The Vallée Blanche : A skier’s paradise

25 June, 2020 | Reccy Guide

The Chamonix Valley is known to be a heaven for thrill-seekers, offering spectacular runs with breathtaking views. But mention the Vallée Blanche to any seasoned skier or snowboarder and the adrenaline will start rushing to their head more than for any other regular descent. Offering unbeatable views over the neighboring mountain ranges, the run is arguably one of the most famous glacial off-piste runs in Europe and is a must for anyone ready to take on the challenge. Will it be you?

Explore trip itineraries, accommodation, transport, required gear, fitness plan, insurance and more

Downhill skiing in the Vallée Blanche

Skiing down the Vallée Blanche has been coined by many as the best skiing experience in the Alps – so what exactly is the hype all about? Over 20 km long and with a vertical drop of more than 2800 meters, the Valley offers downhill skiing conditions second to none. Starting from the Aiguille du Midi, at 3,842m high, and running back all the way down to Chamonix, the 6 hour descent will take you through every type of skiing you can think of – ice, powder, steeps and couloir. What makes the descent so unique, however, is that it runs almost entirely on glaciers – the Géant, the Tacul and the Mer de Glace. This will give you a sensation of wilderness, enhanced by the unforgettable landscapes of the snow-capped peaks of the Mont Blanc Valley.

The Vallée Blanche

The Vallée Blanche: Getting ready for one of the best off-piste descents in the Alps

The routes

Several routes down the Vallée Blanche exist, presenting various levels of difficulty. There are at least 7 routes available, but below are the most popular ones.

  • The original, ‘classic’ route.  Because it avoids all steep parts of the glacier, this is the easiest one of all routes. Yet it offers breathtaking views over the Matterhorn in Switzerland, Monta Rosa in Italy, and much more, making it a favorite amongst first timers on the Vallée Blanche.
  • The Grosse Rognon.  This is a great option if you want to improve your deep snow skills; and it runs parallel to the classic route, so you will be able to rejoin it anytime if you feel like you have had enough.
  • The Envers du Plan.  This route goes through wilder parts of the glaciers, and you will need to navigate between crevasses quite skillfully. Because of this, it is most suited for skiers with extensive experience in backcountry skiing. This is also the route you will take if you are descending with a snowboard – more on that later.
  • The Grand Envers.  This is arguably the most difficult route to descend the Vallée Blanche, as it will take you through slopes of 40 to 45 degrees steepness. Only take this route if you have top riding skills and confidence in your ability to navigate hazards.

No matter which route you take, it is important to remember that unpredictable weather conditions alter these routes quite often. This is one of the reasons why hiring a certified mountain guide is a necessity, as he will be able to guide you through safer routes in case of major risk.

A skier descending the Vallée Blanche

A skier descending the Vallée Blanche

When should you go?

The best time to go is between December and April, each month offering different conditions. In January and February, the snow conditions will be ideal, and you will most likely be able to ski all the way down to Chamonix. Later, descending all the way to Chamonix is not assured but the weather will be more reliable and that alone will make your descent more pleasant.

The Vallée Blanche: is it for you?

Downhill skiing in the Vallée Blanche is a challenge, and only experienced skiers/snowboarders should attempt it. For skiers, you do not need to be an expert but should feel comfortable going down a red slope and master techniques such as turning parallel, controlling the snowplow and skidding at an angle. In short, the Vallée Blanche is a challenging but accessible activity for intermediate+ skiers. Snowboarders will have to avoid the flat sections and will, therefore, have to take a more direct route – most likely the Petit Envers du Plan route. This path is more difficult, so snowboarders attempting the Vallée Blanche should feel comfortable on an off-piste black. For anyone, skier or snowboarder, good physical shape is a must as you will be riding the whole day. 

No matter what your level is, hire a certified mountain guide. This is essential to ensure your safety, as this is an off-piste run and a local guide will be aware of the hazards on the path such as crevasses or avalanche risks. As mentioned earlier, he will also be able to help you choose the most suitable route for your level. 

You are a confident skier or snowboarder, and want to experience this worldwide glacier run? Book your trip to the Vallée Blanche now and get ready for one of the best descents of your life.

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