Chamonix, France

Mark Thompson Private Guide Chamonix

    • A good quality pair of ski trousers. They must be made from a waterproof and breathable fabric like Gore-Tex or similar. It’s useful to have some venting zips on the legs either inside or outside thigh or full length side-zips. Integral snow gaiters and some pockets for handy items are good features.
    • An outer shell jacket made of waterproof and breathable material like Gore-Tex or similar with a built-in hood. We advocate the ‘layering principle’ and so a shell is recommended rather than an insulated jacket.
    • Comfortable underwear with good wicking properties. Very popular at the moment are the wool based layers from companies such as Icebreaker and Smartwool. They are comfy, breathable, warm when needed and can be worn for days without your friends catching a whiff!
    • Several thin (rather than fewer thick) layers between your skin and the outer shell - an approach that gives better heat retention and good flexibility. These tops are known as ‘mid layers’.
    • Insulation layer like a down or Primaloft jacket is a good item to have ready to wear in the event of cold weather, it can live in your rucksack as a spare layer and can come in very handy for sudden changes in the weather.
    • Roll neck rather than a scarf. We use and recommend the ‘Buff¹ ¬ a light, stretchable tube. Excellent despite the name! They do both a fleece/cotton version for warmth or just a cotton one (to keep the sun off).
    • Headwear to include warm hat and sun-cap or wide-brim hat for extra protection from the sun. Mountain Tracks fully supports the wearing of helmets for skiing, although not mandatory for any of our trips we do recommend them.
    • Good quality, ski gloves or mitts if you suffer from cold hands and 1 thinner pair of gloves made from a soft shell or fleece material if the weather is warm. These are particularly useful if you do any ski touring or hiking on the trip as thick gloves quickly become too hot.
    • Silk inner gloves can be useful if the weather is cold and you suffer with cold hands.
    • Technical Socks - Investing in good quality ski socks will improve fit, warmth and feel when skiing for long periods. Bring along a few pairs.
  • We continue to see big changes in ski, boot and binding design and technology, which make off-piste skiing and ski touring much more accessible. For our Adventure courses we prefer you to ski with” freeride” skis, ski touring boots and ski touring bindings. If you have your own skis but they do not have ski touring bindings but are suitable for off piste then you are welcome to bring them with you. Downhill boots are also acceptable but please bear in mind that you will do some touring on ALL our Off-Piste Adventure courses so you made need to hire suitable skis and boots in resort.

    Skis
    There are many ‘all-mountain/freeride’ skis to choose from and we highly recommend skis from Dynastar, Movement, Black Crows, Trab Skis, Scott and Volkl. Look for a ski that is the right size for you height, typically the tip of the ski should be somewhere around your nose height. As for the width of the ski or “side cut” a mid-fat ski – 90-110mm under the foot is a good place to start; this offers plenty of flotation off piste, while remaining suitable for day tours and they should also handle reasonably well on piste and mixed terrain.
    Dynastar Skis: www.dynastar.com
    Movement Skis: www.movementskis.com
    Black Crows Skis: www.blackcrows-skis.com/
    Trab Skis: www.skitrab.com/en-us/
    Scott Skis: http://www.scott-sports.com
    Volkl Skis: http://www.voelkl.com

    Boots
    For our Off-Piste Adventure courses its best to have a pair of ski touring boots – they have great skiing performance and with the vibram soles they are much safer for scrambling around on rocky or icy ground. However standard downhill ski boots are also acceptable. We do not recommend you come on a trip with brand new boots.

    If you are going to be getting into off-piste and ski touring, then rather than having a pair of downhill boots and a pair of ski touring boots, we strongly suggest that you opt for a good pair of ski touring boots. With advances made in plastics, moldings and materials in recent years you can now get a ‘hybrid’ touring boot that offers as much downhill performance and stiffness but they come with a walk mode and good flexibility for the uphill too. Many boots fall into the category "hike & ride" so a 3 or 4 buckle boot, walk mode, vibram/grippy sole and possible Pin binding compatible.
    It just makes more sense - not only are they much more comfortable to walk in compared to ordinary ski boots, they are great to ski in too.

