Skiing in Chamonix

There are five principal ski areas in the Chamonix valley: Les Houches, which has the best tree skiing; the Aiguille du Midi and Montenvers which serve as the start and endpoint of the famous Vallee Blanche run above Chamonix itself; the south-facing Domaine Brevent-Flegere, which is on the other side of town and which can be accessed from either Chamonix or from the outlying suburb of Les Praz; Les Grands Montets which is above the village of Argentiere and attracts advanced skiers; and Domaine de Balme, reached from either le Tour or Vallorcine which has the best slopes for novices and less confident intermediates.

The Chamonix valley is a narrow yet deep trough through Europe’s highest mountains and glaciers, measuring 24 km (14 miles) from the Col de Voza to the Col de Balme and separating the Aiguilles Rouges to the north from the Mont Blanc massif. The valley was created by an immense glacier – the present site of Chamonix was buried under at least 1,000 m (3,281 ft) of solid ice. Glaciers, along with their dangerous crevasses, remain a striking feature of the Chamonix ski area and the biggest, the Mer de Glace is the second largest glacier in the Alps after Switzerland’s Aletsch glacier. For this reason, any serious off-piste skiing should not be considered without a guide.

Domaine de Balme (Vallorcine and Le Tour)

Le Tour has an excellent nursery slope area called La Vormaine for absolute beginners, which is situated just above and to the right of the main lift station (Charamillon). The main ski area above le Tour has gentle, rolling, naturally snowy west-facing slopes that are perfect for for near novices and less confident intermediates, although the red run under the Charamillon has some steep sections (which can be icy or slushy as well), so nervous skiers should come down by skiers. Across the Tete de Balme is steeper skiing, above and below the treeline, on the north/north-east face that leads down to Vallorcine near the Swiss border, from where you can return to Chamonix by train. (Le Tour is most easily reached from Chamonix by bus.).  One of the most popular easy runs is the blue Liaison Balme (T13) which connects with another gentle blue run (Les Esserts) to take you half way down to Vallorcine. You can either return on the Tete de Balme lift which accesses more gentle blue run skiing (Les Alpages and Retour Charmillon) or, if you can manage a slightly steeper red run, you can continue all of the way down to Vallorcine on the aptly named  ‘Foret Verte’.  None of the pistes are steep enough to challenge advanced skiers, but there is good off-piste freeriding, particularly on the Vallorcine side, just above and inside the woods around the Tete de Balme lift. Some of it can be avalanche-prone, so take a guide. There are also more extensive itineraries which require some climbing.

Les Grands Montets (Argentiere)

Les Grands Montets above the village of Argentiere epitomises the Chamonix ski experience. Its steep, wide flanks are fantastic in powder although it quickly gets tracked out and within a week is converted into testing moguls, making it one of the best areas for bumps in the Alps. Most of the slopes face north or northwest and usually have the best snow conditions in the valley. The top cable-car, which was never included in the basic Chamonix lift pass and had to be booked and paid for separately, was put out of action by a fire in 2018 and is not expected to re-open before 2021. But there is still plenty of lift-accessed high-altitude tough skiing courtesy of the Herse and Bochard lifts, and most days you will see ski tourers skinning up the mountain to reach the slopes previously served by the closed cable car.

Domaine Brevent Flegere (Chamonix and Les Praz)

The most scenic skiing in the valley is at Le Brevent and La Flegere, as from here you get sublime views of Mont Blanc and the Chamonix peaks. Even skiers who are not strong enough to make the descent from the top of Le Brevent (the run down is one of the steepest in the valley) should take a ride up the cable car on a clear day to check out this most iconic vision of the mountains. The two areas are linked along a south-facing flank and the skiing takes place above the tree-line between 1,900m and 2,400m. There are several picturesque runs hidden in the bowls: check out Combe de la Charlanon (B8) and Crochus (F13), a 4,500 m (14,764 ft)-long red which has been opened up by the addition of a short drag at the top of l’Index 2,385 m (7,825 ft) and drops down 750 m (246 ft) of vertical. Note that the cable car linking the two areas can be closed in high winds but there is a free bus  between Le Brevent and La Flegere.

