Vallee Blanche Mer de Glace

Vallee Blanche / Mer de Glace Itinerary
The greatest ski run in the world!


This webpage gives information on the Vallee Blanche and Mer De Glace ski runs. Information is updated when additional data is received on what is perhaps the greatest ski run in the world.

Thousand of skiers of all ability levels ski the Vallee Blanche. There are routes for low-intermediate skiers. There are also routes for the extreme and suicidal. On a beautiful day, over a thousand people will ski the glacier. One run a day is what the vast majority will do. Some will do the run twice. If snow conditions permit skiing all the way down to Chamonix and bypass the glacier cable car and Montenvers train - it can be done 4 times in a day. The run is 20 kilometers from the Aiguille du Midi to the glacier cable car. Skiing to Chamonix adds another 7 kilometers.

But it is a route with risks. None of the routes are marked. It is not patrolled or monitored. You may be alone. It could avalanche. You may drop into a crevasse. If you need assistance, a passerby might not help you. Hundreds of people have died on the Vallee Blanche.

Created: April 21, 2007
Updated:  Saturday December 24, 2011

Introduction, Before You Get There, Aiguille du Midi Tram Ride, Snow Ridge, Skiing the Vallee Blanche, Glacier Cable Car and Montenvers Train, Conclusion
Related Links



To help understand my conservative perspective, here is a little background on myself:

I was an active ski patroller for 10 years. Initially I patrolled at Jiminy Peak in western Massachusetts, and then later at Killington/Pico, Vermont. Big mountain skiers may laugh about Jiminy Peak, but we were very busy patrolling Friday nights and got plenty of good experience. Patrolling at Killington/Pico was a whole different ballgame. The Otter Ski Patrol – the volunteer patrol of Killington/Pico – is the oldest ski patrol in the United States. The Otters were founded in 1936. Killington is a difficult place to patrol. Patrolling at Killington made my experience at Jiminy Peak seem like a walk in the park.

I was an Outdoor Emergency Care instructor, a senior patroller (back when it meant something), and was working to be an S&T trainer evaluator when I stopped patrolling. I consider myself an expert skier, although there are tens of thousands who are better skiers.

I was 11 years old during my first trip up the Aiguille du Midi tram – 1974. My mother was on a European business trip, and her company paid for the travel of children younger than 12 years old. I rode the Aiguille tram wearing a business suit and overcoat. I was not a skier at the time. Even today, many non-skiers ride the Aiguille tram in the winter. I rode to the top and walked to where the skiers walked out of the tunnel and put on their skis. I don’t recall seeing in 1974 the gate that presently exists. I envied the people who skied down. I vowed someday to return and ski the glacier. I learned to ski in my 20’s, and practiced hard for many seasons and eventually got good enough to join the Killington/Pico patrol.

It is now 2007. 33 years since my trip up the Aiguille tram. My 10-year old son, a fine free skier, mogul masher, and junior racer, was ready for anything. He skied Killington’s Superstar trail as a 6-year old, and Stowe’s fabled front four by 8. It was time for Chamonix!

I do not like needless risks. The text below is written with that in mind – conservative.

Before You Get There

Decide if you will be using a guide or not. For first timers on the Vallee Blanche, I strongly recommend a professional guide – no matter what level of skiing ability you may have. Even for experts who already own all the proper equipment (crampons, transceivers, etc), I still recommend a guide because you might not know the routes. The bottom line is that you need to be READY for any unforeseen accident that can occur. There will be times when, no matter which of the 8 routes you take, you won’t see any other skier.

It takes 5 years to become a professional guide in France. It is an honour, and rightfully so. There are approximately 1,400 professional guides in France. About 500 are located around Chamonix. Not because Chamonix is the best place for routes requiring guides, but because most tourists flock to Chamonix when skiing France. Guides have to own all their own rescue equipment, including the transceivers. Transceivers must be 5 years or newer. Typically a guide will purchase 2 or 3 new transceivers a year and retire the oldest from their personal inventory of 8-12 transceivers. Transceivers cost between 200-250 euros, even with their professional discount. They pay their own healthcare premiums, which incidentally has doubled in the last couple of years. Most, if not all, of the guides are independent contractors. It is not an easy life. These guides make most of us North American patrollers look feeble.

About 30-40 new guides are certified each year to a raucous celebration. How raucous? Restaurants around Chamonix will close, or close early, just to get these new graduates out of their place - or prevent them from even walking in.

