When you mention that you’re going skiing in Chamonix, your listener goes green with envy. Excitement mounts and you really start looking forward to this vacation in the French Alps.
Having skid many other countries including the USA, Austria, and Italy, France has somehow escaped my itinerary but it’s always been on the list. No problem getting there – Geneva Airport, ChamExpress from door to door. Lovely, large apartment at La Ginabelle with all the amenities including a pool and steam room at a reasonable rate. The town itself is as pretty as Alpine towns can be and has many top level restaurants. Highly recommend comes La Maison Carrier.
Now comes the crunch – the ski area is vast and you’re spoilt for choice as to where your next slope adventure is going to be. Getting there is another thing – buses run but you still need to carry your skis and even worse, walk in your ski boots to reach the bus stop after which you are either lucky enough to get a seat, or unlucky and have to jam yourself into an overloaded vehicle and stand all the way. That’s of course if you know which bus stop to go to. Information is scanty on the net and it usually takes a trip to the Tourist Info Centre to find out. Why reception at your apartment can’t always tell you what you need to know, is sort of incomprehensible.
You get to the mountain and you’re on your chosen chairlift. This is when you wonder when last they updated the infrastructure. Some of the button lifts are hazardous, most of the chairlifts have no covers and you sit in puddles of snow which are never wiped by the attendants. In an area like Les Houches which is geared for families and children, surely major investments should be made to keep it up to date? I was told it was because it’s too low and that climate change would soon take its toll. But in the meantime?
Compare this to Montafon or St. Anton in Austria. Heated chairs, wifi in gondolas, solar panels for energy, lockers at lift stations with heated bars for your ski boots, excellent restaurants on the mountain, expensive but not a rip off. When you pay €5.80 for a watery, crappy cappuccino at a restaurant at Grands Montets, it doesn’t encourage you to go back there for lunch.
The delightful retro, diner-like Kitsch Inn at Les Houches Bellevue at the foot of the Telephérique cable car, however, is worth skiing down to the bottom for. The prices are fine and the quality is good. It has to be to get the skiers to move to the valley for lunch. The same at Le Tour Balme area where the cosiest of restaurants called Le Café Comptoir serving ‘real’ coffee is the first one you come across at the end of the long red, windy run down in Vallorcine. The food menu too doesn’t look shabby at all.
Chamonix has an international reputation for being one of the best resorts for your ski holiday but there are so many other options out there where you can slap on your skis and slide down to the lift, that this place just doesn’t qualify for a repeat visit.