Les Houches

Les Houches, at the opposite end of the Chamonix valley to La Tour, is a honeypot for skiers in bad weather because it has the best tree-skiing.  Surprisingly, it is the biggest single ski area in the area but as it is owned separately it is not covered by the standard Chamonix ski pass. Les Houches has some of the easier runs in the Chamonix valley, and has the best nursery slopes in a resort renowned for its difficult runs. At the other end of the scale is the legendary Verte run, which hosts Chamonix’s Kandahar World Cup Downhill race every January.

The Vallee Blanche (Aiguille du Midi) and Montenvers

The final ski area comprises the off-piste routes down the famous Vallee Blanche from the top of Aiguille du Midi at 3842m (the highest lift in France). It’s one of the most common reasons for people to come to Chamonix and, despite the crowds, is certainly a must-ski. There is more than one route so both experts and intermediates can enjoy it. More information on this can be found in the off-piste section. In really good conditions you can ski all the way into Chamonix itself but the more normal end-point is Montenvers (1913m) where there is a lift and train station. There are a couple of runs at Montenvers as well, but its slopes are mostly used by nordic skiers, walkers and off-piste skiers coming down from the Vallee Blanche

Beginner Skiing in the Chamonix Valley

Le Tour and Les Houches at opposite ends of the Chamonix valley are the best resorts to learn to ski. In Chamonix itself there are nursery slopes at Savoy and les Planards, and there is a new beginners area at Lognan above Argentiere but overall Chamonix is not ideal for beginners.

Le Tour is the best village in the Chamonix valley for beginners, with nice nursery slopes next to the village at la Vormaine and good runs to progress onto. At the other end of the valley, les Houches has two good beginners’ area – one at the valley level (Le Tourchet) and one at the top of its main lift. In between les Houches and Le Tour are several inexpensive valley floor nursery areas serviced by short drag lifts. Because they are separate from the main ski areas, they are far from ideal if you are in a mixed ability group, because you will be split up from others in your group, making it difficult  to meet up for lunch. Also, apart from at le Tour, the valley level nursery slopes can suffer from bad snow (because they are very low for ski slopes) but also be very cold as they are shaded by the towering mountains that hide the sun. All the nursery slopes apart from those at les Houches are covered by the basic Chamonix pass, but you won’t even need that for the valley floor ones because they have cheap day and half day passes which cover just these lifts.

Domaine de Balme / Le Tour & Vallorcine 

Beginners are best served by Le Tour where the La Vormaine area,opposite the car park ,is perhaps Chamonix’s best beginner area – it’s usually bathed in sunlight and is sheltered from the wind for a start. There are four lifts of increasing size with two green pistes and a longer blue to tackle before you muster the confidence to go up the mountain. Once you’re ready, there is a nice network of progressive blues stretching all the way across the Col de la Balme and half way down to Vallorcine. Good easy cruising runs include L’Arve, Liaison Balme, Les Esserts which are all good for improving beginners. The run down to the village however is a red, however, so take the bubble down until you are ready.

Vallorcine has valley floor beginners slopes in the next door village of La Poya. Once you have mastered these you should take the bubble lift up (and down at the end of the day because the run back is a red) and ski over to le Tour on the gentle blues.

Grands Montets / Argentiere

A new beginners area was installed here at the mid mountain Lognan cable car station for the 2018/19 season. But there are only limited easy pistes to move onto because this is an area oriented towards advanced and off-piste skiers.  

La Chosalets is a small beginners’ area close to Argentiere. It is about 500m from the Lognan lift, so it’s not easily accessible in ski boots. La Chosalets has two tiny pistes for beginners, which certainly are not worth the drive if you are not accommodated in Argentiere.


