- CHALET COSMIQUE -
skiing & snowboarding
1235m - 3300m
Chamonix is a very challenging area in mountain sports. It's not a quiet and monotonous place: it attracts the best skiers, people who really want to challenge themselves, and a lot of foreigners, due to its international renown. It doesn't appeal only to experts, though, as there are nice beginners pistes (Le Tour, La Flégère). Overall however, the atmosphere is more sportive and competitive than family and quiet. It's not the place to stroll on trails looking for chamois or marmots...
The domain is about 145 trails, with a total of 140 kilometers (87.5 miles) The skiing in the valley is spread over nine separate hamlets and villages and 13 ski areas: the legendary Grands-Montets, Le Brevent and Vallée-Blanche are some of the best skiing trails you can ever dream of. If you add off-pistes possibilities, the domain is more than 30,000 acres of ski-able terrain. It's not far from other villages and you can escape in Argentière, Les Houches or in the Italian village of Courmayeur, which can satisfy all types of skiers. You won't be obliged to descend the same piste again and again: variety is one of the best assets of this resort. There are 49 lifts both north and south exposed - and with 9,000 feet of vertical at your disposal, you'll have quite a time seeing the views.
AROUND THE CHAMONIX VALLEY
Chamonix attracts skiers, climbers and walkers from all over the globe. It is has become a haven for mountain bikers too. There are trails to suit all levels of ability but more experienced riders will, without doubt, get more out of the Chamonix valley, as the riding is often technical and steep.
The valley and the surrounding valleys are laced with great, well maintained tracks. In spring, the local councils send out teams to maintain and repair this vast network, ensuring they are cleared of debris and in optimum ridable condition for the summer. There is a free pamphlet available at the Tourist Office presenting bikable trails and the rules and restrictions governing mountain biking in the Chamonix Valley. Click here to access the 2008 Mountain Biking Map.
VERY IMPORTANT: As Chamonix is first and foremost a destination for hikers, there are many restrictions on mountain biking, especially on singletracks, during the crowded July and August months. Consult the free guide from the Tourist Office for more information.
The 15-mile long valley has six separate lift systems and boasts a rideable vertical range of over 2000 metres. First lifts generally open 2nd week of June and most lifts close in September (please see our Events category for exact lift opening and closing info as this is subject to change). It is not possible to bring your bike on the Aiguille du Midi, the top of the Grands Montets, the Montenvers Railway or most times on the Tramway du Mont Blanc.
There's also the year round "bike friendly" Mont-Blanc Express train, which links Chamonix with Switzerland at one end and the Vallée de l'Arve at the other (only 5 bikes at a time). You cannot take your bike on the bus.
Mountain biking is possible for all ages, sizes and abilities. Energy, enthusiam and a mountain bike is all that is needed. If you do not have a bike, rent one from a bike store in Chamonix. More experienced riders should choose to wear body armour for technical and downhill riding.
MAKE YOUR OWN VIEWS
Chamonix's granite attracts climbers from the world over. Superb mountain routes, prestigious north faces or more accessible rock faces and boulders for amateur climbers and beginners, once again the choise is vast.
The Gaillands rocks : located just 2km south of Chamonix, next to the Gaillands lake offer a wide variety of easy to more difficult routes. In 1936, the illustrious mountain guide, Roger Frison-Roche founded the first official climbing school at les Gaillands.
Bouldering at the Col des Montets : 10 km from Chamonix, just before Vallorcine and the Swiss, the Aiguilles Rouges nature reserve offers ideal bouldering terrain with different sized granite blocs for climbing with and without ropes.
On rainy days : Indoor climbing wall at the sports centre : 180 m² climbing surface, 800 holds, height 3,60 m.
Want to fly like a bird, rise above the mountains, soar with eagles?
Paragliding will let you do all this. Mieusey, 50km west of Chamonix, lays claim to the birth of paragliding in 1974. The sport has grown rapidly since 1990, driven by significant developments in materials.
Beginner wings are safe and and have astonishing performance, so new pilots can have great flights with a high level of safety. Chamonix is a wonderful place to learn the "magic" of free flight.
Take a tandem flight with a qualified pilot or lessons with a paragliding school to experience the Alps from a different perspective.
A reputation for strong conditions
The spectacular Chamonix region is the "mecca" of mountain flying. Big thermals, eagles, glaciers and high peaks make the Chamonix valley one of the best flying areas in the world.
Cool nights and hot days create large temperature gradients resulting in powerful thermals and strong valley winds. Good flying starts in March and the seasons ends in October, but it is possible to fly all year long. May and June are particularly strong months.
Local Weather Tip and Info channels
When the foehn effect is present, it's usually unsafe to fly. The foehn is usually associated with strong southern winds at altitude (southwest to east, sometimes north east). Watch out for the arrival of a storm front with high pressure on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc range and low pressure on the French side. Foehn conditions cause strong gusts of turbulence. Check the Chamonix.com weather for daily reports.
FLY LIKE A BIRD!
HAVE A SPLASH!
White Water sports such as Rafting, Canyoning, Kayaking and Hydrospeed are all popular. Local lakes are excellent for Windsurfing and Swimming. Whether in lakes, rivers or gorges it's like being in a huge amusement park: sliding around in the water with the hot sun on your back.
Early in the summer, in May and June, the rivers are usually high with snow melt from the mountains. During July, August and September the water levels are usually lower and the temperature warmer
Rafting is a good "white knuckle ride" and the Arve (here) and the Giffre (at Samoens) are popular local rivers. The Arve is cold !
Further afield are the excellent Dranse (between Morzine and Lake Leman) and, in Italy, the terrifying Dora Baltea.
If you can swim - give it a go. Either as a short 2 hour run or a full-day descent, complete with a picnic on a sandbank. It's a great, exciting, memorable experience.
There are a wide variety of rafts, from the ubiquitous zodiac to one or two person inflatable kayaks. The smaller craft are more vulnerable.