Tips for visiting Chamonix:
- Multiple companies offer same day return bus rides to Chamonix from Geneva bus station. I would recommend using the one that leaves the earliest that morning (before 8am). I would NOT recommend Swiss tours based on the false information (dep/return times) we got prior to purchasing the tickets, the rude staff and their delayed departures.
- Bring your passport because you will cross the Swiss/French border and there’s a chance they could ask you for it.
- If your hotel offers day tickets, I would strongly recommend getting them there even if it’s a little bit pricier. That way you can skip the ticket line in Chamonix and head straight to the gondola and slopes.
- Do your research: figure out where you wanna snowboard/ski before you get there and see how you’ll get there.
- There is a free shuttle bus that goes around the town. Don’t buy tickets for it!
- Packing tip: leave Geneva with just your equipment and a small backpack. There are no lockers or cabin where you can store your stuff.
- Go with a friend. I think part of the reason this day was so draining is that I was alone throughout the whole adventure.
- Next time I go, I’ll do an overnight in Chamonix so I have time to explore the cute little town. I only ran through it twice and wish I’d had more time to check it out.
Impressions of Chamonix:
This trip was quite eventful, and I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about it. The day started later than expected (almost 2 hours by the time I got into the first gondola!) due to some bad planning and communication from Swiss Tours. The staff was also quite rude. We departed the bus station in Geneva 40 mins later than planned and dropped off some people along the way. It obviously didn’t help that I got lost in Chamonix trying to find the ski shop where I needed to drop off my boots and bag.
It also didn’t help that I hadn’t done research prior to getting to Chamonix on how to get to the side of the mountain I wanted to snowboard on. From my discussion with the concierge clerk, it was a « very simple » place to figure out: it was confusing to say the least. Luckily the staff at the ski shop was very friendly and told me about the free bus that would bring me to the best part with the most slopes: Brévent. So I jumped in the bus, very excited to finally start by snowboarding adventure bright and early… at 11 am.
Major disappointment when I get to the ticket kiosk and see the very long line. 35 minutes later, I finally purchased my day ticket. To my astonishment, it was only 55 euros for the day, which equates to grossly 59 dollars! How cheap!!!
I make it to the first gondola that will bring me to the top of the mountain… that will start my day of waiting countless minutes and possibly hours for slow moving chairlift, cable cars and gondola lines. The mountain was PACKED with people! One thought I remember having that day was about snowboarding/skiing etiquette: my father always taught us not to get onto someones equipment while you wait in line because obviously it can damage the top and sides. I was appalled by the countless times an adult was on top of my snowboard or sliding on and off of them! I was also surprised at how disorganized the lanes were: most mountains I’ve been too have a lane for singles, and clearly marked lanes for groups of people to form before they get to the chair and figure out how many fit on one. Not here. Everyone was pushing, shoving… it wasn’t relaxing.
It also didn’t help that the snow conditions weren’t great. It started off okay, but as the day progressed and thousands of people went on those slopes and the sun hid behind the Alps, the surface turned icy, packed, irregular and hard. I fell once, because I was unable to stop, and boy did that resonate all through my body.
I will say the quality of the food served at the Flégère restaurant, at the top of the mountain (but bottom of the slopes), was amazing. I got a simple ham and cheese sandwich and it came on this delicious baguette. Everything about it was tasty!
And then… I lost my ticket. I’d had to take it out of my pocket every time I got to the sensor because it wasn’t able to read it for whatever reason and they don’t have a hole & tie wrap option. So I got to the chairlift and it was gone… so for the remaining 2 hours I had to explain to the staff, every time I got to the scanning station, what happened. Very annoying, as you can imagine. My other option was to take 3 chairlifts back and a gondola ride to the bottom to get another ticket… which probably would have taken me an hour!
The one thing that made this whole fiasco (and I’m not done yet) worth it was THE VIEW. It was incredible. Pictures don’t pay justice to the landscape. It was like snowboarding on top of a vanilla frosted tier cake, over looking other cakes. Every time I sat in the chairlift/gondola/cable car, I tried to soak it all in as much as possible. I forced myself to stop on the slopes and look up and around.
Around 4pm I called it and started making my way back down the mountain. I waited for the free bus to bring me back to Chamonix bus station for about 20 minutes and when it didn’t come, I ran. Snowboard in hand, snowboarding boots on, helmet, coat and snowpants, I sprinted through the town to make it to the ski shop to pick up my boots and bag and then to make it to the bus station in time for my ride back to Geneva.
And of course, that bus was late too, thankfully in this case because it gave me time to pack my board and helmet and take off a few layers.
By 7h30 pm I was back at my hotel, emotionally and physically drained still deciding if it was worth it. I feel like it was just one of those days when no matter how hard you try to stay positive, you can’t win because stuff keeps happening. I kept reminding myself of how lucky I was to have been able to come for a day trip to France and and snowboard in Chamonix. Would I do it again for just one day? I don’t think so. Was I happy I went, yes.