    Scarpa have lead the way in touring boots for many years but they have been joined by other manufactures like Dynafit, Salomon, Scott, Black Diamond, Dalbello and K2; all producing their own versions of a ski touring boot.
    • Scarpa’s Freedom boots are their Hybrid offerings, great ski performance, a walk mode and vibram sole. Their Maestrale (men’s) and Gea (women’s) boots are also highly recommended.
    • The Scott Celeste and Cosmos boots have stood the test of time and are good all round choices.
    • Salomon’s Quest Max series offer boots with a walk mode in various flex’s with good downhill performance.
    • Dynafit offer the Mercury or Vulcan boots plus a range of lightweight options like the TLT6.
    The best of the rest are:
    Fischer - Transalp
    Black Diamond – Quadrant and Factor
    K2 – Pinnacle boot
    Dalbello – Lupo or Sherpa
    Langue – XT series offer a ski boot with a walk mode in various flex options

    Boot Liners
    These days many manufacturers offer ‘thermo-fit’ liners as standard equipment. You may also want to consider a custom liner. Heated and moulded to your foot and boot for a perfect fit, they can make all the difference especially if you have trouble finding really comfortable
    ‘off-the-shelf¹ boots. Zipfit liners are a great option for anyone seeking total customisation in fit and comfort. They will replace the original liner.

    Custom Footbeds
    Essential kit – to provide additional comfort and ski control. If you want to get footbeds made or a pair of new boots fitted then we suggest you visit somewhere like Profeet for a professional fitting. Don’t forget if you have footbeds in your downhill boots but need to rent touring boots then you can bring the footbeds with you and put them in the hire boots.

    Bindings
    We prefer you to have ski touring bindings on your skis for our adventure courses but if you have downhill bindings mounted on your skis then this is perfectly acceptable. The new touring bindings are every bit as safe for downhill as alpine bindings, yet you have the additional advantage of being able to walk uphill with them to access the real off-piste. Fritschi Diamir and Marker both have great bindings which can be used with ski touring boots and downhill boots. Many more people are seeing the advantage of the “pin” binding system now offered by a number of manufactures; they are light and offer ever improving security despite their minimalist looks!
  • Although our Off-Piste Adventure courses rely heavily on the lift systems in resorts, access to and egress from runs sometimes involve climbing and walking a short way and you may undertake 1 or 2 day ski tours, for this reason its best to have skis with ski touring bindings, skins and ski touring boots.

    • Ski Skins – these are skins which, now made of artificial fabric, stick to the bottom of your skis and allow you to walk up hill. They must be cut to fit your skis exactly, so if you are bringing your own skis you must provide your own skins.
    • Ski Crampons (aka Couteaux) - most ski touring bindings have ski crampons specifically designed for the binding. We always carry these just in case. Again if you are bringing your own skis and touring bindings you must provide your own ski crampons.
    • When skiing on glaciated terrain you will need a harness and occasionally boot crampons and possibly an ice axe. Your can guide can supply you with these items if you do not have your own.
  • The “Safety Trilogy” - applicable for all our off-piste courses and ski tours.

    Avalanche Transceiver/Beacon 
    Snow shovel
    Avalanche probe

    Avalanche airbags/rucksacks – if you wish to ski with one of these on our courses you are welcome to do so, they are not mandatory but we always support the use of available safety items.
    You can hire avalanche rucksacks in a lot of resorts, makes are usually Snowpulse/Mammut, ABS or BCA Float sacks. Prices vary from shop to shop and resort to resort but a guide line price would be from €20-30 per day or around €100-120 for 6/7 days.

    Remember it is not enough just to carry this equipment; you have to know how to use it.
    How about joining one of our specialist avalanche courses – check out https://mountaintracks.co.uk/discipline/winter-mountaincraft

  • Good pair of goggles – essential. Useful to have 2 pairs on powder days in case of head plants! A pair with a lens for low light is essential in the event of snow and poor visibility
    Good quality sunglasses – UV factor category 4 recommended
    20-30 liter rucksack is usually suitable for most off piste skiing. Key features are a method of attaching your skis in either a A-frame (one either side) or both together on a diagonal ski carriage; easy access into the main compartment without having to empty the sack to get something at the bottom; separate pocket for avalanche shovel, handle and probe; small top pocket for items like wallet, sunglasses/goggles etc; an ice axe loop and possibly a built in rain cover and a secure method of attaching/stowing a ski helmet (if you use one). It’s essential that the pack has a good hip/waist belt and adjustable shoulder straps.
    Avalanche airbag rucksacks can be used but please remember that they are heavy, adding somewhere between 5-8kg just for an empty pack with cylinder in; so unless you are sure you can carry it and fit all you need in, we do not recommend you use one.
    1-1.5 Liter water bottle – we don’t recommend hydration-systems (e.g. Camelbaks) as these often freeze in winter
    Suncream and lip salve (factor 30 or higher recommended.)

Ski and Boot Hire

For ski rental we recommend you visit Sanglard Sports whose shop is located in the Place du Mont Blanc in Chamonix and also behind the main Grands Montets cable car station in Argentiere, you receive a 15% discount on their prices as a Mountain Tracks client.

