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France conundrum...

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Problem is that GM is served by a cable car, so is Flegere. Obviously known as mecca for powder days, the trouble is that if it snows you can write off any chance of waiting less than an hour to get on either of these. The cable car acts as a big bottle neck. Brevent and Le Tour are slightly better off as they're served by gondolas.

I haven't done Obergurgl or La Thuile or Pila... only Courmayeur of that list but as I said, as a resort IMO it is managed much better than those on the French side of the tunnel, the pistes are always (IMO) in better condition than the French ones, the lifts are in better order, the people are friendlier and the food is cheaper. And yes - there's less queueing.

I have to admit I've had more than one week where I've stayed in Chamonix (I do think that the nightlife is very, very good there) and not skied on any of it's pistes. Mt Blanc unlimited pass means you can do Chamonix, Les Houches, Evasion, Courmayeur, Verbier... and (possibly for the family more - just to do the tourist thing, not so much to ski it, but you can if you get a guide) you can also use the Auguille du Midi cable car. So if Cham doesn't look like your thing you can still experience the town without having to actually ski there.
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@dp, not quite sure what you mean by 'GM is served by a cable car'. Yes, if you are in Samoens or Morillon in the valley you have to take a cable car to get out of the valley (or drive) but after that you have chairs. In Les Carroz you always have the option of going to Carroz 1500 to avoid the initial cable and in Flaine there are two cable cars plus muliple alternative ways up by chair. I don't ski in school holidays, but have never seen a queue anywhere in the GM that even approached anything like an hour long - even on busy weekends I'd never expect more than 15 - 20 minutes.
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@dp, you are partially/somewhat out of date. The new Plan Joran gondola has really made getting up the first Grands Montets stage massively easier. Sure, if you're in half term week it'll be busy, but everywhere in France pretty much is.

Flegere cable car, well, it's a cable car isn't it. The biggest issue there is that on a powder day you can easily be waiting in the line till they open at 11h00 while they make the area safe...

Outside of school hols, I haven't felt myself doing much queueing.

But yeah, there are arguably better areas for convenience, meeting for lunch etc. but Cham town still has (I suspect) a wider variety of non-ski activities than many places...
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@under a new name, completely agreed all along that Cham town is great and that's why I go there.

I only went to GM once in the last few years and honestly I completely missed that new gondola Puzzled thanks for the tip off!

I think the main problem with Cham is size of each area and whether, if only skiing pistes, you can genuinely make a day out of them. But for me if I get bored in one place I just jump on the bus and eat my lunch on the bus. One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that I really think the Cham bus service is very good and drops you off in useful places.

Valid point RE making Flegere safe but getting there on a nice day is just a pain. You have the choice of a massive queue at the Flegere cable car or take the Brevent gondola and get a massive queue at the one that crosses over.

For off piste and touring I have no complaints, but for day skiers on piste I just think you're probably better off on ski areas that give a whole days' skiing. But as I said - you can still stay in, and enjoy the delights of Chamonix. You just buy a Mt Blanc Unlimited pass... you can ski anything you want within Cham / Argentiere but you can also do the surrounding resorts too... many of which offer far bigger ski areas.
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...and given that I may dump them off in the morning at La Tour Balme, I can go somewhere else then come back and meet them for lunch and go up La Tour for afternoon runs. Having a car does provide some extra flexibility.
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@dp, depends how big your "day" is wink

We're terrible. Easily distracted by beer at the Chavanne... Shocked

5 pistes is a ski day!
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@under a new name, do you actually like that place? I think it's a pi$$ poor attempt at an apres bar, personally. Appreciated though you're not really spoilt for choice for mountain bars in Chamonix.... I'm more susceptible to sitting outside L'Alpage de Balme all afternoon

My bigger problem is that I go out for a quiet one in la pub and try but fail to not bump into somebody I know... then after swinging off the ceiling at Chambre Neuf and losing at table football in bardup til they throw us out I don't make it out of bed til half 10... and it was half 11 in the days before I learned not to drink the draught beer in there...
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@dp, the new gondola that @under a new name mentions is in Chamonix not the GM, only mentioning in case we're confusing the OP!
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@sj1608, on not being confusing, I said Grands Montets (which will often be abb'd to GMs in Cham threads) not Grand Massif...which is oft abb'd to GM ... and pedantically it's above Argentière, not Chamonix ...
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@sj1608, I looked it up on the map and the Plan Joran gondola is definitely over Grand Montets.

