Chamonix doesn't spring to mind as a 'family friendly' resort. Black runs, steep terrain & die hard mountaineers bien sûr, but skiing with kids?
I admit, after spending 6 Winter seasons in my twenties hooning around Chamonix's slopes, the idea of bringing my kids back here to do a Winter season daunted me. I wondered if the slopes would simply be too steep for them in this sheer V shaped valley and repeatedly questioned whether we wouldn't be better choosing a more family friendly resort such as Morzine or Meribel.
I needn't have worried. Chamonix actually has loads of child friendly pistes (I just never had them on my radar before) and has, in fact, got a lot more family friendly in recent years with a concerted effort on pistes and areas specially designated for families (such as the Mont Blanc Legend area on Flégère & the Ski Camp zone at Les Houches.)
If you're here in Chamonix or heading this way, read on to find the friendliest mountains in the valley to ski with kids.
Family skiing in Chamonix? Are you mental? Actually no, there's so much to do with kids on Chamonix's pistes
There are plenty of beginner areas in Chamonix but in this post I'm going to write about our favourite areas to ski with our girls, which are blues for our 6 year old and reds for my 8 year old. Dedicated beginner slopes, I'll cover in a future post.
BREVÉNT-FLÉGÈRE (1,050 - 2,525m)
The perfect ski area to satisfy wildly differing ski levels, Brevént-Flégère is a large ski area of 56 kilometres of piste, covering the two mountains of Brevént and La Flégère. Boasting fabulous off piste terrain, experienced skiers/snowboarders in the family can get their fix whilst the kids, grandparents or beginners can chill out on the lower slopes. Easily accessible from Chamonix, Brevént-Flégère often sun drenched due to it's southerly aspect, also commands stunning views towards Mont Blanc.
The two mountains are linked via the Liaision cable car, which, spanning the two peaks, enables you to cover the two mountains without coming down and back up again. However, with young children, we find it's a lot for little legs to ski both mountains in one day so we tend to take the lift up and stay local to either one or the other.
LA FLÉGÈRE, in the village of Le Praz (5 minutes up the valley from Chamonix) is a favourite of ours. You'll know this if you've read our recent post Family Skiing in Chamonix - Mont Blanc Legend Kids Zone.
The green Libellule piste is our favourite run on La Flégère
With unbeatable off piste terrain, ski obsessed members of the family can easily score some epic runs at La Flégère up the Index, La Floria or down the exceptional Lachenal bowl. Beginners and kids seeking gentle greens and blues can stay happily on the lower pistes with another member of the family. The Libellule green piste has the kids obstacle course on, and gives access to the Mont Blanc Legend snow playground, both of which will keep the kids happy for hours. The Evettes is a blue run through the trees (one of my favourites) and will take you past the liasion cable car which glides over to connect you to Brevént.
LA FLÉGÈRE - GOOD TO KNOW
PROS: SOUTH FACING/KIDS COURSE/KIDS SNOW PLAYGROUND/
EPIC OFF-PISTE/GENTLE GREENS & BLUES/LINK TO BREVÉNT
INCREDIBLE VIEWS OF MONT BLANC, LARGE FREE CAR PARK
CONS DATED TELEPHERIQUE SO SLOW UPLOADING
QUEUES COMMON IN PEAK SEASON
QUEUES TO DOWNLOAD FROM TOP IF HOME RUN (black) CLOSED
LIFTS SOMETIMES CLOSED DUE TO HIGH WIND (as wind funnels from Mer de Glace)
BREVÉNT is accessible from Chamonix town centre. Do not attempt to walk the hill from town to the ski lift - it's a killer even without kids. Take the free bus or drive and park in the paying car park.
6 year old Bo loves the long Les Vioz blue piste at Brevént down to the high speed 6 man chair. Brevént has spectacular views over to Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi, seen here in the background.
