Skiers and snowboarders are guaranteed to find something to their liking from the vast array of moderate, challenging and difficult runs from the top of Planpraz (Le Brevent), Cornu (Le Brevent) and Index (La Flegere) chairlifts. For many years these two areas were separate until lift systems linked them together in 1997 with the introduction of the Liaison cable car forming one larger area.
Brevent & Flegere Beginner Ski Areas
Green & blue pistes for beginners higher up the mountain
Higher up the mountains, there are beginners’ runs at Le Brevent and La Flegere.
For those staying in Les Praz, the Trappe chairlift at the top left of the Flegere cable car serves two gentle green runs. It is the next step up for those after their first day or two, when you feel more confident with linking turns and getting onto chairlifts. The runs are a little longer than the ones in the centre of the Chamonix town and being just at the top of the tree line they have some pretty impressive views across the valley to Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi.
If you feel you have progressed even further as a beginner you can try the Retour Flegere blue piste which will take you all the way from the top of the Chavanne chair lift back to the Flegere cable car, where you can then take the lift down to get back to resort. This is a slightly trickier piste so make sure you feel fully confident before attempting it, and always make sure you have other people to help you down if needs be.
The blue runs Vioz and Blanchots at Le Brevent are served by the Parsa chair and are great for those who are able to link turns and who would like more of a challenge as they offer longer runs, and slightly steeper slopes to practice on.
Brevent also has the highest altitude green run in Chamonix with Verte 2000; although since the Brevent Gondola was replaced in 2008 and the Altitude 2000 charilift was removed, you now actually have to ski down the blue Vioz piste and take the Parsa chair lift up in order to access the green run. Once there, whilst Verte 2000 itself is fairly short (275m), it is served by its own draglift and will have good snow right until the end of the season in April. There is also the Retour Plan Praz green run, which takes you back to the PLan Praz bubble to get back down to resort. This can be an alternative route when doing laps of the Parsa chairlift, although be warned it can be pretty flat in places.
Brevent & Flegere On Piste
Big ski area with lots of lovely pistes for all abilities
In general the Brevent-Flegere skiing area is excellent for those of intermediate ability or above and has enough runs at different levels to keep mixed ability groups happy all day long.
Mostly it’s necessary to take the cable cars back to the valley floor although when the snow conditions are good lower down there are some very scenic runs through the forests from the main ski areas back down to the valley. There are generally black runs though and in the main tend to be cat tracks. Whilst one or two of the classified black runs aren’t very steep and even flat in places, they may not be for everyone as they are fairly long, narrow and require some precise control!
Le Brevent is perhaps a little harder than La Flegere, but as an intermediate rider if you stick to the front bowl in La Flegere, you shouldn't get into any trouble. Le Brevent offers some steep skiing off the top with some exhilarating hikes along the ridge line with lots of gnarly descents down the mountain face. From the Col Cornu, there are some traverses that get you into all sorts of fun, and down the backside towards Flegere, the runs are steep, as is the off piste.
In Le Brevent, highlights include the red intermediate piste run from the top of the Cornu and the Charles Bozon black run descent from the top of the Brevent. The Charles Bozon is a black run that is accessed from the top Planpraz-Le Brevent cable car and is a definite ‘goodie’ for testing your techniques. Because of its high altitude, the snow on the Charles Bozon run usually remains in superb condition throughout the season.
Nants is a winding cat track that leads through the forest back to Chamonix town centre. Nants is a long run that on a sunny day, offers some beautiful views across the valley towards the Aiguille du Midi, Mont-Blanc and the snow covered Chamonix valley below. Although this is classified as a black piste is actually not very steep, but it is quite narrow in places so you need to beware of other people skiing on the run. Passing slow skiers can be quite tricky if they’re moving to and fro so take care. On this route you’ll also often see people taking more direct lines between the zig zags of the run. If you’re tempted to follow watch out for rocks! The bottom of the run brings you out at the top of the Savoy beginners’ slope; from here it’s easy to head back up on the Chamonix-Planpraz gondola or down the Savoy run if it’s the end of the day. We recommended you avoid doing Nants at the end of the day though as it can get busy. Instead, do it in the morning after it’s been freshly groomed and is quieter and then take the gondola down at the end of the day.
