The past couple of weeks have brought typical spring weather to Chamonix – glorious sunshine and blue skies one day, heavy cloud and rain the next. The good news is that the rainy days are bringing more snow to the mountains, for us to enjoy on the sunny days!
The Chamonix ski areas are still open, with Flegere and Le Tour enjoying an extended period up until 24th April and Les Grands Montets staying open until the end of the month. Now that we reach the tail end of the season, the pistes are delightfully deserted and lift queues non-existent. If you’ve ever fancied switching from skiing to snowboarding, or vice-versa, now is the perfect time. Plenty of space on the slopes to master your turns, no one whizzing past you at high speed and soft spring snow to cushion the falls! I might even get the monoski out for another try… Ski & Snowboard Lessons in Chamonix
The Chamonix ski touring season is now well under way with many people striking out on multi day hut-to-hut adventures such as the famous Haute Route ski tour from Chamonix to Zermatt. The Chamonix valley has many classic ski touring routes such as the Crochues-Berard in the Aiguilles Rouge nature reserve and the Col de Passon at Les Grands Montets. We offer a range of options from a initiation day with only a short ascent, or multi day courses where you’ll really improve your technique and explore the best backcountry terrain in the Chamonix valley. Ski Touring in Chamonix
This time of year is perfect for a late season ski break – quiet pistes, great weather, plenty going on in town and, best of all, discounted ski passes. The Mont Blanc Unlimited pass is now on offer with an average of 20% off all passes of more than one day – with the additional bonus of 3 days for the price of 2, saving you a lovely 46% (that’s 80€!). Anyone fancy a last minute weekend away? You never know, we might even be able to swing you a deal on accommodation, so get in touch now and find out how much you can save! Chamonix Special Offers & Discounts
The upcoming weather forecast looks promising, with the start of the week bringing more sunshine, so don’t forget to pack your sun cream!
Joyeux Noel! We hope you had a fantastic Christmas, whether here in Chamonix or elsewhere…
Where will you be seeing in the New Year? There are loads of options here in Chamonix, from champagne and oysters in a cosy restaurant to dancing the night away in a packed nightclub.
The big news this year is that GORILLAZ Sound System will be coming to Chamonix! They’ll be playing a fantastic 2 hour set, supported by the famous video graphics of Jamie Hewlett. The iconic British DJ crew will be bringing the whole experience to the Salle Olca in Les Houches, tickets are just 45€ and there will be shuttle buses running back and forth between Chamonix and Les Houches.
It’ll be the biggest night in the valley, with the beats dropping until 6am – other guest DJs lined up to keep us going until morning include Stereoheroes, Epic Empire and Chamonix’s very own Mister Pop. Make sure to buy your tickets in advance, this will be a sell-out for sure.
Keeping it more local is the NYE Dirty Disco at Monkey in Chamonix Sud – no dress code, no entry fee, just come along and be prepared to party hard and late. There’ll be no first lift for you the next day.
If you fancy more of a pub crawl then start your night with apres-ski at Chambre Neuf, calling in at Elevation, MOO Bar and Pointe Isabelle as you make your way to the clock tower in time for the midnight countdown and firework display. From here you can either pop into The Pub on your way to Chamonix Sud, or call into La Terrasse on your way to Rue des Moulins – for a small town there’s plenty of places to party!
Chamonix also has a massive choice of wonderful restaurants to choose from – you can enjoy gourmet French cuisine such as truffles and oysters or go traditional Alpine with an oozing pot of fondue and a bottle of Genepi. Many restaurants are offering special festive menus and will be lovely places to cosy up for the evening with friends or family. For more ideas of where to eat in Chamonix, take a look at our Chamonix Restaurants Guide for our favourite recommendations.
If you’re looking for a special way to see in the New Year then how about trying something new and exciting for 2016?
So, 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 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.
For 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!
Chamonix 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.
This 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.
After one of the driest summers and warmest autumns on record, Chamonix is looking forward to an epic winter. According to the long-range weather forecast, all the precipitation that has been holding back for the past few months is forecast to fall during December and continue throughout the season.
