As regular readers will know I have been working in the Chamonix valley for the summer and autumn. Although not ideal for beginners this really is a fantastic place for skiers and moutaineers (and snowboarders, rock climbers, mountain bikers etc.) looking for the steep and the big. This valley really is on a different scale to any other European ski resorts I have visited, and I've been to a lot of them over the years.
For anyone interested in visiting the valley this winter, the Ice-Break Chalet just up the road from me deserves a mention. My friend and occasional climbing partner Martin is running the business with his fiance Abi his winter. Unlike a conventional chalet they are offering holidays for anything from a week to a whole season (5 months) with all the traditional home comforts of an up-market chalet - half board with wine, sauna, DVD and internet, log fire and so on, plus ski workshop and free transport to the slopes and around the valley. It sounds to me like an incredibly luxurious way of spending a ski season - I remember sleeping in a hole under the basement stairs of a chalet in Meribel for a season, while friends crammed into a shoebox in Val D'Isere which barely had room for a set of bunkbeds and a cooker. When you factor in the amount spent on food and drink in a typical season in the Alps, living in comfort in a catered chalet might not be all that expensive.
The other big bonus of this setup is always having somebody to hit the slopes with who knows their way around the valley. Martin is a BASI qualified snowboard instructor and is training to be a UIAGM mountain guide with ENSA (the French national school for skiing and alpinism) so he is a good guy to be on the hill with.
Anyway, if you're interested check them out at http://www.ice-break.co.uk. They also have a blog of life in the valley on the site which is worth a look for snow updates and photos.
As we are into November, watch out for some more ski oriented posts from now on. My season starts in 10 days when I head over to Tignes for skiing on the glacier, so the countdown is on.