Le Flegere La Flegere is known to the locals as 'riders paradise'. Lots of fun runs, mostly fairly easy, with Cat tracks to jump off and big open off piste sections for letting rip on a powder day. This year Flegere will host a speed zone area where regualr skiers will be able to test themselves against the clock and other speed junkies.
La Flegere bowl whilst now being pisted is still challenging and fun, and after some fresh snow it opens up a world of possibilities. Also all down the front side there are kilometres of open ground, but be aware, light snow cover can obscure rocks, and heavy snow cover can bring a high risk of avalanches. Some of the tops of the cliffs can also become very windswept and icy making it very difficult to stop before you shoot over. Best to ride with a local and remember, if you can’t see over it, don’t ski over it.
The Index chair in this area used to be pretty ancient but it was completely replaced for Winter 2005/06 - it’s the key to the Flegere area giving access to some of the longest runs here. Lachenal piste is a red run that’s almost black giving good intermediates a technical challenge with its physically demanding, consistently steep upper section. After a fresh snowfall the whole Lachenal bowl offers exceptional off piste but can also be avalanche prone so if it’s closed it’s for a very good reason; don’t ignore the signs!
If you take the little Floria draglift from the top of the Index Chair you’ll find the Crochues and Floria pistes which are great runs for long steep skiing, with the Crochues the less difficult of the two, often groomed to perfection they’re great for carving on first thing in the morning. The shorter Chavannes chairlift gives access to some easier blues runs and some gentler off piste to the skiers left for those trying powder for the first time.
Brevent & Flegere Advanced Runs
Long vertical descents & plenty of steep skiing close to town
Brevent & Flegere have a whole host of steep and challenging runs between them, with a large ski area and plenty of quick lifts you can scoot up and down the steep pistes all day long.
In good snow conditions at Le Brevent it’s possible to combine the Charles Bozon run from the top of the Brevent cable car with the Nants run all the way back down to the valley floor to clock up nearly 1500m of vertical descent. At the start of the Charles Bozon run there are two variants of this run; one that offers very, very steep moguls for those on a mission to prove their skiing credentials, or a one that’s slightly more sedate and zig-zags down the cat tracks for the more cautious skier amongst us.
Both of the variants lead to the Planpraz sking area where skiers can then select from a host of easy blue runs that lead to the bottom of the Parsa and Cornu chairlifts, where the Nants black coloured piste starts. Of all these blue runs our favourite is the leftmost, Blanchots as it’s the least travelled, is slightly shadier and often has the best snow. The Nants piste is mainly a zig-zag cat track that takes you all the way down to the bottom of the Plan Praz bubble lift and even down into the centre of Chamonix.
At La Flégère you can combine the Lanchenal piste from the top of the Index chairliftwith the Praz piste to have a descent of 1300m. Again it’s only possible to do the lower section when snow conditions allow; late in the season it won’t be covered. Lachenal is a superb piste with a really steep upper section (we think it is slightly harder then most reds). This run is often very well groomed so you’ll be unlucky to find moguls on it, you’ll generally find it smooth and fast. The lower section flattens out as it approaches the tree line where it joins Evettes; follow this blue run towards the Evettes chair then take a right onto Praz just before the chairlift. Again this is a zigzagging black cat track through the trees, but half way down it opens out into a wide chute where you can head straight down to Les Praz and the cable car at the bottom of the valley. Again it’s good to do when the snow is good and in the morning before the crowds start to make the return journey home at the end of the day.
The Floria black piste is located at the top of the Floria drag lift (which is often closed in bad weather and poor snow conditions), located at the top of the index to skiiers right. This long and challenging black piste will take you down to the Trappe chairlift. It is un-pisted and can often have some bumps and lumps along the way but it is a great piste for a challenge and in the right snow conditions can be a dream to ski or snowboard.
