Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Chamonix or simply Cham' to her friends, stands in the formidable shadow of the peak of Aiguille du Midi on France's border with both Italy and Switzerland. Home of the Winter Olympics of 1924, it's been attracting British powder hounds, mountaineers and summer hikers in their droves ever since.
As a skiable area, the Chamonix Valley is made up of five resorts — Grands Montets, Les Houches, Le Tour/Balme, La Flegere and Le Brevent. As a winter resort it's definitely geared towards more experienced skiers and boarders looking to take their ski holidays in France.
Serviced by 65 lifts (cable cars, gondolas, trains, trams, chairlifts and a couple of drag lifts on the nursery slopes) winter sport enthusiasts have access to 106 trails over a generous skiable area of some 762 acres.
Intermediate and experienced skiers really looking to give those quadriceps a workout make for the world-renowned, Chamonix Vallée Blanche glacier run — 12 and a half miles (20 kilometres) of stunning, wilderness terrain that takes in a descent of some 2,700 metres. About midway down the Chamonix Vallée Blanche, those in the know recharge their batteries with a bite of lunch or a hot chocolate at the Requin Hut before continuing their descent.
For those who laugh in the face of vertigo, put that bravery to the test inside in the Aiguille du Midi Skywalk or "Step into the Void" — a glass box perched atop the 3,842m peak of Aiguille du Midi. Dubbed "the highest attraction in Europe," those brave enough to look down will be greeted with 1,035 metres of nothing. There's no excuses either, entry to Step into the Void is included in the price of your Aiguille du Midi cable car ride.
To really make the most of what Chamonix has to offer, intermediate and advanced skiers should consider hiring a guide for the day. Besides the Chamonix Vallée Blanche there are many other ridiculously picturesque off-piste options just waiting for some fresh tracks to be laid. Unless you know the Chamonix Valley well and you're an exceptional skier, a guide offers you the safest way to enjoy everything the Valley has to offer.
When the day turns to night and the skis have been racked, head for Chambre Neuf for a little après ski action. Chambre Neuf kicks things off early with live music from 5.30 through 7.30pm Sunday through Friday all winter long, then gathers momentum with a happy hour from 8.00 through 10.00pm with plenty of 2 for 1 cocktails on offer. Before you know it you'll be dancing on the tables with a bunch of new-found friends — a policy not actively discouraged by the staff of Chambre Neuf.
After a long day on the piste (and a few beers in the bar) replenish those carb levels with an authentic wood-fired pizza at Casa Valério in the heart of Chamonix. For over 25 years, Casa Valério has been serving weary skiers a wide range of authentic Italian antipasti, pizzas, pastas, fresh fish and meat dishes. They also stock an extensive vino selection and for the sweet-toothed a dessert menu to die for.