Nestling below the famous Mont Blanc (4807m), Europe's highest peak, is the charming town of Chamonix, best described as the "Alpine capital of France. It is surrounded by slopes to suit most skiers with 17 green runs for beginners, a further 39 blue for the slightly better enthusiast, whilst capable to excellent skiers can enjoy 25 red and 10 black runs.
For the expert skier there are numerous runs with the highest lift at 3864 metres. The Mont Blanc ski pass covers 13 resorts, 298 lifts and 776 km of piste from gentle to those for the "expert". It also gives enthusiasts the opportunity of visiting other ski resorts in the area such as Argentiere. The combined number of lifts in the Mont Blanc region is 298. Chamonix itself provides 8 cable cars, 6 gondolas, 17 chairs, 16 drags and a combined uphill capacity of nearly 55,000 per hour. The longest piste is 24km in the Vallee Blanche.
Chamonix is a lovely old village which has developed into a town embracing "olde worlde" charm with the modern development of apartments and hotels. It is one of France's oldest skiing areas and with a drive of less than 9 hours on motorways, from the Calais terminal to within a few miles of the resort, it is probably one of the favourites for motorists. Yet the resort welcomes around 2.5 million visitors a year ( of which 22.54 per cent are from the UK) but manages to retain it's charm and character and architectural heritage which embraces the history of bygone years. It was in 1741 that two English aristocrats, William Windham and Richard Pocock, discovered the Chamonix Valley with the first inn opening to travellers in 1770 and the first luxury hotel was built in 1816. Perhaps few people realise the first Winter Olympic Games were hosted by Chamonix in 1924 and consecrated the Valley as a winter mecca.
The area around the tourist office has become a pedestrian-only zone and a complete face-lift for the Place du Triangle has been introduced. Drivers should remember to use the official car parks and avoid a parking ticket (or clamping!)
The centre of Chamonix is busy and full of fun. It is packed with shops of all descriptions, as well as bars, cafes and restaurants to suit all tastes. There are sports complexes to ensure you are never stuck for something to participate in, and even the casino is worth a visit and a flutter!
As for the skiing, there is possibly no better area for variety and if you are a good skier, then it is recommended you take the full Mont-Blanc Unlimited Pass which covers a huge area of skiing including the top cable car to the Grands Montets, the Aiguille du Midi cable car and the Mer de Glace cog railway, Les Houches and Courmayeur. The Chamonix le Pass covers all skiing up to an altitude of 2700m including Argentiere. You can visit neighbouring ski villages such as Argentiere and Les Houches or for something really special, take the cable car to the top of Aiguille Du Midi (3842m) and then the gondola over the Vallee Blanc to Courmayeur in Italy. With a guide (and if you are fit enough) you can ski right back to Chamonix.
In addition to the 8 Chamonix cable cars, there are 5 gondolas, 17 chair lifts and 20 drags as well as a rack and pinion train with a combined uphill capacity of nearly 53,000 people per hour.
Chamonix nestles strategically between Switzerland and Italy with the Mont Blanc Tunnel now on it's doorstep. With between 1000m and 4810m are all the many varied winter activities which make up today's modern, bustling resort where, because of it's height and location, snow is always about. Visitors arrive from the many corners of the world to enjoy the various skiing areas of: Brevent-Flegere; Balme; The Grands Montets; The Aiguille Midi; and a little way outside Chamonix, the areas of Les Houches as well as Courmayeur which lies just on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Tunnel.
Children at Chamonix are catered for and the kindergarten takes youngsters from the age of 3 to 12 years but NOT before. However there are organised baby-sitting facilities on request to the tourist office. Beginners can enjoy the nursery slopes at Savoy and Plannards whilst better skiers can venture to the challenging pistes at Flegere and Brevent. To link the various starting points within the valley, there is an efficient shuttle bus system which is free on presentation of your lift pass.
For those who like apres ski life there is no shortage of things to do! With four nightclubs, a cinema with three screens, a bowling alley together with a casino, you will have no shortage of choice. And choice is on the menu when it comes to eating out. There are a staggering 130 bars and restaurants and eleven cake/coffee shops - just to wet your apetite!
Getting to Chamonix could not be easier. The journey by car from Calais is about 8/9 hours on motorway right to the Chamonix "front door". There is a TGV from Paris so you can take Eurostar under the Channel to the French capital. Alternatively, the airport at Geneva is a short distance away with frequent transfers by road or rail.
We have teamed up with PV Holidays, leading supplier of French Skiing accommodation to offer a Christmas offer of one night free with every booking.