Argentiere , France
Argentiere ski resort is a village which is nestled at the foot of the mighty Grand Montets Mountain range within the Chamonix Valley. This small traditional mountain village remains very 'French' in flavour and offers much in the way of alpine atmosphere and charm. The small high street is flanked on either side by small family run hotels, shops, bars and restaurants. However, the general standard of accommodation has improved in recent years as new luxury chalets in Argentiere are being built, many of which are in close proximity to either the resort centre or main lift station.
The restaurants and bars tend to have an informal atmosphere and are less expensive than Chamonix itself - perfect for keen skiers who are less fussed with their surroundings and more focused on the mountain and the ski terrain.
The old village of Argentiere has stunning views of the Glacier d'Argentiere and also commands great vistas down the valley towards the Aiguille du Midi and the majestic Mont Blanc Mountain. The ski area on Les Grand Montets is justifiably renowned for its extensive steep terrain, and this particular area is best suited to intermediates and expert skiers and snowboarders.
Much of the Grand Montets can only be fully explored and appreciated with the help of a local mountain guide – something we would always recommend. The cable car takes you up to 3,300m altitude giving access to numerous black, red and off piste runs. Beginners and early intermediates can hop on the local bus which takes them to the ski area of Le Tour which is a mere 5 minute bus ride further up the valley. Here there is an excellent nursery area for complete beginners, and intermediates have plenty of ski terrain to explore.
As the Chamonix Valley is made up of fragmented ski areas, serious skiers would do well to consider staying in Argentiere for their ski holiday rather than any of the other residential areas which make up the Chamonix Valley.
Argentiere especially comes into its own later in the season as the North facing slopes above the village hold their snow really well, even into the month of May. We love Argentiere for its sleepy, traditional charm – it feels like a proper mountain village rather than a touristy ski resort.
Pros & Cons
- Lots of tough terrain especially off piste
- A wide variety of ski resorts are covered on Mont Blanc lift pass
- Weekend ski holidays due to its close proximity to Geneva
- Incredible views of peaks and glaciers
- Excellent snow record early and late season
- Several separate mountains so mixed groups are likely to split up
- A less than perfect bus service between the different mountains. Hire a car
- Bad weather can shut the best runs
- Large lift queues especially at peak times and weekends
Argentiere, despite being a lot more laid back than its famous neighbour Chamonix, still boasts a nice quantity of high quality restaurants. Le Rusticana, which is very centrally located, is a great spot to meet up for an apres-ski snack or a delicious fresh meal. The venue turns into a bit of a party bar later on but early evening it's a great place to meet your friends and family straight of the slopes. If it's more of a regional dish you are after then head to Le Carnotzet which specializes in local cheese dishes. Originally a wine cellar this rustic restaurant still has a very traditional French feel about it and offers some seriously yummy raclettes, fondues and much much more! If you need a change from all the local delights the infamous Office bar which describes itself as a "part pub, part restaurant" does a great burger and a very reasonably priced steak and chips.
Due to the extensive area covered by your lift pass in Argentiere there are plenty of mountain restaurants to choose from for your lunch. There is a wide range of variety to suit your taste and budget, from cosy chalet style restaurants serving gourmet cuisine to big self service sun decks where you can grab a quick bite. The Marmottens bar is extremely popular. More like a bustling canteen than an intimate restaurant, but still a great place to have a decent re-fuel. Serving the usual mountain fayre of omelettes, chips, burgers and the odd croute or gratin, it's the perfect place to catch some rays in a deck chair facing Mont Blanc. For something the other end of the scale and a little bit special head to the Cremerie du Glacier, located at the foot of the Argentiere glacier. This little gem is notoriously hard to find (ask your chalet hosts for best route) but worth the hunt once you get there. The place has been family run since 1926 and serves the most exquisite homemade Savoyard menu including fabulous fondues and charcuterie dishes.
Despite being a relatively small village, Argentiere has a reasonable amount of choice of where to head for apres ski. This resort has over 20 bars and 3 nightclubs, however the apres is probably described as low-key compared to the scene in bigger resorts. The office bar is a popular hangout for Brits and has great live music. The stone bar is also favoured amongst tourists and locals alike and a good place for a game of pool or darts. For those seeking more from their apres ski, I would suggest heading straight off the slopes to Chamonix (only 8km away) and then get a local bus or taxi back to your chalet later on. Being a much bigger resort the apres ski in Chamonix is noticeably more prominent and lively.
The Office bar is popular with the Brits and Scandinavians and they have regular live bands. Other places to head for are the Savoy bar which sometimes gets rather lively and the Rencard bar which plays reggae music and serves good beers and snacks.
- Cable Car
- Chair lift
- Drag lift