Chamonix has the reputation of being a "steep" mountain resort with great off piste skiing. Attracting adventureous skiers from around the world, there is something for everybody in this popular off piste mecca.
Off Piste Skiing in Chamonix
With four major lift served ski areas there is good off piste skiing to be enjoyed at Les Grands Montets, Le Tour/Vallorcine, L'Aiguille du Midi, and Le Brévent/La Flégère. Also within easy travelling distance are the popular areas of Helbronner and Courmayeur in Italy.
The options in Chamonix are numerous, those available at the above locations being some of the classic off piste descents in Europe. The Vallee Blanche alone is arguably one of the most famous of Chamonix's descents, a great opportunity to ski in the heart of the Mont Blanc Massif. For those prepared to make ascents on foot or using skins the opportunity to make day tours from the valley are also numerous, often being rewarded with fresh tracks.
There is terrain to suit most levels of skiers in Chamonix and the surrounding areas. For the bigger glacier descents skiers need to be able to ski conservatively with the ability to ski accurately and in control. It's inevitable that the skiing will take place near to large crevasses in the high mountains.
Les Grands Montets
The Grands Montets ski area is arguably one of the most famous of Chamonix's ski areas, it's north facing slopes lying under the impressive North Face of the Aiguille Verte. There is huge variety here with the opportunity to ski from the summit station onto the Glacier d'Argentiere (numerous variations) or via the 'front face' into the 'Combe des Rachasses'. Other itinaries include those of the Lavancher Bowl and the Combe de la Pendant as well as some small scale off piste in the 'Magic Forest' close to the Plan Roujon chair lift. Finally the west side of the Aiguille des Grands Montets holds the technical and interesting line of the Pas de Chêvre. A life times supply of off piste skiing.
Le Tour lies at the head of the Chamonix valley and has a variety of relatively short lifts, serving some great piste skiing. These lifts also allow access to some excellent varied off piste straddling the French-Swiss border. The Le Tour back bowls are rightly popular with descents back to the Tete de Blame chair or down into Vallorcine. From the Col de Balme there are a number of interesting descents on the Trient side of the valley such as Le Nant Noir.
Le Brévent - La Flégère
The south side of the Chamonix Valley is occupied by the two ski areas of Le Brévent and La Flégère, giving a sunnier and experience that the north facing slopes of Les Grands Montets. This side of the valley is steep and adventureous away from the more mellow off piste close to the pisted runs. A short ski from the Brévent lies some of the narrow couloirs and technical descents for which Chamonix is famous. Again, there is plenty for those with more modest aims, the area being particularly good for day ski tours crossing many of the cols in the Aiguille Rouge.
L'Aiguille du Midi
The Aiguille du Midi is a popular tourist attraction, but it's primary purpose is to allow the skier and alpinist access to the heart of the Mont Blanc Massif. There are no pistes here and the single lift gives sole access to off piste skiing in the high mountain environment. From the lofty summit there are the numerous variations of the Vallee Blanche, as well as the lines of the Pré du Rocher and Glaciers Bowl from the Plan de l'Aiguille mid station.
Pointe Helbronner and Courmayeur
Just throught the Mont Blanc Tunnel lies the ski area of Courmayeur. This resort holds some fantastic off piste skiing in the Val Veny and Dolonne areas as well as some good tree skiing through well spaced larch trees lower down in the resort. In more stable snow conditions the long descents from the Cresta de Youla and Cresta d'Arpe are some of the finest in the area. Fine skiing with the additional backdrop of the wild side of Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco). Just up the road at La Palud the 'Funivie del Monte Bianco' rises to Pointe Helbronner (3455m) allowing access to the Vallee Blanche and the superb descent of the Glacier de Toule.