A new Funi 2000 lift on arrival at the ski station has transformed this mountain, previously only suited to intermediate & advanced skiers, to finally include beginners. Brevént is now a reality for family skiing of all levels of ability and lets beginners have a real, high altitude mountain experience, rather than being stuck in the depths of the valley. This funicular bubble connects novices to a dedicated beginners area on the Planpraz plateau of gentle, easy greens accessed by the 2000 poma lift. It's a little bit of a walk to the beginners area from the top of the Funi 2000 but the poma is a good speed for learners and there's a liftie helping skiers on.
Bo taking the 2000 poma on the dedicated beginners area at Brevént
Brevént also has numerous blue runs, some of them extremely long which are perfect for mini skiers, whilst experienced skiers have the Charles Bozon black run to tackle and the legendary Col du Cornu bowl.
Another draw of Brevént is the second cable car ride zipping up to it's 2525m peak. This is only a short walk from the first cable car up and is easily accessible for winter pedestrians and disabled visitors. It's the best place in the valley for non-skiing relatives to come and take in the fabulous views AND watch the grandkids (or whoever!) ski on the slopes. The high cable car takes you up to a panoramic terrace and is the starting point of the famous black run, Charles Bozon.
BREVÉNT - GOOD TO KNOW
PROS ACCESS TO 2525m PEAK FOR NON-SKIERS
SOUTH FACING, EPIC VIEWS TO MONT BLANC
FABULOUS NEW BEGINNER AREA AT HIGH ALTITUDE
NEW GONDOLA MOVES 3000 SKIERS PER HOUR - QUEUES RARE!
CONS FEE PAYING CAR PARK
LA POYA - VALLORCINE (1,453 - 2,270m)
Perfect for families who are happy to pootle or a good place for a first day warm up, La Poya in Le Buet, near Vallorcine is a super tame ski area. Complete with a teeny beginner slope for tiny skiers, this is ideal place to bring your kids for their first ever ski. Only a 15 minute drive from Argentière, this little resort has plenty of free parking outside Le Buet train station. The main area has two drag lifts that access 1 black run, 2 reds and 2 blues. If you think that's limited compared to the rest of Chamonix, you're spot on, but compare it with the lift ticket prices and you'll be pleasantly surprised. A day pass costs a mere €15.50 and a child €12.40.
Just outside the Chamonix Valley lies the tiny ski resort of La Poya. Limited with only 2 drag lifts & 5 pistes but perfect for gentle family skiing at an affordable price
A super cool airstream buvette serves hot food and drinks with an array of rad seating in a funky geodome, or chill inside brightly painted gondolas, complete with sheepskin seats. And if you don't like the look (or the waft) of the one portacabin loo on-site, have lunch at one of our favourite spots just opposite, The Moon Tine (you can snowtube for free here!)
LA POYA - GOOD TO KNOW
PROS Chamonix Valley ski pass holders get free access to La Poya.
(Show your pass at the ticket office & they'll give you a free day pass.)
Affordable family skiing
Fab buvette with quirky painted ski gondolas
CONS Le Buet has limited sunshine in the Winter. Sunshine ranges from 10.30 - 14.30
The Col du Montets can be closed in heavy snow
LE BALME - TOUR - VALLORCINE (1,265 - 2,270m)
Le Tour is another firm family favourite in Chamonix Valley's arsenal. At the end of the valley Le Tour spreads it's welcoming gentle pistes open wide without a black run in sight. It's the least intimidating mountain in the valley with plenty of blues and reds and a mecca for off-piste snowboarders powder hounds who love the natural hits.
The front side of Le Tour has 3 blues and is a great place to introduce powder to kids
The front side offers blues and reds with a cat-track around to the backside which has a lovely long blue with rollers through the trees down to the 6 man Balme chairlift.
Bo on the front side of Le Tour on the blue Arve piste
From the Balme chairlift there's a delightful home run (Fôret Verte) through deep forest (one of best of the few tree runs in Chamonix) to Vallorcine.
