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  1. #1
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    Chamonix Valley Questions

    I need some advice: I'm planning a trip to the Chamonix valley because I have the flexibility with work and I friends that live in Servoz. I am wondering a bunch of things about skiing around there that I figure some mags can help me with.

    About me: very strong resort skier with a nice backcountry setup that I use for meadow-skipping / skinning up the resort for exercise. Never taken an avy class. I have an ikon pass so 7 days to a handful of the lift in the Chamonix valley, plus willing to pay whatever to ski wherever.

    What I thought skiing in Chamonix was going to be like: resort skiing in Canada/America
    What skiing in Chamonix is apparently actually like: taking the lift up and then touring to access extreme side/backcountry terrain that often requires avy knowledge, harnesses, etc.

    After talking to my friends who live in Servoz and a friend who used to live in Cham, what I thought I was going to be doing is very different than how they ski there. And it has become clear that I don't have the backcountry skillset to ski the way I like to there. I'm going alone, so I could take an avy 1 class beforehand and try to figure out the terrain there myself (this is a joke). Or I could take an avy 1 class and do a few guided days there (probably expensive). Or I could just bring my resort skis and just ski on-piste stuff and maybe take a couple day trips to Verbier.

    Long story short - I don't know what skis to bring. I don't know what I should do to prepare. I don't know if I should even go. I don't know if I'm overthinking things. Help!
    Last edited by Jvhowube; 11-03-2022 at 01:08 PM.

  2. #2
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    Ask the doctor about shamoknee..... ( someone find the thread please).
    The grand montets is pretty accessible freeride wise. Classic runs like the cosmique are also fairly mellow after the rappel in. But this is from a European perspective and if you're not sure how to make your own decisions, get a guide. It's still cheaper than skiing Vail

    Or: you can consider going to mammoth. Loads of expert terrain there.
    It's a war of the mind and we're armed to the teeth.

  3. #3
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    I would skip going to Europe all together and save a bunch of money by planning your trip here, to Flagstaff Arizona. We have some of the raddest side country anywhere in the world and incredible inbounds tree skiing. There's some world class night life in town here and plenty of hot, college, Italian Jersey babes.

    It's time for everyone on here to try out some Snowbowlin......

    dirtbag, not a dentist

  4. #4
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    Sounds like you'll like Verbier.

    Consider hiring a guide while in Chamonix.

    And pray for visibility.

  5. #5
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    I did shamoknee this past March. You have a good grasp of the challenges of skiing off-piste. At brev, a few of the runs traverse above cliffbands and steep gulleys that run a hundreds of meters to the valley floor. Leaving the run without a very good idea of where you are going would lead to a very bad day. The runs themselves are yawn. The exception as others have pointed out is grands Montets, which is plenty entertaining, but not huge. The guides wanted ~$500/day. Valle blanche is supposed to be a bucket list run.

    That being said, if you could find a way to finagle a few days at Verbier, you will find the ShangriLa that you seek. Before a couple resorts peeled off I think it was like in the top 3 for largest ski areas in the world. Like, take a wrong turn and ski to a different village than you started at big. Terrain is huge and a lot more...obvious? I would feel more comfortable dabbling in slack country there than wandering out of any of the resorts in the valley. As a downside the main village definitely has some of the bougiest vibes around, with prices to match.

    Oh and what skis: the red ones, obviously

  6. #6
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    What I thought skiing in Chamonix was going to be like: resort skiing in Canada/America
    97.36% of the people skiing in the Chamonix valley on any given day are doing "resort skiing"

    What skiing in Chamonix is apparently actually like: taking the lift up and then touring to access extreme side/backcountry terrain that often requires avy knowledge, harnesses, etc.
    Only if you want to do that.

    It'd be worth hiring a guide for a day whether it's freeriding or to do something like the Vallee Blanche.

    Unless there's a specific reason that you want to go Chamonix there are better/bigger ski resorts in the Alps though.
    Quote Originally Posted by Downbound Train View Post
    And there will come a day when our ancestors look back...........

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by PNWbrit View Post
    97.36% of the people skiing in the Chamonix valley on any given day are doing "resort skiing"



    Only if you want to do that.

    It'd be worth hiring a guide for a day whether it's freeriding or to do something like the Vallee Blanche.

    Unless there's a specific reason that you want to go Chamonix there are better/bigger ski resorts in the Alps though.
    I heard St. Anton and verbier are super cool!
    It's a war of the mind and we're armed to the teeth.

  8. #8
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    If you're not into pretty steep skiing, with high consequences, Chamonix skiing in the resort is pretty average. You can certainly access file cool terrain, but it's going to be bumps.