Only a guide can legally take you through the Vallee Blanche. Ski instructors, of which there are many more, are not supposed to take you on the Vallee Blanche. Look at it this way – if you fall in a crevasse, who’s going to rescue you – the professional who skis to save lives, or the person who skis to look pretty?

The sled dog or the show dog?

On the recommendation of an acquaintance who resides in Chamonix, we booked a guide through Evolution 2. Our guide was a pleasant guy named Fred Burhe. Frenchman who can converse reasonably well in English and good with kids - he has his own 4-year old daughter. Apparently Evolution 2 contracts with 4 or 5 guides but has over 50 instructors. Evolution 2 is located in their own swanky store in the middle of Chamonix. I would use Evolution 2 and Fred again, although guides from the other outfits are surely fine as well. We booked our guide about a month before our trip via fax / email. Here’s a link to Evolution 2 and also the other guide companies:

Evolution 2 - Chamonix website

List of Major Guide and Ski School Companies (most independents are not listed)

The guide will provide all the safety equipment needed – harness, crampons, rope, transceiver.

Whether you bring a guide or not, I strongly suggest you bring these in a knapsack:

 snacks / food (we carried protein bars and a sandwich)
 sunblock and ski goggles (or sunglasses)
 flat shoes that pack easily. The shoes are for the walk up the long stairs to reach the Mer de Glace cable car at the end of the glacier. Ski boots take a lot more work than normal shoes going up flights of stairs. The exception – if conditions allow you to ski all the way back to Chamonix (which was not possible in the 2006-2007 season).

If you decide not to bring a guide, here is equipment I suggest you have:

 rope (150 feet;  enough length to pull you out of a crevasse)
 ice screw or anchor
 cell phone
 last but not least, knowledge and experience to use the above equipment.

The knapsack should be able to hold your skis. This will free up your hands for the walk down the snow ridge. I used a lift-friendly knapsack from Patagonia that could hold two pairs of skis - my own plus my son’s.  Many other manufacturers make similar packs.

If you book a guide, he/she will handle your reservations for the Aiguille tram. If you go on your own, make a reservation ahead of time or you will be on standby. On standby, the wait time will depend on the weather; on a cloudy day there might be no wait, but on sunny days standby is hours. Usually you put on the harness prior to lining up for the tram. There will be many other people getting prepared to get in line.


Ready to set out for the Aiguille tram from Hotel Mont Blanc.

Harness on!

Ready to line up for the tram.

Line for the tram.

View looking up. That is the long line to purchase standby tickets.

The famous Aiguille du Midi tram.

View from the tram line, looking back at the town.

The Aiguille du Midi Tram Ride

It takes two cable car rides to get to the top. There is a mid-station where you will transfer to another cable car to finally reach the Aiguille du Midi. The first section starts off from Chamonix (1035 meters or 3396 feet) and reaches the mid-station in 8 minutes (2317 meters or 7602 feet). The second section will reach 3777 meters (12,392 feet) in another 8 minutes. 1 meter equals 3.281 feet.

The tram is typically packed with people. The views are outstanding. Get a window view if you can. Keep your eye out for wildlife. We spotted chamois (mountain goats) on our way to the top. If you’re skis are fastened to your backpack, take it off your shoulders and stand it on the floor.

This tram is one of the highest vertical climbs in the world - 1035 meters to 3842 meters. I’ve always wondered why a cable car is sometimes used instead of a lift system. Apparently a cable car is used when it is impractical or impossible to use lift towers.

The construction history of the Aiguille tram is quite stirring. Six guides dragged up the cable for the first tram. Construction began in 1911, was suspended during the war and resumed in 1923. The tram ran from 1924 to 1954. It was replaced in 1954 by the present cable car, which underwent major renovation in 1990 and 1991.

As an aside, at the top of the Aiguille du Midi there is a tram called the Helbronner. This is another engineering marvel. This tram takes you to Italy and runs only in the summer. In the ‘Plan Des Pistes’ trail map this looks like a short hop. However, this is 5 kilometers long (3.2 miles).  It is the world's highest cable car traverse. Chamonix trail maps are not to scale.


View from midstation. That is one long steel cable to the Aiguille du Midi.

Telephoto view from mid-station.

Info display at mid-station.

Info display at mid-station. Hats off to the 6 guides that rolled out the first cable.

