Home to the first ever Winter Olympics (1924), the charming French town of Chamonix sees tens of thousands of snow sports enthusiasts descend upon it every year. The great thing about Chamonix is that it is not a purpose built, characterless resort, like so many other skiing destinations. It is an authentic town with its own personality and its own history. The streets are lined with old buildings, the vibrant markets are crammed full of local delicacies, such as reblochon cheese, and in some places colourful frescos adorn the walls. Chamonix bars and Chamonix clubs are full of atmosphere and good cheer, and the town’s cosy restaurants offer a wonderful choice of cuisine. Combine all this with incredible surrounding slopes, and you’re left with a very attractive prospect for a winter getaway.
And then there’s Mont Blanc. Known to locals as ‘La Dame Blanche’, which translates into ‘The White Lady’, the highest mountain in the Alps soars to an incredible 4,260 metres. It is as synonymous with Chamonix as the Eiffel Tower is with Paris, and like the Eiffel Tower, simply cannot be ignored. While some people are happy to snap pictures of its snowy peaks from the safety of their hotel rooms, others simply cannot resist the challenge it presents, and follow in the footsteps of Jacques Balmat, who in 1786 became the person ever to scale the mountain.
People who take on the white temptress do not do so without serious caution. She rivals Mount Everest in the deadly stakes, claiming dozens of lives each year. If you feel up to the challenge, it is absolutely essential to be fully prepared and to have high levels of fitness – this is no walk in the park. If you’re not a highly experienced mountaineer, it would be sensible have some guidance on the climb.
Chamonix Guiding is an excellent, well established company that, among many other things, will help you realise the ultimate goal: summiting Mont Blanc. Run by Sébastien, a bi-lingual guide who has worked in the area for over 10 years, the company offers tailor-made experiences that are suited to customers’ individual needs. On top of that, your journey can be filmed, so you have absolute proof of what you did when those skeptical friends back home show raised eyebrows.
Another good company is Climb EX, run by Andy Perkins – a highly experienced mountain guide based in Chamonix.
However you decide to spend your time – climbing, skiing, sightseeing, partying… – in this incredible place, chances are you’ll be exhausted at the end of each day, so making sure you have a good hotel is crucial. Find accommodation in Chamonix here, and all other things Chamonix related.
Au revoir et bonne chance!