Bo hooning down the Fôret Verte home run piste from the back side of Le Tour down to Vallorcine with her bezzie mate
The Fôret Verte run is a mixture between blues & reds and is brilliant in bad weather. Be sure to have a chocolat chaud down in Le Café Comptoir at the end of the piste to warm up (see our recent post 4 Epic Restaurants ..... to read more about Le Café Comptoir).
LA VORMAINE - LE TOUR'S BEGINNER AREA
La Vormaine is our favourite beginners area. It has a free mini drag lift for complete novices with cones and cartoon character padded obstacles to navigate around.
Bo making those turns at the free drag lift at La Vormaine, the beginner slope at Le Tour
The main slope has two drag lifts, one to the top and the other offloading half way up. The front piste is spacious and almost uniformly level dropping gently down at an even descent. There's also a 1km blue from the top that winds around past a wooded area. La Vormaine is probably the number one spot for learning to snowboard and brilliant for kids on skis before they progress to blues above the tree line on the main mountains. It's also got a good little buvette there although no inside seating.
LE TOUR - GOOD TO KNOW
PROS Amazing natural off-piste terrain with wind lips, hips and rollers.
High speed 8 man bubble from Vallorcine is a great way to access this ski area.
When Flégère is zooed out this is where we come. Escape the crowds!
Mellow family friendly area
CONS The back chair Le Balme can be baltic in windy conditions.
LES HOUCHES (950m - 1900m)
Les Houches is a large village down the valley from Chamonix. It's an excellent family ski area at a much lower altitude with 55 kilometres of easy, gentle slopes, perfect for beginners & intermediates. It's the only ski area in the valley below the tree line so it's a good call on bad weather days. Most runs here are flanked by trees and so it's incredibly beautiful with fresh snow.
Minnie skiing the back side of Les Houches (officially the St Gervais side) last week.
Les Houches has a brilliant kids snow playground area called Ski Camp. Complete with snowtubing and luging tracks, it also has zipwires, curling, swings and numerous snow tents dotted around. A fab place to hang out with the kids and have lunch.
The Ski Camp area at Les Houches is awesome for families. Take a break from skiing and have a blast here with the kids on the sledging hill, snowtubing, zipwires & loads more!
Les Houches is accessed by two cable cars, Bellevue and Prarion. Take the Prarion lift to access the Ski Camp area.
We didn't ski this area half as much as we wanted to this season due to my ACL injury so early on in the season. But the times we have come up here, the girls loved the Ski Camp area and the undemanding, easy slopes, so I'm looking forward to getting to really know it next season.
LES HOUCHES - GOOD TO KNOW
PROS Gentle pistes through forest - perfect for families
Protected in the trees Les Houches is great for bad weather days
CONS Experienced skiers of family groups might find Les Houches unchallenging
Brevént-Flégère and Le Tour are covered under the Chamonix Ski pass which is slightly cheaper than the Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass and the best option if you do not want to include any sightseeing after your ski day.
ADULT CHILD FAMILY
4 hours 45 38.30 N/A
1 day 50.50 42.90 156.50 *
* the family pass includes 2 adults & 2 children, plus up to another 3 children free
The Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass is more expensive but allows you to ski all the resorts (except La Poya), free access onto the Aiguille du Midi & Montenvers train. It also includes Verbier, St Gervais and Courmayeur. This is the pass to buy for the day if you and your family want to ski for a few hours in the morning and then do one of the epic sightseeing tourist attractions in the afternoon as it works out MUCH more cheaper.
ADULT CHILD FAMILY
4 hours N/A N/A N/A
1 day 62 52.70 192.20 *
Les Houches in included in the Mont Blanc Unlimited pass or you can just pay to ski Les Houches separately
ADULT CHILD FAMILY
4 hours 38.50 32.70 N/A
1 day 43 36.60 133.40 *
La Poya is a private ski resort.
ADULT CHILD FAMILY
1/2 day 11.90 9.10 N/A
1 day 15.50 12.40 N/A
The Family Freestylers are us - the Nixon family, who relish travel adventures both near & far