Les Houches and Chamonix 2012
Started by Dids1 in France - 10 Replies
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May-2012
Dids1
Decided at long last to write a resume of our holiday to the above in April this year.

Being on a budget, but going at a school holiday tme we were rather restricted with accomodation so we decided to go to a lower resorts, but to a nice chalet. Our rationale being that we had cars and could drive to the snow if Les Houches was lacking and when the interest ran out there.

We chose a a self catered chalet at 1200 m next to Maison Neuve chairlift. Sleeping 9 it was perfect for our requirements, was well equipped, warm and right next to the lift. You ski literally to the door when snow permitted. For us it didn't quite so we had to walk about 50 metres.

We used Tesco vouchers and crossed by eurotunnel on 8am crossing. Roads were quiet and we arrived in Les Houches around 5.45 pm.

We were able to purchase our lift passes from the kiosk at 1200m so no hassle there.
The family pass for Les Houches is excellent value. It is for 2 adults and up to 4 children and the children can be up to 18 years of age.
We only purchased 2 days as we could see the skiing was fairly limited. The snow wasn't bad though we arrived a week early for the massive Easter snowfalls that followed. We did however have pretty decent visibily on most days.

Les Houches is a lovely ski area. The views are stunning and the runs pretty and sheltered. I would only return there for a short bresk though when snow was at it's best.
It's just too limited to ski only there for a week.
There was almost no one there however, we had no queues and usually the pistes to ourselves which was lovely.

On day 3 we decided to ski at Argentiere. We bought the Le Cham pass which allows you to 2700 m and not on the Grand Montets glacier.

Immediately we got on the gondola we could see that this was a different sort of resort altogther!
There were few families and it was obvious this was a resort for the serious skier!
The pistes were crowded and at times felt quite dangerous. We had 3 less experienced teens with us who were quite nerved by the speed and disregard of some of the hugely experienced snow users - snowboard and ski.
The visibility was also poorer this day as it wa snowing lightly so we called it a day at around 3.30 and headed back down on the gondola.

We decided that Argentiere was definitely for the thrill seeker so we decided to get out of their way and the next day we went to Le Tour. This was much more family orientated and suited our group much better. The runs into Vallorcine were pretty and the snow was pretty good for the time of year.
We skied here for 2 days and had a top up a snow on day 5.

All week I had been eyeing the gondola at Le Brevent and wanting to go up, so we wnet on the last day.
We started at la Flegere where we loved the skiing, but for some reason a lot of the runs were closed, it didn't appear to be lack of snow, but we headed off to Le Brevent to see what was there.

It's a great ski area, there's a fun park with huge air bag, a great mix of abilities, so didn't feel intimidated like at Argentiere and the snow was great.

The views there are incredible. The black off the top of Le Brevent is great fun and doable for a decent skier.
We saw a couple of younger kids struggling down but there's enough space for everyone to go down at their own pace.

I wouldn't go back to this area (Chamonix) because I got tired of the disjointedness of the place.

Apart from Le Brevent and La Flegere none of the areas are linked so if you didn't have a car you would have rto rely on buses - which are obviously frequent, but it's still hanging about.
I can see why it's the place for hard, fast skers who might be there for a season but for a family on a weeks break it wasn't for us.

Having said that we had a great time, but a largeish linked area is what I will book again next time.

Staying at 1200m is not a problem though and we definitely didn't regret our choice of resort - we just wouldn't do the same again.

As we self catered we didn't eat out (budget!) but a friend paid 10 euros for a beer and 6 for bottled water which she thought was pretty steep. This was in Les Houches.

There's a couple of decent supermarkets in Les Houches itself and a doctors which we had to take our daughter to ( chest infection).
Son and his girlfriend ate at the Indian restaurant one evening. Prices on a par with UK.

Skis were rented from Intersport who could not have been more attentive and friendly.
Brother paid 139 euros for skis and boots and 89 for his daughter as a junior.

All in all a good break, but a bit like Val Thorens we can say we've been, had a good time, but won't be rushing back.

I'd be quite interested to know if anyone else has been and how they felt about the area.
I haven't seen many reviews on here, so perhaps others have been put off by the fact that all of the areas are so spread out.
I know Bandit knows the area, but is obviously more experienced and an off piste skier.

I will add that we.had originally thought we might try Courmayer for the last day.
Thank goodness we didn't. The Mont Blanc tunnel was shut almost all day and we could see queues still stretching miles at lunchtime.

Dids




May-2012
OldAndy
An excellent review Dids .......

I think you have highlighted a valid and vital point.

The resort that suits one person or group could be a nightmare for another. Doesn't mean the resort is useless just that with the wide variety of resorts available choice is so important.

Been to Chamonix in the summer never in the winter. For similar reasons to yourself I don't think it would suit me. I have a phobia of getting on a bus in a ski resort.
May-2012
Ranchero_1979
Dids,

I chose to live in Chamonix, because just like Les Houches proper mountain village, that has people all year around. This is something that most resorts will never have and year round business means proper amenities. Dr, shops, gym, public gym, swimming pool, tennis club, decent restaurants, climbing walls etc etc. Prices are also reasonable as is not designed to hit the one time visitor.

