in Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley
Chamonix's off-piste and backcountry skiing is legendary, attracting people from around the world tempted by its incredibly challenging and steep routes.
We have written more about where to go and what to do in each of the areas, so take a look there if you're interested in knowing more.
And, if you're planning on embarking on some off-piste skiing in the Chamonix Valley we highly recommend you employ the services of a mountain guide (who, when you go with a group, will cost you less than a night out – small price to pay for the advantage of an expert).
Bad Weather areas in Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley
Where to go when the cloud comes in, the snow starts to fall and you find yourself in white out conditions. The trick is to head for the pistes that are tree-lined, as they help provide definition when everything else seems to be white. Keep in mind that the valley itself can be covered in an all-encompassing fog, but the top of the mountains can be bathed in glorious sunshine (check out the webcams).
Find out more on our dedicated bad weather areas page.
Ski Touring areas in Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley
Some of the world's best backcountry terrain is to be found in the Chamonix valley, especially high up on the glaciers access from the Aiguille du Midi and Grands Montets. There's also numerous routes from the back of Flégère over towards Le Buet (Vallorcine).
Wherever you go and whatever you plan on doing we highly recommend that you spend some of your holiday budget on employing the services of a local mountain guide (who, when you go with a group, will cost you less than a night out – small price to pay for the advantage of an expert). Up and out in the wilderness, there are often no real markers for pinpointing where you are, glacial skiing requires complex route finding, and having someone with you that knows the terrain really well could be life-saving, and will ensure you get the most out of your day.