Chamonix

The church of Chamonix

Chamonix (officially Chamonix-Mont-Blanc) is a famous resort in the Haute-Savoie. Located at the foot of Mont Blanc, it is regarded as the birthplace and one of the capitals of mountaineering. It is also credited with hosting the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924.

Understand

In 1760 the Genevan physicist Horace Bénédict de Saussure established a prize for the first person to climb the Mont Blanc. After several failed attempts, on August 8th 1786 the 20 years old mineral prospector Jean-Jacques Balmat and the Chamonix physician Dr. Michel-Gabriel Paccard reached the peak. This is regarded as the birth moment of alpinism. In the following years also the other peaks in the region were conquered. Today many different yearly mountaineering events take place in and around Chamonix.

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 2.6 4.8 9.0 12.7 17.6 21.2 23.9 23.1 19.1 14.7 7.4 2.6
Nightly lows (°C) -7.2 -6.4 -3.0 0.4 4.8 7.5 9.1 8.6 6.0 2.5 -2.1 -5.7
Precipitation (mm) 93.8 85.7 85.7 89.5 120.5 130.4 115.5 125.0 102.3 116.8 100.6 109.1

Source:w:Chamonix#Climate

Chamonix also has a history as a center of winter sports, alpine skiing in particular. The first Winter Olympics were arranged here, and if you're here for winter sports, there are five resorts to choose among in the Chamonix valley.

Tourist office

Get in

Chamonix is connected to the valley by a highway and a small railway line. It is also connected to Courmayeur in Italy by road via the tunnel under the Mont-Blanc, and Martigny in Switzerland by road and rail.

By car

Coming from west (Geneva, Paris, Lyon) you can reach Chamonix by freeway A40. From central Switzerland, the freeway takes you to Martigny from where you'll take the smaller road across the mountain pass Col des Montets and the border into France. From Italy, take the Mont Blanc tunnel, whose French end is in Chamonix.

By train

The rail line between St Gervais and Le Fayet/Vallorcine Martigny in Switzerland pass through Chamonix. This is a line that runs around the year and also stops in places like les Houches, les Bossons, les Praz de Chamonix and Argentière.

In the winter there are TGV lines that go directly to St. Gervais-les-Bains (Le Fayet), where you can switch to a small local train to ride up into Chamonix. There is also a TGV that leaves directly from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Lyon, and you can transfer to St. Gervais-les-Bains (Le Fayet) from there. Via St. Gervais, sleeper trains to Paris are also easily accessible.

By bus

Chamonix is on the Eurolines European long distance bus network. It is on the Amsterdam to Milan route. Stops include Antwerp, Brussels, Paris and Geneva. SAT also operates buses to nearby towns in Haute Savoie and Geneva, Switzerland. From Geneva bus terminal, there are three daily buses to Chamonix, operated by Helvecie with one way tickets costing CHF34 or €25. SAVDA operates buses to Courmayeur in Italy. The stop for these bus services is outside the main railway station.

By plane

Haute-Savoie Mont Blanc Airport is located around 90km and can be reached from Paris-Orly Airport by Air France. In practice, Geneva is the most convenient and accessible airport for tourists travelling to Chamonix. If you plan to fly to Geneva and hire a car, the route to Chamonix is relatively straightforward, covering a distance of 88 km. Chamonix is located 80 km southeast of Geneva, Switzerland, and driving time is about one hour via the Autoroute Blanche (A40) motorway. Chamonix is 226 km from Lyon and 612 km from Paris.

By helicopter

Heli Securité. Luxury helicopters can also be chartered to transfer you and your friends and family from any resort in the French Alps. Pilots will pick guests up in VIP style and convey them to their luxury chalet in Chamonix, Megeve, Meribel, Val D’Isere, Tignes, Morzine or Courchevel, from the airport in time to catch their flights. Heli Securité can also arrange for inter resort transfers, so if guests are based in Chamonix but would like to try the slopes in Meribel Heli Securité can arrange a luxury helicopter charter to suit.

Get around

The Chamonix valley can be considered everything between Servoz and the Swiss border, or the towns of: Servoz, Les Houches, Chamonix, Les Praz, Argentiere, and Vallorcine. Visitors paying the tourist tax to the commune (this generally includes people on campsites and staying in hostels) get a Carte d'Hote which allows free travel on trains and buses between Servoz and Vallorcine. In winter holders of lift passes can also travel for free on the buses.

In the winter season there is a bus network operating in the valley.

See

Let's climb Mont Blanc!

Do

Cable cars

The cable car to Aiguille du Midi
The upper cable car station (and Chamonix) from the top of Aiguille du Midi
France to Italy
The Mer de Glace glacier can be reached by rack railway

In general, the climate at the upper cable car stations is different from the valley. Powerful winds, rapidly changing weather, fog and sudden thunderstorms or snowstorms are possible around the year and even in the summer the temperatures are remarkably lower than in the valley. A windproof jacket or anorak and a pullover should be brought by everyone who wants to spend time outside the cable car station, also in the summer. These can also lead to temporary shutdowns, or simply zero visibility at the top. In the latter case you can take the ride if you wish but once at the top you are not going to see anything but the station itself and a lot of fog. They will let you know about it at the ticket counter so you won't waste your money but it's still not fun to hear if you've come on a daytrip from Geneva.

