TOP CHOICE FOR ADVANCED SKIERS
Chamonix maintains its deep-rooted allure for adventurers everywhere for good reason: it’s the birthplace of mountaineering, modern skiing and mountain guiding. The town is situated in a valley beneath the highest peak in the Alps, Mont Blanc, where it annually attracts skiers, climbers and mountaineers by the tens of thousands. Its historical importance is palpable and its legendary backcountry terrain is at the top of many a bucket list for good reason: there’s 11 ski areas to choose between, all of which offer skiing that is second to none. It’s also the starting location of the much revered Haute Route where you can ski from Chamonix and Mont Blanc to Zermatt and the Matterhorn. For serious off-piste skiers, be sure to consider these three areas for mind-bending runs, terrain and powder:
Les Grands Montets – Argentiere, a small village about 4 miles from Chamonix, is the starting point for mountaineers and skiers to gain access to Les Grand Montets via the Telepherique du Lognan cable car, where skiers will find themselves at a comfy elevation of 10,810’. The off-piste skiing potential here is huge and glacial, with much of it above tree-line and wide open. And very, very popular
Brevent – Flegere – Accessible via Chamonix (Brevent) or the nearby village Les Praz (Flegere), the terrain here is linked, thus the hyphen, and provides ample glacier, ridge and bowl skiing well above the treeline. This area doesn’t get as tracked out as others in the valley and it’s a great place for deep powder skiing and steep, steep lines.
La Vallee Blanche – For some skiers, getting to La Vallee Blanche can be almost as much fun as skiing all the way back to Chamonix: once you make it to Aiguille du Midi via a cable car that gains 9,200’ in elevation in only 20 minutes, you’ll begin your ascent from the station via a knife-edged ridge where there’s no room for error and 50° falls on either side – there’s a cable to hold onto. No worries. With the ascent into La Vallee Blanche, you’ll have an epic 20km day ahead of you completely off-piste as you ski back down to Cham.
Don’t let the picture-perfect views make you forget that avalanches and other pitfalls are a reality here as they are anywhere else. Chamonix is known as the “death-sport capital of the world.’ No joke. While access to backcountry terrain is quick and easy, hire a guide and don’t underestimate any of it no matter how easy it is to get to.
Chamonix backcountry skiing is as good as it gets, and a tour through Vallee Blanche, Col du Passon and Col de Beugeant will have you yearning to get to this incredible off-piste area.
by Nika Marohnic – Amateur backcountry skier and mountaineer based in Brooklyn, NYC Read full review