Planning a first visit to Chamonix – FAQs
Is Chamonix a ski in ski out resort?
No, but that’s missing the point! Chamonix isn’t a purpose built resort, it’s a paradise for ALL high mountain based pursuits, a true “Station de Haute Montagne” as an old Chamoniard once told me. Here you’ll find real alpine heritage - old mountaineers with droopy moustaches and coils of rope rub shoulders with anyone from ski bums to millionaires to the world’s best freeriders to…mere mortals like me! The place oozes character and mountain charm despite its popularity and is chalk and cheese compared to many other resorts.
Don’t you have to get buses everywhere?
That depends on where you’re staying, but to get the best from the valley, you’ll want to move around it either by bus, train or car. In season there are frequent buses, free with your lift pass, which can get crowded. The train is a great alternative – very civilised and free with a Guest Card (Carte d'Hote) – ask your accomodation for one. It’s not like commuting – for a start, it usually runs on time and the views are rather better! See our Chamonix Getting About section below for more details.
Aren’t the lifts rather….antiquated?
Not any more – the Chamonix lift company (Compagnie du Mont Blanc) have been pumping millions into new facilities!
Isn’t it all hardcore off piste stuff?
No! Sure, there’s plenty of gnarly off piste to keep those guys happy, but this means that many pistes are clearer than you might expect for those who like pisting!
Aren’t there loads of moguls?
Not unless you want them. All greens & blues and all but one red are groomed nightly except straight after heavy falls of snow. If you like moguls you can usually find plenty off piste and some on a few special black pistes. ZONE BOSSELLE is the sign to watch out for.There’s also ONE red piste with moguls on the Grands Montets called the Variante Hotel where I’ve seen moguls the size of VW beetles!
Do many people speak English?
What can I do before I get there?
Check out the weather on this site – it could save you time on your first morning. It’s definitely worth asking hotel / chalet / ski shop staff / lift offices / tourist offices if they think lifts might be closed on your first day. Rare, but it can happen. They’ll advise where to ski and which pass to buy.
Check out ski hire prices on line click here! There are some great deals to be had on packages of boots and skis. Also, most shops are used to swapping boots and skis during your stay, you just HAVE to be comfortable!
Getting Around Chamonix - isn’t it complicated?
Not really - but a basic idea of the geography can help as there’s an AMAZING variety of skiing, landscapes and views on offer.
All you really need to do is:
1. Check out the Chamonix Ski Resort map & decide which area you want to ski in……
2. Check out which bus or train you need to get there.
3. Ask at your accomodation for the nearest bus stop or train station.
Buses are frequent and as long as you get on the right number, you can’t really go wrong. If in doubt ask the driver politely – they’re used to it.
Trains go up the valley from Chamonix all day long. They take 5 mins to Les Praz, 20 to Argentiere and 36 mins to Vallorcine.
Finally there’s a handy little shuttle bus called LE MULET that loops round town every 10 minutes from 8:30 to 18:30. Good for avoiding long walks in ski boots!
Chamonix transport is a lot less complicated than it might appear and you soon get used to it!
Which lift pass should I buy?
If the weather’s OK ‘Chamonix Le Pass’ is the cheaper option unless you want to go to:
1. the Aiguille du Midi cable car (for the Vallee Blanche) or
2. the top cable car of Les Grands Montets or
3. Les Houches Ski Resort
‘Chamonix Le pass’ costs 43.50€ Euros for a day, or 38,50€ for 4 hours of skiing. If you’re watching the budget it could be worth asking about the weather before shelling out for a whole week. If a big storm comes in and closes the main lifts, a day or two spent in Les Houches (with a different pass) could wipe out the saving. More info on Chamonix ski passes!
If a really big storm comes in and shuts all the lifts for a day or two, or it’s a white out and you want to ski below the tree line, go to Les Houches ski resort (15 minutes by bus from Chamonix) and ski there. Les houches Ski Resort is included in the Mont Blanc Unlimited ski pass.
However, if there’s been a storm and SOME of the lifts are open and there’s powder up there, you wouldn’t want to miss that would you……?