Chamonix Vs. Whistler - Which is Better? Head to Head Combat
After 2 months of awesomeness in Chamonix, France, I can now safely pretend I'm a total expert on the place. Right? It's a pretty sweet place with lots going for it, even if people raise their eyebrow when I tell them I left the powdery mecca of Whistler, BC for the big lines of Chamonix, France. Which begs the question... which one is better? Chamonix or Whistler?
Both are the ski mecca's of their continent, where the 'who's who' of the ski industry gather in hordes to get rad or atleast talk about being rad at the bar. Places where you don't stand a chance of getting a first descent, where the number of skier visits absolutely dwarfs the local population. Yep, the meccas. But again, which is better?
All bias aside, here's a highly scientific 10 point comparison of each resort's merits. Let's see how it stacks up...
Chamonix Vs. Whistler - The Points Breakdown
#10 Weather Reporting
Because of Chamonix's big mountain weather, they draw pretty little pictures of what the weather will be like on each side of the valley. However, it's irrelevant, because they don't update the forecast, snow report, or lift status until after they open and people are skiing out your pow.
In Whistler, they practically carry you out of bed and drive you to the lift when there's more than 20cm. WHISTLER 1 - CHAMONIX 0
Whistler has the best freeskiing terrain and variety in North America. Yep, just claimed that. So it should get the point right? Oh wait, Chamonix has steep, mind-blowing 9,000 vertical foot lines right off the tram, and 6 resorts in the valley. WHISTLER 1 - CHAMONIX 1
Both Whistler and Chamonix were hyping up their epic snowfalls this year. Chamonix locals had never seen it that good. But it only lasted 2 months, and when we arrived in Chamonix, it hadn't snowed in 7 weeks. Hell the weather was better than Whistler in July.
Meanwhile, it proceeded to dump 4+ meters in Whister. WHISTLER 2 - CHAMONIX 1
#7 Wining and Dining
In Chamonix, the only affordable sustenance is bread, cheese, chocolate, more cheese, and wine. End of story. WHISTLER 2 - CHAMONIX 2
In Chamonix they cram you into trams like sardines, make you wait 1 hour for the next tram, and then you get to sprint towards the pow with the other 60 people on your tram. In Whistler you get to ride open air high-speed quads, scope your lines, and race only a handful of people for the pow. Guess that's makes it WHISTLER 3 - CHAMONIX 2
Whistler Blackcomb talked up the Peak to Peak Gondola like it was the most amazing feet of engineering since the cavemen invented the wheel. Which is funny, because it looks just like every 2nd lift in Chamonix, except in Chamonix they've been steadily adding lifts like this since before WWII! Oh, and did we mention Chamonix's Aiguille du Midi, the world's highest tram, takes skiers up 9,000 frickin feet in 20 minutes, to a network of tunnels, bridges and restaurants etched into a rock spire. Safe to say, WHISTLER 3 - CHAMONIX 3
One of these resorts is in Europe, the other isn't. That pretty much sums it up. Months of warm sunny patio sessions after a big day in the mountains. Where ice axes and beers meat at last. Heck ya. Chamonix takes the lead. (They could use some help with beer though.) WHISTLER 3 - CHAMONIX 4
Ah, consistency. Reliability. Fun factor. The trump card that North American PNW resorts can always pull out off their pants in a resort-vs-resort showdown.
Unless there's enough base to ski the lower mountain trees in Chamonix, there's no point in skiing on a storm day. Grand Montents is like the world's biggest bathtub full of milk on a storm day, and yes that describes the terrain too.
Meanwhile, no matter what mother nature throws at you in Whistler, there's no real excuse to take the day of skiing. Tree skiing in a storm, park skiing in the slush, slackcountry if snow is getting scarce, you name it. There's rarely a true down day in Whistler if you're creative. WHISTLER 4 - CHAMONIX 4
#3 Customer Service
In Chamonix, they forget to tell you that the gondola and train (your only realistic and safe way home in the spring) is closed for the week. No biggie right?
In Whistler, they smile and give you free hot chocolate if you blink.
In Chamonix, if you fall off the chairlift, they laugh at you or ignore you. Hmmm, that's almost a win.
In Whistler they soften the chairlift's impact as it approaches you.
In Chamonix, they accelerate it and shout 'Stupid Suédois', even if you don't look remotely Swedish.
Its a close race, but we're giving this one to Whistler, even if the French way is better to teach gorbies a lesson. WHISTLER 5 - CHAMONIX 4
#2 Gnar Factor
In North America, you need to call your mom or take a piss in the middle of your line to make it gnarly. In Chamonix, the lifts take you to the most dangerous place you've ever been in your life, and the tram operator wishes you "Bon Ski" as he ditches you atop the peak and heads down for more victims. Ironically, they INSIST you put the bar down on the chairlifts?!? Still, one up for Cham. WHISTLER 5 - CHAMONIX 5
#1 Gaper Factor
Whistler has arguably the oldest official Gaper Day in North America, inspiring legions of gapers far and wide. Big crowds, tight pants, stupid one-pieces, and monoskis. BUT, Chamonix IS Gaper Day. Tight pants and one-pieces are still cool, cause the old guys wearing them still ski better than you. Hell, even a local monoskier has skied one of the most extreme lines in the valley. Not to mention... split monoskis! WHISTLER 5 - CHAMONIX 6
Do the math. 5 points for Whistler, 6 points for Chamonix! Whew, that was a close one, neck and neck, but the damn split monoski just clinched the win for Chamonix.
This might be a bit biased after all, as I'm sitting here in Chamonix with beer in hand and views of the Aiguille du Midi towering above. Plus, I wouldn't want some hardcore local to sluff me out if I give Whistler I higher score!
What do you think? Does the math tell the truth? Can you even quantify the awesomeness of these 2 places? The debate may not be over yet.
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