Chamonix Ski Resort Information
As befits a large, year-round tourist town, Chamonix has a wide range of activities and cultural attractions to keep skiers and non-skiers of all ages entertained.
Among the many non-ski outdoor activities in Chamonix are snowshoeing, tobogganing, dog sledding, skijoering (being towed behind a pony on your skis) and ice climbing.
In the centre of town, there's a well-equipped sports complex that has an indoor ice rink and climbing wall. For the less active – or for those who want to rest their weary post-ski muscles – there's a cinema, bowling rink, alpine museum, exhibition centre and a unique rock crystal museum.
One of the most popular ski schools for youngsters is the Evo2 Panda Club (tel: 04 5055 5357; www.panda-club.com) in Argentière (near the base of the Grands Montets cable car), which takes children from the age of three. The ESF Piou-Piou Club (tel: 04 5053 2257; www.esfchamonix.com) in Chamonix also has great facilities for children above the same age.
With options such as tobogganing and ice skating, it's easy to keep younger children occupied. Older non-skiing children with a head for heights will love the two-stage Aiguille du Midi cable car ride from the edge of town outside the morning rush hour, from 0900 until 1000.
There's a great range of shops in the pedestrianised town centre, including a selection of top-end ski gear retailers, such as Patagonia and Peak Performance (249 and 231 rue Paccard respectively); while for ski hardware, try ChamSport (432 rue Joseph Vallot). Just down the road is Chanel (101 rue Paccard), one of many well-known boutiques in Chamonix; and there are some stylish home design and deco shops. Visitors here can peruse the wide range of souvenir shops that feature many local products, from cheese and wine to traditional wood carvings.
An unforgettable day out is to ski the Vallée Blanche, the world’s longest lift-served ski run. Participants should be a strong intermediate skier and, most importantly, be able to cope with shuffling down a snowy ridge with a near 3,000m (9,843ft) sheer vertical drop on one side and a large descent on the other, from the Aiguille du Midi to start of the ski run. After that feat, skiers will then need enough strength in their legs to climb the 200 or so metal steps up from the glacier to the lift at the bottom – but it's well worth the effort.
Skiers will definitely need the services of a guide to descend the glacier safely due to hidden and shifting crevasses that claim a victim or two each year from the tens of thousands who do the route. Contact the Compagnie des Guides (tel: 04 5053 0088; www.chamonix-guides.com) at the Maison de la Montagne in the centre of town for further information.