Les Houches has a spectacular backdrop of soaring peaks and sweeping glaciers, combining the charm of a traditional alpine village with the splendour of high mountain scenery. Situated at the foot of Mont Blanc, it is an ideal base from which to explore the 5 unique ski areas dotted along the Chamonix Valley and to enjoy the charms of the historic town of Chamonix itself, with its vibrant nightlife, shops, bars and restaurants.
Les Houches is the only village ski resort in the Chamonix Valley and has the most pisted runs of all the individual resorts in there. There are stunning views of Mont Blanc and its tumbling glaciers from all around the resort, including from the various mountain restaurants that make superb lunch spots. It is particularly suitable for beginners and intermediates and is very popular with families as it tends to be less busy than many of the other Chamonix resorts with fewer lift queues. It also has a superb choice of great value, flexible ski passes for all, an excellent local ski school and snow sure green runs at the top of both the Prarion and Bellevue lifts.
Les Houches is renowned for its many long woodland trails throughout the resort and one of those is the 'Aillouds' blue piste that takes you from the top of the resort to the bottom of the Prarion lift, a really great run to finish on at the end of the day. Due to its sheltered tree lined runs, even in bad weather, Les Houches is hardly ever closed during the season as the all trees tend to break up the flat light in poor visibility, giving reference points.
Another favourite run, not to be missed, is a long wide red called 'Plancerts' where you can get fantastic rhythm and speed and that has amazing views of the Arve Valley in the distance. If you are a confident skier or boarder, you can have a go at the 'Kandahar', Les Houches's World Cup Downhill run that goes all the way down to the village. Beware though, it is very steep at the top! Over eighty snow canons guarantee the snow on this and other runs late into the season.
Les Houches has recently updated its lift system with a brand new gondola at the Prarion giving quicker access to the top of the resort. As well as being an excellent resort in its own right Les Houches makes an ideal base for adventurous skiers and boarders wishing to explore the whole Chamonix Valley.
With its variation of individual resorts, the Chamonix Valley opens up an unrivalled choice of skiing for all abilities but is particularly suitable for intermediate and expert skiers with some of the most challenging runs in Europe. Even beginner skiers have the opportunity to ski in the high mountains, amidst scenery on a totally different scale to most other ski resorts, you normally only see that sort of scenery as a climber or mountaineer! The individual ski areas throughout the valley are not interlinked but the short drives between resorts actually add something to your holiday and enable you to fully appreciate this astoundingly beautiful area. A different point to start from each day, a different resort to ski each day and a different but always spectacular view of the Mont Blanc Massif.
N.B. Don't forget to book the Barrelli Ski Valley Transport Service, which is hassle free and excellent value for money.
During March and April, the Valley provides some of the best off piste skiing and boarding in the Alps. There is the world famous 'Vallée Blanche' to try, a 26km off piste descent from the 'Aiguille du Midi', or the exciting steep powder chutes and snow bowls at Flégère and Brévent. At Les Grands Montets there are some of the best black runs in the Alps and if you ski down from the top lift, (3300m), you drop a vertical distance of 2000m to the bottom of the valley. You can also ski down into Vallorcine and Switzerland from the gentler slopes of Le Tour, which is right at the end of the valley.
Le Brévent and La Flégère are the only two linked stations in the Valley. There is a cable car, which connects the two areas.
Le Brévent is a good all-rounder; it is great for beginners and intermediates as there are some nice blue runs in addition to the renowned red runs. There is plenty more for experienced skiers with the powder gullies, extreme ski events and more conventionally the memorable 'Charles Brozen' black run off the very top lift. Le Brévent also has magnificent views of Mont-Blanc and the rest of the valley, so a great spot to lunch at on a clear day.
La Flégère has some great off piste from the top of the brand new 'Index' lift and dropping into the 'Combe Lachenal'. It has some very beautiful red runs, steeper and narrower than at Le Brévent. Although not loads for beginners to do, the two green pistes that flank the 'Trappe' chairlift are possibly the best greens to learn on in the whole valley, perfect for beginner snowboarders as there is a chairlift at the bottom rather than a drag.
Les Grands Montets in Argentière is the most celebrated of the Chamonix stations and quite possibly offers the best single mountain ski area in Europe. This north facing resort, with its steep un-pisted runs and vast, open, off piste areas is not recommended for beginners or skiers lacking in confidence. The magnificent high mountain views over the Argentière glacier and the formidable 'Pointe de Vue' run that skirts along its edge are not to be missed.
