It’s little wonder many of our clients have huge smiles on their faces during their Geneva to Argentière transfer. They know that within 90 minutes of the airport, they have some of the best skiing in Europe on their doorstep. Yes, it’s pretty superlative stuff during the winter season at Argentière’s Grand Montets ski area.
Your transfer journey with Mountain Drop-offs sees you going through Chamonix and then heading up the incline to Argentière. Often the snow line is just at the entrance to the village, so don’t be surprised if it’s raining when you board your transfer bus at Geneva Airport and snowing big pizza flakes on arrival in Argentière!Guide section
Argentiere – small village meets big mountain!
Home to the world-famous Les Grands Montets ski area, Argentière is the beating heart of the Chamonix Valley.
The historic old village of Argentière
The village of Argentière is made up of the main drag with all the commerces, the very quaint old part behind and, just on the other side of the river, the legend that is the Grands Montets ski area. The village itself is well worth a wander around, especially the distinctive baroque church (complete with golden tabernacle brought all the way from Venice over the Col du Grand Saint Bernard in the 18th century!). Don’t miss the little wooden Protestant chapel and the gentle trails around the forest that are the cross country ski tracks in winter.
But back to the main attraction – Les Grands Montets. Sitting 8km further up the valley from Chamonix at 1250m, means that Argentière is just that little bit closer to the sky, so snowfall is good. And with north-facing slopes, the ski season can run from late November to early May at Les Grands Montets. Make no mistake though, there’s no easy cruising here. And yes, when you look at the piste map there are very few lifts, but they do give you access to wealth of off-piste terrain, which is what this ski area is all about.
Mini skiers aren’t completely forgotten though. Evolution 2 ski school has the ‘Panda Club’ and there’s the Piou Piou ‘Jardin de Neige’ run by ESF Argentiere both at the foot of the main bubble lift. A short transfer by car, bus or even on foot brings you to Les Chosalets, a hidden gem adjacent to Les Grands Montets with a handful of drag lifts making it ideals for families and beginners of all ages. And new for the 2018/2019 season is the high-latitude beginner’s area adjacent to the main Marmottons piste, served by two new drag lifts.
If you have a Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass (the more expensive one that gives you access to everything in the valley), make sure you head up on the ‘top’ cable car to ‘Les Grands Montets’ summit. Be aware that although there are two black pistes up here, they are un-pisted and traverse glacial terrain, so you need to be a confident skier to come back down on the snow.
You can always take the lift back down after taking in the thinner air and the spectacular views of the glacier and the Aiguille Verte peak at 4122m right in front of you. There’s even a little cafe perched up there too for a warming hot choc or something stronger! (Please note that following the fire at Lognan, no cable cars will be running this winter. Access to Les Grands Montets is by the main Plan Joran bubble lift – ed.) For more info on the best skiing in GM for good skiers, see our Ski Guide below!
Our top-tip for sightseeing in Argentière
Take a helicopter tour around Mont Blanc, or even charter a chopper to fly you from the helipad at the foot of the Argentière glacier over Helbronner to Val Veny in Italy, where you can catch the cable car to the slopes of Courmayeur. Believe us, with incredible views, it’s an activity worth busting the budget for!
Grands Montets – best ski spots!
As we said, those lucky enough to have booked their Geneva Airport transfer straight to Argentière will be the first ones on the slopes of Grand Montets for lift opening o’clock. Here’s our little list of favourite off-piste ski spots for those aching to ride the powder. Remember, off piste is dangerous so get equipped and stay safe people!
– Tabé gullies – ideal for a first little foray into perfecting those powder turns and you can do a recce as you take the lift up. Short but often very sweet
– The ‘magic’ or ‘dream’ forest – where the powder hounds go on a bad vis day, using Retour Pendant to bring you back up, so make sure the lift is open before you go
– Triangle de la Herse – accessed either by cutting under the lift line at the top of Bochard, or tracking off to skier’s right after the first big left hand bend of the Bochard piste. This whole area is paradise after a good snowfall and brings you out onto the track back to Lognan, or you can continue down onto the home run Pierre a Ric
– Combe de la Pendant – heading skier’s left after the first ridge of the Bochard piste brings you into the big, wide expanse of a bowl. It gets tracked out really quickly, but can be a true delight. The gnarlier skiers head down all the way to Lavancher village, but you really need to know where you’re going for this as there are lots of rock faces and couloirs
– La Herse – this high speed chair delivers you to a point where you can access to successive snow-filled bowls on skier’s right that run alongside the impressive rock face
Ski tourers will love the likes of the Col du Passon across the Argentiere glacier and up, the Tour Noir and the Chardonnet, to name but three of the possible routes.
For seriously extreme skiing, there’s the likes of the Pas de Chèvre and the Rectiligne Couloir from the top of Grands Montets (which bring you out at the Mer de Glace, so you’ll need to transfer back to Argentière if you’ve parked your car at Grands Montets!). These involve rappels and steep gullies, so a guide is a must.
Much of what goes on in Argentière during the winter season revolves around the sensational skiing at Les Grands Montets, the ski area that is the jewel in the crown of this village. Having said that, there are other slightly less gnarly sporting and non-sporting events in and around the resort that are great fun to take part in or watch.
Argentiere’s Grands Montets ski area may be home to some of gnarliest skiing in the whole of the Chamonix valley, but that doesn’t stop Santa and his Elves doing their making and baking at the Maison du Village and L’Etape in Argentiere village! Children from 5yrs are invited to join in the fun. Workshops cost 4€ whilst there’s free face painting. From 12:00-16:30.
Santa is very busy in the Chamonix valley this winter…
Pere Noel arrives in Les Houches on the 23 December, where he’ll be greeting everyone at the main Place du Village in front of the Tourist Office from 18:00
After a good night’s sleep, the bearded one then arrives in Chamonix on 24 December with a parade from Place Balmat at 18:00 to Place de L’Amitié (by the Tourist Office and church), where everyone will gather around the mahoosive Christmas tree.
By the magic of Christmas, Pere Noel will also be in Argentiere on the 24 December, taking part in the Xmas torchlit descent by ESF Argentiere ski instructors. You can join in to ski down from Lognan at 5pm, to end up in the Place du Village (by the Office bar) at 17:30, where Santa will be waiting.
The centre of Argentiere village will come alive every Wednesday at 18:00 with free street entertainment shows for all ages. A great way to round off a day on the slopes and there are plenty of bars and tea shops near by too! What’s more, it’s free and there’s bound to be vin chaud and hot choc on the go too.
Argentière is THE place in the Chamonix valley for the keenest of skiers to stay. You can walk over to the lifts pretty quickly from anywhere in the village, so when it’s going to be one of those prized bluebird powder days you can make sure you’re there first. There’s also just enough in the way of bars, restaurants and shops in Argentiere to keep you fed, watered and entertained during your stay. And of course, carriage of your brand spanking new pair of off-piste, full-rocker skis is included with all Mountain Drop-offs transfers to Argentière!