The Brévent-Flégère pistes face south. The steep couloirs for which the Brévent is known as 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 awhile.
Flégère Lift System
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 (one hour to the top of the 40° Crochue couloir, a scenic west-facing traverse, a 30 minute skin to the Col de Bérard and then the reward - north facing powder and a picturesque valley). Others are more serious, such as the superb Glacier du Mort, the climb to the top of which usually entails the use of a rope and ice axe.
Tour-Vallorcine Lift System
Moving further up the valley, the Tour-Vallorcine lift system has both North and South facing pistes, and 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 which are both thoroughly excellent outings with a 900m of descent. There is the playground area of Les Jeurs, which will pay dividends if you bring skins; a 20-minute skin back to lift gives access to terrain 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 IS Chamonix. Huge wide pistes, skiing from 3,200m down to 1,200m, endless off-piste variations returning to the lift system. Because of the altitude and aspect, the snow remains in condition here until late spring. There is good glacier skiing on the east of 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 Grands Montets is that because it is so good there, it attracts a lot of good skiers and the competition for fresh powder is fierce.
Grands 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.
Aiguille du Midi
If you do nothing else in Chamonix, you really should ski from here at least once. There are no pistes here and from 3,800m, 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 2,800m over 22km. The variations on 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 sides of skiing, but that is another story and you will find out about it when you are here. The mid-station on the Midi lift system, le Plan de l'Aiguille is the starting point for two or three great winter outings, and these need snow down to Chamonix. The Combe des Glaciers has a marvellous shallow couloir that is long and perfectly angled leading to a hidden entry to the forest above Chamonix.
Helbronner Lift System
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 Toula 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 and 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 2,000m lower. All of this set in the hugely atmospheric cirque under the Dent du Géant.
Ten minutes further down the Aosta Valley are the lifts of Courmayeur, which have 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.
About 45 minutes from Chamonix and 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 big powder days. The South West Face of the Aiguille Croche is a classic example; 800m of open slopes with a short section of 35°. In spring this is 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, sometimes 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.