At the bottom of the Planpraz telecabine there is a small nursery section for beginners called Savoy before they consider going up the mountain. For the more adventurous who simply want to get up the mountain the 2000 green (B3) can be accessed via the Altitude chairlift after Planpraz. 

Close to the Aiguille du Midi cable car is another valley level ski area – les Planards. It tends to have better snow than Savoy but it can be very cold.

Flegere / Les Praz

Flegere also has a few decent green runs, Trappe (F6) and Libellules (F7), which are accessible from the Flegere and La Trappe lifts. For those who have progressed beyond blue the Chavanne (F10) and the Liaison Chavanne (F11) and Liaison Flegere (F12) blues are easy enough.

Les Houches (Le Tourchet and Prarion/Ecole)

The Les Houches valley level ski area is called Le Tourchet. It’s near the centre of town and has two drag lifts. There is another good beginners area at the top of the Les Houches ski area at Prarion around the Ecole ski lift, with plenty of easy blue runs to progress onto nearby. As the Les Houches ski area is not covered by the basic Chamonix lift pass  (Chamonix Le Pass), this can make Les Houches more expensive to visit for novices staying elsewhere in the valley. 

Ski Schools & Ski Lessons in Chamonix, les Houches and Argentiere

Looking for private or group ski lessons in the Chamonix Valley? CheckYeti works with leading ski schools and ski instructors in over 500 ski destinations throughout Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Let them help you choose the right ski school or instructor for you. Qualified and experienced ski instructors and guides at 500+ ski destinations, 6,000+ offers and 24,000+ ski school reviews. View ski schools, classes, offers and discounts, and pre-book your ski lessons online.

Book Ski School Lessons in Chamonix >

Intermediate Skiing in Chamonix

Chamonix offers intermediate-level skiers some exhilarating skiing, including the Vallee Blanche which is well within the range of most intermediate skiers, provided they don’t ask their guide to take them down one of the steeper variants. But if you are looking for endless well-groomed, motorway-like, lift-connected pistes, then look elsewhere.

Strong intermediates should be comfortable skiing all of Chamonix’s different ski areas, but the fact that most ski areas are not lift-connected means that Chamonix is not a resort for those who like to cover vast distances of well-groomed pistes. If you like hundreds of kilometres of well-groomed pistes for high-speed cruising all day, there are plenty of better places to ski, but if you want to test your skiing ability and have to work on your technique as you descend steep and narrow reds and blacks, Chamonix is the right place.

Le Tour

The place to start is Le Tour which has some of the easiest intermediate terrain; the blues are enjoyable and the reds are far easier than those in the rest of the ski area. Bear in mind that the short runs from the top of Aiguillette de Posettes get the first sun of the day. The Belle Place (T16) red through the trees is good for better intermediates, while the Ecuries (T3), Chatalet (T2) and Caisets (T1) join up to make one long red at almost 3km in length. There is snowmaking at the bottom, where it can also get crowded at the end of the day. The Esserts (T17) blue offers outstanding views of Mont Blanc at the top before winding through the forest. It links up with Belle Place.

Grands Montets

The Grands Montets ski area is not for the faint-hearted, but intermediates can still have a wonderful time and make the step up when they are ready. La Pierre a Ric (L10) red is the ultimate carving piste with wide sweeping turns perfect for it up until mid-afternoon when it starts to get busy. The Variante Hotel (L5) is an ungroomed red run that joins up with the Pierre a Ric. From there to the bottom it can often be one large mogul field so you had better like bumps. At the top of the Variante, the piste is a continuation of the Blanchot (L12) black, one of the easier black runs in Chamonix. It means that if you start at the top of Blanchots, which in turn is an extention of the black Pylons (L2), you can ski the whole of the Grands Montets descent. The twisting blue Les Arolles (L8) offers an outstanding view of the Chamonix valley and is perfect for those who want something a little less taxing.

