Reviews of Chamonix, France

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  4.1 of 5  (10 reviews)
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Pablo
Reviews: 4
London
    4 of 5,  "If you're looking for great back country then this is the place"  25/03/2013 @ 12:44
Price Paid
c. £800 incl. flights
Booked Trip Through
Rude Chalets
Times Visited
Just Once
Review Detail
Reading the revies of Cham on here I wasn't as excited as I've been in advance of previous trips, and had we not had the amount of snow we had last week then I don't think we'd have had as good a time. The valley (incorporating Les Houches, Brevents, Grands Montets and Tours - we didn't make it to Courmayeur) is vast and the transport network is a bit of a pain in the backside. We stayed in Rude Chalets' Chalet Chocolat in Les Pelerins, a 25 minute walk from Cham centre and without the daily hill run by the chalet hosts it would have been far less enjoyable.

The benefit of the size of the valley is that you can ride somewhere different every day, and dependant on conditions. We hit Brevents day 1 which was ok (visibility was poor and it hadn't snowed in a few days), Les Houches day 2 due to a dump and white out conditions (it's more tree-lined so better vis) before getting to Grands Montets days 3, 4 and 6, the pick of the areas due to it's size and park. The off piste between marked runs in Grands Montets is fantastic and if you're with someone who knows the area, or you're happy to pay for a guide, then there is some fantastic back country to play around in. The park isn't great by any stretch, but with so much going on elsewhere you don't need it.

Higlight of the week though was the Vallee Blanche. I was a little nervous about it, due purely to the reported flat sections than anything dangerous, but the walking was worth it. After a pretty hairy descent on foot, roped together and harnessed up, for 150m or so (if you're scared of heights do not do it, my mate almost froze halfway down) we dropped into a beautiful, waist deep powder filled valley for the best day's riding I've ever had. If it's dumped and you're there, just do it. 2 guides from Cham Extreme for our group of 9 cost us around 100€ each including a tip, money well spent.

Cham's not a cheap destination and the mountain cafes and restaurants are extortionate. Take a packed lunch if you can. However if the conditions are right then you'll have an absolute blast.

I'd also read reports of the locals being hostile and unfriendly, but I didn't get this at all, bar one grumpy bar owner in Les Houches.

It's a pretty dangerous place as well, so take care if veering off the beaten path. Saw one guy literally ride an avalanche, albeit a smallish one, and he was effing lucky to walk away from the 100ft drop he was swept off.
Strengths
Vastness of area, ability to ride a different area each day.
Vallee Blanche
Off piste
Short transfer (90 mins from Geneva)
Hot Spots
Valle Blanche
Grands Montets
Munster bar for cheapish beer
Weaknesses
Transport system isn't great, but if you're patient it's bearable
Pricey (10€ a pint/14€ a spag bol in some places on the mountain)
Similar Resorts Visited
Val D'Isere
Tignes
Morillons
La Tania
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bugman
Reviews: 5
    2 of 5,  "Didn't quite live upto expectation"  11/12/2007 @ 13:36
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Revision #1 (Last edited: 11/12/2007 @ 13:57)
Price Paid
£400ish
Booked Trip Through
Ourselves
Times Visited
Just Once
Review Detail
We booked out a luxury 8-man chalet, complete with jacuzzi and sauna. It's the first time I've gone self-catering and it will be the last, frankly, because the cost and hassle of cooking in the mountains negated any cost saving had we booked a catered chalet. Not to mention that the Super-U really doesn't have such a huge variety of food, and you really need a vehicle to lug shopping home. All-in-all, I'd much prefer to finish a day on the piste and then shower and hit the bars and let someone else worry about the shopping & cooking.

Chamonix is really a long stretched out series of little villages in a valley, and our chalet was in one of these little villages away from the centre near Les Houches. There was actually a chair lift across the road from us but it was never on for the whole time we were there. This poses a bit of a logistical problem, and it was this that dominated our experience of the place, unfortunately.

