Not a great choice for beginners, Les Grand Montets really is a cult ski area, famous for its steep terrain, and gentle runs are very limited.
You can reach other areas nearby like the Balme slopes above Le Tour a few kilometres further on at the head of the valley, but then why base yourself in Argentière, unless perhaps you’re a novice accompanying an experienced skier who wants to be here.
If that’s the case you will find some nursery slopes in the Les Chosalets area right at the bottom of the slopes, served by two drag lifts and several highly competent ski schools more than happy to teach you. What you won’t find is much easy terrain to progress on to once you’ve learned to stay standing up, turn and stop. For much of that you’ll need to drive or take the bus to one of the other area.
As for beginners, despite the huge vertical, Argentière is not really ideal for intermediates either. This is rather ironic given the wonderful long descents possible, but the reality is that there’s only about 30km (less than 20 miles) of piste here and most of it is steep, so don’t have the endless piste motorways for which the big French ski areas are famous.
Of course the Chamonix Valley does have lots of great intermediate level skiing, over on the Balme massif above neighbouring le Tour at the head of the valley for example, or back towards Chamonix on Le Brevent and the linked La Flegere area, but then why base yourself in Argentière if you want to ski there? Although then again it’s probably as good as anywhere else in the Valley.
Argentière’s skiing is a paradise for advanced and expert level skiers within the wider paradise of the Chamonix Valley. Some other ski areas on the planet equal it, some of the time, but there’s none actually better.
On the piste there are plenty of wonderful steep long descents, the 5.2km long Pointe de Vue run a particularly good example, but most good skiers will want to head off-piste with a guide and tackle one of the many famous (and sometimes infamous) off piste trails.
Favourite areas include the wide Canadian Bowl area, which has a fairly constant thirty degree pitch and can be reached using the Bochard lift. This same lift can also take you to the Combe de la Pendant another huge bowl. There are many more routes, some linking to the Mer de Glace glacier of Vallee Blanche fame (see Resort Attractions section).
Apart from the exhilaration of the challenge, the views of glacial ice and splendid mountains are sensational at every turn.
Snowboard / Freestyle Skiing
As for skiers, Argentière’s main attraction is for experienced boarders in search of challenging freeride terrain off the groomed pistes. The vast snowy bowls are superb for this very pastime!
There is however normally a small terrain park here too for freestyle skiers and snowboarders and a half pipe is usually carved from the abundant snow too. The Chamonix Valley is, after all, one of the birthplaces of serious snowboarding in the Alps.
There are more than 30km of cross country tracks in the Chamonix Valley with about half of them ‘local’ to Argentière, the rest reached by either following the valley cross-country track towards Chamonix and then going on to Les Bois (via a link in the village of Le Lavancher), or getting transport and starting over there. In either case you’ll need to buy a low-priced pass to use the trails. The easiest track locally is the 1.5km (mile) long Les Grassonnets route.
The La Moraine route is a more challenging, intermediate rated 8.3km long track. Les Chosalets, 3.5km long, is the most challenging. Tracks are groomed regularly and suited to both the classic and skating styles of cross country skiing.
Average Snow and Weather Conditions
With mostly north-facing ski slopes rising to a year-round glacier snowfield at 3,300m up above the village, and a season that lasts for five months from early December to early May, Argentière’s slopes are among the most snow-sure anywhere, the upper runs at least.
Indeed the ski season only really ends in May because not enough people are around to justify running the lifts, the snow is usually still in good shape then.