Waiting for the next car. That's a bar at 2317 meters.

Bar did not look open. Maybe in the summer?

Newer car than what I rode in 1974.

One car up, one car down.

View from midstation.

Telephoto shot from midstation.

View from the cable car. Keep an eye out for wildlife.

View from the car.

Helbronner clears an unbelievable expanse.

Telephoto of the Helbronner from the Vallee Blanche.

Helbronner has incredible height over the valley.

Helbronner is visible as dots on the left.

The Aiguille du Midi / Mont Blanc Terrace

The central peak with a lift and panoramic terrace is at 3842 meters. This is a construction marvel, maybe even more so than the tram. Think about how all that construction material – cement, steel, etc. - was brought up with the equipment available decades ago. None of it was airlifted – commercial helicopters did not exist during initial construction. I don’t think even a modern helicopter could carry much to the height of the complex.

Take the elevator to the summit terrace / observation deck - it is worth it. Enjoy the wonderful view, like few others in the world:

 Mont-Blanc, Europe’s highest peak at 4810 meters (15,781 feet).
 The Matterhorn is easily visible.
 There will be climbers on the south peak just below.
 A few suicidal folks will be preparing their parachutes (base jumpers).
 Depending on the temperature and season there could be a few, or hundreds, of paragliders.
 Look at the people making their way down the snow ridge (Arete).


View of Arete from the centre footbridge.

Flat area past the Arete, viewed from the centre footbridge.

Closer view of Arete from the centre footbridge.

Waiting for the lift to the summit terrace. Definitely worth the wait.

ZZ and guide Fred in line for the lift.

View - incredible - from the summit terrace.

View from the summit terrace, Mont Blanc in the background.

Telephoto of Mont Blanc from the summit terrace.

Mont Blanc is on the right, Mont Blanc du Tacul on the left.

Climbers on the peak just below the summit terrace.

Skiers starting for the Vallee Blanche, viewed from the summit terrace.

I was last here 33 years ago. But this time without the business suit!

Chamonix viewed from the summit terrace.

Helicopter tourist rides.

View of chamonix terrace, down from the summit terrace.

Another view from the summit terrace.

View of the south needle and vallee blanche from the summit terace.

The Matterhorn viewed from the summit terrace. It is the sharp triangle just off right-centre.

Europe's highest peak viewed from the summit terrace. Not that far.

Sign on the summit terrace.


Preparing for the walk out of the Tunnel

When you’re ready to head out to the snow, then it’s time the get ready in the tunnel. You’ll see dozens of people in various states of preparedness. If you have a guide, it is likely only the guide will wear crampons.

The guide will rope your party together for the arduous walk down the snow ridge. The guide will attach the rope to the karabiner on your harnesses, and setup your group single file. The guide will go last down the slope – to hold you in case of a slip on the ridge.

If your skis are fastened to your backpack, you must really bend over to not catch the ski tips on the low ceiling. People are generally helpful here. Usually some nice person will hold your ski tips down as you walk in the tunnel. We kept our ski poles in our hand. Some skiers also fastened their poles to their knapsack, leaving their hands totally free.

View from ice tunnel leading to the snow ridge.

Low ceiling. It can get crowded.

Some guides will take all the poles of their guests.

The Snow Ridge (Arête)

This is very likely the riskiest part of the day. The safety rope is usually in place from late January onwards.  I did not see anyone hooking themselves to the safety rope (which isn't always up).  It is possible to ski / traverse instead from the very top, but, there is NO safety margin with that method. If the safety rope isn’t up, then a ski / traverse may be better than walking the bare ridge.

Understand this - you fall from the ridge – you die. And people die every year.

Only a suicidal expert or extreme skier would attempt to ski the slope in this section – other than a traverse. I do not like situations where there is no safety margin. How steep is this? Several parachutists (base jumpers) whizzed past, jumping from the terrace, diving into Chamonix valley below.

There are two routes down the ridge. We chose the route on the left – a bit longer, but not as steep. I chose to walk backwards with my ski boots (no crampons). Why backwards? With ski boots, the toepiece is much more pointed than the heel. Walking backwards, I could dig in my toepiece for a reasonably solid hold. I then had both hands on the safety rope. My son preferred to walk normal, digging in his heels. My son was roped between the guide and me. The temp was below freezing, but it sure didn’t feel that way with all the adrenalin while walking down the ridge. The temperature at this elevation was -10 celsius at 9 am, in late March. This is about 12-15 celsius colder than the temperature in the town of Chamonix.

