Skiing in Chamonix

For years I have come to Chamonix in the summer for rock climbing and mountaineering adventures. I’ve always looked up at these beautiful mountains and wondered what they would look like with their winter coat on and now I have had the chance! We arrived in Chamonix at the start of the month after three months in Spain, and was immediately mesmerised by the skyline! As is the usual, even in the summer, we could not see the dome of Mont Blanc on the drive in, as it was hidden in the clouds!

For the first few days we got a couple of days cragging in, lucky that some of the rock in the area was dry enough to play on! However our main purpose for being here was to go skiing and enjoy the slopes. It was also great to be able to go skiing on the cheap, by cutting out the costs of flights, transfers and accommodation, it makes the whole idea more economical, and anyone who has been skiing knows how much it can cost!

We sorted out our ski rental and a three day lift pass, that luckily gave us access to three separate skiing locations, so one for each day! On day one we headed up the Montets, as this area had the least amount of runs on paper and we only had 2/3rds of a day to play with. It is fair to say that the changing scenery from what we are used to on this lift compared to now is totally different. We ran down from one of the lift stations in the summer, and on arrival I tried to guess where this was, and apart from the start (the lift station) I had no clue where the rest of the route was, the snow evened out everything!

We started on a few blue runs, I felt instinctively comfortable from the off and within these first runs had took a couple of detours off piste and even ran down an alternative black slope. I wasn’t 100%, and often felt the skis did not respond as well as I remember, and my muscles were not coping well either, I’m obviously out of practice! Throughout the day we continued to ski and moved up to the red routes, jess was comfortable here, and again I went for a couple of off piste detours. By the end of the day, jess had a go off piste and even a section of a black run. I don’t think either of us are on top form yet, and by the end of the day and the last run to the base I was resting every ten turns as my muscles burned more than they have in a long while!

One thing that surprised me on the Montets, was the mass of availability for off piste routes, this made the whole range much larger and gave it more scope than I thought it would. Maybe one day when I’m a bit more into skiing I could come back and have a look at some of these in more detail and enjoy them more, rather than being out of my depth!

The following day we headed up to Le Tour, although the hardest run here was red, there was plenty to have a go at. Add to this the fantastic weather, for the first time we could see the summit of Mont Blanc and not a sea of cloud! Throughout the day we were able to ski every run, the snow was perfect! I tried a bit of off piste here and there, however it was all quite solid and really hard to ski on. Later on I went off by myself and the snow was powdery, and it was nice to make my own tracks through the snow! I was aiming for a small gully that I had seen from the lift, shaped like a half pipe, I was also aiming for the easy angled entry, however I managed to ski past this and instead took on the steeper entrance, I was at full concentration throughout, weaving up and down either side of the bowl. I was waiting for a fall that never came, it was great fun!

The last day of our ski pass, we tried to go up the Flegere lift, because of high winds it was closed and so we drove into town to go up the Brevent lift. As the Brevent is at the top of a steep road, we decided to get the bus up, and as soon as we got to the top, we headed towards the cable car that linked to the Index side, I immediately had pains in my feet and this continued through the day. This involved a few routes, and eventually we were at the Index side. Once there we did a couple of the longer routes off the Index, similar to other locations we had skied at, it was great to look at the different climbs that we had done in the summer months all covered in snow.

After lunch at the top and a few more runs, we decided we should head back to the Brevent side and do the last couple of routes there. However when we arrived at the lift it was closed, with no warning. The early closing of this lift seemed to cause a few people headaches, and you could see the annoyance in everyone who approached expecting to get across. As it turned out the Flegere lift was now open, and the only way down to the valley! We did another run and made sure to tick off the black run, I took my biggest fall here, and even after I’d lost my ski, I continued falling down until I dug both hands into the snow to arrest the fall! Looking up I could see my other ski quite a way up the slope and had to slog up to get it! The rest of the run went smoothly, and Jess followed. We planned to have an end of skiing hot chocolate celebration, however when we got to the cafe it was closed, it seemed like everything was not going to plan, so we headed down!

In a weird way, all the closures ended up working in our favour, as the bus back into town passed very close to our ski rental centre, and we could get rid of our skis and boots before walking through town, which turned out to be super busy!

Apart from the final days faff, the whole three days were great, I’ve always wanted to know what these places looked like in ski season and now I know. Although I was a little tired on the last day, I still feel like I got the most out of all the days and hope to do something similar to this in the future. I’m not sure what’s next, it’s research and weather dependant, there are a load of options, so I’m sure the next post will be a surprise?

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