Les Houches is home to rolling hills and wide pistes lined by beautiful trees. The pistes are perfect for beginner skiers and great for those days when the clouds come in.
Included in the Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass, Les Houches is not included in the Chamonix Le Pass. A separate Les Houches lift pass can be purchased online or at either of the main lift stations. There are two access lifts to the main ski area; the Bellevue cable car and the Prarion gondola - both are served by the Chamonix valley bus route.
The Bellevue cable car takes you from the centre of Les Houches up to the far left of the ski area, at 1800 metres. Once at the top, the immediate area is pretty flat – perfect for beginners, but not so great for snowboarders looking to get to the snowpark (but Bellevue is still the lift you should take if you want to go straight to the park).
Car parking is limited at Bellevue and it can be easier to head about 1km along the road to the Prarion gondola, where parking is plentiful and the efficient gondola whisks you up to the heart of the ski area. The top of the ski area at Les Houches gives you a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains, and is bathed in sunshine. The downside is that you are on a plateau and there is some schussing required for both boarders and skiers to access some of the pistes.
Beginners will enjoy the nursery slopes of Mont Blanc at the top of the Bellevue lift and Ecole at the top of the Prarion, before progressing on to the nice and gentle blue runs of Abbaye and the top section of Aillouds. Once you’re feeling ready for a longer challenge, you can follow the Aillouds piste all the way back to the bottom of either the Bellevue or the Prarion lifts. With a 900 metre descent down a lovely tree-lined piste, it’s a very long and satisfying run for leisurely skiers.
The Col de Voza is a lovely red run for intermediates to play on and for advanced riders to start their day. Fontaines red run takes you around the back and through the trees - just remember that the start of this run off the Crozat chair is pretty flat and you’ll need some speed to get you over to the main section of the piste. There are two other red runs down the back towards Saint Gervais that also take you through the trees. Plan du Cret is a sweet run that is generally quiet, and finishes up on a track that takes you to the Plancerts draglift, so speed merchants and snowboarders may prefer to come down the wide and fast Plancerts piste instead. The view from Plancerts is pretty special as you can see right along the valley towards Sallanches and Domancy in the distance.
Down the front of Les Houches, the Table d’Orientation which leads on to the Maison Neuve, and the Mur des Epines are long runs back down to the village. These front runs are sheltered by the trees, and so have minimal sun damage on them. However, because Les Houches lies at quite a low altitude, the snow here is supplemented by snow cannons, so these runs can be hard-packed and icy if it hasn’t snowed for a while.
For the advanced skier, no trip to Les Houches would be complete without a ride down the Verte des Houches, or as it’s more famously known, the Kandahar. This World Cup black run is accessed from the top of the Voza-Prarion or Kandahar chairlifts, and takes you straight back down to the village. The pro’s do this in less than 1 minute 30 seconds if you want to take a time trial. Weather conditions permitting, the race takes place at the end of January every two years (on even years) and the run is watered to make it especially icy for the racers, so it can be a real challenge trying to keep your edges.
Moguls are in short supply at Les Houches – your best bet is to head to the Grand Bois red runs, and play on the moguls next to the draglift. Les Houches popularity as a "beginner" area means that very few people venture off-piste here, making it excellent on a powder day - fresh tracks through the trees all day long.
Les Houches is particularly recommended on a bad weather day - it's low altitude means that it is never as cold or windy as some of the higher areas and the many tree-lined runs are the best place to be when visibility is poor.
Location: Chamonix - Les Houches