The small village of Argentière has held on to its picturesque mountain feel with a large number of traditional wooden houses and ancient farmhouses against the spectacular backdrop of Aiguille du Midi and the 4810m-high Mont-Blanc. A free bus service links it to the substantial and world-famous mountain town of Chamonix further down the valley. The hotels, bars and restaurants, whilst not numerous, are unfussy and offer good value in comparison with those in Chamonix. The entire valley gets busier at weekends due to the ease of access in one hour from Geneva airport.
The lifts from the village access the Grands Montets area, north-facing, reliable, and often open into early summer. The top station is a vertiginous 3275m, with hundreds of fairly scary steps to negotiate before you get on snow. You’re way above the treeline, and the ungroomed black piste down runs past a dramatic glacier-scape – spectacular if you can manage it. There are reds and blues at mid-mountain, but this isn’t really the place for beginners. There’s plenty more terrain up and down the valley, accessible by free ski buses, but this isn’t a convenient bunch of resorts. Chamonix valley is all about the spectacular mountain experience – if it’s a mellow ski holiday you want, this isn’t the place.