With plenty of precipitation comes plenty of… POWDER!!! So here are our best tips for making the most of all that lovely white stuff this winter.
December Off-Piste Ski Clinic Get in there early and nail those powder turns right at the start of the season. This pre-Christmas off-piste course will not only show you the best untracked snow but will also give you a great start to the season. The 5 day course will teach you everything you need to ski all types of off-piste terrain, including essential avalanche awareness and crevasse rescue skills. Taught by qualified mountain guides and ski instructors, you will learn various techniques to improve your control and performance both on and off-piste; video analysis will help you pin-point whatever you need to focus on to become a much better skier. The course only accepts a maximum of 6 people, to ensure the best results, so book now as places are strictly limited! Contact us for more details on the December Off-Piste Ski Clinic
Private Mountain Guiding Looking to find the best powder, the gnarliest descents, the most remote slopes or the best mountain restaurants? A private mountain guide will ensure that you have an experience that goes way beyond waiting in lift queues and dodging snakes of snowploughing 5 year olds this winter. No matter what your ski or snowboard experience, your guide will tailor your day to suit you and to exceed your expectations. All of our guides are fully UIAGM qualified and know the Chamonix valley like the back of their ski mittens; from classic descents such as the Vallée Blanche to ski safaris and secret powder fields, let them take you on an unforgettable journey into the Chamonix mountains. Chamonix mountain guides – see here for details
Ski Touring & Splitboarding New to ski touring or an experienced backcountry adventurer? The Mont Blanc mountains are some of the best in the world for exploring away from the lift systems and groomed pistes. Complete beginners can get to grips with the basics on our one day introductory course; there are plenty of gentle ski tours that are easily accessible from the Chamonix ski areas. Lead by a professional mountain guide, you’ll learn how to use crampons and perform kick-turns to trek deeper into the alpine wilderness. If you want to take your ski touring to the next level we also offer 2 day and 5 day courses, where you will venture further afield and see even more of the incredible Chamonix backcountry. Ski touring in Chamonix – see here for details
Mountain Safety & Avalanche Rescue Nothing could be more important than playing safe when you’re in the mountains. Exploring off-piste and skiing fresh powder is amazing but knowing about avalanches, glaciers and crevasses could save your life – or enable you to save someone else’s life. We offer a choice of mountain safety courses from 4 hour basic training to 4 day advanced search and rescue skills. Prices start from just 69€ per person – it could be the best investment you’ve ever made. Avalanche Awareness & Glacier Safety Courses – see here for details
Spring skiing is definitely here – and with it comes discounted lift passes! With the exception of a couple of drizzly patches the weather recently has been wall-to-wall bluebird days and we are celebrating by offering a free day with all 6-9 day Mont Blanc Unlimited lift passes.
Take advantage of these great discounted prices and contact us now to book your lift pass:
6 days : 262€ (save 23€)
7 days : 285€ (save 32.50€)
8 days : 317.50€ (save 32.50€)
9 days : 350€ (save 32.50€)
The weather is perfect at the moment for ski touring – there’s no better way to explore the Chamonix mountains than to take a hike up and away from the lift system into the backcountry and ski back down off-piste untracked snow in the sunshine. If you go on an all day tour you can pack a flask and some sandwiches to enjoy a picnic lunch in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by stunning views and vast horizons. The best part is that you don’t need to be an amazing skier/snowboarder or gnarly alpinist, you just need a bit of confidence on off-piste terrain and a guide who knows all the best spots!
We’ve also had a heads-up from our mountain guides that fresh snow is on the way with temperatures set to drop on Sunday and Monday, before it clears up again during the week with Tuesday looking like the prime opportunity to ski the Vallée Blanche. This iconic route starts at 3812m at the pinnacle of the Aiguille du Midi, amongst the spectacular summits of the Massif du Mont Blanc. The 23km descent takes you past seracs, alongside glacial crevasses and amongst towering peaks – it really is the experience of a lifetime. Contact us now to book a mountain guide to ski or snowboard the Vallée Blanche.
