Best For: Adrenaline junkies who like their mountains big
Executive summary bydarmansjah
Globally renowned as the birthplace of extreme skiing (often defined as “you fall, you die”), Chamonixhas some of the world’s premier lift-accessed steep skiing and snowboarding—including plenty of terrain that won’t leave you dead on a glacier if you catch an edge wrong. Located in a deeply cleaved valley near the trisection of France, Italy, and Switzerland, the town sits in the shadow of the highest peak in the Alps, Mont Blanc, and a tangle of other glacier-clad mountains. Chamonix’s cobblestone streets and car-free pedestrian center make for a classic mountain village environment typically bustling with leathery mountaineers and gawking tourists. This is France, so the nightlife is predictably spirited, and diverse accommodations range from grimy climbers’ hostels to luxury lodgings.
But it’s the mountains that rule here. The many lifts and trams access terrain so steep and rugged that many skiers will be wishing for a ride down, as well. One ticket gains access to the 11 different ski zones scattered discontinuously across the valley. If the snow is good, vertical drops of over 9,000 feet are possible. With more glaciers—and their pesky offspring, crevasses—than any ski area in Europe, skiers and snowboarders who enjoy staying alive should hire a local guide before heading out of bounds.
Ask a Local
Former France Ski Team member and current freeride world champion Aurélien Ducroz has lived his entire life in Chamonix. Here are his recommendations.
Budget: The recently renovated Hotel du Louvre is in the center of town.
Swank: Le Hameau Albert 1er in downtown Chamonix is the only five-star hotel.
Cheap: Maison Moustache et Filles, a new restaurant downtown, is run by Charles “the Moustache” and his two daughters, Maxime and Camille. It’s decorated with an extraordinary collection of old skis.
Gourmet: Le Cap Blanc, one of Le Cap Horn’s three venues, serves delicious sushi.
Best After-Ski Party Spot
Chambre Neuf, a Scandinavian-influenced bar, has live music and is host to the best after-ski vibe the town has had in years.
Best Rest-Day Activity
Chamonix is a real city, so even if you’re not a skier there are many other things to do, such as visit the Alpine Museum.
Chamonix’s Classic Ski Run
La Vallée Blanche starts from the top of the Aiguille du Midi and goes for 16 kilometers on top of a glacier in the middle of incredible mountains!