At the foot of the majestic Mont Blanc is one the world's biggest names in skiing. With a traditional, alpine aesthetic, Chamonix looks markedly different to the archetypal, purpose-built, French resorts. The slopes here have a deserved reputation as one of the best places in the world for advanced skiing and snowboarding. Those of the highest standard can come to Chamonix and be tested to their limits. The vast slope area is spread along a 20 kilometre' valley and exploring it will require extensive use of the bus and lift systems. Off-piste skiing in Chamonix is some of the most exhilarating you will find and a guide is mandatory. Nearby Les Houches is linked by the Chamonix lift pass, offering further wonderful off-piste skiing opportunities and alternative accommodation. Chamonix offers wonderful French cuisine for a variety of budgets and some of the most vibrant nightlife in the Alps.
Chamonix certainly has enough terrain to keep beginner skiers and snowboarders occupied, however, Chamonix is not an ideal beginner ski resort. When good snow falls low in the valley, beginners can enjoy the nursery slopes of La Vormaine, Les Chosalets, Le Savoy and Les Planards, though the latter can suffer from a lack of sunshine at times. Tuition here is good - English-speaking instructors are plentiful - but Chamonix's strength is in teaching new, specialist skills to those who are already comfortable on the snow.
Intermediate skiers and snowboarders can have a wonderful skiing holiday in Chamonix if they are ready to stretch themselves. Areas like Col de Balme and Tête de Balme offer quiet cruising, but the best skiing is to be found in areas like Grands Montets where the pistes are much more challenging. Le Brévent and La Flégère have a good mix of blue and red runs, too. Confident intermediates should take advantage of a guided trip on the Vallée Blanche - a fun descent with some breathtaking scenery. Freestyle skiers and snowboarders will want to head to the natural half-pipe at Le Tour.
Serious skiers and snowboarders will relish the prospect of a trip to Chamonix. There is extensive and steep terrain to be found throughout the valley. Off-piste, Chamonix is one of the best resorts in the world and a guide is necessary to keep you safe and show you the highlights. Snowboarders should seek out the terrain parks of Argentière and Grands Montets for some superb areas for freestyle.
The Chamonix Ski School provides schooling for children from ages 3 and above. The Panda Club offers ski instruction near Argentière cable car station as well as at the downtown kindergarten. The MJC is a childcare facility that organises non-skiing activities for children aged between 3 and 12 years old. These excellent facilities are just a sample of what's available, though Chamonix's size doesn't make it the most convenient of resorts for a family holiday. Families staying in Chamonix or Les Houches will need to be prepared for some travelling to the slopes, but this shouldn't put you off as the childcare facilities are good and improving all the time.
Several peaks in the Chamonix valley offer skiing and snowboarding at over 3000 metres. Even from the highest piste of Aiguille du Midi, peaking at over 3800 metres, Mont Blanc still towers over you. The vast range of altitudes help to give the Chamonix valley an excellent reputation for very demanding slopes - both on and off-piste.
The high altitude and North-facing areas of the Chamonix valley offer excellent skiing well into May. Snowmaking facilities here are not as comprehensive as in the big North American resorts, meaning that lower, sunny pistes are not fit for skiing outside traditional resort season. We recommend checking last-minute snow forecasts for the possibility of an out-of-season break.
Après ski starts around sundown, with Chamonix's bustling bars providing the perfect atmosphere for a lively evening. Popular venues include the Office Bar and Restaurant, for live music, and Le Choucas video bar. Eating out in Chamonix is superb - Atmosphere and National restaurants are just two of the excellent choices available, with places like Monchou specialising in Savoyard cuisine. There is a diverse range of world cuisine available, too, including Mexican, Indian and Japanese. A good variety of nightclubs are open into the night. Le Privilege offers live acoustic music, whilst Le Cantina Club, BPM and Buschwacker all host regular DJs.