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Skiing Hellbronner, France; Photograph by Kim Havell

Skiing Chamonix, France: A French Education

Read more about Chamonix, France in our World’s Best Ski Towns story.

Chamonix, France is a small alpine world in a big valley. As the home to some of the highest and best concentrations of glacier-ridden steep skiing and alpine ice and rock routes on our planet, it is a hotbed for the elite mountain community. Passionate athletes pass through its halls to pursue great challenge and to further their hands-on education. The valley ebbs and flows with a “who’s who” of the best of the best, and it is a proving ground for those who wish to test their own merit. Those who newly dabble often end up “Chamified,” completely entranced with all this valley has to offer.

It is much more than just Chamonix, however, that lures the tribe. With easy access to many more spell-binding locations via ski tour, hike, paraglider, train, or tunnel drive, the great ranges of Italy, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland are in close proximity with fast gondola rides that lift skiers and climbers hundreds and sometimes thousands of meters up to the high country for fast access to the big mountains.

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Skiing Trappiere, France; Photograph by Kim Havell

For the past few weeks I was based in France, sampling some of the alpine magic of the Alps. Starting the visit with my Salomon Freeski Mountain Collective team meetings in Annecy, we quickly moved up to the mountains for product testing, based out of the quaint resort town of La Clusaz.

When the meetings ended, with an open plan, a few of us headed to Chamonix. Local friends were helpful with advice and lent us books and ropes for our adventures. We spread ourselves across the valley, touring out from all the main resorts and sampling a small sliver of what this mind-blowing area has to offer. Heading out from the classic areas of the Hellbronner, Les Grand Montets, Le Tour, Les Houches, and the Aiguille du Midi, we skimmed the surface of a vast ocean of opportunity.

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Skiing Cosmiques, France. Photograph by Kim Havell

Skiing ultra classic couloirs like the Couloir des Cosmiques and the Couloir Trappière, peaks like the Aiguille Argentiere, and glaciers and cols like the Posson, we finished each day with a huge smile and a better feel for each valley, basin and ridgeline through which we traveled. The feast is endless and we had just sat at the table. I felt the same way that many had before, I just wanted to stay and explore some more, and more, and more.

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Skier doing a backflip near Chamonix, France; Photograph by Kim Havell