For our guests joining us on any off-piste and ski touring course, we recommend, if possible arriving at least a day or two early prior to starting a guided programme to allow for some initial skiing, acclimatisation and a little ski touring. The ski areas in and around the Chamonix Valley offer plenty of scope for warm-up skiing on the piste, accessible immediate side country sections within the ski area and some dedicated ski touring marked trails to use.
Here we describe a variety of skiing available and where you can go ski touring to warm-up. It is also valuable acclimatisation to the thinner mountain air. If your guiding / course with us will be the first time you ski in the season then a day or two of skiing & familiarisation with your equipment, prior to starting with your guide will be invaluable.
We also encourage you to do as much pre-season fitness training as you can to ensure you arrive fit and well. The fitter you are, the more enjoyable you will find your course and you will be less prone to injury. Use the link below to the BeFitApps which focus specifically on ski fitness.
We highly recommend you undertake a pre-ski season / trip preparation programme, ideally starting early in the autumn season to give plenty of time to build strength in your core, glutes and various other important ski related muscles! Our friends at BeFitt Apps have produced a really excellent pre season preparation which you can follow online, on your phone etc for a very cheap subscription.
If you are staying in the Chamonix Valley then a couple of days skiing in the ski areas of the valley offers a great warm-up. The valley is long and narrow with ski areas along its length. Most are not connected and need transport to reach from your accommodation. If you are staying in the centre of Chamonix town then the most accessible area is Le Brevent, which can be walked to (up a steep hill – welcome to Chamonix!). This area is also linked by a cable car to La Flegere, both are south-facing and provide great sunny locations for a first days skiing.
If you are looking for some mellow piste runs to get the legs going then either Les Houches or Le Tour are ideal areas to head to for the first day. The famous Grands Montets ski area is located close to the village of Argentiere further up the Chamonix Valley from the centre of town. It’s long piste runs and legendary off-piste is served by a variety of lifts and a full day skiing here is sure to warm-up the legs!
There is more detailed information on each of the ski areas within the Chamonix Valley on the link below.
If you are using public transport within the Chamonix Valley to get to the ski areas then the most efficient way to reach them is by using the bus service. The buses run regularly on various routes up and down the valley and service the ski areas from bus stops all along the valley. More information can be found on this link: Public Transport Options in Chamonix. All the ski areas have large car parks at their bases (some free, some pay) so if you have a car you can also drive and park at whichever ski area you are visiting.
Close to Chamonix, we also have the brilliant Domain Evasion Mont Blanc skiing made up of 6 other resorts, which together add another 400km of pisted terrain in the shadow of Mont Blanc. If you are joining us on our Ski Evasion Aravis course then we use these areas throughout the course and suggest accommodation closer to them for ease of access.
Their long pisted runs, easy access off-piste and magnificent views to the Mont Blanc Massif make them well worth a visit. St. Gervais links to Megeve with skiing on all aspects. Les Contamines has long tree-lined runs and the resorts are a great place to ski in heavy snowfall or to find fresh powder.
It is easiest to reach these resorts by car, so a hire car from the airport can be useful for moving around the area efficiently. There are car parks at the base of all the main lifts accessing each ski area.
We are often asked by guests where they can go for a ski tour prior to the start of their course / guided days. With the increasing popularity of ski touring and the potential for conflict with downhill skiers on the piste, many resorts have now marked dedicated ski touring (ski de randonnée) trails within the ski areas. In Chamonix there are 3 options available, 1 in Les Houches (841m vertical height gain); 1 in Le Tour (701m vertical height gain) and 1 in Argentiere/Lognan, however, we would not recommend this one due to its steepness and technical nature! Sticking to 1 of the other 2 trails is highly recommended for your safety, ski touring up the side or even the middle of the piste is dangerous and can easily result in an accident or the pisters stopping you; so please do not choose to do this.
The best option is the route marked in Les Houches which starts from the base of the Prarion gondola and winds it’s way up the side of the piste and through the forest to the summit of the Prarion lift at 1830m. This route offers a mellow start and some time away from the pistes in the pine forest as it climbs higher. The top section is steeper and allows you the opportunity to practise your kick-turns. It is never too far from the piste so there is generally a bailout option if needed!
A map of the route is available here: Les Houches Ski Touring Track click on the Dynamic Map.
The Le Tour ski touring route starts just to the left of the bottom of the main gondola, immediately behind the bus stop! It is a steady start but then steepens as it heads towards the mid-station at Charamillion.
The Routes are marked by small yellow signs like these:
There are also various marked trails in the Evasion area including at Combloux, Megeve and St. Gervais.
If you want to ski tour further afield then we would always recommend you take a guide for more adventurous off-piste or touring and please contact us for private ski guiding rates as we can offer individual guided days in and around Chamonix for pre-course warm-up ski days.
For any of the skiing in or around the Chamonix Valley you can buy a day pass at the ski area you choose to go to. If you are just doing one day’s skiing prior to your course then it is best to purchase a day pass. For any of our guided skiing, we always recommend you wait until you have met your guide at the pre-arranged welcome meeting before you buy a ski pass; this will ensure that you don’t end up with the wrong pass for the wrong number of days and having to buy something else. If a consecutive day pass is required then this can be brought on the first morning at the ticket office.
In Chamonix, there are 2 ski passes available. The Mont Blanc Unlimited Ski Pass available from 1 day or more (consecutive days). The Mont Blanc Unlimited pass will cover you to ski in all the ski areas in Chamonix and includes the Aiguille du Midi cable car, the Montenvers railway and gives you days in the Evasion Mont Blanc ski areas, Courmayeur in Italy and Verbier in Switzerland. This is an impressive amount of terrain but generally not required unless you are going over to Italy, Up the Midi, Doing a Vallée Blanche and coming down the train etc.
The other pass which you can buy is called the Chamonix Le Pass and covers the main ski areas in the Chamonix Valley only, it excludes the Aiguille du Midi, Montenvers, Evasion Mont Blanc, Courmayeur and Verbier but is fine if you are skiing at the Grands Montets, Brevent or Le Tour for the day and does allow you to swap between those venues for example.
Please make sure you check all the inclusions/exclusions on ski passes prior to making a purchase so you make the right choice for you and your ski plans.
Below are some useful links to the lift opening status and weather forecasts for the regions. We suggest you always read the weather forecast the evening before your ski day so you can prepare and make a plan for the kit you will need for the following day. Information like the temperature, wind speed and direction, visibility etc is all vital information as helps to build a picture of the day ahead.
We also advise that you check the lift report in the morning before you head out to the mountain, particularly if there is fresh snow or any kind of adverse weather. You should be able to see what lifts will be open or what is predicted to be open in each area before you head out. It can certainly prevent a lengthy wait at the bottom of a ski area for the lifts to open.
Look out for the two clickable links for the “Report opening status of Chamonix Valley” and the “Report opening status of Megève – Evasion Mont Blanc” as these offer regularly updated conditions report and lift status.
There are a number of Apps available to check weather and snow conditions so get them loaded up on your phone before travel so you have them available. There are also some great ski mapping apps, like FATMAP which can really help orientate you around the resort…for the lifts, pistes and restaurants, never mind the off piste and touring!