- take a tour through history on your skis or snowboard
- exciting or cruisy or both!
- make the most of your time in the European Alps by going guided
Dates: end of January to end of March
Duration: 2 - 8 days
Departure: ex Chamonix, France
Price: EUR420 per day plus expenses for 1 to 6 people
Enquire today with our office about putting a winter ski package together for your winter holiday in Chamonix.
Read on for more details:
Chamonix and the adjacent ski stations, Courmayeur and les Contamines, have world class off-piste skiing. There really is no doubt about that. The off piste descents range from the delightful (such as the Vallée Blanche by the “normal” route in which you glide gently past the finest possible alpine scenery) to the wild (so numerous it is invidious to pluck one out, perhaps the ski descent of Mont Blanc can be held up as a nice example of the genre; heavily weather and condition dependant, it can provide close to 4000m of continuous descent with everything from steep slopes, crevassed glaciers and an energetic finish through the trees above Chamonix, but there are so many others). At the wild end of the scale you will often (but always!) have to adopt ski touring equipment, the best skiing will often need a bit of climbing. If you are even half-lucky the effort will be very well rewarded.
Introduction to the zones:
The Brévent-Flégère pistes face south. The steep couloirs that the Brévent is known for make an ideal introduction to steep skiing. The couloirs range from the serious ENSA couloir which has a very steep, and often corniced entry to the delightful Col de la Glière which is reached by a short hike (use skins or carry the skis) and takes you away from the crowds for a while.
The Flégère lift system has a wealth of fine ski tours which will take most of the day to complete, some are classic introductions to ski touring, such as the Crochue-Bérard traverse (1 hr to the top of the 40° Crochue couloir, a scenic west facing traverse, a 30 min skin to the Col de Bérard and then the reward, north facing powder and picturesque valley.) Other are more serious, such as the superb Glacier du Mort, the climb to the top of which, though easy, will usually entail rope and ice axe.
Moving further up the valley, the Tour-Vallorcine lift system has both north and south facing pistes, the off-piste skiing here can be some of the best in the valley, There are the Vormaine gullies, mildly steep south facing skiing, the north and south sides of the Posettes, both thoroughly excellent outings with 900m of descent, there is the playground area of les Jeurs, which will pay dividends of you bring skins, a 20 minute skin back to lift gives access to parts ordinary skiers cannot reach, or at least cannot get back from! Finally there are the descents to the Swiss village of Trient, the fabulous and easy Nant Noir, a long scenic valley, and the steep couloirs (40°, 50° and 35° depending on the route) on the north east side of the Pointe du Van. Serious stuff, but you have the pleasure of skiing into one of more popular ice climbing valleys in the region.
North facing Grands Montets; for many people, this IS Chamonix. Huge wide pistes, skiing from 3200m down to 1200m, endless off-piste variations returning to the lift system. Because of the altitude and aspect (orientation?) the snow remains in condition here till late spring. There is good glacier skiing on the East to the Argentière glacier, steeper skiing on the north side and to the west side of the top station are the brilliant Pas de Chèvre variations, which lead down to the Montenvers cog railway: some of the great classics of off-piste. The one downside of Grand Montets is that because it is so good there, it attracts a lots of good skiers, the competition for fresh powder is fierce.
Grand Montets is also the starting point for the Chamonix -Zermatt haute route as well as some classic short ski tours such as Col du Passon and the Three Cols both of which finish down the Tour Glacier.
The Aiguille du Midi; if you do nothing else in Chamonix you really should ski from here at least. There are no pistes here, from 3800m you are in mountain terrain. There is an embarrassing wealth of off-piste descents from the two lift stations. The absolute classic is the Vallée Blanche. When the snow reaches down to Chamonix the descent is 2800m over 22km. The variations on the the classic route follow steeper slopes and alternative aspects exploiting the northern aspects for powder and southern slopes for spring snow. the Col de Plan, Envers, Vrai, Rognon and Noir variations all hold their special attractions; powder filled corners where you may find yourself alone surrounded by ice and snow capped granite spires.
The Midi also is home to some of the very wild side of skiing, but that is another story, you will find out about it when you are here. The mid station on the Midi lift system, Plan de l`Aiguille, is the starting point for two or three great winter outings, these need snow down to Chamonix. The Combe des Glaciers has a marvelous shallow couloir, long and perfectly angled leading to a hidden entry to the forest above Chamonix.
On the other side of Mont Blanc (just 20 minutes from Chamonix) is the Helbronner lift system which serves the Vallée Blanche as well as the south facing slopes leading to the Italian side. Like the Midi there are only off piste runs from here. A great day can be had by skiing the Toule Glacier in the morning and finishing down the Vallée Blanche to Chamonix. And of course, skiing off the Mont Blanc massif, there are a lot of exciting-going-on-wild steep couloirs, the classic on this side is probably the Marbrée, which has a steep entry (45° to 50°) followed by 200m of fine open slopes at 40°, then cruising, if you are lucky with the conditions, back at the lift some 2000m lower. All of this set in the hugely atmospheric cirque under the Dent du Géant.
10 minutes further down the Aosta Valley are the lifts of Courmayeur. This has a network of pistes with off-piste variants, plus some quite long and scenic excursions into adjacent valleys. The latter are often used as the back half of a heli-skiing day. More of that elsewhere.
About 45 minutes from Chamonix, on the west side of Mont Blanc is the les Contamines lift system. Here, like Courmayeur, are great opportunities for easier off piste runs, a place to experiment and learn on the the big powder days. The southwest face of the Aiguille Croche is a classic example, 800m of open slopes with a short section of 35°. In spring this is a perfect for the old lags and beginners alike.
Les Contamines also has quite a few classic one-day ski tours. As with all the descents around Mont Blanc, there is a certain amount of overlap between skiing off the piste and full on ski touring. A lot of the off-piste require a short walk, booting it up to a better col or hill, some times it is worth attaching skins for half an hour to climb up. For this you will be using ski touring bindings on your skis. At the other end of the spectrum are the multi-day tours and ski mountaineering. Different but related activities, all of which can be experienced at the highest level in the Mont Blanc massif.