Safety and Technical Equipment

You need to ski at all times with avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe plus boot crampons, ice axe and harness will be required each day. If you need to rent these from Mountain Tracks please let me know.

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Chamonix

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The town of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is situated at 1042m (3,396 ft) above sea level. It sits at the foot of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe at 4807m (15,770 ft).

Chamonix is considered by many as Europe's mecca for outdoor sports and draws many enthusiasts from all over the world. Unlike many of the purpose built resorts, Chamonix is a proper working town with a large population of about 12,000 inhabitants. This number can be boosted by as many as 80 - 100,000 during the peak months in summer and winter.

As befits a town of this size there are plenty of shops, hotels, cafes, bars, pubs and nightclubs.

Our top reasons to visit Chamonix

  • Home of the Vallée Blanche, one of the world’s great off-piste descents

  • Great destination for weekends and short breaks

  • Easy access from the UK and just 75 minutes by road from Geneva airport, which has regular flights from many UK airports

  • Thriving, working town full of shops, bars and restaurants = good shopping, good après-ski

  • The Alpine capital of France renowned for big mountain skiing, alpinism and extreme adventure

  • Mont Blanc – the highest peak in Western Europe

  • Very long ski season with skiing possible until well into May

  • Good range of accommodation for all budgets

Chamonix Ski Area

The skiing area of Chamonix is generally considered to have some of the best off-piste skiing in the world. Much of this is accessible from the lift systems and includes descents of over 2,000m. The Chamonix valley extends over 20km and there are several separate lift systems and mountains which provide enormous variety and all are included on the Mont Blanc pass.

Off Piste runs include:

 

The Vallée Blanche

The longest off-piste ski descent in the world (24kms).

Pas de Chevre

Ascend to the top of Grand Montets and ski down to the Mer de Glace and on into Chamonix.

Glacier du Toule

You can ski the Glacier du Toule down towards Courmayeur and then catch the cable car back up to the top of the mountain and ski the Italian side of the Vallée Blanche.

Le Tour

From the back of the Le Tour lift system there is fantastic off-piste skiing towards Vallorcine and Switzerland.

Some of the very best areas can only be reached with an hour's ski tour from the pistes. The effort expended is more than rewarded with the awesome skiing across untracked terrain.

Chamonix is just as much about the climbing and mountaineering in the summer months, with easy access into the high mountains and many magnificent climbs and routes available plus an extensive network of high alpine huts its also a mecca for climbers.  Mont Blanc draws over 20,000 ascents a year both by ski and foot and any good weather day in the summer months will see numerous people achieve the summit.


Resort Information:

Resort Height: 1,042m

Highest Lift: 3,842m

Nearest Airport: Geneva

Transfer Options: From Geneva the transfer time from the airport is about 75 minutes to Chamonix. We recommend that you book a seat with one of the many transfer companies who offer shared minibus transfers to and from the airport. Mountain Tracks recommends Mountain Drop Offs or Cham Van who both offer comparativly priced transfers and run an efficient services.

More about Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Western Europe. Its height is 4,807 metres (15,780 feet), but varies from year to year by a few metres, depending on snowfall and climate conditions. The mountain lies at 45°55′N, 6°55′E between the regions of Haute Savoie, France and Aosta Valley, Italy

The first known ascent was made on August 8, 1786 by Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard.

  • Travel to Chamonix

    The most convenient airport is Geneva and from here the transfer time up to Chamonix by road is just 1 hr 15mins. To travel between the airport and Chamonix we recommend you reserve a seat on one of the many commercial shuttle buses. Mountain Tracks can book this for you and the usual prices are from £40 per person one-way. Please supply your full flight details to us so we can make the reservation.

    Want to take the train to the resort? No problem – it’s possible to get to Chamonix by train from the UK using the Eurostar from London St. Pancras to Paris, then the TGV to Bellegarde and a regional train to Chamonix. The journey can be done in 1 day. For more information and other useful train travel details look at www.snowcarbon.co.uk

    At the end of the week the course finishes after breakfast on the last day and we recommend that you arrange your return/onward flight from lunchtime onwards to give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport without having to rush!

  • Chamonix Valley Lift Pass

    The cost of the lift pass is not included in the price of the holiday. In Chamonix you can purchase a mulitpul day ski pass for your holiday. There are 2 passes available the Chamonix Le Pass and the Mont Blanc Unlimited ski pass. The Mont Blanc Unlimited pass will cover you for all the ski areas and lifts within the Chamonix Valley. If you wish to buy a pass on-line you can do so here http://www.montblancnaturalresort.com/en/

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