The cable cars are quite popular in the tourist seasons, so reserving your places beforehand can be a smart idea.

Snowsports

The town is a world renowned center for winter sports, and there is a wide array of skiing areas to choose among. As most of the pistes are located at over 2000 m over the sea level, snow is practically guaranteed every skiing season.

Three skiing sites can be accessed directly from Chamonix; the White Valley, Brevent and Flegere. The two latter are the easiest skiing areas to get to and on those two you will also be skiing on the sunny (southern) side of the mountain. There are no pistes connecting the different skiing areas, but the cable car stations in the valley are connected to each other by bus.

The "Mont Blanc" ski pass is valid for a total of 700 km of pistes, including the neighboring valleys as well as Courmayeur in Italy.

The White Valley offers extreme skiing

Mountaineering

Hiking

Bionassay Glacier

The hiking paths offer splendid views of the highest massif in Europe. Tour du Mont Blanc is a classic hiking trail that takes about ten days to walk. For shorter visits, take the telepherique to the top of a nearby peak and hike down. Or try hikes between two telepheriques, for example between the Brevent and la Flegere or between the Mer de Glace and the Plan de l'Aiguille

There is a fantastic view on both the Mont-Blanc/Aiguilles de Chamonix range, and the ribbon of the Fiz limestone range. Take the Brevent telepherique, then walk down the crest to the Bel-Lachat mountain hut, then walk down to the Rocher des Gaillands or (if slightly more courageous) to the Aiguillette des Houches and down, or walk up the steep lane from the Gaillands to Plan-Lachat, then Bel-Lachat, then on, up along the crest to the Brevent (about six hours and rather hot in summer: start early, but it is really worth the effort).

Several great glacier hikes exist. Even if you can't get right up to the glaciers and touch them, you can still get close enough to get some amazing views.

The first three could feasibly be done in one day if you are up early and have a car, but Bionnassay will require a half-day.

Events

Other

Buy

Rue du Docteur Paccard

The town itself has a lovely collection of sporting, alpine and local shops. (including some fleece shirts for as little as €8, that's 2 for 16!). The best place for shopping is the main street,   Rue du Docteur Paccard.

Learn

Eat

It's France. The food is all good, though it can be quite expensive in the touristy places. Open a can of Ravioli from the supermarket and eat it with your freshly purchased Swiss Army Knife. If you've been hiking all day, it'll be the best meal you've ever had.

Other regional specialties (Quand meme!)

Snacks

Restaurants

For trendy, 'nouveau French', try these restaurants:

Drink

Night in Chamonix, probably around Christmas

Drinking in Chamonix is relatively expensive. Expect to pay around €5 in most places for a pint of beer, though most places will sell pitchers which can work out cheaper. There are many happy hours during the late afternoon. The Microbrasserie de Chamonix (MBC) has different kinds of microbrews, in an American/Canadian ambiance (serves onion rings and hot wings, for example). Otherwise, most places serve standard pilsners, such as Heineken or 1664. Just ask for 'un demi pression' for tap beer, or a 'demi panache' for a mix of half beer, half Sprite, a refreshing alternative with less alcohol. A pint is called a "serieux" or for better value, order a "pitcher". Although most people working in the tourism/hospitality industry will speak some English, making the effort to speak a little French is always appreciated. So throw in a little bonjour (hello) or merci (thank you) when you can.

Sleep

Chamonix and its surroundings are stuffed with hotels, lodges and campings, ranging from basic and cheap to very luxe and expensive. However, if you are looking for affordable accommodation (defined as under €100) in the summer and winter high seasons, you should book it beforehand.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

This high up there are stunning views but also dangers not present in the valley

Climbing the Mont Blanc is popular among alpinists. The climb should however not be attempted by people lacking mountain climbing experience and equipment, even using the easiest route (voie royale).

More generally, all high mountain hiking, climbing, and skiing, is potentially dangerous. Bad weather may turn an otherwise easy hike into a strenuous and possibly fatal journey ; weather in the mountains can change at short notice and you should always inquire about the latest forecast. Always carry a cell phone, should you need to call for rescue, though there is no guarantee it will work everywhere. Keep it turned off unless needed, so as not to drain its batteries needlessly. Remember that the weather on the summit often is different than in the valley a few kilometers down. In the case of sunshine sunburn is a real risk as the UV-radiation gets intenser the higher up you get and is reflected from snow and ice.

After snowfalls, in some areas, avalanches can be expected — either natural or triggered in order to prevent further avalanching. Always inquire about avalanche hazards before embarking in hikes in the snow or off-track skiing. Even if you do not fear for yourself, please show consideration for the people who may be underneath you.

Altitude sickness may also be an issue. Using aerial lifts, one may get very fast to high altitude areas. For instance, when going up the Aiguille du Midi, you get lifted from around 1000m altitude (Chamonix) to 3840m in a very short time. You may experience shortness of breath and other symptoms.

Stay healthy

Pharmacies

Hospital

Connect

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, February 24, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.