Destinationbeyond - Chamonix

The Db Guide: From classic routes to decent apres-ski

For most people when they arrive in Chamonix, it is love at first sight, with its spectacular jagged peaks and glaciers that slice to the valley floor it is the perfect alpine playground. Chamonix is where it all started and is known as the birthplace of alpinism, traveling through these mountains you will see or maybe have the opportunity to ski or climb one of the resort’s epic historical routes, even just walking through the streets will inspire you to get out into the wilderness as the locals stroll by when they return from their day, with a harness around their waist and ice axes strapped to their backpack. 

Here is a local guide to give you an idea of what the skiing Mecca of Chamonix is all about, from classic routes in the mountains to where to go for après ski.

Vallee Blanche

All locals love a day up the Midi, and this off-piste route is perhaps the most well-known. It offers excellent skiing in an absolutely breathtaking setting. The plus is that it actually requires only moderate technical skiing ability (beware of the crevasses!) but the high-mountain environment, coming down the steep ridge and skiing past spectacular seracs, makes it so much more special.

Canadian Bowl

A classic Grands Montets line (aka Le Triangle or Combe a Germaine) that can be reached using the Bochard lift. It's a constant thirty-degree pitch, open, varied, and offers great skiing that again only requires moderate technical ability.

Magic Forest

Also at the Grands Montets, amongst other great classic Chamonix routes is: The Magic Forest. Perfect for a bad vis day or on a good powder day to ski some pillows.

Pentes de l'Hotel

These slopes are accessed from the top cable car at Le Brevent. It is known as "THE" classic freeride face and is often used in competitions offering numerous routes of varying difficulty and gradient.

Fuel up on the hill

Cool Cats in the Rue de Moulins is owned by a Swedish woman named Lisa and she is genius in the kitchen. She does artisan hot dogs with extras including jalapeños and cheese or perfect sweet potato fries, and actually just opened her 2nd branch, known as Cool Cats sud, right at the bottom of the Aiguille du Midi. It’s perfect when you’re coming off the mountain in winter.

If you like to sit down for a late lunch then go to Moö. The meat/fish and veggie options change everyday and you can help yourself to a salad buffet all for a very reasonable price. The Scandinavian owners have become locals in the valley and are always warm and friendly. Whilst sitting at the bar you will no doubt over-hear who skied where and tips on finding the best snow as this bar is a great place to hang out for the apres ski, great burgers on the dinner menu too!

Ela is a great take-away option, it offers a mediterranean cuisine with healthy homemade hummus and stuffed vine leaves or a tasty kebab.

Some more classic ski runs

Jeurs Bowls

Les Jeurs is located at the top of Le Tour resort from the Tete de Balme. From the top of the lift, you head off towards the right side of the mountain and follow the back bowls through flowing terrain and narrow gullies, but be aware that this area is often exposed to avalanche risks.

Col de Balme to Trient

Also in Le Tour, you can hike about 10 minutes from the Col drag lift to the summit of the Col de Balme and drop into the wide open valley all the way to Trient in Switzerland and maybe enjoy a traditional Swiss fondue. The snow often stays of good quality over on this side of the valley but again is to be avoided when the avalanche risk is high. The train from Trient can bring you back to Le Tour or all the way to Chamonix.

Cosmiques Couloir

And last but not least, for those who are looking for a bit more adrenaline, the Cosmiques Couloir is a well-known extreme skiing gulley that can be accessed from the Aiguille du Midi cable car. It is 900 meters of sustained and serious terrain between 40-50 degrees.

Unwind and explore the best afterski spots

Everyone who has been to Chamonix has heard of the Chambre 9, the Swedish bar!  Check if the live music is on and head to Chambre Neuf for apres ski. And don’t worry, you can stay in ski clothes (that’s actually how you do an apres-ski. Dancing on the tables with ski boots)

After skiing up Flégère, go to the Petit Social. Cozy decor and a great drinks menu there is often live music you don’t want to miss. You can even go to petit social before going up Flégère, for coffee and fresh croissants. 

If you were just warming up with the apres ski and don’t want to head home then you can check out the maison des artistes, a unique building that was once the domain of the renowned mountaineer Maurice Herzog.  This is the place where creativity and musical talent thrive, check out their program for concerts and events or just call in for a cocktail.

If you are looking for the authentic Chamonix then this bar is for you.  One of the oldest bars in town, the names of mountain guides from another era are engraved into the decor and today it hasn’t lost its charm.  Have a beer or take a look at the bistrot menu and you won’t be disappointed.

Dine out

Mumma 

Mumma is owned by a very talented, audacious Swedish chef and offers crazy tasting cuisine in a non-pretentious, néo-bistrot, bustling with life. The concept is to share the food, the space and the saké.  

Munchies 

Munchies is another great spot for dinner situated at the heart of the Rue du Moulin.  It has been providing Chamonix people with outstanding Asian fusion food for over 20 years and never fails to impress.  Go for the sharing concept and savour each exquisite dish or go for the Munchies classic teriyaki duck and keep it all to yourself! Recently they have opened bar ‘La Soeur’ opposite the restaurant which is great place to finish off your evening, why not take a date ?

La Caleche

Would you like to test the local dishes full of delicious bubbling cheese? La Calèche is a must for fondue or raclette and its mountain style decor is perfect to make you feel right at home. 

Buvette du Chapeau 

If you are looking for local dishes and want a more rustic setting then set off on the hike up to the buvette du Chapeau.  The talented chef who uses only organic and local produce will make your walk worthwhile and if you book in advance then hike up with a head torch and have your dinner by candlelight over-looking the twinkling lights of Chamonix in the valley below.  Ps: If you are here for a full moon then not to be missed!

Pointe Isabelle

Do you like to sip your aperol spritz whilst people watching?  The Pointe Isabelle is a stylish hotel that is a stone throw from Chamonix station and next to the pedestrianised area.  Although recently renovated the Pointe Isabelle holds its place in Chamonix history, named after Isabella Charles Stratton, an English aristocrat that married a local guide, take a moment whilst staying in this fabulous hotel to read about her legacy.  Enjoy the great wine list, plates full of local cheese and ham or fine dining.

Cosmiques Chamonix. 

Right in the center and opposite the Brasserie des Sports, this small hotel has a cool vibe and is a good option if you want to grab breakfast in the morning and plug in your lap top. The restaurant has some delicious veggie/ vegan options.

Refuge D’argentiere 

Do you want to go somewhere out of town? The Refuge D’Argentière is open through summer but also has a winter room. Bring all your stuff in your beloved Db bag and enjoy a night in the mountains with amazing scenery, in the morning you will be the first to get the powder!

Written by Ella Moracchioli: One of our dedicated Db coworkers and a passionate skier.

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