Spotlight On Chamonix

21/11/21

In the shadow of Mont-Blanc's snow-capped peak is our home town of Chamonix, an alpine village brimming with restaurants, cafés, shops, stylish hotels, and old-fashioned auberges, where many can be found sipping Altitude & Tonics!
Chamonix is steeped in history, with year-round activities both in the valley and high in the alpine, as well as some fantastic places to stay and eat. Whether you’re a hardcore gravity-focused adrenaline junkie or someone who prefers to keep their feet firmly planted on terra firma, there’s something here for you to love. It was first made famous in 1786, when Jacques Balmat, a local crystal hunter, teamed up with Dr. Paccard, a Chamonix doctor and made the first ascent of Mont Blanc - followed closely by telescope from Chamonix! Paccard was keen to take a barometer to the summit - a dream of science, whereas Balmat’s was a dream of riches. On the 8th of August 1786 they reached the top, and Alpinism was born!
Chamonix has been a popular ski resort ever since the Winter Olympics of 1924 were held here and is now a mecca for adventure sports. 
Besides skiing, Chamonix is one of the best places to visit in France for hiking, rock climbing, mountain-biking, paragliding, golf, and tennis. You can even learn to climb like a true alpinist. It’s no wonder Chamonix is the European capital of adventure! With vast, jagged mountains towering over the town, the scenery here is arguably the most spectacular in the French Alps. It's also worth the journey just to breathe in the fresh alpine air!
A truly stunning alpine landscape, the surroundings of Chamonix boast glorious terrain in both winter and summer. From mountain forests to alpine meadows, scree fields and glaciated zones, the Mont Blanc ecosystem is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species which are uniquely adapted to their harsh environment and evolved to survive at high elevations and in extreme climates. Altitude Gin partners with Chamonix based environmental business CREA Mont-Blanc to help to improve the understanding of how these species function and respond to global change. Following in the footsteps of the early pioneers of scientific exploration in the Mont Blanc massif, we consider both science and the mountains as part of a grand adventure allowing us to better understand the world around us.” - Anne Delestrade, Founder and Director of CREA Mont-Blanc. Together we're making a difference. 

Here's some of our top attractions...

Aiguille du Midi 
The Aiguille du Midi is a 3842m peak in the Mont Blanc massif of the French Alps. This is the closest you can get to the summit of Mont-Blanc without hiking or climbing. The Aiguille du Midi viewpoint, which affords 360° panoramas of the Alps, is reached by taking the Téléphérique de l'Aiguille du Midi, the highest cable car in France, from the Chamonix town centre. This scenic gondola ride takes 20 minutes. The sweeping vistas extend to the mountain peaks of Switzerland and Italy and there is a direct outlook onto Mont Blanc! If you have time, take a break at the beautiful mountain refuge Refuge du Plan de l'Aiguille, at an altitude of 2207m - just a 15 minute easy hiking from the middle station Plan de l'Aiguille Cable Car (or a steep hike up!) Order the homemade tarte aux myrtilles, sit back on the terrace and enjoy the stunning views of the valley!

From the middle station, hike the Grand Balcon Nord - a spectacular Chamonix trail. This hike takes in the high point of Forbes Signal for a truly high-mountain feel, with non-stop panoramic views of Mont Blanc, the Chamonix Aiguilles, the Aiguilles Rouges, Le Brevent, Italy's Grands Jorasses and the Chamonix Valley. The hike ends at Montenvers with stunning views of the high peaks towering over the Mer Glacier.  This spectacular and panoramic Alpine hike is a must-do hike when in Chamonix - and our all time favourite!

If adventurous skiing is more your thing, a descent of the Vallée Blanche is often the highlight of a ski trip to Chamonix and will provide a truly memorable experience and some great photos! The Vallée Blanche is the most famous off-piste ski run in the world, its an 18km red run, with 2800m of vertical descent through the stunning glaciated alpine scenery. The descent starts at the top of the Aiguille du Midi Cable Car and finishes at either the Montenvers train station, or (snow conditions permitting) back down in Chamonix's town centre.

If you want to enjoy a smooth and safe descent of the Vallée Blanche, we recommend a guide and you should be capable of skiing pisted red runs with confidence and in complete control. You should also have experience of off-piste skiing and be able to turn accurately and stop in variable snow / off-piste conditions. Side slipping confidently is also an essential skill. In good conditions during busy periods large mogul fields can develop, so the ability to ski large bumps over long & sustained mogul fields is required. A good level of ski fitness is also required so that you are able to cope with around 25km of off piste skiing with nearly 3000m of vertical descent in variable snow conditions and starting at high altitude!

