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Thinking of going to Chamonix

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi, Small group of decent skiers are thinking of going to Chamonix. It will be our first trip to the resort. We are likely to stay central in Chamonix. Just interested to hear people's experiences of Chamonix - good or bad. We are on all piste skiers but given the reputation for off piste I might take a lesson while I'am there. Also, any recommendations for ski hire shops? Cheers.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Loads of opinions along shortly but my view is that Cham isn't the best place if you're just interested in piste mileage. It is basically several resorts which aren't linked that well and queues can be bad getting out of the valley. It's unsurpassed for touring, off piste and mountaineering though!
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I live in CHX and B-i-L is partner in ski shop, so, biases.

Find accom near to one of the lifts. (That is not suggesting the Aiguille du Midi by the way). Near Brevent is probably most perfect. Hire a car is probably good too. Chamonix is a collection of areas, not all together.

Ski hire? would, albeit biased, refer you to Concept Pro.
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I also live in Chamonix and can confirm that off-piste lessons are a must if you're going to get the best out of it. The pistes are good but limited in number whereas the off-piste options are endless. There are lots of places like Evolution 2 and Bass Chamonix doing 3 day off-piste courses which are highly recommended.

Food and drink options are plentiful and high quality. Apres isn't apres as you would know it from other resorts (because you've got to bus/drive to the skiing) but there's loads of bars and I'm just about young enough to still enjoy crowd surfing at Chambre Neuf a couple of times a month!

For ski hire, Concept will lend you some high quality off-piste skis (I need to get down to test out the new Ronin collection actually) but so will Local CHX, Sanglard, Chamonix Ski, Snell.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I would definitely hire a car. I’ve also done a few 3 day off pisté courses so would really recommend them (eco ski and evolution). If the weather is good then I would also try the Vallée Blanche at the end of the week after your off piste course.
As mentioned, it’s not like other resorts in that you have to drive or catch a bus to get between areas but just accept that and enjoy the great skiing and a great town for going out in.
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+1 for Chambre Neuf, not to be missed!
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Like @under a new name, and @Meltus, I call this place home. Unless you are coming for either the Mountains or the apres - the skiing elsewhere is better - I do most of my km of skiing in St Gervais, Les Contamines and Courmayeur - because there is very little "normal" skiing in Chamonix - none of the areas have more than a mornings worth......ok if you are slow then Bervent + Flegere is a day's worth without repeating yourself too much. Except Les Houches (the ONLY thing open today) the mountain restaurants (with the odd minor expedition) are very crap!
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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!
@Idris, I will take a minor issue with you that Ecuries de Charamillon and Alpage de la Balme (La Tour) and the Comptoir des Raclettes (Grands Montets) are actually quite fine. Dreadful weather today though!
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Cafe de comptoir - vallorcine
Passon restaurant (car park ) le tour
Cremerie de glacier - grant Montets.

Also good in my opinion. But generally if you are in brevant flegere or Les houches you are now struggling especially now Les vielles luges is closed. For Les houches we normally just go to the bakery at the bottom of Prarion.

I think Chamonix is great because of the option to push yourself into new territory (with the appropriate instructor) plus for a weekend you can just about do enough piste skiing if that is all that’s on offer.

You do have to be prepared for the faff of getting to and from the slopes. So either car hire, or train (only really for skiing GM or vallorcine) or the bus service (in quiet times) or if you have a big enough group to justify it (in resort private transfers).

The town offers a lot in terms of bars and restaurants and just hanging out for when you are not skiing.

I now have family so it suits us to either do long weekends without kids and cram it all in or do longer stays with kids and ski shorter days but enjoy the town.

For a group of guys - of your level - keen to get an intro to off piste and keen to be in a busy town but accepting its not ski in ski out - go for it. Have a plan for transport though!!
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Thanks for the feedback. Its great to get that feedback as I've never skied Chamonix before. We are mainly piste skiers so sounds like for a weeks skiing it might not be the best choice unless as @Idris says ski St Gervais, Les Contamines or Courmayeur instead. One of our party is not keen on long transfers which is why Chamonix came up.
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Andrew911 wrote:
One of our party is not keen on long transfers which is why Chamonix came up.

Ultimately you can't satisfy everyone. And this seems like a weak request anyway.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Andrew911 wrote:
One of our party is not keen on long transfers which is why Chamonix came up.


