Chamonix is a prime ski destination in France. As with most ski resorts, you can rarely fly into a city and be right on the slopes or for those that you can, the flights are sparse. However, Chamonix is one of the easier (and famous) ski destinations to get to from an airport.
The easiest way to get to Chamonix is to fly into Geneva, Switzerland (GVA) and then take a bus or private transfer to Chamonix as it is just over the France / Switzerland border. Geneva has a decent sized airport and flies from many European cities. From the airport, the trip to Chamonix takes about 1.5 – 2 hours depending on the time of day and end destination.
Private transfers can get pricey quickly, but are an option. Another suitable option is renting a car and driving to your accommodations. A third option, and what we did, was use a shared transfer service called Alpy Bus. Alpy Bus runs in various different ski areas, not just Chamonix. A roundtrip bus ticket with Alpy Bus costs between $50 – $65. The slightly more expensive ticket gives you flexibility to take a different timed transfer than what you are scheduled on (in case of plan changes or flight delays). I recommend paying the extra $10 for the control if you plan to take a bus directly from the Geneva Airport.
Alpy Bus takes you door to door; in Geneva there is a departure location from the airport and also from the downtown area. In terms of your location in Chamonix, you will be taken directly to your end destination whether it be a hotel or rented property. For us, we took a large coach bus about 3/4 of the way. Then we were switched to smaller shuttles to take groups to their destination. Upon departure, we were picked up by the smaller shuttle and taken directly to the airport without switching to a larger coach bus. The door to door drop-off worked very well and I would recommend using Alpy Bus. We did depart about 30 minutes late from the airport, which was frustrating as transfers are supposed to run just about every hour, but otherwise was rather smooth.
This is one aspect that should not be underestimated. We did not rent a car, but It likely would have made getting to various ski resorts easier. Instead, we used the free town bus service to get to the slopes. This worked okay, not great, because the buses are consistently packed full. We were lucky to get on the second bus that came by us on our first day skiing. On our second day, we had at least five buses go by us before we decided to take a bus to the main departure point to guarantee ourselves a spot. If you opt to use the free bus service, you should go to Chamonix Centre (Chamonix Sud – main bus station) where most of the buses stop.
There are five main resorts within the Chamonix area: Les Grands Montets, Les Houches, Le Tour, La Flegere and Le Brevent. Depending on where you are staying, line 2 will be the bus line that will get you to the majority of the destinations. Buses run every 15-20 minutes during peak season and there are many stops along the road. However, unless you are up early, you can count on the buses being packed full. Sometimes buses will not stop and just drive by the small street stops if they are at capacity.
If you stay in Chamonix town or nearby, you can catch Line 2 or Line 2B to get to Le Tour, Les Grandes Montes, and La Flegere. Both Line 2 and Line 2B have one end point at Le Tour; Line 2B goes about 2/3 the distance of Line 2. From the city center, it takes almost an hour to get to Le Tour so plan ahead for this as it is further away. La Flegere is only about a 10 minute drive from the town center by bus. Les Grands Montes falls between La Flegere and Le Tour, and probably takes about 40 minutes to reach from the town center.
Le Brevent is technically walkable from the town center, but it is not an enjoyable walk with equipment and boots on. The way to the lift is especially rough as it is an uphill climb. We walked from the lift to the town center after a day of skiing and this was okay, but would not recommend it. Le Brevent is attached to La Flegere by a cable car. Thus, you can take the bus to La Flegere and then take the cable car over to Le Brevent.
To reach Les Houches, take Line 1. One end of Line 1 is Les Houches while the other is Les Flegere so Line 1 is also an option to reach Les Flegere. From Chamonix town, Les Houches is the opposite direction compared to the other ski resorts. When coming from the airport, Les Houches is the first resort you will pass of the five found in Chamonix. If you cannot manage to get on the free buses and it is not feasible to get to the main bus station (Chamonix Sud) where buses being their routes, there are some taxis in the area that you can call or schedule in advance that will be able to carry your equipment.
To get to grocery stores, restaurants and bars, if you stay in Chamonix town, you can access all that you need on foot. The town is quite small so is easy to travel around without ski equipment on. If you stay outside the town, you may have to drive to find meals or grocery stores so make sure to keep this in mind when planning your trip and accommodations.
