When you mention you are off to Chamonix for your first time snowboarding, many people’s reaction is along the lines of…… Isn’t that where all the hardcore snowboarders go for super steep slopes, off-piste, cliff drops and generally anything gnarly?
Well, although they would be right that Chamonix has plenty of the above, it is also a great place to learn to snowboard and get inspired. So here is the Onyxsnowboarding guide to the beginner snowboard areas of Chamonix.
At the top of the valley near the boarder with Switzerland sits the ski area of Balme/Vallorcine other wise know as Le Tour. To the right of the Charamillon gondola is the beginner area of Vormaine. This Onyxsnowboarding favourite is the perfect pitch with a selection of poma lifts of varying lengths to get you up and running. Now before you say “not a Poma!” these are pretty mellow and if you can master a poma you can ride up any lift. As a bonus one of the short poma lifts is free so you don’t even need to buy a ski pass. Being at the end of the valley it doesn’t get the crowds that the ski areas close to Chamonix gets so its well worth hopping on the bus and checking out Le Tour. Once you’ve mastered snowboarding the beginner slopes a quick trip up the gondola takes you to cruisey blue heaven. What more could you want for a first days riding?
At the entrance to the Chamonix Valley sits Les Houches. For the beginner area head straight to the top of the mountain up the Telecabine du Prarion. At the top sits a snowy high plateau nestled in amongst the trees where you’ll find the beginner area of Ecole. A short walk down and across the slope takes you to a short magic carpet which is perfect for your first time on a snowboard. Get that toe and heel edge dialled. After getting the snowboard basics down head up the Ecole chair lift for a mellow run to practice those turns. Should the weather turn bad this is also a great place to start as white out days are not so much of a problem in the treeline. After some top riding at Les Houches you’ll be slaying the word cup Kandahar piste in no time.
Brevent ski area is easily accessed direct from Chamonix and has two options for beginners. At the bottom is the Samaran and Savoy lifts with easy greens.
These can be a great place to start if the snow is good low down in the valley but more often than not its best to head up high on the Plan Praz Gondola. From here you cross the slope and take the short Funi 2000 up to the beginner area. There is a short drag lift on the side of Chamonix’s highest green piste, Verte 2000. Once you’ve mastered snowboarding the Verte 2000 you can return to the top of the Plan Praz via the Retour Plan Praz.
Flegere Ski area is on the outskirts of Chamonix at Les Praz just up the Valley a little way. Like Brevent you need to head up high to start on the Flegere cable car. There can be long queues so get here early and allow plenty of time to upload. Although not ideal for your first time ever on a snowboard, if you have the basics down the green runs under the Trappe chairlift are where its at. These are just right for practicing your turns and building confidence. When you’re finished take the Flegere cable car back down the valley.
Up the Valley next to Argentiere is the Grand Montets ski area. New for 2018/19 was a beginner area at the top of the Lognan cable car promising to complete this ski area and finally offer something for all abilities. Unfortunately at the time of writing the Lognan cable car is out of action making it tricky to access this beginner area, so watch this space.
All of the main ski areas within the Chamonix Valley can be accessed by the free bus service and have free parking (Brevent has paid parking). The train line that goes up the valley can also be used although does not go directly to the bases of all the ski areas.