Le Brevent and La Flegere

The slopes of Le Brévent have been redesigned to make them more intermediate friendly. The Combe de la Charlanon (B8) red at the top of the Col Cornu chairlift has a black variant and is perfect for intermediates looking to further their experience. La Flegere is home to many reds which would definitely be called blacks in most other resorts and the best runs are accessed from the top of the Index chairlift, with the Combe Lachenal (F12) red a particular favourite. The Crochues (F13) red is 4.5km long and is spectacularly free of human presence and stand opposite the Grandes Jorasses and the Mer de Glace, the longest glacier in France.

Les Houches

After La Tour’s Balme area, Les Houches is the next best bet for intermediates. Les Houches has 12 reds and six blues which are set mainly within the treeline. The lower slopes are almost exclusively blues and there are long blues and reds from the top of the Bellevue & Prarion telecabines, where you get an extraordinary 360 degree view of the Mont Blanc massif.

Advanced & Expert Skiing in Chamonix

Most advanced skiers in Chamonix head for Argentiere’s legendary Grands Montets ski area, but Chamonix’s other areas also provide testing freeriding, and in good weather the off-piste skiing in Chamonix is virtually limitless.

Most of Chamonix’s advanced skiing is off-piste but there are also some testing black pistes and ungroomed runs that are avalanche controlled, throughout Chamonix’s different ski areas.

Domaine de Balme (Le Tour and Vallorcine)

Le Tour’s pistes are aimed at intermediates, but there is plenty of freeriding to the side, and ski tourers can use the lifts to get them most of the way up the mountain, before making a final climb up and over the main ridge. What’s more, Le Tour has historically one of the highest and consistent snowfall levels in France. 

Grand Montets

Argentiere’s legendary Grand Montets has the most advanced terrain in the Chamonix valley. The Grand Montets area is reached  by the high-speed bubble lift to Plan Joran. All of the runs in this sector are steep and narrow at some point and are all worth close scrutiny. The dividing line between piste and off-piste becomes blurred very quickly and the whole mountain is quickly covered in bumps – it is very popular. Nowhere is this more evident than at the top of the Herse lift. In theory it accesses two black runs and a red run – in reality there are are countless routes down – including the Italian bowl (on your left as you ride up the lift) and the Canadian bowl (on your right).  You can descend all the way to the Lognan refuge.

The Bochard lift opens up an even greater area of off-piste freeriding (as well as a back piste) including the Combe de la Pendant and Lavancher bowls.  Do not descend lower than the Retour Pendant lift unless you are with a guide. There are routes down to the valley, but most are extremely steep, avalanche-prone and dependent on good snow conditions. 

There is more off-piste around the Tabe lift.

There are several off-piste routes through the trees from Lognan and Plan Joran down to the village. Most of the ones that take you away from the main piste are extremely difficult and need good snow cover. If you’re determined to ski them, check them out thoroughly when you ride the Plan Joran lift up. Even then, they can only be recommended if you are with a guide.

When the Grand Montets cable car is open (it was closed after a serious fire in 2018, but even before then was often closed in windy conditions and always had to be booked and paid for separately for those with the standard lift pass) be sure to ride the second stage cable-car to the top of the mountain 3,275m (10,742 ft) for spectacular views and the 100 metal step descent to the slopes. 

Here you have the 1,000 m (3,281 ft) vertical of the Point de Vue black (L1) itinerary and its views across the Argentiere glacier or Pylones (L2), a similarly long black run which is often icy and usually bumpy. Both of these are an absolute must, but do not stray off on to the glacier without a guide – you have been warned!

Other black runs in the Grand Montets ski area to consider are the steep and 3.4km Chamois (L4), which gives sumptuous views back into the Lavancher bowl and the La Remuaz (L14), which is often cut up into bumps. Both are entirely dependent on the Retour Pendant chairlift so check it is open at the top of the Bochard gondola before you embark on either piste.

Le Brevent and La Flegere

Brevent and Flegere also have some great pistes. In the Brevent area the Charles Bozon black (B1/B1b) is all about the pitch and there is truly testing skiing across the flank. The Nants (B10) black is thin and winds down through the trees to the Planpraz gondola. As a result, it can get very busy in the afternoon as a route home and it also suffers from poor snow quality at the bottom. Great views though. 

