It had been a long time since I’d been on the slopes with a board strapped to my feet, four years to be precise.
Recently I had been thinking about hitting the slopes for a holiday, so I was extremely excited when I was invited on a snow press trip organised by Travelllll.com and sponsored by Expedia.co.uk.
Getting back on a snowboard after a four years break was always going to prove difficult for the first run or two but I found it surprising how easily I picked up from where I left off. We tested out many blue slopes for intermediates and also a couple of easy green slopes. Here are our favourite areas and runs from the trip to Chamonix.
Brevent – Flegere
Day one in Chamonix was very much a day of getting used to snowboarding again. It had been four years and although you do surprisingly remember a lot you can still be pretty rusty around the edges. The nearest ski area to Chamonix’s centre is Brevent-Flegere on the south side of the valley, the two ski areas have been linked by cable car since 1997.
It can be a long walk across town and up hill to the base of the cable car so catching the bus is recommended unless you’re looking for some extra exercise. At the top of Planpraz (Le Brevent) cable car there’s a cool outdoor bar on the snow and great views (on a good day) of the mountains including Mont Blanc. Our first run was hampered by low visibility due to cloud, it was extremely difficult to know what was ahead of us on the run.
The best run of the day for beginners was the green run of Libellules at the top of the chair lift of Trappe. There are also longer and steeper blue runs for intermediates who can turn on their boards comfortably, Blanchots and Vioz both at Le Brevent. For those advanced boarders there is also a new freestyle area at Le Brevent that is supervised from 1pm.
Also just down from the top of the chair lift is a restaurant called Tendance Foehn where you can grab a sandwich, fries or beer. Around the back is a great afternoon sunspot for relaxing with a beer after a hard days snowboard. We returned to this ski area for the afternoon of day four, there was no cloud and the blue runs were in good condition.
The cable car returning from Flegere can take quite a while especially if there is a queue at the end of the day.
Ski Area: Brevent – Flegere
Blue – Blanchots and Vioz at Le Brevent
Green – Libellules at Trappe chairlift
Restaurant: Tendance Foehn
Height: 2525 metres
Mountains: Aiguille Charlanon, Grande Floria
Map: Brevent – Flegere Ski Area map
Domaine De Balme (Le Tour – Vallorcine)
We set out to find some blue runs at Domaine De Balme to gain confidence and improve our skills. After studying the map Le Tour looked like a good option for blue runs. Unfortunately what looked liked a long blue run (Liaison Balme) turned out to be quite narrow and the steep fall on one side of the run wasn’t great for confidence. After struggling through this section we found our feet further along on a blue run through the tree-lined forest (Esserts) on the Vallorcine side.
This ski area is known for being one of the easiest in the Chamonix Valley and is a good way to ease yourself into your skiing or snowboarding trip. There is a mixture of runs with some easy reds but mostly blues and greens. For those starting out and still at beginner level La Vormaine at Le Tour is a good option providing a large area for beginners.
Ski Area: Domaine De Balme (Le Tour – Vallorcine)
Esserts (Blue run after Liaison Balme)
La Vormain area for beginners
Height: 2186 metres
Map: Domaine De Balme Ski Area map
Les Grands Montets
After spending the morning at Le Tour we moved on to Les Grands Montets in the afternoon where we spent most of our time practicing on a couple of runs. Our favourite run of the day was Marmottons, the blue that runs down along side the snow park. There are a few blue variations around this area and it’s a good place to practice and improve your skills. There is also a red option that runs alongside for those that want to push their skills to the next level. At the bottom is a restaurant/cafe area where you can relax in the sun after a hard days snowboarding.
We returned to Les Grands Montets on day five and six due to its proximity to Argenteire. The advanced boarders made use of the ski park to practice their snowboarding tricks. We found a picturesque spot sat on rocks looking out towards Mont Blanc for lunch halfway down one of the runs.
Usually the first area in the Alps to open in winter, Les Grands Montents is also often the last to close in the summer time. If you are a beginner and staying in Argentiere it’s worth visiting the beginners’ slope at Les Chosalets to build up your skills and confidence.
Ski Area: Les Grands Montets
Marmottons (Blue run top of Marmottons chair lift)
Beginners – Les Chosalets area
Map: Les Grands Montets Ski Area map
Four years ago I spent four days snowboarding at Les Houches. It was interesting to return to a familiar place although many of the runs have changed slightly. I was extremely pleased to see that my snowboarding skills were much better this time around and I’m now comfortable doing small quick turns and navigating the narrow runs of Les Houches. At the top of Les Houches it’s quite flat and there are a lot of ski/snowboard schools especially with children.
The World Cup circuit comes to Chamonix and Les Houches every year in early January for the world famous Khandahar Verte des Houches Downhill ski run.
There are some great runs for intermediates including the blue wide run at the top of the Kandahar chair lift that runs down and to the left into the Aillouts blue run. There is a beautiful bar half way down this run and also a restaurant at the top of the Maison Neuve chair lift.
For beginners there is a nursery area in the village of Les Houches and another at the top of the main ski area. The Mont Blanc nursery slop is situated at the top of the Bellevue lift and there is also the Ecole piste at the top of the Prarion lift. These areas are both served by drag lifts.
Ski Area: Les Houches
Beginners (nursery slopes) – Mont Blanc, Ecole
Height: 1900 metres
Mountains: Aiguille De Bionnassay, Dome De Miage
Map: Les Houches Ski Area map
Break from Skiing/Snowboarding
A full 5-6 days of skiing or snowboarding can be a tiring affair, it’s a good idea to plan a break from hitting the slopes at some point during your trip. There are plenty of alternative things to do on a day off from skiing or snowboarding around Chamonix. We decided to head up to the summit of the Aiguille du Midi where there are superb views of the French, Swiss, Italian Alps and Mont Blanc itself.
For more information see our article on the view of Mont Blanc from Aiguille du Midi.
Have you been to Chamonix before? What are your favourite ski runs?