The ridge can be slippery. Even around 10:30 am (when the sun has softened the snow), it was slippery. Some portions were ice. Both my son and I slipped a couple of times. The slip-angle is towards the slope of the path and not sideways off the ridge. But it can still be frightening. 

Our guide Fred only had to cope with my 10-year old son (66 pounds) and me (146 pounds). Fred was the only one of us who wore crampons. No problem for a seasoned guide on crampons. He even took a phone call on his mobile while holding on to my son and me. However, for the guides handling 8 tourists, I’m not sure how a single person with crampons could keep 8 tourists from going off the ridge if he / she had to. My son was not worried at all about the walk down the ridge. I did all the worrying for both of us!

After you clear the rope (if the rope is up), you reach a flat part. Take of the rope that has attached you to others in your party. Leave the harness on in the event that you need to be pulled from a crevasse. Now whoop up a victory yell, do a dance to Ullr the snow god, and put on your skis.


Smile on the snow ridge. Guide Fred has us roped up.

Nice to have hands free. It's steeper than the picture can convey.

Guide Fred hummed a song to help us relax.

Big smile after the Arete.

View from the flat area.

On top of the world! Doing a dance for Ullr the snow god.

After the Arete, a victory dance or two is in order.

Arete does not look that long in the picture, but it is.

Another view of the Arete.

Try imagine this without the rope.

Closer view of the Arete.

Two ways down. Seems that large groups opt for the trail on skier's right.

Tools of the trade.

Guide Fred putting away the crampons.

Time to click in and ski.

Skiing the Vallee Blanche

There are 8 routes down. All have great views. All eventually lead to the same broad and flat portion of the glacier – which will be about two-thirds of the entire run. We skied the Grand Envers and Black Valley routes, which gave us opposite views of the glacier.

Some portions of a route might be unskiable or dangerous on a given day. For example, the day after we skied the Grand Envers, one of the steep portions was dangerous and EVERYONE avoided that portion. If you don’t take a guide, how would you know this information even if you’ve done the route before? It seemed to me that the guides traded information and somehow knew what to avoid.

The most important safety item while on the Vallee Blanche is to OPEN YOUR EYES. See what’s ahead and react accordingly.

If you have a guide, there are two additional rules:

- LISTEN TO THE GUIDE. When the guide says ‘ski in my tracks’ – do it.

If you take a young skier on the Vallee Blanche – make sure that kid is very good at FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS. The glacier is alive. It moves 150 meters a year. 30 years ago the glacier was up to the ridge where the arrow points to in this picture.


Arrow points to the glacier level 40 years ago. That's several hundred feet above the current floor. The peak above is the back of Grand Montets.


It is a place to behold and respect. My son is a very disciplined and skilled skier, and pretty much stayed in the tracks of our guide - much better than I did.

If you ski a route with steeps, there are sections where a fall can turn deadly if unable to self-arrest. This is because in some sections, a fall and subsequent slide ends into a crevasse. Make sure your equipment is very good and reliable. This is NOT a place to demo a new pair of skis. [footnote 1]

We took our time. We stopped many times to take pictures, hydrate, and snack. Remember that you will be starting from over 3,842 meters (12,606 feet; 1 meter = 3.281 feet). This is higher than most ski areas in Europe or North America. Expect to suck wind if not fit. To experience this height in North America, try Arapahoe Basin or Santa Fe Ski Basin (I’ve been fortunate enough to ski both).

What kind of skis to take on the Vallee Blanche? We skied this in late March, so conditions are variable. The first day, I used all-mountain/powder skis – Atomic B5 Metrons. On the second day, I used Rossignol World Cup slalom race skis. Unless there is significant snowfall, you’ll see some ice. My Rossignol race skis where far better suited for the varied terrain. My son used his K2 twin-tip Juvy, a good junior ski for this terrain. We did not get any significant snow in our 2 days on the glacier – just a few inches each night.

To compare the conditions to something in North America - it’s similar to Squaw Valley / Lake Tahoe in late March. The snow is similar – heavy – not like Utah. It is icy in the early morning and then softens as the sun hits it. Unless there’s significant snowfall, a stiff eastern-type ski is better than an all-mountain or powder ski.