    Sent from my moto g 5G using Tapatalk

  9. #9
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    As a lesser skier than Rod, I found Chamonix plenty exciting when I skied it with a guide. Skiing with a guided group, including the lift ticket, was cheaper than a day pass in the US, although it's been a bunch of years for me. The guide will provide the harness and beacon and hopefully keep you out of crevasses and avalanches.. They will also get you priority on lifts--especially to the top of the Grand Montets which can have a huge wait. I've skied GM from the top, the VB by a couple of routes, and Courmayeur from the top with guides--none of that would I have tried on my own. Obviously skiing with a bunch of strangers has its disadvantages--I was always either the best or the worst skier in every group I was in. Neither is fun but the skiing made it well worth it. The groomers I skied at Brevent/Flegere and GM were like groomers anywhere. And a lot of bumps in between. Worth it to go where the guides will take you. I used the Compagnie des Guides des Chamonix, out of the main tourist building in the center of town--the Maison des Montagnes. There are others. Don't expect to ski big lines like the aforementioned Cosmiques, Pas de Chevres etc. The VB is definitely bucket list. Very popular on Fridays--the last day of a ski week. Sign up in advance, ski it more than once.

    I was over 60 the first time I skied it. Skiing that kind of off piste terrain for a full day was tough for me. Work on your endurance.

    I've never skied anywhere else in Europe so I can't compare Cham to anyplace else.

    And buy rescue insurance when you pick up your pass. It's cheap.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by raisingarizona13 View Post
    I would skip going to Europe all together and save a bunch of money by planning your trip here, to Flagstaff Arizona. We have some of the raddest side country anywhere in the world and incredible inbounds tree skiing. There's some world class night life in town here and plenty of hot, college, Italian Jersey babes.

    It's time for everyone on here to try out some Snowbowlin......

    Well played.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by old goat View Post
    And buy rescue insurance when you pick up your pass. It's cheap.
    This. There really is no 'patrol' to speak of, I watched someone get heli'd out from in-bounds with a purely orthopedic injury. In the US It would've been a toboggan ride. Way worth picking up the coverage.

  12. #12
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    Subscribed. Thinking of going to Cham later this winter.

  13. #13
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    Le Grande Montets is a dream resort and manageable as a resort skier.

    If you want to experience the other side of Chamonix, a guide is mandatory for someone of your (and my) abilities.

    Verbier is amazing, but following random tracks will still put you into deadly exposure.

    Go for it, have fun and use your brain! Experience of a lifetime.

  14. #14
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    I went as a resort skier and had a great time at Grand Montes and Brevant. You'll be fine. At GM, I talked to a few locals and followed them on a few "off piste" runs and was just fine. I also lapped fresh pow under the lap while euro skiers were hanging on the groomed.

  15. #15
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    The problem if you don't take a guide is that you are pushed into terrain you Don't want to ski at a certain avi danger level because it's so crowded. The guys like Tof and the like drop in on the ronde or the direct coumayeur lines after a meter of fresh.
    I don't like crowds so the whole thing wasn't for me. Hell i skied the cosmiques in late may in 2006 and still there were quite a few tracks in there. It's only become worse...as I've heard. I don't know whether a guide can fix this because everyone skis everything all the time. Some skin access may solve some of these issues.
    It's a war of the mind and we're armed to the teeth.

  16. #16
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    Impossible to know what your skill set and confidence might be, but:
    1. There’s endless, fun, “normal” resort skiing to be had on Brevent, Le Tour and Grands Montets. The views are incredible everywhere, and the town/scene is pretty unique.
    2. The wild shit accessed from the Aguillle (and off the top of GM and Brevent) is very weather and conditions dependent, and may not be on the menu, but even just doodling down the Valle Blanche is a fun day out.
    3. You can do whatever you want. I vividly recall skiing some lines off the Aguille through heavily crevassed terrain with my full kit, while weaving through gear-less drunk tourists snowplowing in bikini tops.

  17. #17
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    Hire a guide now, and do the valle blanche. Its really mellow, but really cool also.

    Plenty of fun easy access off-piste terrain at the resorts. Just scout from the Chair or the piste and dont guess at terrain below you.

    I liked the Courmayeur side more. Really cool terrain and resort, unnbelieveable food, much better vibe IMO. Up at the top we spotted a gaperish group of folks following a guide out to a ridge for a backcountry lap... we assessed the groups ability and their lack of harnesses or ropes and decided to shadow them from afar. Ended up skiing a few thousand meters down a (i assume super popular) BC route ending up in the actual town of Courmayeur. Pretty cool and free. Though, there were numerous places to cliff yourself out, or end up in a deadfall snagged creekbed so following a guide (without a harness) was key.

