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New Year 2019 in Chamonix area?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi all,

This is one of my first posts after lurking around here for ages!

I am looking at booking a week's skiing from 30th Dec based in Les Houches but have concerns about snow (or lack of it). The dates have been chosen as we can ski for a week without taking the kids out of school.

To get the best price for flights and accommodation we need to commit in the next few weeks, we have a friend who will do us a cracking dealing on an apartment so that is why we are looking at Les Houches as a base.

To put this into context we will have a car so can travel from Les Houches to find snow and we are a group of relative beginners so will be mainly staying on piste (blues with the odd red run).

Are we taking too much of a risk committing to the holiday before we know the conditions?

Any feedback would be really appreciated.

Neill
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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@Neillp, If beginners... commit to flights now. Can you hold off on your friend's apartment in case the snow is dodgy?

If not, much of the LH beginners area is on the plateau at the top so not so much usually of an issue.

Also, much investment into the Grands Montets as a blue/red area for next year with much snow cannoning going in.

Not a panacea, but may also help...
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@Neillp, Agree with @under a new name, that the flights are the first priority.

Question on the apartment - what do you define as a "cracking price"? If this is a family trip there are better places than Chamonix IMO. I might go if I got an apartment for half price but for a 10% reduction I wouldn't.

Also, have you ruled out going Christmas week (22/23 Dec) - prices will be a bit cheaper and conditions about the same.
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@Layne, the apartment is less than £600 for the week, sleeps 7 (there are 2 families going). They are also totally flexible with arrival dates so can stay 8 nights if I want.

@under a new name, We would be flying into Geneva, if the conditions are not good in Chamonix where else would be an option? I am thinking if these would be 'commutable' from Les Houches...
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Neillp wrote:
@Layne, the apartment is less than £600 for the week, sleeps 7 (there are 2 families going). They are also totally flexible with arrival dates so can stay 8 nights if I want.

Certainly sounds a good deal and the 8 nights could help with getting cheaper flights.

Neillp wrote:
@under a new name, We would be flying into Geneva, if the conditions are not good in Chamonix where else would be an option? I am thinking if these would be 'commutable' from Les Houches...

You need to think of Chamonix has several small ski ares that are close by and linked by road. LH is the lowest area at one end of the valley topping at 1900m, Le Tour at the end similar type of skiing put topping out at around 2200m. Both are good for beginners, early intermediates. Then you've got Brevent and Flegere, lots of intermediate skiing from 1900 to 2500m. Then you've got the Grand Montets topping at 3300m and much more gnarly piste and off piste and finally Aiguille du Midi for the serious stuff.

If you have a car it means you are not reliant on the buses and can scoot around to your convenience, though I've only ever used the buses so don't know what the parking situation is.

There will be skiing (on piste) of some kind across the Chamonix area as discussed above. The weather/conditions will just dictate how much and where... and if there is any off piste to work with.
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I spent 3 Christmases/New years in Chamonix 2014/2015, 2015/2016, 2016/2017. Les Houches and Le Tour were not open (due to lack of snow) in those three years so you'd be restricted to a couple of slopes in Brevent/Flegere and a couple more up in Grand Montet. Not really ideal for a family, you'd spend a lot of time travelling around and it would get pretty boring quickly.

Now on the other hand if you get snow like we've had this season you'll be sorted!
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@Neillp, good price but bad resort selection for beginners - Les Houches is just too low and the higher areas less than ideal. So many better places from Geneva and if you book now you should still be able to find decent accommodation if slightly more expensive. When you add all the costs in itíd be a false economy to save a bit in the apartment for a disappointing skiing experience. Iíd say you want a resort with the majority of skiing between 2000m to 3000m and excellent snow making eg VT/Tignes/paradiski.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
OK, for a moment lets forget the accommodation in Les Houches/Cham for a moment and I will ask a different question:D ...

The dates are fixed due to school holidays, providing we can find somewhere with enough snow at this time.

So, part of the group will be flying and hiring a car and the other half driving from Calais (me).

Where would you recommend we go within driving distance of Calais to get the best conditions for our group?