The views are absolutely amazing. Nothing like it in the ski world. But kids and teenagers will not appreciate it as much as the adults.

All routes eventually funnel into the flat and broad section of the glacier. Most of the 20 kilometer Vallee Blanche run is actually on the flat section. Even though this flat section is essentially a green-level run, there are still crevasses to keep an eye out for. Also, there are some sections where you can ski between ice walls. These are *not* crevasses. These are sections carved out by the river flow in the summer. Occasionally you’ll ski by people ice-climbing these 10-20 foot walls.

Grand Envers Route

All smiles on this ski run.

Aigulle du Midi in the background.

Even if thousands ski this in a day, you might not see another skier around.

Guide Fred has done this 4 times in a day.

The vallee blanche is huge. This is taken with a telephoto.

Telephoto shot of skiers on the other side of the valley.

We skied over the snow bridge in the background - single file.

Interesting glacier formation.

We've skied in many places. None have views this spectacular.

Kids need lots of water especially at this altitude.

One of the steep sections. 45+ degrees.

Another angle.

We caught up to a slower group. For some reason the guides wanted us single file in this section.

Views like nowhere else.

Another steep section. A fall here leads to a crevasse if unable to self-arrest.

Not a place to demo equipment.

View of the valley. And this is during it's worst snow year.

Telephoto shot of skiers across the glacier on a different route.

Do the guides ever get tired of this?

The long flat section. There is a slight pitch, so skating is not necessary.

Waxed skis help.

View back at some of the valley.

Glacier carve.

View looking down to Montenvers.

Looking up at the scenic valley. The Grand Envers route comes out to the right of the picture.

Skiing through one of the carved alleys in the flat area.

Wall of ice carved by the summer runoff.

Kids will like skiing these alleys.

Nearing the bottom of the flat area.

Vermont racer tuck.

Exiting from one of the carved alleys. Some are steeper than others.

The end of the flat part. Montenvers cable car is in the distance. Can be bypassed if there is snow to ski to Chamonix.

Nearing the end of 20 kms. Didn't feel like 20 kms. Tempus Fugit when you're having fun.

View from the valley, looking at the back of Grand Montets. This is skiable.

Near the final section of the run. Smile says it all.


Glacier Cable Car and Montenvers Train

In most years, the end of the run will be the long staircase to reach the Vallee Blanche cable car. At the bottom of the stairs, there is a small ice tunnel for the tourists. Since you’re already there, check it out. The rocks stuck within the glacier can be interesting.

You need to take the cable car to reach the Montenvers Train Station (1913 meters), and take the train back to Chamonix.

If snow conditions permit, then bypass the glacier cable car and Montenvers train to ski all the way down to Chamonix. In the 2005-2006 season, you could do this for nearly 3 months. In the 2006-2008 seasons, there wasn’t a single day where this was possible.

We have not been able to ski all the way to Chamonix;  conditions have not cooperated.  Others tell me that there will be a short hike
up to a hilltop.  You can purchase hot beverages from a hut there while resting, and then continue to ski to Chamonix.

The staircase has hundreds of steps. About 10 steps are added each year due to the retreating glacier floor. After skiing for a couple of hours, the climb can be arduous. You will be walking up with your skis and gear. It is made more difficult if you walk up the stairs with ski boots. In my ‘What to Bring’ section above, shoes are listed as an item to bring in your knapsack. Now you’ll see why. If you didn’t bring shoes, you’ll likely wish you had.

At the bottom of the stairs, change to regular shoes. I found it easiest to fasten my skis to my knapsack, hook my ski boots to my knapsack, and then hike up with ski poles in my hands. Don’t be embarrassed to rest on the way up – many people do.

The glacier cable car may have a long queue. It reaches Montenvers in 3 minutes. At the Montenvers Train Station, there is a snack bar, souvenir shop, and viewing area. The Montenvers rack-rail train reaches Chamonix in 20 minutes - half the time that it takes going uphill. This rack-rail train opened in 1910.

The retreat of the glacier is very visible here. When first built the glacier cable car ended to the level of the glacier back then (1930’s?). Now, the glacier floor is a hundred or so meters below the cable car. Perhaps someday they will extend the cable car closer to the current glacier floor.

In Montenvers there is a small crystal museum (closed when we were there) and local fauna display (taxidermy animals). There used to be a small live animal zoo, but is no longer there. There are some great views from this location.

