Chamonix is without doubt the European capital of off-piste skiing. Chamonix holds legendary status with freeriders, the Chamonix Valley has built it’s reputation on it’s glacier skiing where the slopes seem to go on forever. The best freeriders in the world come to Chamonix to ski the Rognons glacier, the Valley Blanche and the Pas de Chevre.
By far the most famous descent is the Valley Blanche, which is accessed by one of the highest cable cars in Europe, the Aiguille du Midi. There are 3 different options for the descent to Chamonix town, the normal Valley, the Grans Envers du Plan or the Petit Envers du Plan. In Spring when conditions are sunniest the glacial route is very popular, which gives the impression that it’s easy skiing but it is important to remember that this is still high mountain skiing, so if you’re are in the slightest doubt about your ability to ski the terrain, it is recommended that you employ the services of a mountain guide.
In the mountains it pays to follow the mantra of safety first, if you plan to descend self guided an avalanche search device, a shovel and a probe are essential equipment. Always take into consideration the weather forecast and snow conditions before starting your trip.
The Valley Blanche is a 20km descent into Chamonix town itself, it is not for the faint hearted or novice skier. The Valley Blanche does not have run markers or piste patrols and there are definitely no piste bashers to prepare runs – the Valley Blanche is high altitude skiing on snow covered glaciers with crevasses.
Depending on your skiing ability the descent will take between 4 to 6 hours, so you need to allow a full day for the trip. To reach the glacier from the Aiguille du Midi top station you have to walk down a narrow ridge, there is a fixed rope to make the walk less precarious but if you have crampons it is recommended that you use them.
If you want to ski the Valley Blanche you’ll need to be fit, the effects of fatigue, cold temperatures and altitude – the first 3rd of the descent is above 3000m – will reduce the abilities of most skiers.
Follow all the safety advice and you’ll be able to enjoy some of the greatest off-piste skiing on the planet!