Cheers

Neill
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@Doradelite, @BobinCH, have it right in that you have to consider if it is a false economy. You will probably pay twice as much to go to 3V/Tignes/Paradiski but it would be worth it should conditions be on the poor side. You are taking a punt with the apartment and I would say it is a 50/50 if it works out. The only get out is would you friend be happy if you bailed out last minute and went somewhere else. Christmas 2014 I'd booked an apartment in Le Sept Laux but when they said they wouldn't be open a few days before I got a place in Tignes instead - only losing the deposit on the place in Laux. If you have that sort of get out option it may still be worth considering.
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Neillp wrote:
OK, for a moment lets forget the accommodation in Les Houches/Cham for a moment and I will ask a different question:D ...

The dates are fixed due to school holidays, providing we can find somewhere with enough snow at this time.

So, part of the group will be flying and hiring a car and the other half driving from Calais (me).

Where would you recommend we go within driving distance of Calais to get the best conditions for our group?

Cheers

Neill

I have skied every Christmas since 2009. I would stay in either Les Coches or La Tania. Here's why: skiing wise they both give good access to the full domain they sit in. Even in poor conditions they have good snow making and you ski at high altitude during the day and ski home in the afternoon. They both have skiing below the tree line immediately accessible, so on both weather days you still have good skiing. They are both easy access for driving and have free open air parking. And they both have plenty of ski in ski out apartments at reasonable prices.
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@Layne, thanks I will look at Les Coches and La Tania.
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The good news is that Les Houches is one of my favourite ski areas... I think it's a fantastic area with a really great variety of things to ski at all levels. And, in my opinion, it's very beginner friendly. There's not many places you can go where there isn't a relatively easy ski back from. There's also beginner friendly routes down the mountain to the town, which not all ski areas have. Les Houches is also a nice place to stay, there's some really good restaurants there.

But the snow is a big gamble. Prior to this year when they got holy snow, I'd have generally advised going to Cham before late January. As @Layne said, you could head up to the 3Vs or Tignes where the altitude would grant you more or less guaranteed better snow.

I would say though that Chamonix town centre is lovely for Christmas time.
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I resisted going to Chamomix for a couple of years because my wife is a nervy skier and the kids were new to it and Iíd been told and read that Cham wasnít good for beginners. Having gone at Easter though Iíve had an epiphany. With the caveats that the snow was good and we had a car, it was perfect. Spent a lot of time at Les Houches which had a good range of greens and easy blues as well as a couple of not too threatening blacks to introduce my son to. Also Brevent and le Tour have enough easier runs for relative beginners to ski around different places and we didnít even get across to Flegere. You will need a Mont Blanc unlimited pass though as the cheaper pass doesnít include les Houches, although that does also add in Megeve and the rest of the Evasion Mont Blanc area which should mitigate a bit against dodgy snow. Of course for near guaranteed snow head to 3V or Tignes.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Thanks, we are currently looking at La Tania although might need to stay in Brides-Les-Bains due to cost, we will have cars so can get to a few different resorts from here. Will update once booked! Cool
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@Neillp, the gondola ride from Brides is a bit of a schlep. What sort of accommodation you looking at? And what is the budget? 30th Dec is a peak week though...
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@Layne, as cheap as possible for 4 adults and 3 kids!!!! Very Happy
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@Neillp, A self catering apartment?
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@Layne, Yes sorry should have said that.
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@Neillp, sent you a PM.
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In my experience the accommodation is an irrelevant part of holiday cost. The difference between self catering prices is a tiny proportion of total cost once you include ski passes etc.

I have a place in the alps (near chamonix) - I charge only a nominal price to friends and family, but tell them all that they should decide where they want to go irrelevant of that, at most you can save 15% by ignoring accommodation cost, but it can make the difference between a poor and an amazing holiday.

Les houches can be great at Xmas, it can also be unskiable, and the next best place for beginner/lower intermediates is le tour, 35 mins drive away. Thatís a big schlep vs what you will find at tignes or Val Thorens.

All that said, itís a much easier drive to the town than the rest of the alps, a beautiful town, lots to do apart from skiing and an amazing place when the snow is good.
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White Fox wrote:
You will need a Mont Blanc unlimited pass though as the cheaper pass doesnít include les Houches, although that does also add in Megeve and the rest of the Evasion Mont Blanc area which should mitigate a bit against dodgy snow.


