The main mountain access from Les Houches is by an old cable-car from the village centre (which boasts some pretty serious queues on high-season mornings), or by a modern eight-person gondola at the end of the village. Don’t be surprised to see a railway carriage slowly crossing the pistes near the cable-car top station. The rack-and-pinion Mont Blanc Tramway, which comes up from St-Gervais, opened in 1904 and is still going strong.
The pistes offer a wide variety of skiing for all levels with some excellent trails winding through the woods, whilst the beginners’ area at the top of the gondola is served by a short chair-lift.
Tied to racing, past and present
And of course, there is the Kandahar. The famous run on the Verte des Houches, which played host to several events at the 2010 Alpine Junior World Championships, is steeped in ski racing history. It was here that the French leg of Sir Arnold Lunn’s Kandahar Downhill Championships first took place in 1948, long before the existence of the FIS World Cup. It remains one of the most challenging descents on the modern men’s World Cup tour, and is open to the public during the winter season. Non-experts needn’t fret – taken at a slower speed the Kandahar is easily manageable for the intermediate, whilst its long, open sections make it one of the classic runs in the Alps.
The skiing here is ideal for families and the tree-lined slopes especially protective on bad weather days. Don’t forget: Les Houches is just one small part of the Mont Blanc Unlimited ski area. Chamonix and some of the most dramatic ski terrain in the Alps lies just a five-minute drive away. It would be a shame for advanced skiers to make the trip and not sample some of the excellent terrain on offer there.
“I stayed in Les H for week at end of March one year, but never skied the Les H slopes, mainly due to poor snow cover. I used the excellent local bus service to ski the other resorts along the valley – such as Le Tour and Les Praz,” said a reporter.
A high standard park for freestylers and snowboarders
Let’s cut to the chase: of Les Houches’ 18 lifts, eight are drags. A couple in particular are really long, so if you’re not a fan then Les Houches is not for you. That said, there is a lot to be said of the lift-accessible off-piste in the area, which boasts a handful of excellent hidden spots between the trees (if you can find them!). And when that gets boring, remember that you’re in heart of the Mont Blanc Valley – the global capital of freeriding.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to dial your spins then Les Houches is just the ticket. There’s a snowpark, funded by streetwear and shoe manufacturer DC, which is built – for a relatively small ski hill – to a high standard. The park includes several kicker lines of varying difficulty, fun boxes, and rails, offering something for intermediate and pros alike.