Local facilities 5
(i.e. Restaurants, hire shops)
Slope conditions 3
Lift system 3
Skiing / boarding experience
Apres ski 3
Went back to Chamonix for NYE 2015 plus a week of boarding. Somehow Winter has moved on by a few weeks, no fault of the area of course! We had a cold snap, with little to no fresh snow, so being outside late at night required some serious warm clothing - think celebrating New Year's eve outside!
The pistes were as good as they could make them with the little snow there was, hats-off to the groomers. La Houche, which is generally easy, was an ice rink, simply horrible for snowboarding. Brevent & Flegere were a little better, although the higher reds on the way to Flegere were completely mogul'd out.
The winning areas were Balme (easy slopes) and Grande Montets. Good quality dry and grippy.
On the not-so-cool side was notably the lack of artificial snow - I think this valley is so used to have a lot of great snow, that they assume snow canons are never required. Well, things are changing.
Also, comparing to some of the areas such as Verbier and St Anton, even Steinplatte (in Austria), there seems to be far greater re-investment of revenue into modern lifts. The three-seater at Grand Montets is a horror from the '80's.
Oh, and the bus systems is a bit of a French riddle, that few people can explain to you ;-)
Last but not least, when you buy the unlimited pass, you can get up to the top of Grande Montets - its black, but worth it if you are ok on black slopes. The cable car that takes you to the top has a long queue - 45min easily, but you can book in advance for free. I just don't know where you can book.
Second part of this unlimited pass is that you can go to Verbier in neighbouring Switzerland can get a free day pass. There is a bus (EU23 return) that leaves every Thursday morning at 8AM, and returns from Verbier at 16:30. You book and pay for this at the Tourism Office in central Chamonix. Catch: the bus only goes if they can fill 30 seats (or more). They will call you the night before if there are not enough bookings. Verbier is well worth the effort.
You can also get a day-pass for the much-closer Italian Courmayeur, however, I've not ben there so cannot comment.