Mer du Glace
Discovered by tourists in the 19th century, the Mer de Glace is one of the largest glaciers in Europe. Its French name translates to "Sea of Ice," which makes sense considering the glacier spans 7km in length. The Mer de Glace is accessible by taking the Montenvers railway, an old-fashioned red train to the Mer de Glace glacier at Montenvers (1,913 meters) in about 20 minutes.
France’s largest glacier is melting due to the effects of climate change and you can see the effects clearly. The steps down to the Mer de Glace are punctuated by “level of the glacier” signs from 1985 through to 2015, the year the world agreed the Paris accord to avert dangerous global warming. Walk through the ice caves, drink in the spectacular views over the glacier, learn about these great hunks of ice in the glaciorium and visit the small crystal exhibition.
Have you ever dreamed of a night in mountain paradise? Try this, an overnight stay in a transparent air bubble hung from trees, next to the Mer de Glace and facing Les Drus at Les Mottets. Surrounded by nature and a million stars, this is our star recommendation! For the best sunset in the valley, head to Le Signal summit, just above the Montveners for stunning views of Les Drus and Mer du Glace. 

Chamonix Town
"Prieuré de Chamouni," was once just a humble, charming mountain hamlet, tucked away in a valley surrounded by snow-covered mountains and discovered by two English aristocrats in 1741. The first inn was opened in 1770 when interest in mountaineering was beginning to take off, then visitors flocked to Chamonix to see the mystical summits. Chamonix features a mix of traditional alpine architecture and modern buildings. At the centre of the town's pedestrian area is the Catholic Church of St. Michel, a Baroque church housing beautiful paintings, with crosses and bells created by local artisans. Scattered around Chamonix are old-fashioned chalets and rustic country lodges and the village bustles with tourist shops, upscale boutiques, gastronomic restaurants, brasseries, cafés and trendy bars. 
The perfect place to enjoy a L'Altitude & Tonic? Here's some of our faves... L'Hydromel cocktail bar, Chai Guillaume wine bar, Restaurant Le Cap Horn, Le Refuge des Aiglons Hotel.. and for late night fun, Amnesia or Le Privilège.
Brévent-Flégère 
Formerly two separate ski areas above Chamonix town, the  Brévent-Flégère were joined together in 1997 via the Liaison cable car. The Brévent-Flégère area is criss-crossed with well-marked hiking trails, including the classic ‘Grand Balcon Sud’, which offer spectacular views of the Mont Blanc massif on the other side of the valley. Take in the sights of the Mer de Glace and glaciers of Le Tour and Argentière. One of the most famous walks is to Lac Blanc, at 2352m,  – hugely popular for its straightforward access to a spectacular panorama over the Mont Blanc massif and its dramatic reflection in the lake. 
La Flégère is also part of the Aiguilles Rouges Nature Reserve which includes Mont Brévent in the south and runs almost to Vallorcine in the north. The rocks in this area are metamorphic and contain a lot of iron, giving them the reddish colour reflected in their name. Access is just north of the small town of Argentière, which is just about 9km from Chamonix The reserve covers over 8 acres of land, best known for its diverse plant life, but keep your eyes peeled for Alpine ibex, chamois, rock ptarmigan and even golden eagles!
Brévent-Flégère Ski Resort offers 56km of ski runs with 33 ski slopes and gives skiers the chance to bask in the sunshine while gliding down snowy slopes, thanks to its south-facing location. Panoramas of the French Alps provide a breathtaking backdrop. The Brévent ski area can be reached from Chamonix town centre, whereas the Flégère side of the ski resort can be reached from the village of Les Praz (3km from Chamonix).
Mont-Blanc
Mont-Blanc is the highest peak of the Alps and forms part of the French border with Italy. Soaring to an altitude of 4,810 meters, Mont Blanc is always covered in snow, explaining why it's called the "White Mountain. Mont Blanc is known as "the Roof of Europe" because of its thrilling viewpoints of the Aiguilles Rouges mountain ranges and Chamonix Valley. It's also one of the best ski areas in France. Experienced climbers with a guide are able to climb to the top of Mont Blanc, however the ascent requires a high level of physical fitness and experience using crampons and an ice axe. There are two common routes to climb Mont Blanc from Chamonix. The route from the Aiguille du Midi, over Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit is generally quieter, and highly dependent on conditions, but slightly more technical. The slightly easier and more reliable option is via the Tramway du Mont Blanc to Le Nid d'Aigle, then up the Aiguille du Gouter and the Bosse ridge. The steep ground and high altitude means its a challenging ascent, but standing at the summit and gazing down at all the famous peaks of the Alps that surround you is simply incredible!
The Tour du Mont Blanc hiking trails include routes for all ability levels and offer some of the best hiking in the world. The trails range from gentle walks and intermediate hikes to treks along more vigorous uphill terrain. The scenery is spectacular -  so good we've even named one of our cocktails the Tour du Mont Blanc Negroni!