To get to the point where you're on the board, it's quite a mission. First, we had to catch a bus (they came about every half-hour) from the village to Cham centre. Then we had to catch another bus to one of the five seperate areas to ski. THEN you'd take a cable car which would take from the road upto the base of that area. THEN, finally, you'd catch your first lift to the top of a piste. The whole process could take anything between 1 and 2 hours from leaving the chalet to being on a piste, depending how lucky you were with buses. This was less than ideal, but the real killer came when it was time to go home since there were large "queues" (more of a melee) for the buses and they were never as frequent as you'd like. Consequently it would take even longer going the other way, and when you're tired and you just want to relax and drink a beer it's really irritating.

We were a little unlucky with the conditions since it was patchy all week and then dumped on the last day but the visibility was zero so we couldn't really board. This will no doubt skew my perception of each of the various areas, but frankly I didn't see what all the fuss was about. Perhaps I'm not a good enough boarder to really take advantage of what Cham has to offer (I don't do much off piste, for example) and perhaps the conditions didn't help either, but I don't think that it was in any way superior to any of the other resorts I've visited. If anything I found that most of the runs we hit were annoyingly short, apart from one favourite run from the top of Le Tour which takes you right down into Switzerland (and this is where we plumped for, most of the time). These facts coupled with the irritating logistics meant that I kinda vowed never to return.

The nightlife was also pretty non-existant where we were. It was fine if you made the journey into Cham proper, but out in our little village it was completely dead. There was one place that sold food and looked like a bar but wouldn't let us in after 10pm. There was a nearby hotel that had a bar and they were quite welcoming, but we were the only ones in there. We made a foray into Cham centre for New Year's Eve to a cool little bar that sold beer from a local micro-brewery, but inevitably someone had to not drink in order to drive us all home.

In short, Chamonix is really beautiful but a complete pain-in-the-a*se unless you're staying in Cham centre. Even then you have to either run a car or be prepared to do battle on the buses - there's certainly no skiing back to the hotel to be had - and in my opinion the boarding on offer just doesn't sufficiently compensate.
Strengths
Large area
Cham town is beautiful and quite vibrant
Hot Spots
The run down from the top of Le Tour to the left, down into Switzerland was great and very long.
Weaknesses
It's too spread out.
The buses!
The queues for the buses!
Les Houches was (were?) completely dead.
Similar Resorts Visited
Been to quite a few resorts in France but none quite like Cham. I preferred all the others.
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dants
Reviews: 15
North Yorkshire
    4 of 5,  "A long Easter weekend in Chamonix"  10/04/2007 @ 13:33
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Revision #2 (Last edited: 10/04/2007 @ 16:24)
Price Paid
On the (fairly) cheap
Booked Trip Through
Indie
Times Visited
Just Once
Review Detail
It's Easter, your mate's just got a fully expensed company car and there's still snow in Europe. Waddya do? Easy. Club together on a board rack for the roof, book an hotel online and head for Chamonix... here's how we did it...

1) Buy a roof rack for the car. OK, it was sixty quid, but if we'd not bought it there'd have been no room for the girlfriend in the back. And she wouldn't have liked that.

2) Buy a Jetboil too. It's a mega high speed camping cooker. And it means you can brew up whilst your mate's driving the 1700 miles for a weekend round trip.

3) Book the Norfolkline from Dover to Dunkirk. Cost - sixty quid for three. Bargain. Don't forget to google for offer codes whilst you book though. I entered 'snow' as a code. Think it knocked a few quid off.

4) Book in to the Du Bois hotel in Les Houches. Beautiful place, right next to Mont Blanc. Had a room for four which was two interconnecting rooms and a bathroom with flat tellies on the walls of both bedrooms and quality all the way. The chalet part of the hotel we were in looked no more than two years old. Very nice. Cost £120 a night for three of us. Well worth it.

And then head to the snow...

Day 1 - Grand Montets

I'm told that this is the highest and most varied of the Chmonix ski hills and total heaven on a powder day. It was spring conditions for us so no powder sadly. As a pisted resort it's OK though. Very steep runs on the whole and a high standard of rider. Lift queues at the start of the day were excessive but after that it wasn't too bad. Sadly there was little fresh stuff to hit and everything else was choppy and bumpy which is never ideal. I guess what I'm trying to say is Grand Montets looks like a world beater on a powder day, but that as a pisted resort it'd probably not hold my attention for more than a couple of days.