This week has been a great one for adrenaline addicts, with the Chamonix Adventure Festival showing a packed schedule of films in the cinema, in bars and even on a giant screen in the centre of town. Today there is an adventure film and photo workshop taking place in the Hotel Heliopic, followed by an apres-ski screening of short films and teasers at MBC from 5pm and then full length films and Q&A with the filmmakers from 8pm at Chamonix Cinema Vox.
I did something very out of character today and got out of bed at 5:45am. No, not GOT IN at 5:45am, but GOT UP at 5:45am. I’m still a bit in shock to be honest, the only usual reason for this would be if the house was on fire.
Today’s reason was because some “friends” (who needs friends at that hour of the morning?) had persuaded me to go ski touring with them. Why people feel the need to do these things at the crack of dawn I have no idea, I’d be much more keen if we could have a decent night’s kip, a good breakfast, a hot shower, maybe catch a bit of This Morning, and then head up. But no, to be a real outdoor person you must embrace the rising of the sun and learn to love the sound of the first lark. Or something like that.
Anyway, we met at Les Houches this morning in the Prarion car park at 6:30am and fumbled around with bindings and head torches for a bit (still half asleep) before starting the slow trudge up the side of the home run to the start of the ski touring track. Despite my initial reluctance, once the sleep haze had cleared from my head and the blood had started pumping round my limbs I started to enjoy the peace of the empty of slopes, the soft morning light and the gentle rhythm of plodding up the trail.
Head torches were barely necessary as the sun had just started to come up and everything was filtered through a soft blue light, highlighting the ridges in the freshly groomed pistes and silhouetting the pine trees against the sky. Other than our little troupe of five, there was not a soul to be seen. I was hoping to see some wildlife, there were plenty of animal tracks in the snow, but I think my gasping for breath might have sounded too much like a slavering predator. Or possibly a hungry yeti.
The Les Houches ski touring trail is perfect for people, like myself, who want to get to grips with the basics of ski touring without venturing too far into the backcountry. Getting comfortable with adjusting the height of your bindings, traversing, mastering kick-turns on an easily accessible trail is a lot easier than doing it out in the backcountry somewhere with a load of gnarly mountain dudes getting impatient while you faff about. Alternatively, it’s also really popular with people who just want a good workout – it’s great training for runners and any other endurance athletes.
After 2 hours and about 800m of ascent (OK, so we didn’t break any speed records) we eventually came to the top of the Aillouds piste, just as the first lifts were starting to crank into action. Rather than push on to the top we decided to whip off the skins and start skiing back down before anyone else claimed our fresh tracks. One of the greatest joys of getting up early (indeed one of the only joys…) is the feeling of whizzing down untouched corduroy – just you and your mates and no one else in sight. Until I win the lottery and buy my own resort it’s the closest I’ll come to having my own private piste.
Ski touring is easy to learn once you have the right kit. To get started you’ll need touring skis – lighter than normal skis, they have special bindings that allow you to have free heels and to adjust the height according to the steepness of the climb. You’ll also need touring boots – lighter and more flexible than classic ski boots, they are a lot more comfortable for walking in. Alongside the skis and boots you’ll also need skins (to go on the bottom of your skis), couteaux (like crampons that fix onto your skis for steep ascents or icy conditions), poles (usually slightly longer than typical ski poles and with bigger baskets) and a backpack to carry your kit in. All of this can be hired fairly inexpensively from most Chamonix ski shops, have a chat with any of our partners to find out exactly what set-up you need.
The real joy of ski touring comes from accessing the backcountry terrain and exploring untouched routes, trekking up through pine forests and across alpages, stopping for a picnic miles from anywhere and then skiing down through fresh powder, far away from the busy lifts and pistes. The solitude is especially appreciated during the crazy February holidays!
If this sounds tempting then have a bash at one of our introductory ski tours with a qualified instructor; they’ll guide you up a fairly easy ascent, helping you out with the technique as you go. A full day tour costs just 90€ per person and can even by done by snowboarders on a split board.
