Chamonix = MeccaJames is a climber and for him, Chamonix is Mecca. On the ‘must-do’ list since the first day we considered this bonkers idea of touring the Alps in a motorhome for a season, skiing under the shadow of Mont Blanc was not negotiable. We needed to know if it was possible to ski from a motorhome in the Chamonix Valley.
Can you go motorhome skiing in Chamonix?Yes is the simple answer and there are in fact a variety of options open to you – whether you prefer the facilities provided by campsites or are happy to wing-it off grid to be in the centre of town. You’ll see the three options in Chamonix itself below so you can make your own mind up – we split our stay between the aire at the Aiguille du Midi car park and the campsite at Les Deux Glaciers. It is worth noting that by the end of this post, you’re going to realise that Chamonix is not very motorhome friendly in winter… but don’t let that put you off.
Key things to know before a motorhome skiing trip to Chamonix
Chamonix is a townChamonix has a truly fascinating history and anyone interested in the mountains is going to love what it can offer, but it is not a resort and doesn’t have that feel at all. If you’re looking for a bijou-cutesie mountain escape, Chamonix is not it. It’s cosmopolitan and multi-cultural and well connected and all those really good things that modern metropolitan place should be. And this surprises people in the same way that it shocks people that The Pyramids are surrounded by McDonalds. Chamonix also has a McDonalds. And a Gucci and every fancy outdoor kit brand on the planet. James…was very discombobulated by Chamonix to start with – but he grew to appreciate it for what it is, not what it was in his head.
Chamonix is gnarlyChamonix has a lot of varied skiing but to get the most from it, you really want to have a head for heights (some of the lifts require a strong stomach) and some decent skills. It’s renowned for some of the world’s toughest skiing but that doesn’t mean Chamonix isn’t for you. It’s perfectly doable if you have monster cojones or you’ve had one too many knocks to the head. Otherwise you’ll be cruising the same blues all week trying to ensure you return home in the same physical condition you arrived in. Honestly – if you’re a beginner or a timid improver, there are better places for you to enjoy a week or so skiing.
There is so much to do you haven’t got time to ski anywayIn all seriousness, the tourism office in Chamonix is at pains to highlight all the other things you can do in Chamonix apart from ski and they’re not wrong. We stayed 8 days and skied 2 in total choosing to use our Mont Blanc Unlimited passes to visit Aiguille du Midi and take the train up to the Mer de Glace – both awesome. It’s also got really good museums, spas, restaurants, shops, sporting activities… it’s a proper place. Special mention to the Cool Cats – amongst the best things to do in Chamonix is eat hot dogs and drink beer.
It’s HipsterIf you’ve got an aversion to man-buns; epic beards; micro-breweries; exposed plumbing and brickwork; and enamel mugs, find somewhere else to hang out. Chamonix is very busy being hipster and there’s no sign of that particular trend wearing thin anytime soon.
It’s not expensiveWell it is – just not as expensive as you might imagine. The lift pass is a lot of money but then again you get a lot for it – particularly if you have the unlimited pass. Free travel up and down the valley, access to various attractions, skiing in loads of areas … it’s a good deal. And here’s the interesting bit. Food and drink in particular is significantly cheaper than in many resorts and there are tonnes of artisanal shops – wine, cheese, macarons (what’s with all the macaron shops?) and charcuteries…. eating out isn’t crazy expensive either so you won’t need to remortgage for a raclette.
Your accommodation in ChamonixThere are options up and down the valley but for the purposes of this item, we’re just talking Chamonix itself. We won’t beat around the bush – you will not be sending pictures of your motorhome parked up against an epic alpine backdrop. Option 1 is a massive car park. Option 2 is a smaller car park on the side of a busy road and option 3 is a lovely campsite but valley positions rarely make for that ‘pretty campervan against jagged peaks’ break-the-internet instagram shot. That’s not the point. You’re here to be with Mont Blanc and she’ll give you all the insta-shots you need. Detailed reviews will follow here.
Aiguille du Midi Aire / car parkIf you’re one of those motorhomers who checks for TV signal before establishing a water source, it’s in the corner nearest the exit! For everyone else you’ve got the run of an enormous car park (you’ll find out why on a bluebird day) that’s directly under the Aiguille du Midi telecabine. It’s not picturesque but it’s in an awesome location, a few minutes walk from the centre of town and it’s really easy to get to. Perfect. The downside is that someone has spoiled it for everyone – they have closed the public toilets in the car park. Seemingly this is because people were using it to empty their toilet cassettes which means a WC is a few minutes further on in the Aiguille du Midi departure point and is only open during business hours. It also means you have nowhere to empty your cassette… ….unless you’re a complete douche…. in which case… You can of course just sling it down the grey water drain leaving all your crap around the edge. “Why would you do that” you may ask? Because you didn’t check the tap worked before hand and now you have no way of cleaning your cassette or the area. That is what people have done and it’s gross. The tap was turned off for much of the winter so you really are off grid. So – the aire at the base of Aiguille du Midi isn’t a winter aire at all. It’s a car park. If that’s cool with you and you make sure you park far enough away from the poo-hole like we did, you’ll love it. Beware: They (whoever they are) occasionally bring down the height barrier for this car park with no notice so just make sure you have a back up plan.
The other oneThe other one (as we ended up calling it), was temporarily closed for an imminent music festival but, it was fine. As we didn’t stay, we couldn’t review it but aim to in future trips.
Les Deux GlaciersThis is the only campsite in Chamonix itself open through the winter season and it is great – apart from the fact that it’s a 4km walk into town so it’s not in Chamonix at all really but it’s the nearest place you can stay with facilities. Nestled under the face of the Bossons and Taconnaz glaciers, this campsite is perfectly equipped. The best bit about it is the mad fruits you’ll find lurking there. You can leave your motorhome/ caravan/ campervan or RV at Les Deux Glaciers over winter and just visit at your leisure, so there are a fair few seasonaires on this site and they’ve got some stories. We highly recommend accosting the more rugged and deshevelled ones as we found this to be directly proportional to the quality of their adventure stories. You can jump on the very regular valley bus from the bottom of the road (free pass with your camping) into town/to the lifts and it dumps you to pretty much the same spot on your return. If you’re coming back after 19.30 you’ll need a taxi or to use the long things attached to your bum. We chose the latter to try and work off some of the cheese.
Other useful information for motorhome skiers in Chamonix
- There are loads of laundrettes
- You will see a fair number of vans (mostly panel conversions) parked up around town. Please don’t do this, however tempting it might seem. It’s not allowed and it gives us all a bad name… which might go some way to explaining why the authorities haven’t maintained the facilities for motorhomers in the dedicated and authorised areas in Chamonix.
- The tourist office is excellent in Chamonix. Use it. You’ll find out loads of stuff you had no idea about including events and activities that you might not otherwise come across. In fact, it’s always worth a quick trip to the tourist office if you’re a motorhomer – you never know what you’ll learn.
- A belay harness, whist not essential for walking around town of a afternoon, does make you look cooler – like the Chuck Norris of the high Alps.
Other bits you might like: If it’s gnarly you like – there’s an awesome deal on for an epic mag (I would say that as I work here!)