Which I see @under a new name has also clarified is (like Le Tour) in fact not in Cham but Argentiere. But of course, everyone really treats Cham and Argentiere as one and the same in skiing terms. Certainly the lift pass you get from the lift office at Grand Montets are Chamonix ones... Argentiere is not really identified as a ski domain in it's own right, in that respect.
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So the gondola for Plan Joran is the one that does not get as clogged up, correct? Looks like it handles the side of GM with greater variety. What is the issue with reservations and queuing for the second stage cable car up to the glacier? I hear the system is miserable. That said, I need to get a realistic understanding if I can even tackle those slopes. I hear different perspectives.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
One thing if they are not too experienced Cham can be a bit daunting with lots of cables cars and not so linked. Also quite a bit of walking with gear. Les Carroz is great for kids of that age. Lots of activities in the main square and fun on the nursery slopes. ESF is good there and you will have time to get over to Flaine and back while they are in Ski school. It's not a chi chi resort with fancy shops, it's a real Village, so it depends what you really want.
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@ItaloSkier, the Plan Joran bubble runs a bubble should. I.e. Continuously. So it doesn't get as lumpy as a cable car. That said I have no doubt the queues on a big day can be tiresome.

Top benne? I don't know. I went up twice this season both cases without booking and without lengthy waits, albeit neither on a powder day.
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You know it makes sense.
@under a new name, apologies. So now we are all really confused as this is not a Cham thread, with earlier mentions of Flaine. Now it looks as if @Cheesie168 is assuming, like I did, that GM meant the Grand Massif. Anyway, I'm just glad that my GM (the Grand Massif) doesn't have the queues that the other one appears to have.......
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Quote:

the side of GM with greater variety


?? I can't see the GMs having sides?
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 Poster: A snowHead
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With the make up of the group I see absolutely no logic in going to Chamonix. Driving the wife and kids to one end of the valley, then schlepping up the other end, then back again for lunch. You can match the piste skiing elsewhere without the incumbent hassle. Sure it's a great town but other towns of have pools, spas and restaurants.
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Layne - good point.

I was thinking of just moving further up the valley to Argentiere so I can be closer to La Tour Balme but I wonder if that really accomplishes anything. Was reading up on Avoriaz last night and what seems to be perhaps a less charming location but an awfully convenient spot.

Of course, I keep thinking of Courmayeur and convincing my wife she can go to Pres St. Didier.
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@ItaloSkier, Avoriaz would work.

So might champoluc.
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From what I know of Champoluc, it is a pretty limited option in Aosta. I would probably enjoy the skiing more, particularly since it connects over to tougher runs in Alagna. If I were to go to Champoluc, I would just turn one valley earlier and go to Cervinia.
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@ItaloSkier, what/how are you intending to ski? Are you just going to ski on piste? Are you thinking of joining a group? Are you going to ski with the wife and kids at all? What's the plan?
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@ItaloSkier, Cervinia? seriously? it's flat and really does nothing for me. (That said, I could get quite excited if they continue to make progress on the Champoluc-Cervinia link...

Not sure why you'd describe Champoluc as "limited"?
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From a skiing standpoint it does not offer much for them as beginners... not within easy reach. If I'm going to drive that far from Geneva, I'm sure I can find something closer or would just opt for La Thuile.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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Sorry... Layne... I would like to ski some with them although I've found that my patience vs. their ability can be challenging. I will most likely ski on piste but would like to hire a guide at least one day to go off-piste. For lessons, they will doing private.
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Avoriaz then.

Anywhere really.
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Champoluc is a fantastic area and I imagine will have great skiing for the beginners/intermediates.

Great on and off piste. No queues. Good bars with free pizza & salami. Good mountain restaurants.

Whats not to like!

Held in better esteem than Cervinia. A great deal more skiing than Courmayeur (told a decent skier can do it in an afternoon).

http://ski-2.com/ has a good name and I saw lots of families skiing with them and seemed very social!

Avoriaz is in a great area and snow sure. However pretty charmless architecture. Not stopping me from going back for the fourth time in January.

We cannot make your decision for you.
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ItaloSkier wrote:
Sorry... Layne... I would like to ski some with them although I've found that my patience vs. their ability can be challenging. I will most likely ski on piste but would like to hire a guide at least one day to go off-piste. For lessons, they will doing private.

You are trying to cover a lot of bases. Which is fine. But it just means an element of compromise. For me I'd want ski in/ski out. Whilst there isn't anything intrinsically wrong with driving to the slopes but it's an unnecessary hassle in your situation. If for example you fancy getting on the first lift of a morning and they don't or if they want to head home a little early and you don't - it can happen. Whereas if you have to drive, you have to go together. Additionally you have the grief of getting in and out, de-icing potentially and so on. Really, it's just something to avoid if you can or it gives you no benefit. Which in your case I believe it doesn't. Having the car means you or the whole family can day trip it to another resort - which can be a nice thing to do.

