Aiguille du Midi

The dramatic and spindly Aiguille du Midi mountain looms over the Chamonix valley, in some ways even more impressive looking than the ominous Mont Blanc, which sits farther away. In 1955, a cable car was built to connect the center of Chamonix town with the mountain peak and the gondola journey continues to be hugely popular with both skiers and non-sportif visitors.

A platform at the summit includes a café, viewing points and Step Into the Void, a glass-floor nook that extends over the expanse. The experience—not for the feint of heart—is thrilling and there can be long lines. Skiers planning to conquer the 23 km (14.3 miles) Vallée Blanche begin just below the Aiguille du Midi peak. Mountain climbers aiming to summit Mont Blanc also begin at this point. The Step Into the Void is open until August 8, at which point it will close for some renovations.

Downhill & Cross-Country Skiing

Chamonix's 70-plus miles of ski runs are spread throughout four separate areas, serviced by 42 ski lifts. Offering arguably the best advanced and extreme skiing in the Alps, Chamonix steep slopes are its best but there is varied terrain that will keep skiers of all levels happy and enthralled. The different ski areas are spread out around the Chamonix valley (read about Chamonix's lay of the land), which means the ambitious can ski different regions each day and never repeat runs, and almost ensuring that at least one section will have good snow conditions. It also means that visitors need to be organized and think ahead about which areas they'd like to discover each day, as getting to lifts requires a bit more planning.

Following is a very abbreviated description of the area's best skiing during the season, which runs from mid-December through mid-May:

  • Les Houches is one ski area that is close to the center of Chamonix town and good for families and intermediate skiers. There are beautiful 360-degree views of the area including the nearby Mont Blanc.
  • Brévent and Flégère are two regions connected by a cable car that offer varied types of slopes and a good number of blue runs.
  • The Grands Montets consists of three regions including the famed Argentière glacier. The impressive area is famous in world of freeriders and snowboarding and boasts very steep pistes at high altitudes (10,800ft.)
  • Balme-Vallorcine region is reachable via the villages of Tour and Vallorcine and consists of beginner/intermediate runs that can be attempted at a more leisurely pace
  • Vallée Blanche is the 23 km (14.3 mile) glacier run accessible from Auguille du Midi
All guests in Chamonix, whether staying in a chalet or hotel, receive a pass for the buses and trains, which transport skiers to the different regions. Some hotels have private and most chalets come with staff who can drive guests to and pick them up from mountain bases.

The Chamonix area also boasts 53 kilometers (33 miles) of cross-country skiing trails in Les Bois and Argentière, which can provide a nice counter-balance to downhill skiing. Tickets and trail maps can be purchased at the Foyer de Ski de Fond de Chamonix. (Route du Bouchet; 33-450-531-115)

Editors' Picks

Hiking & Climbing

Chamonix boasts some excellent hiking trails for both summer and winter. Hikes range in difficulty and itineraries can be multiple days with nights spent in simple mountain huts.

Editors' Picks

Maison de la Mémoire et du Patrimoin

Housed in a former Catholic girls’ school, this small museum details the rich history of the Mont Blanc Valley. Visiting the maison is a great way to spend a warm afternoon inside.

Mer de Glace

The 7km (4.3 mile) long glacier Mer de Glace was named as such (it translates to "sea of ice") by 18th-century explorers. The ice plane has been slowly shrinking over the past few centuries and is currently the lowest it has been since Medieval times. There are caves formed from the ice that can be explored but the best view is from the Montenvers outlook, reachable by train (a 20-minute journey from Chamonix center). Stay for lunch or a snack at Hotel Restaurant Montenvers. During the ski season the Mer de Glace is skiable as part of Vallée Blanche.

Editors' Picks

Musée Alpin

This small, kitschy museum details the history of Chamonix, from its humble beginnings to its explosion as an international ski hub. The perfect break from a day of skiing, there is an especially interesting exhibit on Mont Blanc and its mountaineering-heavy past.

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