They'll have a long transfer from your accom to the lifts everyday...
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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
Presuming you are flying into Geneva, for a short transfer , ski in ski out, and piste skiing how about Grand Massif?
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@Idris do you know if St Gervais or Les Contamines are well served for mini- markets? We'll be doing self-catering. Cheers
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
how many of you are going? Given all your feedback - I would only consider Chamonix if you are happy to get short transfers (up to 30 mins each day) and ski a number of areas. It does require a plan to know which area to ski in which conditions (eg Les houches when it’s snowing but not too warm as it’s low, steer clear of le tour when it’s windy and Baltic, get brevant flegere on a nice sunny day but not too warm, know when to cross into Italy). You can ski a lot of different areas but at a cost if you want to minimise transport hassle.

I think I would try grand Massif or even port de soleil.

It does also depend how important a good town is though.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I would go to the Grand Massif in particular Les Carroz.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
St Gervais and Contamines have mini markets but your accommodation, in both places, might be some way from them, and from the lifts. And indeed, from the snow. If you want close to Geneva, ski in/out convenience and accessible (though not cheap) basic shopping, Flaine might suit you better.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Surely for a near to Geneva, piste focused resort somewhere like Morzine would be better? (Chamonix is my favourite Alpine town though)
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I’d suggest Morzine too, ideal for a short break at an hour from GVA and great selection of piste skiing. Good choice of bars too.
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Also now looking at Grand Massif as a couple on here have suggested- e.g Samoens. Might suit us better as well. My concern would be that we are going late March & its not a high resort.
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Samoens is lovely (so I am told). It sits at 1600m so not ridiculously low & the Grand Massif area goes up to 2500m so you should be fine.

EDIT
My bad - village is at 671m, ski area starts at 1600m, sorry for misinformation.


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Wed 29-01-20 13:47; edited 1 time in total
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Very Happy Very Happy
jonnygoldsbrough wrote:
Samoens is lovely (so I am told). It sits at 1600m so not ridiculously low & the Grand Massif area goes up to 2500m so you should be fine.
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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!
I went to cham.

what I liked:
the views are amazing.
short transfer.
fantastic challenging pisted runs.
very nice town and extremely clean.

what I didn't like:
getting on a crammed bus like a sardine every morning.
each ski area is quite small and you can do it all in half a day easy.
the price of food and drink on and off the mountain.
not great for beginners and low intermediate. I'd say their runs are underrated.
most of the chair lifts are old and slow.

as a pitste skier I wouldn't return to chamonix as I think there's much better options but I wouldn't be upset if I had to go back


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Tue 28-01-20 18:03; edited 1 time in total
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@pam w's warning about St Gervais and Les Contamines applies to anywhere. Much of the accommodation in Morzine isn't close to either lifts or shops. From what I have read about Samoens (not been there so might be wrong) the ski lift is quite a way from the town centre, so no accommodation will be convenient for both.

In the end it might be best to simply choose a resort for the on-piste skiing available, using online piste maps plus reviews (especially this forum). Then have a town map and a ski bus timetable by your side when trying to book accommodation. In general is is better to be situated walking distance from the resort centre since buses often stop or reduce frequency in the evening. But better not to be too far from the lifts/pistes since it is all to easy to ski as long as possible in nice conditions - or stop in good time but be tempted by a vin chaud at the bottom - and find you have missed the last bus.
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I loved staying in the valley but admittedly having a car is an absolute must. We were based in Argentiere but visited a few places in the Chamonix Valley. My family, aside from me, is mostly made up of nervous beginner/intermediates so most of their skiing took place at La Tour/Vallorcine. Three out of my six days on the snow were spent at Grands Montets and I loved it but can imagine that it would have been tough for my family. We used ESF which we found exceptional and they can absolutely help you with off piste and, mind you, off piste does not necessarily have to be extreme. And depending on the pass you get, you can head over to Courmayeur which is great. Argentiere is pretty chill as is Vallorcine but its easy to hop into Chamonix and find lots of life.

Would I go again? Yes... but would prefer to go when the Grands Montets cable car is up and running again. Will that happen again? Don't know.

Note - my only experience with St. Germain Les Bains was at San Nicolas de Veroce and "up" in the area which is phenomenal around Mont Joly and the L'Epaule lift. Great runs. Then again, I blew out my ACL under the L'Epaule lift... but it was still nice NehNeh
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@Swj, Morzine is not an hour from Geneva. Think more of 75-90 minutes.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Same as a few others, for piste skiing there are a load of better options. For a nice alpine town, it is great, with non skiers it is good, for off piste it is right up there in the world. But the buses around town, shortage of mileage without coming down and getting a bus half way through the day, lots of effort for not epic pistes.