I've never been to La Clusaz but from this description it seems a pretty good shout. An extra hours drive gets you to Paradiski which is not as pretty but as really extensive and varied skiing.
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There's no doubt that it is a tough situation. You've got two kids who are slowly learning, a wife who is just as happy (if not happier) not skiing and me who would drive to hit as many ski resorts as possible. The past two years, Obergurgl worked really well. Snow sure, good ski school, plenty of runs they could try but not much outside of skiing. Solden was down the valley and there were other options like the Aquadome further down Otztal but you had to drive. On one day, the family didn't want to ski so I caught the first lift up at Solden and went straight to the glaciers. It was a good fit but not something we're doing for the third year. It's not an easy list of requirements. If it were up to me and I could trust the snow, I would've picked Selva in Val Gardena which I absolutely love. That's where I learned to ski. I'd pick Italy every year if I could but that doesn't go over with the wife who doesn't always want to go to Italy.

La Clusaz is one I keep considering as it seems to hit upon everything but really the only factor for me is, will the snow be hit or miss?

"We cannot make your decision for you." - yeah. True. If you feel frustrated by this, I'm with you x10.
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Titter.

Flaine? Highish, ski in out, etc.?
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@ItaloSkier, when in March are you going? The earlier the better obviously but even mid-March would give some comfort.

I probably wouldn't sweat La Clusaz to be honest. There will be snow. And as you understand there is always a compromise.
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Layne wrote:
@ItaloSkier, when in March are you going? The earlier the better obviously but even mid-March would give some comfort.

I probably wouldn't sweat La Clusaz to be honest. There will be snow. And as you understand there is always a compromise.


Mid-March
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 Poster: A snowHead
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ItaloSkier wrote:
Layne wrote:
@ItaloSkier, when in March are you going? The earlier the better obviously but even mid-March would give some comfort.

I probably wouldn't sweat La Clusaz to be honest. There will be snow. And as you understand there is always a compromise.


Mid-March

Should be fine I reckon. Worst case scenario it will be a bit of slushfest low down. We ski the ar_se ends of the season so have to be pretty careful but mid-March I would be happy to go just about anywhere.
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Well, after a long deliberation with my wife and thinking about what would tick all the boxes, we are going to be staying at the Hotel Les Grands Montets in Argentiere. Easy drive up to La Tour Balme for easy slopes, walk over the Grand Montets for more advanced skiing, nearby town with restaurants, 10 or so minutes to Chamonix Mont Blanc and snow sure options since La Tour truly starts at 1800 or so meters and Grand Montets does not have issues. The hotel has a pool and spa and a good common area and we/they can always go into Cham for non-skiing options. I can still take us to La Thuile for a day.

So, there we are... sort of Cham but not quite. Once there, we'll figure it out. I told her on certain days she can just take the car and the kids and go do something in the town. If/when I ski the Valee Blanche, for example, they can ride up with me and then go find something to do.
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@ItaloSkier, good for you. You'll love the skiing.

I have been to Chamonix twice and stayed in Argentiere both times. First was a boys trip in 1995(!) staying in a catered chalet. We skied Argentiere 3 days, Brevent/Flegere a couple, Le Tour one day, Vallee Blanche another and one day was a blow out weather wise.

Second time in 2002 with just me future wife, stayed in Hotel Les Randonneurs, a 3-day weekend flying out Thursday evening and back Sunday evening. We had a day to ourselves skiing Argentiere and then had a guide for a couple of days - doing an alternative VB route, some Aiguille du Midi stuff and even off piste in Le Tour.

When I was there the lift system was pretty poor and the buses a PIA but expect it's much better now and you have a car. The off piste skiing is certainly great and there is certainly plenty of piste skiing for all standards across the whole area.

Please give us a TR with pics when it all occurs Happy
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As much as I started leaning towards Flaine (was growing on me) and Avoriaz, I couldn't get her past the fact that for non-skiers and for those looking for more to do, both villages were a bit lacking. We'll make the best of it. I already told her that maybe one day we drive to Verbier, I drop them off at some indoor pool/spa place and head up the mountain.

Pictures will follow... Smile
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I live in Les Houches in the Chamonix valley- my son, who is 4, has skied quite happily at le Tour, Flegere, Brevent and Les H- would not take him to grand montets but more so because of the speed demons up there than it being too tricky (nice blue runs). I ski pretty much every week and the ONLY time I have not been able to go directly onto a lift is half-terms. End of march/April is always the best snow of the season here as well (but don't tell everyone...)
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This is a helpful first-hand perspective. Thank you. I think we'll be in good shape having Argentiere and our base since Le Tour will be easy to get there. Assuming the snow in Les Houches is doing well, we'll probably stop there, too, as I think it will be better suited to their abilities. Having a car certainly helps with options.
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@under a new name, Please STOP going on about Champoluc!! Anyone would think it had some good skiing.

@ItaloSkier, Try Les Contamines.
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