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Snowboarding and telemarking the "Vallée Blanche"

Chamonix, France

General map of the area.
Video footage of the Aiguille du Midi
and the ridge beginning the Vallee Blanche.
While the Vallée Blanche is undoubtebly the best run in the whole valley of Chamonix, it is also very dangerous and not within an official ski resort. You need to hire a guide to ski there.

For pictures of the upper part, see the virtual tour of the Vallee Blanche

Starting from the top of the impressive Aiguille du Midi cable car, the run spans over a vertical drop of almost 2800m (9240 feet) and, depending of the route you take, can be as long as 16km (10 miles). Depending on the condition, your skiing abilities and your desires, your guide will take you down one of the 5 different versions of this spectacular descent.

The first thrills arrive when, after having visited the summit of the lift and taken pictures of the incredible view (you can see the Matterhorn on sunny days), you come out of the ice cave and see the ridge you will have to walk down before being able to step in your skis or board. You guide will most probably offer to rope up if you feel uncomfortable. Once the ridge is negociated, put on your skis or strap on the snowboard and be ready to experience the nicest run Chamonix has to offer.


We here now describe the Regular run, as drawn on the trail map.
From the ridge, you will be skiing down a wide open face, facing Mont Blanc, onto the col du Midi, a semi flat long straight run to a big rock outcroping on your left called "Le Gros Rognon". You will then go to your right following along the cliffs of the Mont Blanc du Tacul, where there is a good chance you will be spotting some mountaineers climbing one of the many couloirs that this face has to offer. Then more or less straight down, though criss-crossing to avoid crevasses, on a flatter area, at the end of which a left side travese begins, this is annoying for snowboarders.

Following the traverse, you get to a point where the skiable terrain narrows down, due to crevasses on your right side and the cliffs with many seracs on the left side. This is a spot where, it is good to get through rapidly, due to the danger of falling seracs (blocs of ice that weight many tons), it is also the harder skiing area, as it is a junction of many of the different routes down the valley and it is not very wide. Many mogul usually cover this area, but it is not so steep, and is negociable even by not so advanced skiers. After the bottom of the seracs lies the "salle a manger". this is where, conditions allowing, ask your guide, it is customary to stop for lunch, taking advantage of the tremedous viewbefore continuing onto the "Mer de Glace" (Ice Sea). It is also possible, if you didn't bring your lunch, to traverse to your left a bit in the lower section of the seracs to reach, with a 5 minute hike, the "Refuge du Requin" (Shark's hut) where a nice lunch, with or without alcohol, can be eaten for a moderate price.

Looking down towards the Seracs
The next section of the descent takes place on the Mer de Glace, a gentle, sometimes very flat section on the glacier itself. The lower part of this section is also interesting as you smoothly ski, zigzaging to avoid crevasses, at the foot of the world famous "Les Drus" (in the picture), a very well known mountaineering face. Towards the end of the Mer de Glace, you will need to decide whether you take the train back down to Chamonix or if you will ski the narrow winding trail back to town (you guide will tell you if the snow conditions permit this last section). If your legs are still have the power, i strongly suggest to ski back down to town, as the trail follows a nice hiking path, twisting and turning through the forest, making sure that at the end you will just have enough strenght to head for the closest bar for a refreshing and well deserved cold beer.


Tips for skiing the Vallee Blanche:

  • Bring a camera and lots of film, if you've never skied there, you will be amazed by the scenery.
  • Dress up warm, it may be nice and warm in town, but the top of the lift is very high and often very windy (see the video).
  • Plan a whole day, bring your lunch and stop at the "Salle a Manger " for a snack, very enjoyable.
  • Snowboarders should make sure their board is properly waxed, and might want to bring a collapsible ski pole for the "Mer de Glace" flats.
  • Plan with your guide to leave early in the morning and consider reserving your cable car sopt the day before, as sunny days, during holidays and week ends especially, can be quite crowded, and you'll wind up starting at14h00 and barely have anytime to enjoy the run.