Brevent & Flegere Off Piste
Short hikes to accessible off-piste & range of off-piste itineraries
The ski area of Le Brevent and La Flegere is one of the quieter areas on powder days and makes it a favourite of ours for that very reason. Often we can find fresh tracks all day, long after the snow has been tracked out at Grand Montets!
One area, which requires a little bit of hiking, is the ridge at Brevent, which gives us the option of dropping into various steep chutes above the Charles Bozon piste. The steepness of these chutes makes them avalanche prone so we take care as slipping here could result in falls over cliffs and avalanches that could take out skiers below. We get to this area by talking the top Brevent cable car up and then follow the Bozon run down until it turns sharply to the right. Here we take a left under the avalanche warning rope, passing this means you need to be responsible for yourself and others, be equipped, and know what you’re doing. Following the ridge, there are a few sections where we have to go uphill and so have to walk a little bit. Depending how far we go there are various narrow couloirs that drop down to the right. After a 10-15 minute hike along the back of the ridge we reach the Col de Brevent, an open col with views on the right down to the Bozon piste and Chamonix Village immediately below. Another one of our favourite runs with plenty of steep and deep stuff to amuse us. The snow is usually good here for a few days after a fresh dump but will get unstable if the sun gets to work on it and the temperature rises, so we don’t do this run late in the afternoon on warm days. In the spring you’ll see the pisteurs setting controlled avalanches off on these slopes.
The terrain of Flegere is also superb for off piste skiing. There are so many route variations here there just isn’t space to explain them all! It can be said that the main Flegere bowl offers some of the best free ride terrain that Chamonix has on offer. The natural ‘lumpy’ terrain at Flegere makes it great for natural table tops, quarter pipes and half pipes and in fact, the whole bowl is pretty much rideable with only a few exceptions. The snow often remains very good at this altitude however it is good to remain alert as this section has hidden rollovers, some of which lead onto very large cliff drops so we recommend that you don’t go skiing over things before you’ve checked where they go!! Only enter this off piste area in good visibility and once you already have a good idea of where you are going.
On a fresh powder day, we try and catch the first cable car up from Les Praz to get those all important first tracks!! The Index chairlift that was opened during the 2005/06 winter season has made getting into the Combe Lachenal even easier now as it drops you right at the top of the bowl. Take a left (skier’s right) from the chairlift into the bowl, pay attention to any warning barriers as this bowl is avalanche prone. Make sure you are fully equipped, trained and avalanche aware.
The bowl is vast with only one piste running down the middle. You can select to traverse out either left or right to get fresh tracks, and generally it takes a long time before this bowl is truly tracked out. If you traverse out skiers’ right be sure not to go so far that you can’t get back to the piste at the bottom that will take you back to the Evettes chairlift. (You may find yourself heading down to Les Praz via the main avalanche chute if you stray too far off the beaten track!!).
If you traverse left about halfway down you’ll find a small hidden bowl that keeps the ‘freshies’ longer than the main bowl. The terrain is great for free-riding with open sections at the top. Lower down there are small chutes and drops to the right, rollers and trees to the left for you to get further adrenaline rushes from!
The area to the right (skier’s left) of the Index chairlift also has some superb off piste with longer runs possible. Head out below the old index lift building and work your way down the mountain. Along here you’ll find cornices where you can drop in, and wide open slopes where you can ‘let rip’ before heading down towards the Trappe chairlift that takes you back to the Index lift.
The area between the Floria piste and the Pylones piste is a massive unpisted area that has enough excitement to keep us coming back run after run, each time discovering another hidden stash of fresh snow. You can also access some of the great off piste conditions to the right of the index chair by using access from the bottom of the Floria lift. We would reiterate that we are extremely careful in this sector above the Chavanne chairlift as this area has many rollovers as we discussed above, some of which lead to large cliff drops. Make sure you can see your route down the mountain before you take of a top speed!