If you do not plan to rent a car, it will be especially important to base yourself near the town center. This will enable you to use the free bus system. The town center is a nice area to walk around and is where your apres ski, bars, restaurants, grocery stores, and ski shops will be. There are a variety of different ski shops in town so it is likely easiest to pick one close to where you are staying.
We stayed in a rented property about 10 minutes from the town center, which was perfect. We had privacy and a nice location, but were able to get everywhere needed very easily. The company we used was called Mont Blanc Retreats; they have multiple properties and were very responsive. The house was beautiful and well equipped for a long weekend. Most importantly, it was walkable to everywhere in town and we were minutes from a bus stop.
If you do rent a car, you will have more flexibility on where you choose to stay as you can drive into town and drive to the slopes rather than depending on the local bus system. The cost to park should be checked in advance as well. As in most winter sport destinations, accommodations will quickly become scarce and pricey if not booked in advance. This should be considered when planning to give yourself flexibility rather than being stuck with a few, okay but not great options that are still pricey.
If you are visiting Chamonix in the winter, you are likely there to hit the slopes. Chamonix has five main resorts, serving different levels and abilities. The resorts are spread throughout the valley and can be accessed by bus or car. There are a variety of important considerations to take into account when planning a ski/snowboard vacation including equipment, lift passes, transportation and accommodations (read above), resorts, and trip length. Chamonix is one of the ski destinations that is possible to do as a long weekend trip or a full week. There is a sixth and very small option for beginners right near Chamonix town called Le Savoy.
If you are not bringing your own equipment or are planning to rent some items, it is best to place your order in advance. Intersport has a lot of locations and is where we rented our equipment from. Another option is Local CHX, but we found Intersport to be more conveniently located and have cheaper prices. Some places will deliver to your accommodations if you place the order in advance and are comfortable with your sizing. For us, Intersport worked very well as it was fairly priced and in an easy location to get to from the accommodations as well as to get out onto the slopes. By processing the order in advance, Intersport looked up our information upon arrival and was able to quickly fit us for boots, skis, and helmets. It was a rather painless process despite this often being a stressful part of the experience.
Another important consideration is what passes to purchase. This will be dependent on your length of stay, abilities and desires on the slopes (beginner, intermediate, or advanced), and other plans for the season. For Chamonix, there are three main passes to consider: Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass, Chamonix Le Pass, and Les Houches Forfait.
Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass – This pass gives you the most flexibility and is also the most expensive. For a reference point, a 1 day pass is around 67 euros. This pass gives access to all five main resorts in Chamonix along with neighboring ski resorts including Courmayeur (Italy), Les Contamines, Megeve, St. Gervais, and Verbier. Other amenities such as toboggan run and access to the Skyway are also included in this pass.
Chamonix Le Pass – This pass is more focused to the Chamonix area specifically, and gives you access to four of the five main resorts (all except Les Houches). It allows you to access areas between 1000 to 2500 m altitudes (no access to Aiguille du Midi). For a reference point, a 1 day pass is 55 euros. Beginners and intermediates will be more than satisfied with this pass, however experts may be looking for more depending on the length of trip. Note that it is possible to pay the difference between the Chamonix Le Pass and Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass if one decides they would like the unlimited pass later.
Les Houches Forfait – The third option gives access specifically to Les Houches, which is made up of about 21 runs. It also gives free access to the Mont Blanc Tramway. A one day pass costs 45 euros.
This resort is the most famous of the five key resorts in the valley. It is pretty far up the valley, about 9 km from the town center. It is known to be the toughest slopes with the best snow as the majority of the runs are black diamonds. This makes it a great sport for experienced and expert skiers. Les Grands Montets is north facing meaning the sun does not hit the slopes until midday at some times in the year. This makes great snow conditions, but can be chilly so bundle up. There are 8 main lifts at this resort that allow visitors to access different areas of the mountain.
Take Line 2 or 2B from Chamonix to reach Les Grands Montets. It will take about 30-40 minutes to get there
Chamonix Le Pass gives visitors access to all areas on Les Grands Montets except the cable car running from Lognan to the top of Grands Montets. For this cable car, the Mont Blanc Unlimited pass is needed.
Located at the beginning of the valley, this resort is a great resort for mixed abilities and especially beginners and intermediates. It is also the best spot to go when the weather is bad because it is more sheltered.
Take line 1 from Chamonix to reach Les Houches.