It is strange that people always consider the place disjointed, would prefer to see it as a valley with many ski areas only a bus or train ride away much like Aosta. Bus twice a day is hardly a headache. No car for me for the very reason that they are so frequent and run as per schedule (if you all sold you car imagine how much more skiing you could do, especially with fuel prices). Is strange took me 2 years to convince by brother that bus service in Chamonix works, he always insisted visiting with a car ? Maybe with a family might be considered more convenience but every Wednesday you will see plenty of 5+yrs old getting onto bus for ski morning.

As you said skiing at all resorts is very accessible for any skier, however in general that piste color is what is says, no blacks with ski schools on them. For piste skiing Les Houches is awesome with correct snow conditions and pistes are cut nicely into fall line. Flegere has to have some of best skiing in world and unreal offpiste on powder day (local websites should of informed you of closure) . However unless you are into touring or offpiste i.e. willing to get a guide then most people will not fully get Chamonix. Skiing and dramatic scenery like few places in the world. In Tignes, etc you don't look up 3800m to Mt Blanc from resort level. Yes nice to have a high resort level for season round ski in ski out but you remove the drama.

My suggestion would be go back and stay in Chamonix (centre of valley), also fantastic in Summer. If you go in Winter ask if J2ski local is about to show you the best bits. Place grows on you, but you may end up a ski bum.
May-2012
Dids1
Thanks for both comments!

Ranchero,
I can see why someone with time would love it there.
When you've only got a week a year getting 5 people in the car and out for 1st lift is a challenge.
If you don't have to get in a car then you can leave the stragglers behind to catch up.
Where we stayed buses weren't an option.

If staying a season were an option then I would certainly feel differently - there are so many places within a reasonable distance.
It was obvious thugh that is was the place for off piste and touring. It must be amazng to be able to take advantage off all it has to offer.

I have been to Chamonix in summer. Loved i

We had been stayng in La Clusaz and visited a couple of times for touristy type days out.
Unfortunately Aiguille du Midi closed ( is it me?!) due to high winds, but we went up the Mer de Glace.
Ate a meal in the centre and loved the buzz

I imagne it's a great place to live.

Edit - i will just add. It wasn't a nightmare for us. It was pretty much what I knew it wuld be, but in hindsight too much faffing!





May-2012
Verbier_ski_bum
I love Chamonix, the buzz that this place has is increadible and it does a fantastic job at promoting skiing. I thought I could ski and wasn't bad at it and then I went for a weekend in Chamonix... Needless to say it made me take a two-week holiday and come back and back to lessons. My first real off-piste and my first real black from top of Grand-Montets. Will definitely be back. I suppose bus can be a hassle but I hardly noticed it. It actually even adds to the excitement that this place offers. If you like places with authentic feel and not purpose-built resorts then bus rides is a part of the package. I found lift lines in Argentier a bit too long, particularly if you want to go all the way to the top, basically two rides top to bottom is all that can be realistically done in a day on Saturday when weekend crowds are there. But still these two runs will do more for your skiing than looping cruises for 2 days.
May-2012
AllyG
Thanks very much for your report Dids

You have done a very good job of putting me off Chamonix

I am really glad we're going to Tignes in 2013 for the J2Ski group holiday, and not Chamonix (which came a close second). It sounds like it's the sort of place that's much better for advanced and expert skiers, who like ski-ing off piste.

And I don't like disjointed ski areas, or having to get on a ski bus. I don't know why, as I realize it's totally illogical, but somehow I'm perfectly happy to jump in a gondola but not a bus.

I'm glad you had a good time, even though it wasn't really your ideal resort

I hope your daughter recovered okay from her chest infection. Being ill on a ski holiday is a really miserable waste of ski-ing time
May-2012
Dids1
It wasn"t my intention to put anyway off Chamonix, but is interesting that those who have more time to ski and not cram it all in to their weeks holiday rate it so highly.
It was exactly my feeling about the place and couldn't help being envious of those who clearly lived there.

Daughter didn't miss ski time! We got antibiotics into her pretty quickly!
May-2012
AllyG
Hi Dids,
I'm glad your daughter was okay, and didn't miss any ski time

I think maybe I don't count being in a bus as part of my actual ski-ing time, because there are no views, whereas when I'm in a gondola I can usually see out and admire the mountains etc.

I'm usually only ski-ing for 6 or 7 days (or sometimes even only 3 days), and I costed it out once and I reckon a ski holiday costs me about £25 per hour of actual ski-ing time, so if there are 2 of us it's costing me £50 per hour

So I do resent time stuck in lift queues, in buses, or on long boring drag lifts. If the view is good from the drag lift I don't mind it so much. And most particularly I hate it when they shut all the lifts in the resort (because of the wind or the risk of avalanche) and I can't ski at all

If I lived out there, like Ranchero_1979, I'm sure I'd be able to take things at an easier pace and appreciate places like Chamonix.

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