You'll find these Top 10 "Must Knows" essential in planning your Chamonix skiing holidays.
1. Chamonix's Ski Regions Are Not Interconnected
The resort’s ski areas are NOT interconnected. It’s spread amongst 5 ski regions, from Domaine de Balme, accessed from the village of Le Tour in the north of the valley to Les Houches at the southern end of the valley, about an hour away.
Orientation Map of The Chamonix Ski Resort
2. Chamonix Skiing Holidays: Getting There By Train is NOT the Way to Go
The train system in the valley services just the valley. It plys the route between Vallorcine, at the Swiss border and St. Gervais at the southern end of the valley, closest to Geneva.
What this means is that if you’re taking the train anywhere out of the valley, there is the inconvenience of having to change trains.
We found it was more efficient to get a shuttle directly to and from the airport than to hassle around changing trains, while managing all the luggage.
3. Make Your Chamonix Skiing Holidays By Securing The Best Location In Town
Location, Location, Location – that’s the rule whether you’re buying real estate or choosing your holiday accommodation.
The best location in town is the area north of the river L’Arve and around the main square, Rue du Docteur Paccard and Place Balmat bordered by Ave d'Aiguille du Midi and Ave du Mont Blanc. The best stores, restaurants, charcuteries, are located in this precinct.
Chamonix Mont Blanc Main Square
4. Ice Caves At Montenvers
One of the tourist highlights for Chamonix holidays are the ice caves drilled into the glacier, Mer de Glace. The engineering is clever and the trip and views over the glacier are worth the effort. However, I did expect more of the ice sculptures in the ice caves.
I'm sorry, Chamonix, but there’re better lighting displays and better ice sculptures in Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve even seen better displays at the Ice Bar in Sydney, Australia.
5. Loads Of Activities On Chamonix Skiiing Holidays
You needn’t be a skier to enjoy Chamonix holidays.
There’s just so much to do
• the shopping’s great
• the town’s charming
• there are forest walks
• Go up to the top of Aiguille du Midi for fantastic views over the Alps
• Visit Annecy France, the little Venice of France. It’s a medieval town built on waterways and only an hour and a half on the train
• Visit Montreux Switzerland, the Riviera of Switzerland. It’s a luxury lakeside resort, an hour’s drive from Chamonix
• Visit CERN Switzerland. This is where research is being conducted on the Big Bang.
6. Tip: Crossing Train Tracks
I found this completely weird, but getting across the train platforms requires a simple walk across the track. I wasted heaps of time, looking for overhead bridges to cross the train tracks, but… walking over the tracks is the “done” thing.
7. XC Ski Hire
It was remarkably difficult to find a store that hired Cross Country Skiing gear. We eventually found one at the bottom of Bigfoot’s offices at the corner of Rue Joseph Vallot and Alee Recteur Payot. You’ll see the big sign on the corner of the building – “Bigfoot”.
The cost of hire of XC skis and poles was extremely reasonable – all of 10 euros for the day’s hire.
There’s an excellent store selling XC gear and they stock Maloja clothing and equipment. It’s right opposite the Domaines du Nordique, close to the ice-skating rink.
8. Tip: Don't Commute on Your Holidays
Frankly, we don’t go on holiday to spend our time commuting. So, while the free transport is very efficient, minimize travel by selecting accommodation that's centrally located. We stayed in the best area in the center of Chamonix Mont Blanc, and that meant we were no more than 20 minutes away from the furthest ski region.
9. Some Activities Are Not In English
Most of the tourists in Chamonix are British and Scandinavians. You’ll find just about all the shopkeepers, waiters, guides, instructors and anyone in the tourist service industry, speaks English.
So, it was a surprise that some tourist attractions are in French only. The historical walk around town and the visit of the St Bernard dogs are only conducted in French...I know, this is presumptuous of me to expect all activities to be in a foreign language.
10. Take a Break From Cooking On Your Chamonix Skiing Holidays: Order Ahead For A Roast Chicken
Shopping for fresh food and produce is wonderful – the produce is of a very good quality, fresh and there’s good variety. There’s a charcuterie that has freshly roasted chickens.
But, you need to order one the day before.
It’s hugely popular as the products in this store are excellent. You’ll know it from the rotisserie at the front of the store, along the pedestrian zone of Rue Joseph Vallot.
Here's the best tip saved for last:
11 Best Tip
For the best hamburgers, go to Loco Poco on Rue du Docteur Paccard, close to Place Balmat. It’s an amazingly narrow restaurant with seating upstairs and the cook at the front of the shop downstairs.
They have the best hamburgers at very reasonable prices.
More about the resort: