Best Ski Run: Where do you start?! Head to the top of the 3275-metre Grand Montets for spectacular steep off-piste terrain which takes you down to the Glacier d’Argentière; even steeper terrain can be found on the Couloir du Dru and the Rectilinge – don’t expect gradients of less than 40-45 degrees. Easier but equally exciting is the famous Vallée Blanche, one of Europe’s great ski ‘itineraries’. From the top station of the Aiguille du Midi cable car at 3840-metres you can enjoy a 17-km, 2,800-metre vertical descent through magnificent glaciated terrain. Access requires you to traverse in crampons along a knife edge ridge and needless to say you’ll need a guide (Compagnie des Guides www.chamonix-guides.com)
Best Après-ski Haunt: For good bar food, home-brewed ales, live music and a cool vibe try the Microbrasserie de Chamonix; for a full-on night of international après-ski action that doesn’t wind down until the wee small hours head for the Choucas Bar on Rue du Dr. Paccard.
Best Dining: Take yourself up the valley to Argentière, a popular hangout for the freeski crowd, and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of The Office; or for something more upmarket the Michelin-starred Hotel Morgane’s Bistrot back down in ‘Cham’ is an excellent choice.
Best Lodging: Lanchers near the Flégère lift is a refurbished classic French hostelry that won’t break the bank, whilst the five-star Hameau Albert 1er is a century old chalet-style hotel with a pool and two-star Michelin restaurant.
Best Off-Snow Activity: Even if you don’t plan to ski the Vallée Blanche it’s worth taking the Aiguille du Midi cable car to the starting point where you can sit in the restaurant, enjoy a high altitude beer and enjoy the kind of alpine panoramas of a geography teacher’s dreams.
Don’t Miss: A lof of visitors skip the Téte de Balme ski area at the head of the valley for the more accessible slopes lower down, but it’s worth a visit for the easy blue 1000-metre vertical descent down to Vallorcine on the Swisss border, or for the fine range of off-piste terrain.