Le Tour and Vallorcine is situated at the head of the valley, at the opposite end to Les Houches, right on the Swiss border. Its wide sweeping slopes are suitable for all abilities and it is also very popular with snowboarders as there is some very accessible off piste and numerous natural half pipes, gullies and kickers to play in. Pretty tree lined slopes wind their way down the back of the resort allowing you to briefly ski across the border into Switzerland.
La Vallée Blanche - is the 26km off-piste ski run from the top of the Aiguille du Midi (3842m) this run is famous worldwide and many skiers do the run every year. It is essential to have a guide when attempting this run. You can ask your resort representative to book this for you.
* N.B. IMPORTANT - Please remember that all off piste skiing or boarding is undertaken at your own risk, please get local advice on snow and weather conditions. We always recommend that you hire a local guide to ensure your safety.
There are several other resorts covered by the Skipass Mont-Blanc that are situated just outside the valley. All are between 20 and 30 minutes drive from Les Houches - Courmayeur (Italy), Les Contamines, St Gervais and Mégeve are all a short (20-30mins) drive away. These trips cost a little extra because of the distances and in the case of Courmayeur, a tunnel toll. Prices are 10€ per person for St Gervais / Mégeve and 15€ per person for Courmayeur, minimum of 5 people in the bus.
Courmayeur is in the Aosta Valley just on the other side of Mt-Blanc and only 20mins drive away through the Mt-Blanc tunnel. It has an excellent ski area for all abilities, and just as important there is a great restaurant called "La Maison Vielle," which serves the most delicious Italian food.
Les Contamines is a large snow bowl of a ski area about 35 minutes drive from Les Houches, another great day out although the food is not quite as good as in Italy!
St Gervais and Mégeve are part of the massive 400km interlinked 'Evasion' ski area. This is a great day out for beginners, mixed ability skiers and family groups, miles and miles of tree lined blue and red pistes, with plenty of green runs for beginners and more nervous skiers and boarders. It has a great selection of mountain restaurants.
The nightlife in Les Houches has vastly improved in the last few years with a welcome injection of young entrepreneurs starting up cool bars and restaurants making it an even more attractive resort to base yourself in the Chamonix Valley. There are four main areas for shopping and nightlife, Le Prarion, La Bellevue, Le Centre and St-Antoine, which are all along the main road running through Les Houches.
At one end of the village, the departure point for the main Prarion Lift you will find the Marmotte Restaurant and Bar serving local specialities, a card and gift shop, a small convenience store where you can buy fresh bread, beer and other essentials and Battendier Sports, one of our partner ski hire shops where you can also store your hire skis for the day or week. If you have your own equipment there are ski lockers at the Prarion lift.
The Bellevue area is a 5-10 minute walk from the Prarion where you will find the Bellevue Cable Car and just up the road, Cyprien Sports our long standing partner ski hire shop. You can also buy clothes, sunglasses and all sorts of mountain equipment here. There is a tobacconist and gift/card shop, a bakery, a crêperie and tea shop and a very good late night English run bar 'The Slalom' that shows all the televised SKY sporting events including Premiership & Champions League football & Six Nations rugby. The 'Basilic' restaurant offers a varied menu including local specialities while next door at the 'Pull Up' bar you can try flavoured rums and treat everyone to your favourite Karaoke classics!
In the Centre of the village, another 5-10 minute walk up the road where the Tourist Office is, you will find 'Shopi' an excellent supermarket that sells everything you could possibly need including lovely bread, fresh meat, cheeses and a delicatessen. You will also find another bakery and patisserie, a specialist Savoyard food shop, a bank, cash point, post office, novelty/gift shops, hotels and 'the Délice' which is an English run restaurant doing very nice modern International cuisine and where children eat free between 6pm and 7pm. The Délice also doubles as a bar and is very popular after dinner for late drinks and tapas throughout the week. If you just want a quick snack or simple mountain food the Chavanne Hotel Bar which is often packed with locals does fondues, omelettes, steak and chips, salads etc.
St Antoine is the more commercial part of the village and is another 10 minute walk from the centre. Here there are petrol stations, a supermarket, pharmacy, doctors, hairdressers etc.
If you fancy spreading your wings further then you can jump on the bus to Chamonix from any of these four areas and be in the centre of town in about 10 minutes.