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Winter Skiing Trip, Chamonix Mont Blanc.
There is no better way to raise the spirits than being high up in the mountains surrounded by beautiful scenery and fresh air. Last year I visited Chamonix Mont Blanc in the summer so was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit again during the ski season this time. Now, I can genuinely confirm that if you haven’t been to Chamonix Mont Blanc in winter it is somewhere to head for And it’s never too early to plan a skiing holiday especially if you want to visit during the peak periods, Christmas, New Year and half-term.
This time, I was staying at the Résidence & Spa Vallorcine Mont-Blanc, situated at the end of the Chamonix valley with great access to the ski areas and the town of Chamonix Mont Blanc itself.
Although it was the beginning of April the ski season was still running, I was fortunate to have 30cm of fresh snow topping up the pistes at the start of my stay, what could be better? From my base in Vallorcine, the Balme ski area was very accessible, the Vallorcine gondola being a very short walk from my snug apartment. The trees were covered in a layer of fresh snow making the village and mountain picture postcard pretty. From the top of the lift, I skied to the Tête de Balme chair lift which takes you up to the top of the ski area.
There is a large choice of wide red and blue runs from here with the option of skiing down to Le Tour, a picturesque little village down in the valley. The views of the valley and Mont Blanc in the far distance are stunning.
Loaned to me by the Office du Tourism in Chamonix my Dynastar skis were perfect for the conditions. I later discovered that Dynastar originated in Chamonix so they couldn’t be more appropriate as skis. As the Balme ski area was the closest to where I was staying I spent two days and fully explored the area.
Another day, another ski area. Determined to make the most of the skiing and the five-day lift pass I’d been given by The Mont-Blanc Natural Resort, I set off the next day to Argentière to ski in the Grands Montets area. The Chamonix App is a great source of information, including the weather forecast and webcams. I checked the webcam before leaving and it looked like being a perfect, sunny, day. From Vallorcine it is only fifteen minutes on the train to Argentière so easy to do, with a walk from the station to the lifts, I followed the directions I had been given. The snow in this area is the best in the valley, due to the altitude and aspect of the skiing. A wide open bowl with challenging reds and blacks, this is also an excellent place for ski touring and off-piste skiing. Since the fire in the top station of the Grands Montets in 2018, it is not possible at the moment to get a lift to the highest point, I did see a lot of people slowly ski touring up on skis. The Grands Montets area stays open the longest in Chamonix – right through to the beginning of May.
The final area I skied was on the other, sunnier side, of the valley taking the cable car up to La Flégère. Again the cable car is a short walk from a train station, Les Praz, which is the last stop before Chamonix if travelling from Vallorcine. Le Brévent and La Flégère interconnect via a linking lift, you can use this either way. It was snowing so the visibility wasn’t good. As this side is south facing the snow tends to get slushy in warm weather towards the end of the season. Sadly the Brévent Cable car was not running on this day so I couldn’t get to the top, I wasn’t disheartened as given the visibility there wouldn’t have been a good view and it’s a great excuse to go back for another visit.
The lift pass also gives access to the Aiguille du Midi cable car which runs in two stages up the mountain to an altitude of 3842m. Popular in both summer and winter this lift takes you the closest you can get by a lift to Mont Blanc. I picked the best day to do this, checking the webcams to see what the conditions were before leaving. Although I had been to the Aiguille du Midi in the summer I was still very excited setting off on the train to Chamonix.
There was a queue, this is a popular lift at any time of the year for tourists, mountaineers and skiers, but it didn’t take long before I was on my way. The conditions were perfect, Mont Blanc was dazzlingly white against a bright blue sky. There were a lot of skiers slowly working their way down the ridge to do the legendary Vallée Blanche itinerary run. To my surprise, there was even some Gendarmerie du Secours de Montagne, mountain rescue police, being filmed going over the edge of the platform. This looked very scary indeed!
Staying in a self-catering apartment and spending my days skiing or sightseeing I ate a reasonable lunch out during the day where possible. Any ski resort has mountain restaurants where you can find local specialities such as pasta or hearty mountain cheese or sausage dishes.
Le Le Café Comptoir is near The Résidence & Spa Vallorcine Mont-Blanc, conveniently located near to the bottom of the Foret Verte red run down to Vallorcine though this piste to the village was closed when I was in Vallorcine late in the season. Having eaten a tasty supper there on the evening I arrived I was keen to visit again for lunch. I planned my day to have lunch later and was not disappointed. It was a lovely, sunny, day and the terrace was busy with skiers and other diners. The menu is based on local food with an emphasis on mountain favourites. From the menu, I chose farçon Vallorcin, a Savoie recipe; smoked sausage, smoked pork belly and potato cake with raisins and prunes. It was absolutely delicious, I enjoyed every mouthful, all main courses come with a salad as a starter. A glass of local Savoie white wine washed it down a treat.
Close to the centre of Chamonix Mont Blanc is the first Folie Douce Hotel. Folie Douce is well known for being an après ski venue up mountains, with Avoriaz, Meribel and Val Thorens being some of the ones I have visited in the past. This is the first Folie Douce Hotel which opened in December 2018. I had heard that it was definitely worth seeing so I decided to have a look as I was already in Chamonix for the day. What was formerly the Savoy Hotel has been totally refurbished to offer four restaurants, cosy lounge areas as well as 141 four-star hotel rooms, reasonable hostel rooms for four people to share, and even a ski shop.
The décor is stripped back to the basic fabric of the building with quirky touches. Rather than a loud, raucous, après atmosphere the après element is still there but toned down to the underground bar and large terrace with an Aperol bar. The views from the terrace looking towards the town and the mountains are stunning. The Folie Douce Hotel is very conveniently situated close to the lifts for Le Brévent.
I’d been told that La Petite Cuisine in the Folie Douce Hotel served an excellent lunch menu with an amazing dessert trolley so it was definitely somewhere I wanted to try. Two courses (I chose main and dessert) were a very affordable 19 euros. When it was time to sample the dessert trolley it was very hard to choose as every dessert was beautifully presented and looked delicious. I did try several of the puddings and they were as good as they looked.
The Alpine Museum in the centre of Chamonix Mont Blanc was also a must for me, it was somewhere I hadn’t managed to visit in the summer but this time I had the chance to go on my last day. Based in what was formerly one of the palaces in Chamonix Mont Blanc, it contains a lot of interesting information on the history of Alpine mountaineering, etc. in the Chamonix Mont Blanc area especially during the Golden Age of Alpinism. How the explorers managed to climb to such high altitudes with basic or no equipment is very impressive. Particularly surprising was how many attempts there have been and how many British explorers there were amongst them.
Chamonix Mont Blanc is, without doubt, somewhere I plan to revisit in the future. The town is vibrant all year round and the surrounding mountains, with Mont Blanc towering majestically into the sky, are stunningly beautiful.
Thinking of Skiing in Chamonix Mont Blanc? Why not pin this post for later
I was a guest at the Résidence & Spa Vallorcine Mont-Blanc, in Vallorcine, staying in a self-catering apartment for two to three people.
My skis were Dynastar Legend W84 loaned to me through the Office du Tourism Chamonix Mont Blanc. I was very satisfied with the quality and performance of these skis designed specifically for women skiers.
Chamonix Mont Blanc is around an hour from Geneva airport, making it easy to visit at any time of the year. My transfer was with Mountain Drop-offs who specialise in transfers to this part of the French Alps.
For more details on the Folie Douce Hotel, visit Folie Douce Hotel Chamonix Mont Blanc.