Sun, Picnics & Lunch Spots in Chamonix
Chamonix is blessed with spectacular views, and one of the most enjoyable ways of appreciating them is at the top of a mountain. There is something for everyone here, whether you are a skier or a non-skier. From a simple deckchair and a snack, to a full blown gastronomic indulgence, we have some suggestions on where to go.
Les Grands Montets can be very cold in the mornings, and its shady northwesterly aspect can mean that in mid winter it barely gets any sun until mid-afternoon. Later in the season Grands Montets starts to get more sun but in general it’s the least sunny of all the areas. So if it’s cold weather we avoid it until the afternoon, choosing to spend the mornings at Flegere and taking a short bus ride from Les Praz to ski Grands Montets after lunch.However, there are a couple of good spots to grab a bite to eat here, such as the Plan Joran restaurant at the base of the Tabé and Plan Rojan chairlifts. There is a self-service section, a full on sit down restaurant and then the snack area (our favourite!) where you can get some top notch pizza’s and still get change from a tenner. If you just fancy a drink then try the tiny cabin at the base of the Pendant chairlift at the base of the Lavancher Bowl. Definitely a fair-weather stop as there is only outdoor seating here, but the views are spectacular and it’s a real sun trap. The resto at the very top of Grands Montets is also worth a visit for a vin chaud or a hot chocolate and a slice of home made tart. Very cosy when it’s blowing a hoolie outside!
Probably the sunniest area in the valley, Flegere benefits from the direct sun early in the morning, which means warm, pleasant conditions and even hotter afternoons for those who like to spend time sitting on the terraces with a beer or two. One spot we can thoroughly recommend is the terrace below the Chavanne chairlift, which has the sun all day long (as long as it’s out of course). Flegere is also a great place for taking a picnic lunch, especially at the top of the Index chairlift just above the lift station where the rocks make good places to sit out of the snow. Here the views of the Mer de Glace, Les Drus, Grands Montets and Mont-Blanc are stunning on a clear day. From there you’ll be able to watch ski tourers skinning higher still into the valleys behind the Aiguilles Rouges. This spot is one of our favourites as it’s a real sun trap and late season can get seriously warm; don’t forget to wear plenty of sunscreen!
You’ll often see picnickers at Brevent sitting under the ridge to skier’s right of the Cornu chair; whilst this is a sunny spot with plenty of rocks to sit on make sure you’re not sitting too close to the cliffs as after a snowfall in sunny weather we’ve seen many avalanches sliding over the cliffs onto the slopes below. Much safer is the Panoramic restaurant at the top of Le Brevent with its stunning views of the Mont-Blanc massif.
Le Tour also has its share of sunny spots. The restaurant at Charamillon has a busy terrace, which faces down the valley straight into the afternoon sun. It can get very crowded here but there are plenty of deck chairs available and you’ll find people spreading out onto the snow to soak up the rays. Alternatively, a great place for a picnic is at the top of the Aiguillette des Possettes. You’ll find this small peak at the top of the L’Aigillette drag lift, just hike up the last section all the way to the top and you’ll find a flat area with some superb 360º views down to Vallorcine, across to the Le Tour Glacier and further down the valley to Chamonix. Perfect with some friends and bottle of wine and some French cheese. This spot can be very sunny, and away from the crowds you can really soak of the mountain atmosphere. Avoid the back of Le Tour as it can be pretty shady and windy with runs like Belle Place staying icy throughout the day, stick to runs at the front that catch the sun and often soften up in the afternoons when things warm up.There is also a wonderful little mountain restaurant at the base of the L’Aiguilette drag lift called L’Alpage de Balme, that is very easy to miss if you don’t know it’s there. It only seats about 25-30 people inside but it has a beautiful sunny terrace when the weather is fine, with space for another 25 or so. Booking is essential if you don’t want to be disappointed (0683 33 86 61) and whilst their menu is small, it’s deliciously simple and great value when compared to the “bus ‘em in, get ‘em out” establishments that are all too common in Cham. Incidentally, they also do one of the best vin chaud’s in the valley!
If you’re determined to take packed lunches with you even when the weather is cold and snowy there are places where you can sit indoors and eat your own food as most of the restaurants have 'picnic interdit' signs up and don’t take kindly to you eating your own food there even if you buy a drink. There’s a designated picnic areas: at the main Flegere lift station, downstairs at the Charamillon station at Le Tour and at Grands Montets at the Plan Joran restaurant downstairs at the side. They give you the chance to get out of the cold and warm up whilst saving some money for the evening ahead.