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Skiing in Chamonix

Skiing in Chamonix is not like anywhere else. The big mountains are separated by deep glacier valleys and gorges. The lift system is spread out and you normally choose a mountain to ski for the day. In total the area has 157 km on-piste and more offpiste skiing than anywhere else. In between the different mountains there are bus and train connections, but many people prefer using their own car. You will find car parking at the bottom of each area.

Here is a summary of the different ski areas.

skiing in Chamonix Le Tour - Vallorcine area: The closest area to the Bellevue Alpine Lodge with a modern telecabine is just 2 km down the road. It is regarded by many as the best skiing in Chamonix, where the varied terrain and great snow offers superb skiing. It’s a good beginners area, as the pistes are wide and well groomed. For the offpiste enthusiast there are many exciting runs on all areas of the mountain. Often you get the best snow in Chamonix here since the slightly lower altitude and northern aspect helps keep the snow light and fresh. This is especially true for the skiing on the Les Esserts chairlift. Be careful. It is also a place renowned for avalanches.

There are several good places to eat. The Charamillon halfway up from Le Tour is a typical self- service restaurant. Other good options are the restaurant L'Arret Bougnette at the base of the Vallorcine gondola +33 (0)4 50 54 63 04. We can also recommend Les Alpages, situated at the buttom of the drag-lift "Les Possetes". It’s very cosy and food is good. Very limited spaces so call in advance. +33 (0)63 83 33 86 61. Recently opened, Les Ecuries under the ‘Les Autannes’ chairlift has indoor and outdoor tables +33 (0)4 50 54 17 07. At the bottom of La Foret Verte, the home run to Vallorcine, is Café Comptoir serving Menu du jour, snacks and traditional dishes +33 (0)4 50 18 72 43. Having your car on the Vallorcine side also makes going to the restaurant Les Trois Ours a good option on days where you might not want to ski all day. The restaurant is in between Bellevue and the lift (Tel. +33 (0)4 50 54 63 06).

Grands Montets area - ‘The freeride mountain': With a jaw-dropping altitude difference of more than 2000m from the top to the valley this mountain is one of the best off piste paradises in the world. You will also find good piste skiing, but being steeper and narrower, you need to be a competent skier to enjoy the best runs. Some easier runs go through the trees towards Plan Joran, and in bad weather this can be a good option. Grands Montets wouldn't be the same if it was not for the top cable car that goes all the way to 3300m. From here you have the choice of 2 controlled piste runs and unlimited offpiste. The terrain can be quite impressive for the novice off piste skier and many runs take you out onto the glacier. Make sure you are with someone who knows their way around or do as many others - hire a guide to show you the best off piste runs.

Dining in the Grands Montets area can be done on the two main cafeterias. One at the Lognon carrefour, the other at Plan Joran, beneath the forest chairlifts. Other options are eating a delicious croute on the top Grand Montets station at Karim's, or at the Lognon Refuge, below the slopes off the Herse lift. To get here it's off piste skiing. At the bottom of the Grands Montets you also have a choice of several different places to eat. The Cremerie de Glacier in the forest is a good spot (Tel. +33 (0)4 50 54 07 52).

Brevent/Flegere area: This is the closest piste area to Chamonix and is situated right across from the Mont Blanc range with breathtaking views on all slopes. The area is south facing and snow changes over the course of the day. Both Flegere and Brevent also have good off piste skiing. At the Brevent hotel face the yearly Freeride World Tour host their competition. Flegere is the start point for many great ski tours in the Aiguille Rouges chaine.

The best places to eat are either at the top of the Brevent at the restaurant Panoramic or the Bergerie at the top of the Plan Praz gondola. In Flegere, there is a snack bar and a restaurant at the top of the cable car and a piste side bar and restaurant.

Aiguille du Midi: Is not a ski area, but more a view point. And what a view point it is! Impressive drops on all sides of the top lift station that is perched on a rock high above the valley, looking straight out over the immense glaciers and towards the summit of Mont Blanc.

This is also where the famous Vallée Blanche run starts. If there is snow all the way to the valley floor you have about 22 km of off piste skiing. There are no markers on the run and you ski on glaciers all the way. To do this run you should book a mountain guide.

Les Houches: Is the area at the end of the valley. Here you find a lot of good beginners slopes. Most runs are in the forest, so well sheltered on bad weather days. It's a bit lower than other Chamonix resorts.

Courmayeur: With the Unlimited skipass access to Courmayeur is included. From the Bellevue it takes around 45 mn to get there, and you have to cross through the Mont Blanc tunnel to get there. With your lift pass you can buy cheaper tunnel tickets at the Montenvers (in Chamonix) liftpass office.

It’s well worth spending a day in Courmayeur. The skiing is great, both on, as well as off piste. Coming from Chamonix you can either stop at the first lift you see as you drive down from the tunnel or go all the way to Dologne in Courmayeur where there is also a car park. The area is not very big, and it is easy to find your way around. The offpiste is really good and especially on bad weather days you have good tree skiing here.

All over the area small places offers fantastic pizza and other local Aosta dishes.

For a more extensive read visit the Chamonix.net website.