If you’re trying off piste for the first time, the area under the Trappe chair has some fun terrain. Trees and good snow will give you a good taste of the off piste without straying too far from the green runs.
Above the Trappe green run, there are a couple of steep, narrow couloirs visible to the right as you get to the top on the ride up the Trappe chairlift. They start out wide and flat but quickly become steep and narrow so probably best not attempted if the snow is hard and icy but in good snow they offer a real buzz and are a true technical test of your ability. We get to these from the Pylones piste, by heading skier's left just before you get to the flat section near the bottom of the run.
The section below the Evettes chair offers some steeper but still reasonably pitched tree skiing with plenty of drops and bumps ideal if the visibility isn’t great or if the higher lifts are closed. You can spot your lines as you ride up the chair, so route finding isn’t complicated. Traversing skiers left under the Chavanne chair leads you out to the slope above the Trappe green run. This area has a few gullies that form natural half pipes often with cornices and some great rocks to drop with small trees to slalom lower down.
If you are interested in hearing more about our off piste and skiing adventures we can offer you some indication of which months (historically, at least!) have enjoyed bumper snowfall as we have our entire archive of Snow reports available for you to read online. Why not spend 5-10 minutes before you come out browsing through the reports to see what conditions were like in seasons gone by. Although we can't guarantee the same weather or conditions, at least you'll be able get a feel for what to expect and if nothing else, it’ll give you plenty reading in the interim until our snow reports kick off when the season starts!!
Brevent & Flegere Backcountry Routes
Over the back into the Berard valley for some serious backcountry
Chamonix is a mecca to freeride and backcountry, with riders from all over the world converging on the mountains here. There is a vast amount of fantastic off piste and the whole area is one giant naturanailel fun park. La Flegere and Le Tour are known locally as having some of the best natural terrain for freestyle, with gullies that form natural half pipes, rollers, cornices and jumps everywhere you look. From the Index lift at the top of Flegere, you’ll often see some pretty big kickers built by locals with equally impressive tricks being nailed.
These are just a few suggested routes for backcountry touring from Flegere. They're far from comprehensive but is just a taster of what’s possible if you want to stray away from the regular piste skiers and don't mind a bit of a hike to get there! Most of our routes finish in Le Buet which is at the foot of the Berard valley. At Le Buet, you can catch a train back to Chamonix or take the Vallorcine lift if you fancy skiing further and exploring the Le Tour lift system.
There are several excellent guidebooks with descriptions of the many possible routes both within and beyond the lift areas. There are two published by Vamos called Mont-Blanc Ski tours (ISBN 2910672085) and Chamonix Hors pistes-Off piste (ISBN 2910672107); these books are bilingual, in English and French. An even more extensive guidebook with more difficult routes is Mont-Blanc et Aiguilles Rouges à ski (ISBN 2960025520), written by Anselme Baud and published by Nevicata; it’s only available in French but is worth struggling through even if your French isn’t so good as it gives very accurate descriptions and has good explanatory photos. But remember, in the backcountry there are many dangers not least from crevasses, seracs, cliffs and avalanches so you should always hire a Chamonix guide. If hiking isn’t your thing but you love powder then heli-skiing/boarding could be for you. Whilst helicopter drop-offs of this nature are illegal in France (as you land on National park), Chamonix is well located with plenty of companies offering heli-drops on the Mont-Blanc massif just over the border in either Switzerland or Italy.
The Col des Crochues gives access to the Col de Berard (easiest), Berard Breche and Glacier Mort (hardest). Take the cable car up from Les Praz, the Index chair and then the Floria drag lift. From there the Col des Crochues looks right up the hill. The skinning/snowshoeing to the top takes on average 40 minutes for those with a good level of fitness and are used to the whole skins/snowshoe hiking business! The top section becomes quite steep in places but there’s a convenient rock where you can sit and take of skis and snowshoes for the final section which we tend to prefer climbing in our snowboots. (It’s not normally necessary to use crampons in this section). On warm spring days, this climb can be prone to wet snow slides so this route is best done early in the morning.