About 100 meters away from the train station is the Hotel du Montenvers, opened in 1880. A well-maintained walkway leads to the hotel. This is a terrific place to have a meal. This place served the best meals in our 8-day stay around Chamonix. It is a bit pricey but worth it. The views are wonderful. We ate twice on the outdoor patio for lunch. Try the unique Cassolette Escargots for an appetizer. All our meals – the Tartiflette, Ecorce Sapin, and Poitrine Veau Farcie – were outstanding. The cheese served with the meal is not served anywhere else in Chamonix. The service can be a bit slow but worth the wait. It is a wonderful way to end a run of the Vallee Blanche. Cost came to a bit over 100 euros for 3 of us for lunch, which included a 24 euro bottle of wine. [footnote 2]

If the patio is full or the weather uncooperative, sit instead in the cavernous and appealing indoor dining room. In one of our meals, the weather in minutes turned from sunny warm to cloudy / windy, and many diners headed inside while we stayed outside. Bathrooms are clean.

Mind the time – if you miss the last Montenvers train, you will be hoofing it back to Chamonix. Just another reason to bring regular shoes.

Glacier Tram

Guide Fred pointing at the glacier cable car several hundred feet up.

The beginning of the loooong stairs. Ten steps are added each year.

Click out, refuel, pack up skis, and change into shoes for the walk up.

Rock caught in the glacier ice.

Ice tunnel at the bottom of the stairs. Might as well check it out, it's free.

Skiers preparing for the walk up.

Back of Grand Montets tram building. This is skiable, an alternative to Pylones trail from Grand Montets.

Telephoto of the back of Grand Montets.

See that steep white area to the left of Grand Montets? That's only been skied twice - by a skier and snowboarder. Both dead now.

View of the stairs. This is the hardest part of the day.

All smiles after skiing the greatest run in the world.

The climb up is made harder by all the equipment.

View of the ice caves, taken from about a quarter of the way up the stairs.

Lots of non-skiers on the stairs. Are you going to let these flatlanders pass you? :-)

Nearing the stair's end. When first built the cable car ended at the glacier floor during that time.

View of the valley from Montenvers.

Long line of skiers finishing the run.

View looking left from Montenvers.

Smile of relief after the stairs and cable car ride. Notice that harness is kept on.


Hotel du Montenvers

Cassolette Escargots at the Hotel du Montenvers. Delicieux!

Hotel restaurant terrace. Best meal in town.

A real happy meal. Guide Fred Burhe helped us with the menu selections.

Special cheese from Switzerland, served only at this restaurant. Best cheese I have ever tasted.

Guide Fred was quite good with my kid.

French food and wine, great weather, and views of the Vallee Blanche. It does not get any better.

Another picture of the Cassolette Escargots. This is a must have dish.

Boiled potatoes are served with the meal.

The cheese is to be mixed with everything - salad, potatoes, and meats. Savoureux!

The weather can turn quickly. In 10 minutes, it went from hot / sunny to cloudy / chilly. Everyone went indoors except us.


Montenvers Train

This is the steepest rack-and-pinion train in Europe. It is similar to the rack-and-pinion train that goes up Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. Only, the Montenvers train is electric and thus clean and smooth. By contrast, the Mt. Washington train still uses coal - noisy, hot, dirty, and burns your clothes because of the soot the engine expels. The Montenvers train will end near the Chamonix train station.  Take the footbridge to Chamonix train station.

By the way, the regular RER train from St.Gervais to Chamonix is the steepest regular train in Europe. That’s worth a ride for the scenery.

All smiles on the train back. Two down, six more routes to go.

View from the train.

The train can get very crowded but everyone's in a good mood.

Guide Fred zoning out. The skis in his hand are made in Chamonix.

View of the glacier from the train. With a lot more snow, we'd be skiing instead.

Back to the hotel with the animals.



Is this really the greatest ski run in the world? The vertical-feet is unmatched. The views defy description. The tram ride is like no other. All set in one of the most beautiful and historic ski towns in the world. Ski it and decide.

I hope that this information has been helpful to you. I welcome comments, criticisms, opinions, or questions of what is presented here. We hope you enjoy the greatest ski run in the world as much as we did.

Ron Salvador

Let me know your thoughts:
Site Last Updated:  Saturday December 24, 2011

Official Trail / Tram Map (selected scans, courtesy of Compagnie du Mont-Blanc)

None of their maps are to scale.