More experienced skiers will love our 3 and 5 day ski tour courses; you’ll explore the amazing terrain of the Chamonix Valley whilst honing your skills and learning techniques that will stand you in good stead for longer adventures like the Haute Route.
Of course, you can always hire a private mountain guide and plan your own itinerary – why not embark on a multi-day tour and spend the night in a remote mountain refuge?
Having tried it once I’m definitely more open to possibility of doing it again – but getting up that early is so painful that I may just stay up all night and go to bed straight afterwards!
There’s snow on the way and the week ahead is looking promising! We’ve been receiving a lot of calls and emails this week asking us what the snow’s like and, actually, it’s not bad! Wet weather early this week brought fresh snow up top, with more forecast for the weekend. Keep an eye on our Snow & Weather page for the latest reports.
This season’s been a funny kettle of fish so far, it’s not as bad as people seem to be expecting: pistes are reasonably well covered, there’s powder to be found if you know where to look and there’s a lot to be said for not having to dig your car out every morning.
However, the snow that we’ve had has come down in massive dumps then been interspersed with long dry spells and unseasonably warm weather, which makes for fairly unstable conditions up there. Mountain guides are understandably reluctant to take inexperienced skiers and snowboarders or large groups up the Vallée Blanche as they need to be extra alert for hazards and confident that they can lead their clients safely down the glacier. While they are still taking clients down the Vallée Blanche they are insisting on no more than 2 people per guide and those 2 people must be competent off-piste skiers, capable of handling conditions other than soft powder.
The Vallée Blanche is not technically a difficult route, it is often compared to no harder than your average red piste, which is why it is so accessible even to those who don’t have huge off-piste experience. It is glacial terrain though, which is why it is essential to take a guide. Glaciers constantly shift and evolve, with crevasses opening up and changing shape with every different weather pattern. This is why none of our guides would ever compromise your safety by taking you down if they thought that conditions were too bad or that you weren’t ready to tackle it.
Off-piste in Chamonix is not all about the Vallée Blanche though, it has so much more to offer and there is some fantastic terrain over at Les Grands Montets. An ideal way to explore (and to learn essential safety skills) is by doing an off-piste course. There are a number of options to choose from and once you know how to handle all types of terrain you’ll be shredding like Candide Thovex (kinda).
All Mountain – one of our favourites, this 3 day course takes you all over the Grands Montets into bowls, gullies and powder fields where you’ll learn how to ride off-piste, make steep turns, attack moguls and handle bad conditions such as ice and hardpack. Your guide will seek out the best places for the conditions and teach you how to master the mountain like a boss. Split over 3 half days at 195€ per person, this is ideal preparation for doing the Vallée Blanche – your guide will let you know if you are ready to do it. Find out more about All Mountain
Ski Touring / Split Boarding – to find the best powder, sometimes you have to put in a little effort! Ski touring will take you away from the lifts and pistes into the back country where you will hike to find the best snow, then make fresh tracks all the way back down. This is an initiation tour, so the hike won’t kill you and your guide will give you plenty of tips on how to get the hang of it. At just 90€ per person, it is a fantastic day out. Find out more about ski touring / split boarding
Avalanche Awareness – learn invaluable skills and have a great off-piste experience. If you want to explore then you need to learn how to do it safely, especially with the snow pack being as unstable as it is this winter. This half-day course will take you into the mountains and teach you the basics of assessing the snow conditions, evaluating the avalanche risk, carrying out a search using a transceiver and what to do if the worst happens. At just 69€ per person it’s an investment that you’ll use every time you go off-piste. Find out more about avalanche awareness
We also have a ton of other options to offer such as private ski/snowboard guiding, off-piste lessons for everyone from beginners to experiences skiers/snowboarders, longer ski tours with overnight accommodation in mountain refuges, snowshoe treks and so on. Please visit our website or contact us for more details.
In the meantime, have a great week and enjoy the snow!