Ski Lifts in Chamonix
The Chamonix Valley lift system has over 40 ski lifts and is busy all year round. The worst areas for queues was the Grands Montets lifts above Argentiere, despite it not being included on the basic Chamonix lift pass, but this was closed in 2018 after a serious fire and it is not known when it will re-open. The expensive Mont Blanc Unlimited ski pass covers everything in the valley and a lot of neighbouring resorts but the basic Chamonix pass satisfies most skiers.
Chamonix Ski Lifts
Chamonix’s ski lift system has been improved since the early 2000s but is still below the standard of resorts like Val d’isere or St Anton, and yet Chamonix lift passes are relatively expensive.
Most Chamonix ski lifts open in early December. Le Brevent, La Flegere and La Tour generally close by the end of April, with the lifts on Les Grands Montets staying open into early May if snow conditions are good. Skiers and snowboarders invariably grumble about the long queues found at the bottom of the four base stations (Le Brevent, La Flegere, La Tour and Les Grands Montets). While the Compagnie du Mont-Blanc has begun an overhaul to replace slow lifts and put in new links to ease bottlenecks, progress is slow and the fact that there are still too many old slow lifts is a problem.
Le Domaine de Balme at the far end of the valley is reached by gondola from the small village of Le Tour, as well as from Vallorcine (another small village beyond Argentiere and over the Col de Montets). There are seldom queues other than on bad weather days when the whole valley descends to make the most of the tree-lined slopes. Les Houches are even more extensive but are not covered by the basic lift pass.
Les Grands Montets base station is in Argentiere – catch a bus or train there or drive, though the free car park fills quickly. The Plan Joran bubble lift that ascends from the village into the ski area is a big improvement on the former cable car and chair lift but can get swamped at weekends. The Hearse is a high speed chair lift and Bochard is an uncomfortable, but high-capacity, and high-speed bubble. When the fire-damaged Grands Montets cable car re-opens, expect horrendous queues, so reserve a place by booking in advance online at www.montblancnaturalresort.com/en/domaine-skiable-grands-montets . If you only have the basic Chamonix lift pass, you will have to pay per ride.
Le Brevent and La Flegere, are connected by a cable car on the mountain. Le Brevent is the only pisted ski area accessible from Chamonix itself – and surprisingly has the shortest queues, except at ski school rush hour. The base station is a short (uphill) walk from the town centre or drivers can pay to park in the multi-storey nearby. The base station lift to La Flegere at Les Praz is now a modern high speed bubble lift.
The Vallee Blanche is reached by riding the Aiguille du Midi cable car up from Chamonix which takes you to the start of the infamously long off-piste descent.
Les Houches, a 10 minute drive from Chamonix, has its own ski lift system which has been improved by the installation of a modern gondola but the Bellevue cable car is still inadequate and both access lifts suffer from queuing in bad weather when Les Houches tree-lined slopes are especially popular. The chairlifts on the mountain are also slow.
Chamonix Ski Lift Passes
Mont-Blanc Unlimited (MBU)
Yes it’s expensive but it covers enough skiing for a month, let alone a week. It covers all the Chamonix Valley (Les Grands Montets including the top lift if it is open, Le Tour, l’Aiguille du Midi, Flegere, Brevent, les Houches); plus Verbier, Nendaz and the rest of the 4 Vallees in Switzerland (at least a 50% discount on day passes); plus Courmayeur in Italy on the other side of the Mont Blanc tunnel; plus the Evasion Mont Blanc Resorts including St Gervais and Megeve (this may require a small supplement/ extension – conditions change at short notice). There are also some important fringe benefits such as free use of the Mont Blanc tunnel (in a car only), or a free ride on the rather limited Chamonix-Courmayeur bus service and the more frequent Chamonix-les Houches bus service, and on the trains between Vallorcine, Argentiere and Chamonix, and even discounted cinema tickets. For details and online purchases see: www.montblancnaturalresort.com/en/montblanc-unlimited .
Chamonix Le Pass
Gives access to all of Le Brevent, La Flegere, La Tour and Les Grands Montets, except the Lognan-Grands Montets cable car which – if it open – can be paid for on a per ride basis, and to the Chamonix beginners’ lifts. It does not cover the Aiguille du Midi but this again can be paid for on a per ride basis. Annoyingly, for reasons of politics rather than geography or logistics, it does not include Les Houches but a day pass to this area is not too expensive. This is probably the pass for most intermediates and near novices who have graduated from nursery slopes to get if they are staying in Chamonix for one week, although intermediates should budget for one trip up the Aiguille du Midi and down the Vallee Blanche which the pass will not cover. For details and online purchases see: www.montblancnaturalresort.com/en/chamonix-lepass
Les Houches Ski Forfait
This does what it says on the tin: IE: it covers les Houches ski area (2 black pistes, including the famous World Cup downhill course “La Verte des Houches”, 12 red pistes, 5 blue pistes and 2 green pistes) and free access to the Tramway du Mont Blanc, the old rack and pinion railway going up the ski area from St Gervais. It also covers the SKICAMP winter sports entertainments area at the summit of the Prarion gondola near the Ecole chairlift which includes snow tubing, toboggan runs, zip lines, curling and village animation. Please note that although some people call it this the les Houches-St Gervais pass it does NOT cover the main St Gervais ski area which is on the other side of St Gervais and stretches over to Megeve which is covered by an Evasion Mont Blanc pass.
Theer are plenty of discounts for young skiers, old skiers, whole families, groups, early season, late season etc.
Special Beginners Passes
All the Chamonix valley nursery slopes except les Houches are covered by the Chamonix Le Pass (and all the Les Houches ones are covered by the les Houches pass) but there are special offers to cover just the beginners lifts at Savoy (near the Brevent lift), Les Plannards (near the Aiguile du Midi lift) , Les Chosalet (near Argentiere/Grand Motets ski area) and La Vormaine (at le Tour) which is the best beginners area in the valley. You pay by either the half day or the full day. The new beginners area at Lognan (above Argentiere) built for the 2018/19 season and the beginners area at the top of Les Houches require you go up from the valley in a lift so you must have either the Chamonix le pass or les Houches pass
Chamonix Lift Company
Compagnie du Mont-Blanc
35 Place de la Mer de Glace
74400 Chamonix Mont Blanc
Tel: +33 4 50 53 22 75
Web: www.montblancnatural resort.com