So for similar transfers I'd be looking at morzine, much better option for piste skiing and it is a good town for a few beers at the end of the day. For me, once I have my skis on, I don't want to take them off for the rest of the day, getting down at 4pm to wait in a queue for a packed bus just kills it for me, I'd do it for the world class off piste if conditions were good, but for pistes that aren't as good as many other areas a similar distance from gva it is a drag.
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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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Some good stuff off the back of the lifts, but take a rope.

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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@Andrew911, if you have flexibility for a central stay in Chamonix, aim for as close to the Brevent lift as possible (or the base of the drag that goes up to it - snow permitting). For example, Hotel Le Chamonix isn't too far away if you ask me. That way you can walk to Brevent/Flegere and back each day rather than getting a bus.

Moreover, when you do get a bus (to elsewhere in the Chamonix valley), it will be luxury in comparison. wink

You can also walk to the Aiguille du Midi car from the center for your Vallee Blanche trip.

Chamonix is worth it.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Just a few reality checks:

Samoens is not at 1,600m and the town is nowhere near the lifts.

If you don't get accom near the lifts anywhere, you will have to take buses. This applies for any valley floor station, e.g. Morzine.

Chamonix should not be thought about in the same terms as e.g. PdS (I have to admit that I am a huge Morzine / PdS fan, having done 3 seasons there). There are fewer pistes, but they are generally longer and better (i.e. steeper). And there is abundant lift accessed side-piste e.g. Lavancher bowl, Herse, Flégère.

The train is/can also be a good option.

"It's all doable in a half day", yeah, well, so is the PdS.

Brevent area definitely best area for accom. We are a 3 minute walk from the lift, and a 3 minute walk from the nearest bar.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Agreed on all that. There is plenty of skiing. It’s really a question of doing a bit of research/planning on accommodation and transport in resort. The only reason to rule it out is if it’s at a busy time, you want ski in and ski out or you really want very cruisey blues with no ambition to push yourself. If you are good intermediate and keen to improve (and can suck -up the transfers) you will be blown away by the place!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I haven't been to Chamonix for quite a few years now, but:

Pro's
Nice town - Plenty of choice re. bars and restaurants
Close to Geneva and well served for transfers
Fantastic scenery and amazing vertical range
Grand Montets off-piste*

* Currently limited by the closure of the GM Cable Car....

Cons
Expensive
For an area that relies on buses to link the various bits, the buses are a nightmare.
The lifts are antiquated and creaky

It is a great place for a long weekend, especially if you like off piste. The Grand Montets after a decent snowfall gave me THE best days skiing I have ever had (it was like being the Omega Man in waist deep powder! Where did everyone go??!). However, with the cable car out of action, I wouldn't go. Les Houches was fun for a day; the Kandahar was fun to blast down.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
The GMs cable car being closed is not really the impediment it is being made out to be.
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Quote:

The GMs cable car being closed is not really the impediment it is being made out to be.


This. You lose the epic views from the col but realistically I reckon you've lost less than 1/8 of the lift accessed off piste up there. Still, if it keeps the crowds away...
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Or go up the aguille de midi and do the vallee Blanche if that is what you are after.
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under a new name wrote:
@Swj, Morzine is not an hour from Geneva. Think more of 75-90 minutes.


Fair comment, we were low season and not during rush hour so I can see how our 70-odd minutes may not be representative!
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I would suggest PDS But It’s very personal, I’ve been to those bigger linked areas (3V, PDS, Grand Massif,...) but Cham still my favourite, even when I was still mainly skiing on piste, despite all the hassle. Great place to give a go in a off piste. Course. Not even mentioning all the non skiing activities around that others resorts have nothing like. Having a car definitely makes it way better experience though.
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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!
Last year, we did a week in Avoriaz and two nights in Chamonix - and we bumped into a PdS resident in a bar who said he often drove to Chamonix for a bit of a change.
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Chamonix is obviously legendary for its off piste, steeps, touring, mountaineering etc., but I’m not sure it’s even that good of a place for an intro to off piste if that’s the level you’re at. There are many mellower places that also don’t get tracked out as quickly if you are lucky to get good snow.
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@Steve77, Have to say that Flaine two weekends ago and Avoriaz/Chatel last weekend were both pretty tracked out, if you didn't know where you were going wink
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