A couple of weeks ago, Sharon + I drove to Chamonix to do a backcountry tour in one of the south-facing side-valleys by the Argentiere glacier. Other times we would park at the base of the Grands Montets around 8:00, buy a single-ride ticket, take the first lift (for “ski mountaineers") up to Lognan and the Grands Montets, ski down to the glacier and start our tour.
On that Friday it came out way different for us and for several other disappointed ski touring parties. Key problem was “reservations”.
We parked at 8:00, I took a few minutes to put my ski boots on, walked to the Caisse desk—and there was already a long line. Not just touring skiers, but snowboarders and pure downhill freeriders. Every transaction ahead of me took a long time - (I guess because there’s so many ticket options to explain). The sign above my place in line said “10 minutes” wait, but really it was like 25 minutes.
Of course after that there was already a long line for the lift up to Lognan. After enduring that we got to the real problem: the line for the upper lift to the Grands Montets. The new experience for me was that the long line I was in said “Standby”. There was this other line for people with “Reservations”. With each tram, sometimes the our Standby line made progress, other times very little—it all depended on how many people had Reservations to get on first ahead of us.
Finally we made up to the top around noon, skied down to the glacier, and started our tour—but by then the south-facing snow was getting heavy from sun, then the clouds came in. We talked to the guys who had broken trail ahead for us and thanked them. They said they had to cut their tour short because they had to start so late—sounded disappointed.
By the time Sharon and I made our descent, some of the lower south-facing fresh had formed a sun-crust (? from cooling when the clouds arrived ?), which was not fun to ski. Later I looked up and saw ski tourers still only half-way up climbing to the Col du Chardonnet at 15:30 in the afternoon (very late for trying to reach the Trient hut).
So what I want to know is:
Reservations—how can I avoid getting stuck in the Standby line next time?
Looking on the website, it wasn’t clear how to do this with a Single-ride ticket. Maybe the only way is to first purchase a more expensive ticket, then spend another 10 EUR for a Reservation?
Thanks for any clues about this.
P.S. A previous time I was visiting there, they shut down the upper lift for some electrical problem. So I decided to just skin up the piste from Lognan to the Argentiere glacier. Then saw a sign saying that climbing up the groomed ski trail during normal operating hours was illegal. The piste was not wide, and lots of skiers were coming down (from the chairlift) at speed. But since the upper telepherique was not “operating”, I declared it to be OK, and nobody stopped me, and I looked back and saw other ski tourers following.