Chamonix Ski Season Kicks Off with Two Events this Weekend

Mont Blanc Ski Challenge ski touring in ChamonixSo, the first ski race of the season kicks off this weekend up at Le Tour with the Mont Blanc Ski Challenge. At 9am on Saturday morning hoards of keen beans will dash off on touring skis to skin up 1400m in a loop around the Col de Balme ski area. It’s a great event to be a part of and there’ll be plenty of people there to support the racers, so go along and give them a cheer.

Ski touring in Chamonix with a mountain GuideSki touring is a fantastic way to get away from the pistes and lift systems and retreat into the untracked snow of the Chamonix backcountry. You can learn the basics on an introductory ski touring course where an instructor will teach you how to skin uphill, make kick-turns, use couteaux before skiing back off-piste. If you want to take it further we also offer longer ski tour courses of 2 to 5 days, where you’ll get to explore classic Chamonix ski touring routes and learn how to go further off-piste safely.

nordic monster testFor those who prefer to take things at their own pace, the Nordic Monster Test will also be taking place this weekend at the Foyer du Fond. From 10am on Saturday you can try out all the latest cross-country ski equipment, completely free of charge. There’s usually a prizes to be won at the tombola, as well as ski waxing lessons, cakes, crepes and hot drinks. Members of the Chamonix Ski de Fond club and staff from Ravanel Sports will be on hand to give you advice and chat about their favourite sport – if you’re lucky they may even take you for a spin around the trails and give you some top tips!

 

Cross-country skiing in Chamonix Mont BlancChamonix has around 20km of groomed cross-country ski trails, through the pine forests of Bois de Bouchet and alongside the river at Desert Blanc – there’s even a shooting range for biathlon training! Cross-country skiing is easy to master and can either be a gentle cruise or a full-body workout, depending on how hard you want to push yourself – book a cross-country ski lesson to get yourself started and find out why we love it so much.

Chalet in ChamonixThis weekend’s events are only the first of a whole heap of activities both on and off the mountain that will be keeping us busy this winter.

If you’ve not planned your winter holiday yet then don’t miss out, take a look at our Chamonix accommodation before it’s all booked up.

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Nordic Skiing in Chamonix & Italy

Cross-country skiing in Chamonix Mont Blanc
Cross-country skiing in Chamonix

This week I’ve been doing more cross-country skiing than Alpine skiing, making the most of this crisp clear weather. There are plenty of cross-country trails in the valley and conditions are a bit more dependable than up on the mountain.

The most obvious trails are the ones that start behind the sports centre and wend their way through the Bois de Bouchet forest and alongside the river. They’ve had snow cannons on the first bit and the coverage is actually really good, no slushy bits or stones showing through. Unfortunately the track is a lot shorter than usual as the snow cannons only go so far and the natural snow cover is a bit on the sketchy side after that. If you just want to do laps of the parapente field though, it’s great exercise and perfect for beginners. The good news is also that they’ve reduced the trail pass price until they can open more of the area – just 5.50€ instead of the usual 11€.

Higher up are the beautiful tracks at Les Houches – high on the Prarion plateau they overlook both the Chamonix and the Saint-Gervais valleys. The trails are more challenging up here with a few hills to push yourself up and a few fun descents to test your balance on! They are also open to snow shoe walkers, if that takes your fancy.

Cross-country skiing in Argentiere
Great ski de fond trails in Argentiere

For gentle cruising along wide open trails with the occasional foray into snow-frosted forests, you can take to the trails at Argentiere. Starting near the Les Chosalets beginner ski slopes you can keep to the short circuit or you can go all the way to Vallorcine via Le Buet and then reward yourself with a hot chocolate and a crepe at the railway station café!

One of the best things about cross-country skiing is that you can try it out without coughing up a fortune. Trail passes are nowhere near as expensive as lift passes, Chamonix and Argentiere both cost 11€ and Les Houches is 16€ or included in your Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass. The kit is fairly cheap to hire and if you want to have an expert show you the ropes then consider booking a lesson, it’s not as hard to learn as Alpine skiing or snowboarding (or as painful!), so you’ll nail the basics in no time and with a bit of practice you’ll be flying round the tracks like a biathlete!