Route 1 : Col de Berard For the Col de Berard it’s a long traverse skiers right from the Col des Crochues. You should try to stay as high as possible on the traverse until you reach the flat section and can go no further. (Something to watch out for on the traverse is the risk of avalanches from the slopes above. These slopes catch the sun and warm up and inevitable slide on to the traverse below, if caught in one of these slides you could possibly be carried over the cliffs below sections of the traverse). If you take this traverse to early in the morning it can be icy and difficult, the trick is to catch it just as it’s softening up as often you have to ride through debris of previous slides. From the flat section we tend to put on our skins or snow shoes and head right to the Col where it’s a relatively short hike of 15-20 minutes to the Col de Berard. You can often expect good snow in the Berard Valley as it slopes are not too steep and the route finding down is fairly straight forward. At this point we tend to take a pit stop before heading into the valley below. Continue following the valley down until you reach the trees and river which lead out of the valley towards Le Buet. If you do this route on a snowboard you may find the last section by the river is a bit of a drag as there are short uphill sections where you may have to walk. The path by the river leads all the way down to Le Buet where the Le Buet Hotel offers a rest stop for a well deserved beer!
Route 2 : Berard Breche The Berard Breche hike is quite a bit longer than the Col de Berard so should only really be attempted if you’re feeling pretty fit. Instead of going to the skiers’ right of the Col des Crochues, you need to climb the ridge to the North. Continue down into the small valley below the flat area before commencing the hike up the wide gully facing, and following on above to the open slopes that lead to the Petite Aiguille de Berard. From there you need to follow the ridge that leads up to the right in the direction of Breche. Near the top, traverse below the ridge to reach the rocky notch, which is the Breche. As you climb up though the notch you’ll see the Berard Valley below. It’s a demanding hike of about 90 minutes but delivers you almost to the very top of the Berard Valley and offers a longer descent than the Col de Berard described above. On the route down beware of the cliff directly below the Breche, we usually traverse skiers’ left to avoid it. The rest of the route is open with rolling terrain down to the bottom of the valley where the route out is the same as for the Col de Berard.
Route 3 : Glacier Mort For Glacier Mort (translated as 'dead glacier'), take the Traverse from the Col des Crochues but stop halfway along the traverse and climb the large couloir on the right towards the Point Alphonse Favre. For the lower part of the climb you may need skins or snowshoes but from halfway up where it gets steeper we find boots are better. At the top of the couloir follow the rocky ride up to the right. The rocks provide good hand holds on the last steep pitch however if it is icy, crampons are highly recommended. The first time we did this climb, we found it a little intimidating because of the steepness of the latter sections, and also because it was the toughest of the three, but if you’re looking for some great powder we can say that the last little steep slog is definitely worth the climb! From the top, (which can be cold and windy even on warm days), traverse to the right to avoid the rock band below and then traverse back left below the rocks to the top of the open gully below. The terrain here is superb with most of it shady and protected from the sun. Follow the gully down, making the most of its powder until it opens out from where you follow the valley down to meet the river and trees for the exit to Le Buet.
There are plenty of other backcountry routes in Flegere which you can also enjoy: we’ve merely suggested a few of our favourites. Other popular routes in the area include hiking out to Lac Blanc where you can head into the Berard Valley via the Col de Belvedere (although be sure to bring the appropriate kit with you as there is some abseiling required!) and the Col de Beugeant. It’s even possible to stay on the front side and ski down to the Col des Montets via the Encrenaz if you so fancy!
If you have any doubts about these routes there are some good guide books available which detailed the routes further. It’s always recommended that you take a mountain guide when you do these routes. Mountain guides have the best knowledge of the snow conditions and dangers involved including the avalanche risks at the time. A guide will make sure that you ride the best snow possible and pick a route that is most suitable for your group.