Flegere offers the Praz (F1) and Floria (F14) blacks, both long winding runs that are perfect for accessing some of Chamonix legendary off-piste. Praz takes you back to the valley floor. Although intermediate red runs, the Charlanon (B8) and Crochues (F13) are often ungroomed and provide a decent challenge. For those who like skiing in uncrowded surroundings, the Combe Lachenal (F12) red is the only run in the huge Lachenal gully that also provides good off-piste options.

Les Houches

The main draw for experts in Les Houches is the famed Verte black, which is the only piste approved for World Cup racing in the Haute Savoie. The Verte is surrounded by fir trees, which means the sun rarely gets to the snow making it icy. What’s more, it is almost 3.5km in length, has an 870m vertical and a series of jumps including the well-known Cassure and the Goulet, but it’s only difficult if you are skiing over 80kph like a pro. The likes of Didier Cuche and Alberto Tomba have done it in less than two minutes. Challenge accepted?

Boarding & Freestyle in Chamonix

Chamonix snowboarders and freestylers will like the natural jumps, quarters, and gullies of Le Tour and La Flegere, including the infamous Big Tit jump, but for boarders, as for skiers, Chamonix is not an ideal place to learn.

The gentler slopes of Le Tour are mostly serviced by draglifts though the rest of the ski areas are thankfully served by cable cars, gondolas and chair lifts, which offer relief from the draglifts except that most of the ski lifts are old and slow, and queuing is too often a problem. The infamous Big Tit jump at La Flegere, just off the side of the main red run from the top of the Darth Vader lift (L’Index), is reputedly the biggest natural kicker in Europe. Le Brevent (linked to La Flegere by a low-level gondola) has some good on-piste and steep powder runs, the best of which are accessed from the top of the Col Cornu chairlift, and the runs beneath the Parsa chair are good for fast on-piste riding. There is also a boardercross at Le Brevent.

There is a snowpark with a half pipe accessed via the Marmottons, Tabe and Plan-Roujon chairlifts in Grands Montets. It is quite extraordinary at almost a 1 km long with around 20 jumps, rails and a wall. Crucially, it has a beginners‘ area which is perfect for practising without the more proficient watching on. For updates on new obstacles please visit

There is a snow park south of Chamonix covering much of the small resort Les Bossons (one chair lift and 3 pistes) which is privately owned and not covered on the normal lift pass (open afternoons and evenings for around 10 Euros a session), but there are not many big jumps and with so much amazing natural terrain on offer in Chamonix it is not really worth the effort. 

For experienced boarders, however, the mountains of Chamonix open up like a picture book. While the infamous Vallee Blanche is mostly too flat for easy riding, there is plenty of good off-piste terrain; described in detail in Chamonix off-piste.

Off-Piste in the Chamonix Valley

Skiing off-piste is a way of life in Chamonix with backcountry ski terrain to suit everyone from ‘powder puppy’ to ‘extreme skier’ including open slopes, couloirs, powder or spring snow (on the same day), cliff jumps, crevasses, the Vallee Blanche and some of the most dramatic high mountain scenery imaginable, within an hour of Geneva airport.

Grands Montets,one of the world’s top off-piste ski mountains, has plenty of off-piste terrain within easy reach of the pistes, but when venturing off-piste close to the pistes you still need to be aware of avalanche risks and other hazards. 

Les Houches is often best for skiing fresh powder in bad weather and Le Tour has some great terrain for learning to ski off-piste and includes some of the best tree skiing in the Chamonix valley. La Flegere has stupendous views of the Mer de Glace and the Grandes Jorasses and is worth visiting on busy powder days to introduce skiers to deep snow and when Grands Montets is too busy. Le Brevent has plenty of good off-piste skiing close to the lifts including short steep descents in the Brevent Col area which are great for practising your technique.

Back To Top