    Remember that you are in it for the cultural experience too. You arent there to just get rad. Prioritize the food, the drink, the sights, the towns, the people, and lastly the snow.

  18. #18
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    I second (or third or fourteenth) a guide for several days. We did the Vallee Blanche and it was skiable from the top to the train station that year. Toured up and around a peak into Italy and skied down the Virgin Glacier. Something like 22 miles down.

    We became friends with the guide and he skied with us on resort one day showing us amazing stuff we would never have known otherwise.

    The best was a day in his favorite stash, the backcountry above Courmauyer a few trips up on a non-skiing summer tourist tram he got them to open for us with 7 feet of fresh overnight. I wish he was still located there, but he moved to the states.

    Anyway... GUIDE for sure. Cham was one of my favorite ski trips, hands down.

    Oh, and yes, food was mentioned too - Raclette. Find a place with a real charcoal setup on your table. We found one in Argentière. melt that delicious shit and spread it on meats and veggies. Have been in search of a home unit ever since. Experiential, delicious food. Maybe my favorite thing I've ever eaten.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tromano View Post
    Apathy is harder for me to understand than passion.

  19. #19
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    Adding that there is tons of touring stuff between Valle Blanche and the extremo stuff. We did Col d'Entrèves with a guide from the top of the midi and it was a great tour. It was too low tide for a lot of stuff but the guide was pointing out all the endless moderate tours if you are willing to skin.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by subtle plague View Post
    The grand montets is pretty accessible freeride wise. Classic runs like the cosmique are also fairly mellow after the rappel in. But this is from a European perspective and if you're not sure how to make your own decisions, get a guide. It's still cheaper than skiing Vail
    The Cosmique is not mellow from anyone’s perspective!
    https://snowbrains.com/american-ski-...amonix-france/

    There is plenty of good accessible skiing in the main Cham areas on and off the side of the pistes.

    But if you want to go further afield you need local knowledge. Vallée Blanche classic route for example is not technically difficult but people fall in crevasses and die every year. The crevasses will be big this year. You also have some great terrain over on the Courmayeur side but again it’s glacial and you should ski it in a group with local knowledge.

    Verbier has several itineraries which are patrolled but not pisted but that also means they are quickly tracked. For the fresh stuff again you need local knowledge.

    When are you going? The skis you need will depend on snow conditions but if you’re planning some good stuff bring something wide and pray to the snow gods. Ideally you also want the option of touring.

  21. #21
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    All good info guys thanks for all the input. I'd be going in March for 2-3 weeks. I was trying to only bring one set of skis just for ease of travel (108 Wildcat resort setup vs 108 line vision touring setup), because I will be staying in Paris for another month in April. Feels like I'm flying blind because I'm going by myself (although I do have friends in Servoz as mentioned). And this type of skiing is not my forte. How much does guiding cost per day?

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobinch View Post
    The Cosmique is not mellow from anyone’s perspective!
    https://snowbrains.com/american-ski-...amonix-france/

    .
    Uh? Yeah.. I skied it in powder it's fairly tame in good snow. Why would you go in there in horrible conditions? people I know sidestepped down for 2 hours what we skied in 5 min. Again that's my point about decision making.

    I mean I nearly slipped in the couloir Banane in La grave in Bad snow and fairly rounds edges on my skis and that's a 35 degree playground. Anything can be an icy death trap.
    It's a war of the mind and we're armed to the teeth.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jvhowube View Post
    All good info guys thanks for all the input. I'd be going in March for 2-3 weeks. I was trying to only bring one set of skis just for ease of travel (108 Wildcat resort setup vs 108 line vision touring setup), because I will be staying in Paris for another month in April. Feels like I'm flying blind because I'm going by myself (although I do have friends in Servoz as mentioned). And this type of skiing is not my forte. How much does guiding cost per day?
    https://www.smartmountainguides.com/skiing contact these guys.
    Quote Originally Posted by Downbound Train View Post
    And there will come a day when our ancestors look back...........

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Mike View Post
    Well played.
    dirtbag, not a dentist

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jvhowube View Post
    All good info guys thanks for all the input. I'd be going in March for 2-3 weeks. I was trying to only bring one set of skis just for ease of travel (108 Wildcat resort setup vs 108 line vision touring setup), because I will be staying in Paris for another month in April. Feels like I'm flying blind because I'm going by myself (although I do have friends in Servoz as mentioned). And this type of skiing is not my forte. How much does guiding cost per day?
    That reminds me - lock up your skis. Had a brand new pair of 1st gen Mantras and touring bindings stolen right outside the cafeteria at the top of the min Grand Montet lift. Brazen bastard, I was less than 50 feet away. Police report and all that crap.
    Quote Originally Posted by tromano View Post
    Apathy is harder for me to understand than passion.

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