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ARGENTIERE - IS IT STILL AS GOOD? - Katie Bamber, Argentiere Chamonix
Sunday March 17, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

Argentiere is legendary for its lift-served off piste skiing. But after a fire distroyed the Grands Montets lift is it still the same?





It's likely the favourite area of any serious skier you'll meet in Chamonix.

The famous Grands Montets cable car brought skiers and riders up on the glacier to 3,295m.

Giving a vertical drop of over 2,000 metres.

A world famous descent.

It's essentially an off piste mountain.

A north facing one, with a few lifts and pistes here and there to link it up.

ArgentiereArgentiere, Chamonix















But in Autumn 2018 there was a massive fire at the middle station.

The main cable car from the base station and the smaller cable car to the very top are still out of action, hindering Argentiere's skiing.

Or has it?

Argentiere, ChamonixFrom Argentiere, to Chamonix Valley
















ChamonixSkylight views












The views are spectacular.

Even on a cloudy day there are skylights of rocky mountain face, floating between clouds.

No change here.

Access to the mountain is now solely served by the Plan Joran gondola.

Then by Le Bochard and La Herse chairs.

You're up.

Argentiere, ChamonixArgentiere, Chamonix
















Chamonix, in case you haven't heard, is a hot spot for mountaineers, serious winter sportsmen and those looking for an extra element to their extreme sport.

Ice picks, crampons and other instruments are seen attached to backpacks all round as these elites head off into the cloud and mountains.

The rental shop Intersport in Argentiere says 25% of its skis rented are now touring skis.

Here they love a challenge.

ArgentiereGrands Montets lift line skeletons

















Argentiere, and the whole Chamonix Valley, remains a magnet for skiers with much to offer - despite the lack of the Grands Montets lift.

PlanetSKI reader, SerenHarbon from Destination Ski, has been skiing in Chamonix every year for the past 24 years.

"Chamonix is unlike many other ski resorts, it's a vibrant town with several ski areas scattered throughout the valley," said Seren.

"This is of great benefit when the weather changes, as you have a choice of ski areas, altitudes and terrain.

"For wide open pistes and high altitude head to Grand Montets at the top of the Chamonix valley, but if you are a beginner or have a young family then Les Houches is a beautiful little village with a range of tree-lined slopes."

And a top tip from Seren?

"If you need something sweet after a day on the slopes, head to Eric Jacquier bakery at the base of Le Prarion lift in Les Houches and try their Brioche de Saint Genix, it's delicious!".

Brioche de Saint GenixBrioche de Saint Genix















So has the fire affected Argentiere's draw?

Yes and no.

It's merely adding an extra desired adventure.

Many skiers and snowboarders are now touring or splitboarding up to the top of Les Grands Montets for their big descent.

It takes the right day, weather conditions, and person.

But dare I say the missing lift has made Argentiere even more exclusive?

Right, it's cutting the route out for many holidayers that don't hit the right week or for those not experienced to skin it.

But for many - locals and Cham ski bums I'm thinking - it might be a stellar year as they share their ride with less of the riff raff (i.e. Me).

Argentiere, ChamonixArgentiere, Chamonix
















It didn't sting this time...

It wasn't the conditions for a big old hike up.

However, if I had splashed out for a week's holiday to the iconic resort of Chamonix and, naturally, wanted to ski or snowboard one of the world's famous lift served descents, I would be more than miffed.

What can you do?

Touring is not for everyone.

And a guide is expensive.

It's certainly an unfortunate situation.

And we feel for skiers and riders that booked their holiday to Chamonix with this one in mind.

If you're not up for a sketchy one round to the Grands Montets, check in what I did:

Instead I opted for a more accessible tour - with stellar views of Mont Blanc and Les Grands Montets.

A tour in Le Tour planned for the following morning: It's to be blue sky and there's fresh snow for my Chamonix skin.

Read the piece here: Touring in Le Tour

For my own little morning challenge of getting up to the fresh snow and Argentiere during this mental March weather, read my blog below of making it up through closed cols, train lines taken out by avalanches and heavy wet snow:

Argentiere, ChamonixArgentiere mood, Chamonix















Essentially what I'm saying is...

Don't worry, it's still the same haven for off piste skiing.

It's still the challenging, steep and gorgeous off piste skiing on the right day.

It might have become even more of an advanced mountain, as now with the Grands Montets lift down and access to the famous top made that bit harder, it takes a good ski tour to get up to descend.

That's the kind of challenge a Argentiere-ian loves.

IntersportWhen in Chamonix, it's Black Crows. Visit Intersport for a choice of dozens




















Are Black Crows called that after the many many crows flying in Cham?Are Black Crows called that after the many many crows flying in Cham?

















Now where is the best place to stay to ski Les Grands Montets?

Argentiere is the obvious choice for most.

Maybe, but we chose Vallorcine, just out of the Chamonix Valley.

It gives direct access to the ski area of Le Tour and is just a short drive or train ride to Argentiere.

It is easier on the pocket and is a truly special, high alpine village, sleepy full with history and charm.

It is ideal for families seeking a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere and okay to make their own games and entertainment

Or for PlanetSKI that likes to do things slightly differently each time.

Look into the Residence & Spa Vallorcine Mont-Blanc.

The apartments are more comfortable than your average French one.

They have sweet wooden furniture, modern kitchens and cosy bedrooms.

Everything is walkable - mainly because the village is tiny - it's essentially a hamlet.

Indeed it was until this new block, as well as perhaps one other, has grown it ever so slightly along with the gondola linking it to the Chamonix ski area, Le Tour.

If not by skis, the village is reached by the Col des Montets pass, out of the Chamonix Valley.

Or by the train tunnel, heading through the mountain.

Le Buet hamlet is just before, complete with a hotel (with a charming alpine restaurant and very good genepi) and one of 'Vallorcine's' three great restaurants, La Ferme des Trois Ours.

Vallorcine, otherwise, is the gateway to the Swiss mountains.

The train runs through from Martigny to Chamonix - the one you'll get to access the Argentiere or Chamonix ski areas

I can't imagine a much sleepier place, and for that I absolutely loved Vallorcine.

A handful of good restaurants, comfortable residences and access to the extreme and extensive Chamonix skiing.

Who needs Cham nightlife and bling when you've got the mountains to take on?

If you can get there...
Vallorcine, FranceVallorcine, France















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