Nestled beneath the towering peaks and glaciers of the Mont Blanc massif, the traditional Alpine town of Chamonix has become known as an essential pilgrimage site for serious skiers. Here’s why...
The ski area
First and foremost, Chamonix has earned this reputation with its bounty of extreme descents — hundreds of years ago, the concept of skiing them would have been laughable! The resort boasts lifts up to an eye-watering 3,842m, some 115km of pistes (most of which are red or black) and some of the best off-piste terrain in the Alps.
On the Mont Blanc Unlimited pass, skiers can access Chamonix’s various ski areas, which are spread out along the valley. This means catching busses from town to the lifts, but the payoff is huge.
The resort’s highest point is the Aiguille du Midi, from which advanced skiers and boarders can carve down the 24km Vallée Blanche descent. Accessed via a narrow ridge, this challenging section of routes takes riders past sheer drops and hidden crevasses, and offers some of the most impressive mountain views around.
On the other side of the valley, the Brévent-Flégère sector features a variety of brilliant intermediate and expert pistes that lead down to steep gradients between the trees. There’s also a timed slalom run, big-air bag and ski cross track.
The lifts over in the Grands Montets area tend to get busy, but the reward is worth the wait: there’s wide-open freeride terrain and long black pistes to test your mettle. When the weather turns grim on these higher trails, smaller Les Houches is the place to be. Here, skiers can explore powder pockets between the trees and avoid the worst of the wind.
Of course, with so much off-piste terrain available, hiring a professional guide is the best way to find the top trails and explore safely.
Chamonix has been a thriving mountain town for many, many years and a hotspot for extreme winter sports since the 18th century. For those who live and breathe skiing, there’s something very satisfying about staying in a genuine Alpine village, particularly when it has so much to offer.
Exploring the traffic-free centre, you’ll find traditional restaurants, river-side cafes, lively bars, snow-sports shops, boutiques, bookshops, galleries...it goes on. As a prosperous year-round town with some 10,000 permanent residents, Chamonix is home to more mountain guides, crèche operators and other businesses than your average resort. There’s even a bustling open-air market every Saturday morning.
Chamonix’s centuries of history show in the architecture: its old buildings maintain their historic Victorian and beautiful Belle Époque facades. As you stroll through town, Chamonix's skiing heritage is evident – after all, this is where the first Winter Olympics were held in 1924.
To complete the picture, there are plenty of great-value accommodation options to suit all budgets — from pretty chalets nestled in peaceful enclaves to chic hotels amid the hustle and bustle. Check out the full range of accommodation options here.