Cross-country skiing in Val Ferret Courmayeur Mont Blanc Italy
Cruising round the trails in Val Ferret

Once you’ve got the taste for it, a trip to Val Ferret is a must. Just the other side of the Mont Blanc tunnel is a beautiful valley with a river running the length of it and cross-country ski tracks lining either side. This being Italy, there are also fantastic restaurants all along the way and wonderful places to stop for a coffee and a piece of cake (not that the only reason we ski is to justify crepes and cakes, of course). Our partners at Haute Transfer run regular scheduled trips in a warm comfortable mini-bus for just 30€ return. If you wanted to explore further and combine it with a shopping trip to Aosta or dinner in Courmayeur we can arrange that for you, just contact us for a chat.

Cross-country skiing in Chamonix
Blue skies and smooth trails – ski de fond in Chamonix

You can read more about cross-country skiing and snow shoeing on our Nordic Activities page.

A little birdie (well, France Meteo, actually) tells us that there is more snow on the way this weekend – mild temperatures means that it may fall as rain down at valley level but it will provide a welcome top-up of snow on the higher altitudes. Have a great weekend, whatever you do!

Apres-Ski Season is Officially Open in Chamonix

Aiguille du Midi cable car Chamonix
The new cabins on the Aiguille du Midi cable car

So, no surprises here but it has been announced that all of the lifts will be opening next weekend (13th December). It had been hoped that Les Grands Montets and Les Houches would open tomorrow but until we get some more of the fluffy white stuff we’re going to have to wait it out. The new Aiguille du Midi cable car and Les Grands Montets gondola are all primed and ready to leap into action as soon as the weather changes. Snow is forecast for tonight and tomorrow though, so keep those fingers (and toes, and whatever else you’ve got) crossed that it keeps on coming.

La Terrasse apres-ski bar chamonix mont blanc
La Terrasse Bar in centre of Chamonix

The ski season might not be in full swing yet but the apres-ski season is well underway! La Terrasse flings its doors open tonight after a refurb, under new management and with a new team behind the bar. Get there early for Happy Hour deals from 4pm until 7pm, then specials all night on shots and Jager Bombs. Live music with The Elements from 10pm and Desperado on tap – it’s probably a blessing in disguise that the lifts aren’t opening tomorrow, to be honest.

L'Impossible Restaurant in Chamonix, vegan, vegetarian, organic Italian food
L’Impossible Restaurant in Chamonix

One of our favourite restaurants reopens tonight. L’Impossible is something a bit out of the ordinary – organic, local, seasonal produce beautifully prepared with a strong emphasis on healthy eating. You’ll find lots of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options (although there is plenty to satisfy meat-lovers as well). Run by a family of effusively warm and friendly Italians, the food is delicious and the wine list is excellent – we’ve had many a fine night there.

Munchies restaurant in Chamonix
Amazing Thai-inspired cuisine at Munchies in Chamonix

Anyone suffering withdrawal from tempura squid and duck teriyaki will be relieved to hear that Munchies reopens again tonight, with all the usual favourites on the menu as well as some new additions with ingredients that sound so exotic that it’s always a bit of a mystery what you’re actually ordering – nasu dengaku anyone? Whatever you get, it’s always good.

There are a few changes in the air this winter, our little birds tell us that what was the Mix Bar on the Rue des Moulins will be transformed into a sushi restaurant and cocktail bar. They reopen next week on Friday 12th December with a new name (classified information so far) and a brand new look – will it be as good as Satsuki? There’s only one way to find out… pass the chopsticks please!

The tiny pizzeria on Rue des Moulins only opened last year and quickly gained a loyal following for their deliciously thin and crispy freshly-baked pizzas. Given that the restaurant was smaller than your average ski locker, they’ve expanded this season to provide seating for up to 30 hungry gannets. No word on if they’re licensed yet but they were always happy for you to BYO.

There are also mutterings of the old No Escape bar being turned into a swanky new restaurant, along the lines of l’Atmosphere – watch this space for further details.

Cross-Country Skiing in Chamonix Mont Blanc
Cross-Country Skiing in Chamonix

Despite the lack of snow the Nordic Monster Test is still planning to go ahead as scheduled tomorrow at the Foyer de Fond opposite the MBC. This is your chance to borrow some top-of-the-range kit and have a go at cross-country skiing with the guys from Ravanel Sports. Even if the tracks aren’t going to be up to scratch there is always a fun atmosphere with mulled wine, cakes and cool stuff to be won! Pop along if you’re interested in signing up for lessons this winter or in joining the ski de fond club, they’re a very friendly bunch.

We’ll let you know as soon as we have any more information on snow conditions or ski area openings – keep an eye on our Facebook page for the latest updates.