Easter Sunday was sunny on the slopes and there was about 5 cms of frsh snow. Not exactly a powder day but pretty got for the penultimate day of the season here. It may snow again overnight. Today was better than the forecast so Easter Monday could see some sunsine in the morning and it might yet again be a magical day of powder snow to bring the season at Les Houches to a close. But perhaps this year the powder will only be a couple of centimetres deep! I am an optimist!
The earlier warm weather has meant that Brevant, Flegere, and Balme ski areas closed early. But Les Houches has remained surprisingly enjoyable even though there is only a skeleton lift system running and all runs are closed before reaching as far as Maison Neuve. So less than half of the resort is open, but come early and you will be able to enjoy the morning as you move from slope to slope to find the best conditions. The Prarion Hotel remains open though most other mountain restaraunts are now closed. But as it has a large comfortable terrace offering a magnificent view of Mont Blanc it is an excellent place to relax after skiing and before you ride down to the village in the Prarion lift. The Bellevue cable-car also offers an alternative ride down. The friendly and charming little cafe right by the top station is open.
Meanwhile, the Valley Blanche is in good conditions (but take a guide!) and Argentiere and Les Grands Montets have great skiing on and off piste if you wait for the snow to soften to perfection. The run to the village is still open but is only worth skiing in the morning. Ride the lift down to avoid evil slush in the afternoon. There should be good skiing here well into May.
The restaurant notes below are for future reference. For now most are closed for the season:
Remember that, there are 9 mountain restaurants on the slopes of Les Houches, three of which are arguably the very best in the whole Chamonix valley. So if your skiing involves eating this is a good place to be. I recommend particularly La Taniere, Les Vieille Luges, and Le Hors-Piste. The latter is expensive but wonderfully stylish. This is simply my own informed opinion. Try them all and arrive at your own conclusion!
The Kitch Inn at the bottom of the Bellevue cable car has recovered from a catastrophic fire at the end of last season and is a lively spot for apres-ski (and you can have a full English breakfast here before riding the lift right up to my 'secret' powder area).
Eric Jacquier's small patisserie just opposite the Prarion lift allows you to stand inside at small tables and enjoy truly superb coffee and a wonderful breakfast pastry before crossing the road to ride the gondolas. Delicious and good value for money too, and now you can even buy a beer!
In Summary: Les Houches is a small area and yet perfectly formed. The reason that so much race-training and instructor-assessment happens here is that this is where you can find the best piste-skiing in the Chamonix valley, and the extensive snow-making is particularly effective in an area that remains very deeply shaded until late February. Off-piste opportunities can also be excellent especially when poor visibility or huge crowds adversely affect the higher resorts in the valley. Nearby Domaine de Balme is probably the best for powder days if visibility is good, while Les Grands Montets gives access to maximum-adventure off-piste, but does tend to attract huge crowds after any dump of powder. The Argentiere lifts stay open well into May and are only a 20 minute drive from Les Houches. Bus and trains connect the areas too.