To visit Les Houches, you will need either Les Houches Forfait or the Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass
Le Tour is located at the far NE end of the valley. Since it is located at the end, the slope feels more open with many open bowls. The area is great for intermediate levels as the majority of the area is blues and reds. For those unfamiliar with red pistes, “red” runs are between blue and black. The runs here were great for a group of mixed abilities and was a resort I really enjoyed. As a warning, there are only a few chairlifts. All other runs have drag lifts to pull riders to the top. One nice perk about this mountain is you can ski to the bottom, and do not have to take a cable car or lift down like at some others. The mountain bakes in the sun during the day so makes for a beautiful spot to ski on a nice sunny day. The views are breathtaking and being out on the slopes here is an unforgettable experience.
There are two ways up to the resort, either form the cable car in Le Tour or the cable car in Vallorcine. Line 2 and 2B will go through Chamonix town and end at Le Tour, right at the bottom of the cable car.
To access Le Tour, purchase the Chamonix Le Pass or the Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass
This is one of the closest resorts to Chamonix’s town center. It is a great spot to start and good for a mix of abilities with a variety of pistes. The resort is south facing meaning the slopes are in the sun most of the day, making the conditions favorable. La Flegere is now also connected to Le Brevent by cable car, making it easy to hit both resorts on the same day.
From Chamonix town center, one can take Line 1, Line 2 or Line 2B to reach La Flegere. If you start the day at Le Brevent, you can also catch the cable car from on the mountain.
Chamonix Le Pass or the Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass will both work for this resort.
Connected to La Flegere by cable car, this is the closest resort to Chamonix’s town center, but walking here is not ideal with your equipment as it is a slight uphill climb to reach the cable car. You are better off catching the bus up to the cable car than taking the walk up. Like La Flegere, Le Brevent is baking in the sun most of the day, making the conditions great for being out on the slopes. The resort tailors to all abilities, with some beginning runs and some more challenging runs. There is an incredible panoramic view and restaurant at the top of mountain. To get here, you must take a cable car up, but then have the option to take the cable car back down or ski a black diamond.
Chamonix Le Pass or the Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass will both work for this resort.
Mountain located in Chamonix that can be accessed by a cable car departing from Chamonix town. There are two cable cars running to the first transfer point. Since there are only two cable cars, expect to spend some time waiting at the bottom. You will purchase a ticket and then have a departure time. The trip to the top takes about 30 minutes (including the switch and wait time between cable cars). The actual time spent in the two cable cars is only about five minutes each. Once you get to the top, if you are lucky, you will have a clear day with some incredible views.
Catch the train to see the glacier on the mountain and then descend down to an ice cave. The train runs every 20 minutes and takes about 25 minutes to get to the glacier. There’s a cable car that takes you half the way down and then you walk down about 450 steps to reach the ice cave.
Chamonix is truly a cute and quaint ski town, and a charming place to visit any time of year. In the winter, the area is full of skiers and snowboarders who have been out on the slopes during the day. In the summer, the flowers are blooming and mountains look beautiful. The town is nestled in the valley with mountains on both sides, boutique shops, restaurants, bars and more. The area is nice to wander around and enjoy.
A well known apres ski spot located in the center of town. It has a rustic vibe and low key atmosphere, often with live music playing. It is one of the more relaxed apres ski picks in Chamonix.
Much louder than its neighbor (Elevation 1904), this bar has a live band most nights of the week, with locals and visitors gathering for an eventful night. It can get pretty crowded with the glass fogging up from body heat, but brings a fun crowd out to socialize and dance to the live music.
Part of a hotel in the town center, this venue hosts events tend nearly every night of the week aside from Sunday including concerts, DJs and live performers. The space has is both a lounge and bar with concerts inside and an outdoor patio.
There is a deck with outdoor heaters and a hut with a bar to grab drinks. It is a great spot to stop for drinks after coming back from a day on the mountain. Fancy an Aperol Spritz? You will be able to get one here.
If at Le Brevent or La Flegere, be sure to check this spot out. The restaurant is on the Le Brevent side and open for lunch, snacks and drinks. Located up about as high as you will get on the mountain, it has incredible panoramic views! To access the restaurant, you must catch the cable car up to the top. If you are more experienced, there is a black run from the top, but there are no easier options.
If you choose to stay in Chamonix town, there are many restaurants in the downtown area. Another option, and something we opted to do, was head to one of the grocery stores in town and cook a meal after the activity filled day. This is especially appealing if you rent a house and the house has an outdoor jacuzzi.
Transportation and Accommodations
Things to do and see
Food and Drinks