A Local’s Guide to Chamonix

Posted on 15 July 2021

Looking for a ski property in Chamonix

There are a few reasons to think about looking for a ski property in Chamonix, in my heavily biased opinion. Not least of which is the vibrant year-round population and bustling town. 

Any ski town takes a little time to get to know. It can take as long as a season sometimes, but it’s never immediate. Finding your place in a ski town is easy enough when you’re in your twenties, and you’re going to local bars all the time, but it gets much harder when you’re older. 

Learning where to go, on and off the mountain, can be daunting. It involves a lot of striking up a conversation with a total stranger and hoping they’ll be friendly. That can be tricky at best, almost impossible if you’re working with a language barrier. 

Anyone looking for a ski property in Chamonix is in luck; as a local of five years, I am here to give you the lowdown on life in the French Alps! 

The Town

Chamonix is a busy, lively town with a year-round population and a flow of tourists that continues through nearly the entire year. A few thousand people call it home, and it’s practically bursting at the seams with bars, restaurants, and shops. If you’re looking for a ski property in Chamonix, you’ll be buying in a town that tourists love visiting. 

There are some things you’ll need to know about this town though. Firstly, Chamonix unlike places like Verbier and Val d’Isere does not have much of an après ski scene. The ski areas are set away from the town, they don’t really have bars on the slopes, and it takes a bus ride to get back to the town after an après ski session. 

This doesn’t mean that the town isn’t lively, because it very much is. It’s just lively later on in the evening. Locals in Chamonix tend to go home after skiing, spending a few hours relaxing before hitting the town. There’s a good range of bars, from the brilliantly grimy seasonaire favourite Bardup, to slightly classier cocktail bars and an excellent Irish pub.

Restaurants like Mumma, Munchies, Mess, and more cover a whole range of cuisines. This includes excellent Indian food, Italian, Asian fusion, and classic French. As the most recently opened, Mumma is one to watch; it’s so good that locals believe it’ll find its’ way into the Michelin Guide soon. 

For those who want to buy a little further out, the bus service is fantastic. The timings do change pretty regularly though, so you’ll want to save the webpage to your phone. 

The Ski Area

The Chamonix ski area consists of three main ski bases in resort; Brevent-Flegere, Grand Montets, and Tete de Balme. These areas are covered by the Chamonix le Pass lift ticket, and they aren’t the only ski areas in town. You’ve also got the Aguille du Midi, which is the highest lift in Europe, and Les Houches further down the valley. 

These extra areas are only covered if you buy the larger Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass. This covers the whole Chamonix Valley and the Evasion Mont Blanc ski area, and it’s well worth shelling out the extra money for. The Les Houches ski area is very child friendly, and it’s home to the best restaurants in the valley. You will find great slopes for beginners at Tete de Balme and in Flegere too.

The Midi is home to the longest lift-served off-piste in the world, the Vallée Blanche, but it’s not one you should ski without a guide. I’ve seen several websites saying the run is on a par with a red run; this is not true. More than a few beginners have been airlifted off the tricky off-piste slope because they thought it was only a red run. The Vallée Blanche is full of crevasses; it’s very dangerous for those who don’t know what they’re doing.

In point of fact, it’s actually worth getting a guide for many of the best routes in Chamonix. They’re fairly well hidden. While the Lavancher Bowl in Grand Montets is pretty easy to find and great on a powder day, the nature reserve that backs onto Brevent is less easy to navigate. 

This town didn’t get its’ fearsome reputation for no reason; be aware of that if you’re looking for a ski property in Chamonix!

The Properties

Properties in Chamonix are exactly like they are in other ski resorts in some ways and nothing like them in others. Property prices are at more of a premium the closer to the centre of town they are, rather than ski-in ski-out property adding value. Ski-in ski-out tends to be a little further away, so buyers have a little more of a walk on their hands if they want to go out in the evenings. 

While there are some larger chalets for sale in the valley, you’ll find most of them are difficult to reach. Much of the central resort area is built up, protected, and historic. Chamonix is a famous and historic town, so there are a few more rules about planning than you might find in some of the less notable locations in the Alps. If you’re looking for a ski property in Chamonix you might have to compromise, be it on the location or whether to buy a chalet rather than an apartment.

In the centre of Chamonix, apartments are sold far more regularly than full chalets. In fact, if you find a chalet in a premium location you should snap it up quickly. It’s a rarity. In fact, the bulk of resale property in the resort comes in the form of tiny studio apartments. You can get more for your money if you go further out, in Vallorcine or Les Houches for example, but these are small ski villages and you might find it a little lonely. 

So, To Sum Up

This is not a resort for everyone; the skiing does have slopes for people of any ability, but it’s a little more disjointed than the slopes you’ll find in Meribel. Some buyers will be put off by that. That said, it’s also got some real, hardcore fans that would never ski anywhere else.

The town is a far livelier place to live than you might find in a more seasonal resort, which can be borderline impossible in low-season. If you’re looking for a ski property in Chamonix, you’ll be able to live here full time. From markets and charity shops (open only on Tuesdays) to clothing stores that carry more than sports gear, this is a genuine town. 

Whether you’re looking for a ski property in Chamonix, Meribel, or Verbier, please take a look at our selection of ski property for sale. If you’ve got any questions or you want to enquire, get in touch!