Day 2 - Vallee Blanche

Here's a secret for you... contrary to most sources, this legendary off-piste run isn’t that hard. How good the day is depends totally on the guide. We went with Simon who was provided by Chamonix Experience. Big respect for the guy - he's a London lad who lives for the mountains and has been out there with his mrs and kids for a little while now. He's a boarder but generally guides on skis. He was superb. Found us some of the only freshies on the run and kept us from falling down crevices.

Just for the record, the Valle Blanche is a great old day trip to tick off. I'm sure it's lovely in powder. There are two very long flats that were easy to straight line in spring conditions but could be tricky in less fast conditions. It can also be crowded in places. The scenery's superb. It's more of a touring day to take your time over and admire the views. A decent intermediate could easily scream down the whole route in a couple of hours.

Given the conditions we probably could have done the run just from following the crowd. Wouldn't have been a tenth as good though. If you're looking at this review there's a chance you're going to go to Cham, and if you are you're going to want to do the Valle Blanche. And if you do then get a guide. Ask for Simon.

Day 3

In the morning back at Grand Montets (we'd got a place booked in the telecabine to the very top of the mountain) then in the afternoon over to Le Tour. Le Tour doesn't get the same sort of attention as Grand Montets, and consequently on Easter Sunday it was pretty dead. It's a nice cruisy kind of place with lots of motorway runs on and off piste. Since it's not too steep the unbashed parts of the mountain don't get mogulled or chopped to hell. Must say I thought it was great fun. If you're a learner heading to Chamonix then this is probably the place to have your lessons. Again looks awesome on a powder day.

My favourite part? Mogul bombing on the last run. The snow's soggy, the only run home's crowded and getting bumpier by the second and you're surrounded by French skiers. What do you do? Easy. Land on soggy moguls and spray the Frenchies of course. Isn't that the British way?

In all, it's a good place. It's a shame the lift queues can get silly, since to me riding is freedom, whilst lift queues are the exact opposite. Hence four stars rather than five.
Strengths
Loads of variety, high standard of riding , loads of excellent off piste opportunities, great selection of guides to book, not too pricey in many places, nice big lift area
Hot Spots
Baluga is an ace takeaway.
Weaknesses
Lifts aren't connected so you need to drive / get bus between hills. Beer can be stupidly expensive - was €6 a pint in our place. Buy beer from supermarket.

Lift queus
Similar Resorts Visited
It's like being in North America for terrain
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remora101
Reviews: 48
Australia
    3 of 5,  "Chamonix - Vallorcine"  06/03/2006 @ 11:56
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Price Paid
£550 + flights
Booked Trip Through
Mountain Retreats
Times Visited
Just Once
Review Detail
Chamonix, probably one of the more heard about resorts in Europe. Loads of Vert, good snow and a decent town centre!

We flew into Geneva were we were collected and shuttled to Vallorcine at the top of the Chamonix Valley. The transfer took just over one and half hours!

We stayed with a fairly new company, mountain retreats. We had a chef and 2 chalet helpers? and a chalet that slept 10 all with en-suite bathrooms. oh and a hot-tub outside in the snow!

There is a gondola in Vallorcine that will take you up, and from there you can board across to Le Tour. On the second day there we were due to do the Vallee Blanche but due to bad weather we had to cancell, instead our guide took us off-piste in Courmayeur!

We went into the Mont-Blanc tunnel from Cham with it dumping and quite foggy, when we came out the tunnel on the Italian side the sun was shining!! Quite amazing.