Whilst it doesn't remove the faff factor (and for some people that's worth the money), if doing 6 days, it's cheaper in Cham and the surrounding area to buy day passes than to buy a Mont Blanc unlimited.

6x 1-day passes in Chamonix itself runs to the same price as a Mont Blanc Unlimited pass, but 1-day passes in Les Houches, Megeve/Evasion and Courmayeur are all cheaper than Cham passes, so therefore as long as you do 1 of the 6 days in one of those resorts, it's cheaper to buy passes on the day.

Mont Blanc Unlimited 6 day pass: EUR 306
Chamonix 1-day pass: EUR 51.50
Les Houches 1-day pass: EUR 43.50
Megeve / Evasion / Les Cont 1-day pass: EUR 45
Courmayeur 1-day pass: EUR 47

So as you can see, a 6-day MBU is 306 but 6x 1-day Cham passes is 309. However even if you did just one day in Les Houches instead, a 5x 1-day Cham and 1x 1-day Les Houches would come in at 301. This might seem like penny pinching, but if you did 2 days in Cham, 2 days in Les Houches, a day at Evasion and a day at Courmayeur (quite a typical week for me), you'd be looking at 282 euros per person which for 4 people would see you saving 100 euros against buying 4x MBUs.

All this aside, there are a couple of other perks on the MBU, I think there's a swimming pool in town you can use and you get one ride on the Aiguille du Midi cable car which takes you right to the top of Mont Blanc. I think it's quite popular for people to cut a day's skiing short and do the Aiguille in the afternoon (it's very beautiful)... or of course get gnarly, pay for a guide and do the Vallee Blanche route back to town.
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snowdave wrote:
In my experience the accommodation is an irrelevant part of holiday cost. The difference between self catering prices is a tiny proportion of total cost once you include ski passes etc.

I agree with that to some extent: the wife and the kids we drive overnight and so ski 7.5/8 days. Going to 3V as an example the lift pass dwarfs the rental cost of the apartment. Plus the location of the apartment is critical for me in terms of parking, access to the skiing, etc. so I would rather spend an extra 100 Euros to get it right.

That said, skiing and skiing holidays in general, are not cheap, so anything I can do to keep costs down I will take. And apartment costs are one of the few variable costs if you drive as we do. Also, as OP is going new year week prices will be at there peak so you have to try and mitigate against that if possible.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
dp wrote:
All this aside, there are a couple of other perks on the MBU, I think there's a swimming pool in town you can use and you get one ride on the Aiguille du Midi cable car which takes you right to the top of Mont Blanc.

Have they extended it dp lol.

Good tip on the lift passes though Happy
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Thanks for all the advice so far, Chamonix is off the list as the risk of no decent skiing for the beginners in our group is too high.

I am looking at La Tania but have found a nice property at Valmorel which looks ideal, I know Valmorel is not as high as the 3V's but I figure if it is bad at Valmorel I am still close enough to the 3V's to get some skiing in.

Any thoughts?
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@Neillp, I haven't been to Valmorel but from what I've read/know it would be ideal for your group.

At 1400m the altitude of the base station isn't too bad. You would be extremely unlucky if there was adequate slopes open for you to have a good weeks skiing by 30th Dec.

So for me, fwiw, go for it.
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Layne wrote:
dp wrote:
All this aside, there are a couple of other perks on the MBU, I think there's a swimming pool in town you can use and you get one ride on the Aiguille du Midi cable car which takes you as close to the top of Mont Blanc as one can get using public transport.

Have they extended it dp lol.


You know what I meant Blush

Fixed for you.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
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@Neillp, be aware that there is going to be a lot more beginners skiing at height up the Grands Montets next year. CMB are doing a lot of work to make it more friendly for all levels.

And lots more snow making.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
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@under a new name, that sounds interesting do you have a link to where I can find out more about it?
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You know it makes sense.
@Neillp, I donít Iím afraid, just going on what a (senior) pisteur and local chums tell me. Pretty solid though. And the minutes of the town hall. But they donít go into graphic detail...

There is defo a lot of work going on, but as they are replacing the Marmottons Chair hard to know what the results will be
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