Saying Goodbye to Winter: Chamonix, France

Sprawled out on the side of the mountain, my skis were still halfway up the mountain. I had hit a nasty ice patch, went flying in the air and landed heard on my helmet. I didn’t move for a couple minutes, fearing the worst. The wind was taken out of my lungs and I certainly landed on something sharp by my ribs.

selfie chamonix france eileen cotter wright

What erupted was not tears, but crazy laughter as I rolled over in the snow and faced the sun. Sure it was a garbage fall and a rookie move, but I was fine overall and was just…happy to be alive. Not to mention, I had great cell service while I waited an hour for friends to come rescue me and get my back down the slope. Win win.

My first time skiing in the Chamonix, France and the surrounding Alps did not go perfectly planned. But after a couple tough months of traveling and working like a dog I was just damn happy to be out of London and back to nature. It felt great to challenge myself physically and try something fairly new. I wasn’t as graceful as I thought I’d be and did gloriously crash the last day because of my own mistakes, but the trip overall was fantastic – filled with town strolling, mountain scaling and lots (LOTS) of cheese.

beers in chamonix france eileen cotter wright

What should you do (drink) in Chamonix?

Let’s be honest – I was excited about skiing in the Alps, but also heard the après-ski was a blast in town. You can go almost anywhere for a drink and a bite after skiing and find a lively atmosphere. Some are more relaxed, such as the Micro Brasserie Chamonix a bit outside of the center of town. But the burgers are incredible and they have sunny outdoor seating during the day with views of the surrounding mountains.

restaurant mountains chamonix france eileen cotter wright

Have a hankering for something a little crazier? Definitely don’t miss the live band at Chambre Neuf. The crowd is totally random, either clad in next to nothing or still sporting ski pants. Drink pitchers are plentiful and the cover band plays universal tunes. What’s so odd is the party ends at 8PM and everyone stumbles home to do it all over again the next day.

What should you avoid in Chamonix?

How about falling so hard you end up in the hospital? That’s a good thing to avoid. You heard about my spill, but X the husband fared even worse. He went off-piste (off the trail) and managed to fracture his wrist with a wipeout. Now he’s a great skier, but many of the accidents happen due to fatigue.

parasailing chamonix france eileen cotter wright

Avoid going beyond your limits. The skiing itself can get difficult, especially with ice patches and uneven surfaces in bad weather. There’s even occasional whiteout conditions. Some trails are narrow, and a lot of the gondolas have no seating so breaks are few and far between. Check which lifts and trails are open in the morning so you don’t get stuck in the red unexpectedly. And it’s tempting to have a pint at every awesome ski-stop on the mountain, but keep your wits about you – skiing all day for a week is no joke.

What should you bring to Chamonix?

If you’re used to skiing in the U.S., you might be pleasantly surprised about the lift pass and rental prices. However, it’s not exactly set up the same. Rent your skis, boots, poles and all the accessories, then have them all delivered straight to your chateau. Ski passes can also be bought in advance online and only need to be validated once. You might not find as many ski-in properties as some other resorts, but the ability to cut corners to save time on the logistics is worth it.

italy apres ski eileen cotter wright

Prepare with layers, as the weather can fluctuate really quickly. Keep those layers light and breathable – one of our friends battled a nasty heat rash after a day of skiing hard. I lived in my Sweaty Betty thermals that week that kept me warm and looked adorable when I stripped off my ski jacket at night. Wind can pick up quickly,  so don’t consider alpine skiing without goggles and face protection.

sweaty betty chamonix france eileen cotter wright

Definitely make sure you bring sunscreen too! I easily got burned after a day or two on the slopes, regardless if it was cloudy or not.

Where is your favorite place to ski? Do you ski or board? Would you rather powder and freezing temperatures or skiing in a t-shirt with slush?

Keep posted over on Pure Wander for restaurant tips, best peaks, activities and more on Chamonix, France!

EileenCotterWright

Author EileenCotterWright

Eileen Cotter Wright is a Boston, MA expat living in London, UK. She is a freelance writer and owner of group travel site PureWander.com. Despite losing her passport the first day she left her home country, she's continued to roam the earth with gusto for about a decade. You can keep up with her hot mess adventures on Twitter @Crooked_Flight.

More posts by EileenCotterWright

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