Chamonix, known as the gateway to the European cascades, is one of the oldest and most famous resorts in the French Alps. Home to the magnificent Mount Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, Chamonix is a popular starting point for mountaineers and hikers looking to scale its heights.
Chamonix is a bustling resort all year round with a myriad of outdoor pursuits spanning all of the seasons making it a popular location for those looking to buy a chalet or ski apartment. As a tourist and holidaymaker hot spot those renting out their property look to make a good return on their investment.
Chamonix is a French commune situated in the South East of the Haute Savoie region, sharing borders with both Switzerland and Italy, and was the first host of the Winter Olympics in 1924. It sits within Chamonix Valley which extends from Vallocrine in the north east of Chamonix to Servoz the west. It’s a fairly steep sided valley with the magnificent peaks of Aiguilles Rouge and Aiguille du Midi looming over the town as a constant reminder of their grandeur and further to the south Mont Blanc stands majestically. The town centre has everything you’d need for a relaxing holiday or permanent home in Chamonix. There are many restaurants serving a variety of dishes from around the world, newsagents, supermarkets, cafes, banks and even a Macdonalds. The shopping opportunities are good with a number of ski shops, clothes shops and boutiques. For those that enjoy a lively nightlife Chamonix won’t disappoint, there are several bars and lounges some of which organise live music and events throughout the year and the general atmosphere is fun and friendly.
Mont Blanc straddles the French-Italian border and the peak is considered, by the French at least, to reside within Chamonix’s borders, although the Italians argue that the border passes through the summit. But when you're there experiencing its magnificence the details fade into insignificance. For amazing views of the Mont Blanc Massif tourists flock up in the cable car leading up the Aiguille du Midi, standing at 3842m. Once at the peak visitors can experience 'Step into The Void' which is a glass enclosure strutting out of the side of the mountain. With nothing but a pane of glass between you and a 1035m drop and near panoramic views of the Mont Blanc Massif and Chamonix Valley it's an exhilarating experience. Prepare for queues but it well worth it for the experience.
Best known for its steep challenging runs and amazing off piste powder Chamonix is the place for extreme skiing and snowboarding. The area is famous for freeriding, the boundless unmarked, unmaintained terrain full of crevasses, icefalls and caves keeps powder lovers more than happy with its kilometre upon kilometre of uninterrupted powder. That is, if you get there early enough, many of the off piste areas are tracked out by lunchtime and so the most advanced skiers and boarders are advised to head to the high altitudes of the the Grand Montets and Aiguille du Midi to avoid the crowds.
Despite being huge for extreme skiing beginners and intermediates aren’t left out in the cold by any means. Chamonix is a great place to learn to ski or snowboard with several ski schools and green runs to start on. There’s also a great selection of meandering blue runs leading up to more challenging red runs and of course plenty of steep blacks so there’s something to keep people at every skill level satisfied.
Chamonix has several ski areas located close to the centre of the town, the closest of which is the Brevet-Flagere area which can be accessed via a ski lift near the centre of Chamonix. The other ski areas, Vallee Blanche, Les Houches, Le Tour and Le Grand Montets, are just a few minutes drive away and offer pistes to suit all ski and snowboard abilities.
Chamonix skiing summary
Chamonix is as busy in the summer months as it is in the winter, flocks of mountaineers, mountain bikers, paragliders and adrenaline enthusiasts alike are drawn by the challenging peaks and the glorious scenery. However it’s not all about the adrenaline fuelled adventure, Chamonix and its surrounding mountains are a beautiful place to visit for peaceful strolls along the mountain trails and rewarding hikes to the craggy peaks to admire the amazing panoramic views of the valley below. For those wanting to experience scaling sheer mountain sides and scrambling along steep cliff edges there’s Via Ferrata, a series of iron rails and cables which people can clip onto for safety while making their way along the trail. Being secured to a metal cable doesn’t make the thousand foot drop any less daunting though!
Chamonix Valley Region
The Chamonix Valley is a magnificent glacial valley stretching from the Swiss border at Vallorcine incorporating Argentiere, Les Praz, Chamonix, Les Houches and ending at Servoz. The valley is most famous as being home to the highest mountain in the Alps, Mont Blanc. For centuries this magnificent peak has drawn mountain enthusiasts from mountaineers, hikers and mountain bikers to paragliders, skiers and snowboarders.
Vallorcine is an untouched area of natural beauty rich in animal and plant life where you can catch a glimpse of deer, red squirrels and chamois in their natural alpine habitat. It’s the perfect place for relaxation and tranquility.
Argentiere is gateway to the Grant Montets ski area, the highest altitude in the Chamonix Valley. It’s a small village approximately 10 minutes drive from Chamonix, with traditionally styled alpine chalets dotted on its slopes and a gentle river flowing through it.
Les Praz de Chamonix is a small hamlet 5 minutes drive from the centre of Chamonix, or a half an hour stroll along woodland paths. From here you can access the La Flégère ski area via the cable car which takes you over Chamonix golf course.
Chamonix is a lovely mountain town which thrives on its close proximity to Mont Blanc. It’s a popular base camp for mountaineers, hikers and snow sports enthusiasts alike due to it’s abundance of amenities, lively atmosphere and short transfer times from Geneva airport.
Les Houches is a scattering of hamlets comprising beautiful alpine chalets and apartments amongst the thick forests and alpine meadows with amazing views of the Mont Blanc Massif and Aiguilles. Renowned as a family friendly resort it’s a fantastic place to introduce children to mountain sports with ski, mountain biking and climbing schools nearby.
Servoz is a quaint hamlet standing guard at the foot of the Fiz mountains guarding the entrance to the Chamonix Valley just North of Les Houches. It’s a traditional village maintaining its pastoral and architectural heritage making it a beautiful first stop on a tour of the valley.