Rainy days in Chamonix

11th January 2016, by Nik Gill

Tré-le-Champ last week. Photo: Facebook/chamonix; Alain Towner

Tré-le-Champ last week. Photo: Facebook/chamonix; Alain Towner

We’re in Chamonix with Ski Weekends, who were able to help hastily arrange a reunion of three mates who had not skied together since a glorious and sunny season spent in Courchevel 20 years ago.

They have turned out to be a very slick outfit providing us a good choice of appealing options from which we chose the rather fabulous and recently refurbished Point Isabelle, an extremely comfortable and quirky boutiquey hotel near the station and on a quintessentially Chamonix street of welcoming cafes and bars housed in grand Victorian buildings. Great three-bed room – think up-market whiskey bar. Only complaint from one of our number is that “the WiFi is a little flaky” and certainly not up to a hotel full of the bored and rained off.

Getting on the mountain has been rather more problematic. Continuous and very heavy precipitation before and since arrival with freezing isotherm hovering around a depressingly high 2000m has caused multiple lift and run closures to all the areas.

As readers of WTSS will of course know, the place to go when weather hits this valley is low, wooded Les Houches. And sure enough, on Saturday we found a reasonable quantity of open runs here, with the trees providing great visibility.

The low altitude meant that, for the first time in my 35-year skiing career, the whole day was spent in rain. But the misery was mitigated by recent conversion to helmet wearing, and the snow was surprisingly good given the weather – and certainly better than many spring sugar slushes.

We stopped for a drink at a cute hut by the cable car station. This had table service and may well have been the best lunch option – small room with six tables, log burner, attentive staff – but we pressed on and had lunch on the back of the hill at La Cha – a fairly standard self-service place.

The highlight was the long, easy, roller-coaster runs on the front side (blue Aillouds and nominal black Kandahar) from the top of the hill to the base – more or less deserted and a great fun blast.

In the evening we enjoyed a fabulous fillet steak at Munchies, a welcome departure from French resort norms with its Asian-fusion options. On Sunday we hope to give Argentiere and the Grands Montets a crack.

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