Aiguille du Midi layout

Mont Blanc viewed from the Aiguille du Midi summit terrace.

2007 Winter Official Info cover.

Back cover.


Related Links

Chamonix guide association official website, Vallee Blanche information:
  La Chamoniarde, Society for Mountain Safety

Chamonix Valley official website (weather, lift passes, accommodations, etc):  Chamonix Valley

Evolution 2 Guide Company (english):  Evolution 2 - Chamonix

Major guide companies:  Major Guide and Ski School Companies (most independents are not listed)

Truly helpful ski shop in Chamonix - these guys fixed my boots for free:  Pro Ski Montagne - Chamonix

Ogier Skis
[footnote 1]

I demo’d a pair of Ogier off-piste skis from the Ogier store in town.  At 1600 euros a pair ($2000), I just had to try them. That’s more than double the cost of World Cup skis!  I used them on Le Tour for a day.  I did not like them all that much - really had to work to turn them. And, some incompatibility with the Salomon bindings caused BOTH toepieces of my Rossignol boots to fall apart. I skied most of Le Tour with my toepiece loose from the binding. It was like skiing with just Velcro holding you down on the ski - although that’s something all advanced skiers can do.  Fortunately Pro Ski Motagne in Chamonix fixed my boots for free.

Restaurants and Hotels.
[footnote 2]

I reviewed our Chamonix hotel - Hotel Mont Blanc - on Tripadvisor
Here is information on some of the Chamonix restaurants:

Hotel du Montenvers Restaurant
This place served the best meals we had in our long stay around Chamonix (albeit the price to match). Wonderful views of Mer de Glace. The Cassolette Escargots was wonderful. We also had various meals such as the Tartiflette, Ecorce Sapin, and Poitrine Veau Farcie – all great. The cheese served with the meal is a made special for the restaurant and not served anywhere else in Chamonix (see pictures above). It can be a bit slow but worth the wait and a wonderful way to end a run of the Vallee Blanche. Lunch cost a little over 100 euros for the 3 of us, which included a 24 euro bottle of wine.

La Caleche
Excellent service, great food, nice interiors. It’s much bigger inside than what can be viewed from the street. The wait staff has cool wireless order pads. We ordered drinks, she tapped them into her electronic pad, and while still discussing what to order for a main meal with her (she never left the table), another server brought our drinks already! Highly recommended.

Spotty (brusque) service, very jammed tables, ok food. The place does look nice inside with windows overlooking the river. There are better choices around town.

Le Bartavel
Cheap Italian eats (cheap for Chamonix that is), good for families with kids. Service friendly, quick, and bustling. Pizza and pasta was decent (although cannot compare to the Italian food in Courmayer just across the border). Diner-like, fast-food interiors. Great location right on the main shopping street of Chamonix. 5 out of 5 for cheap eats in Chamonix.

Hotel Mont Blanc's famous restaurant has wonderful breakfasts for the room guests.  Unfortunately we were turned away for dinner.  You must make reservations.  It is not open for lunch. We tried to dine there on our last evening, even dressed up, but were brusquely turned away by the host because we didn’t have reservations. Very odd since only about a half-dozen tables were occupied (out of 20 or so), and there were only two of us. Also, none of the hotel staff mentioned that reservations were required at Matafan despite talking about this restaurant several times with the staff. The prominently displayed menu in the lobby does not mention reservations required either. We dined at many restaurants without making reservations (this is low season, after all), so were disappointed to be turned away at Matafan. I don’t understand how a restaurant that could handle a lot of people cannot handle 2 walk-ins. Maybe that’s why Matafan wasn’t particularly busy like the many other places in town.

Midnight Express
Ski Magazine listed eating a hamburger at this take-out joint in their '50 Things To Do Before You Die' article. The magazine claims that this place makes the best hamburger in the world. While the hamburger is good, we have had better. The service was bad. Ambience is good if you like eating on a park bench in the middle of town. Menu was confusing despite being in english. If you want a bread bun with the meat, you need to order the 'American Hamburger'. The locals did warn me that there weren't any good hamburgers in Chamonix.

Cheap internet cafe with excellent sandwiches and friendly service. Has outdoor seating, good spot for people watching. Owned by a Boston College alum.

Looks nice from the outside, but forget this restaurant.  Bad service, mediocre food.


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