Forget any romantic ideas of the Chamonix Vallee Blanche as a smooth, relatively easy red or blue level run, albeit off-piste. It's nothing like that.
Right at the edge of a deep Crevasse at Vallee Blanche
You will heard all the stories and have read up that the Vallee Blanche, Chamonix is an absolute must do.
..and it is...just fantastic.
There really is nothing in the world that compares to skiing the 17 km, 2800m vertical descent down the glacier, the Mer de Glace.
Without question, this is a must do!
Ok, you can tell, I'm about to go into caution mode.
Rightly so, as I've waxed lyrical on my other pages about skiing Chamonix Vallee Blanche.
When to go
Most skiers choose to ski the Vallee Blanche, also affectionately called VB, on a Friday, as a crowning experience at the end of a week's skiing. I believe the locals call it an activity fin de semaine.
So, don't choose to experience the Vallee Blanche then.
In fact, if you are the sort to plan ahead, choose to go on a day with fine weather. This is especially important as you'll discover as you read further down this page.
Our recommendation is to look up the weather forecast as soon as you arrive at the resort, pick a fine day to do the Chamonix Vallee Blanche and arrange your skiing program around the weather.
Yes, it is fabulous
Just like any groomed ski slope with various named routes, so too does the off-piste Vallee Blanche. There are four major routes ranging from what is generally considered appropriate, in good conditions, for high intermediate skiers, to steep and challenging.
Your ski-guide, which of course, you must have with you, will gauge your level of ski ability and take you down the most appropriate route.
As conditions change, the guide will know which snow bridges will be stable.
So, don't worry if you're not an expert skier. The opportunity to have this incredibly unique skiing adventure cannot be passed up, when you are right here in Chamonix.
The specific dangers
OK, let's get down to the scary bits.
...which is why you must have a guide.
When the sign says "Danger, You Are Going Off-Piste". It really means that.
Getting to the Landing Platform
To get to ski the Vallee Blanche, you start from the top of the Aiguille du Midi cable car terminal. That's at over 3800m. There is a steep climb down hill - a very long way, to get to the arrette or landing platform.
See the line of people coming down the slope? They are heading down from the top of the cable car terminal, carrying their skis and poles, down this incredibly steep slope.
At the end, skiers rest a bit before putting on their equipment to ski down the mountain towards the glacier.
This path is a ridge with 40 degree slopes on either side. It is very steep and deaths occur each year when people fall off the ridge. No, there are no nicely cut steps, but there is a rope to hold onto.
Please, hire crampons and WEAR THEM. This will make the walk down so much easier than the danger of slipping and sliding.
Once you get past this danger, you'll find skiing the glacier is not a smooth, easy skiing experience. There are crevasses and seracs or ice towers to avoid.
On the other pages, I explain the crevasses are formed when the enormously thick river of ice flows over undulating terrain. It cracks.
You ski around the cracks and over snow bridges which are snow platforms that form over the crevasse. It is your guide who will know the route and which snow platforms are stable and which aren't.
Your guide will have with him emergency locator beacons, ropes, shackles, clips, ice picks.
Ok... now you see why it's best to pick a day of good weather to ski Chamonix Vallee Blanche?
Seracs are ice towers.
For heavens sake, don't choose to have a picnic under or close to them. They can become unstable and collapse.
Your guide will point them out and will take you around them. You'll see forests of these seracs. Truly an amazing sight.
Go With A Guide
Yes, you will have heard the bravado and skiers do take off down the Chamonix Vallee Blanche on their own, in no more than jeans, a light jumper and their Bolle's.
But you don't hear about the ones who don't come back.
Remember, this is off-piste with all the attendant dangers.
There is NO civilization out here. The only man-made construction out here is the rope down from the Aiguille du Midi and the basic refuge half way down the glacier. There's a telephone at the shelter and a helicopter pad, then just mogul fields and the glacier all the way to Montenvers at the end.
Mobile phone reception? Please...
Once you start, you're committed.
If you need to be rescued, it will cost.
Most of you reading this will be tourists to Chamonix. Look, we spend heaps going on ski vacations all over the world and so do you. Pay for a guide - it is cheap insurance and he'll also be excellent in telling you about the glacier and the region.
...and be sure to tip generously.
(No, we have no relationship with any guides nor any business in Chamonix but we know how to value terrific service)