IN THE EYES OF AN EXPAT
Owner of Michael Silitch Mountain Guides
Waterville Valley, New Hampshire
Skiing here is huge and wild. There are trees, steeps, cliffs, glaciers-you have the freedom to ski wherever you want, and the amount of vertical is incredible. You can start at the top of a run in the freezing cold on windblown, then hit a thousand vert of perfect powder, then ski on spring corn and slush, and finish six hours later-all with only one lift ride.
What's the perfect day?
Ski the Vallée Blanche. You ride a cable car from about 3,000 to 12,000 feet, then ski off the back side of Mont Blanc. The run is 12 miles long on a glacier, and you can stop in the middle at a refugio for fondue. A single run takes all day, and you don't even have to take your skis off. For something shorter and steeper, hit Pas de Chevre, "the goat's path," on Les Grands Montets-it's 5,000 feet of gullies and couloirs.
Your favorite spots for food and grog?
Le Monchu (a.k.a. Munchies) is a rustic place with local food. It's great for everything from steak to Thai chicken-those Swedish cooks are the best. It's also got a well-stocked bar. If you're looking for an après-ski beer-and-live-music spot, go to Chambre Neuf.
What's the best time to go?
Mid February to mid March; the snow can be thin in December.
Got any advice for Americans?
Bring your AT skis and avy gear. Most locals carry their beacons, shovels, and skins wherever they go because you can't tell what's inbounds and what's OB.
What's Cham's claim to fame?
I hate to use the word "extreme," but Chamonix is where it all began. Maybe it was the French mentality, with people like Jean-Marc Boivin (the first to ski the east side of the Matterhorn) who made it happen. Here you get the big-mountain experience; it gives you a whole new way to look at skiing.
Top Elevation: 12,602 feet (Aguille du Midi)
Vertical drop: 9,209 feet
Number of Lifts: 49
Number of Pistes: 145
Phone: 33 (0) 4 50 53 00 24