There are loads of good restaurants in Cham centre and quite a few shops. The train that links all the smaller towns together is good but not very frequent. Getting from Les Houches to Vallorcine, involved a bus trip to Cahmonix Center and then a train ride, which including waiting time took, just over two and a half hours!
Strengths
Plenty of piste's for every ability of rider. We had 4 begiiners and they were all fine.
Loads of off- piste available.
Different weather systems on the Italian side, so even if Cahm is overcast Courmayeur could still be sun shining!
Hot Spots
The hot-tub at our chalet!
Weaknesses
Way to spread out, all the differeent "mini-resorts" are not linked so you really need a car to get around if you want to make the most of your time there! The busses and trains are very punctual and clean, but not very frequent!
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Val'disere, Meribel, Gstaad, Verbier, Leycin, Les Diblarets, Villars, Tignes, Copper Mountain, Winter Park, Whistler, Lake Louise, Sunshine, Fernie, Big White, Kicking Horse..............
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chevy
Reviews: 1
    5 of 5  27/06/2005 @ 17:58
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Price Paid
350
Booked Trip Through
Found my own apartment
Times Visited
2-5 Times
Review Detail
WICKED!! Was concerned as I had heard that Chamonix was a bit harsh for beginners but a load of rubbish that info! had a brilliant time learning on Le Tour for the first few days, easy terrain (great nursery slope), hardly any drags and anyway to be fair in your first week you dont really get around that much! It is enough of a challenge to get up and go, never mind fly down miles of piste. Also went to Brevent and Flegere in my first time there which was a bit more challenging, but still good fun. Even got to do my first bit of off piste as the snow was amazing! After that point I never looked back, snowboarding every year from now on as many times as possible.

Second time as was getting better, got to explore more of the different areas, Grand Montets is amazing, and the top lift is well worth a visit, even now after a number of years of boarding I have never seen off piste like it. Totally totally amazing!! There was also a boarder cross park there which was brilliant fun.

I have been to Andorra for a couple of holidays, and it was good (Soldau better than Benidorm-like Pas de la Casa) but no comparison to Chamonix really. Also been to flaine, ok boarding but the town itself was rubbish, hardly anything to do at night, and looked a bit like a concrete bunker.

A boarding holiday is not just about the snow, it is about being in a cool place for a week with some mates and having it! Cham is just like a proper town, really pretty and quite big, which means you dont have to go to the same one and only resort bar and restaurant every night, and you actually have a choice of loads of cool bars, restaurants and clubs.

Everyone says that chamonix is expensive but it isn't. The good thing about cham is that there are loads of bars with 2-for-1's or half price drinks basically at any time throughout any night, so you dont have to make it expensive. Also the many restuarants range from the mega Poco Loco where you pay about 5 Eur for the biggest nicest burger you have ever seen with chips inside it!!, to the mega expensive 3 michelin star Albert Premier (I didnt go - but was quite happy with my poco loco thanks very much!!).

Realistically, there aren't many ski resorts which are a bargain to go to for food and drink, Chamonix is no more expensive than any other european resort except maybe andorra, but you get much much more for your money.

Also, unlike pas de la casa the place has lots of class, and doesn't feel like Benidorm. We actually rechristened Andorra 'Mandorra' after our last experience there as there were about 50 blokes to every girl, which might sound good for girls but it wasn't - it was a bit scary, and there was far too much testosterone floating arounds, our normally peaceful lads nearly got jumped by a load of louts one night. Not fun.

There is lots to do in Cham if you dont fancy boarding for a day shopping is pretty good there, also you can go to the glacier and see the ice caves and go up the aguille de midi lift which is the highest in Europe. The view is amazing from the top. Also there are galleries and museams to go see if you are into all that.

Accommodation and flights to Cham are also reasonable, you wont find many package holidays there, but there are lots of nice cheap apartments to stay in (look on the internet, or chamonix.net) and mostly the owners are helpful about where to get hire stuff etc. Also you can fly Easyjet from lots of places in the UK to geneva and it is only a short 45min drive to Chamonix from there.



Strengths
Brilliant off piste
On piste terrain for all abilities
Amazing nightlife - really cool bars and clubs
Lots of choice of restaurants
Really lively town
Not many drag lifts
Great shopping
Stuff to do if you dont fancy boarding for a day, eg shopping, sightseeing in museams, going up the aguille de midi, snow train to see the glacier etc. You wont be bored.
Hot Spots
Grand Montets top lift
Poco -Loco!
Chambre Neuf (full of fit swedes and half price v strong cocktails every night!!)
Grand Montets Boarder Cross park (not sure when they build it though - might be end of season)
All the off piste you could ever wish for, and you dont have to go backcountry to get it!
Weaknesses
Some of the areas are not linked up - but there are lots of buses going around so not a massive problem.
Similar Resorts Visited
Flaine, Avoriaz (queued for hours there - nightmare in high season)
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