- Magnificent Mont Blanc
- Country Life
- Sheer adventure
Chamonix is the skier’s ski resort and it attracts dedicated Alpine thrill seekers year-round, just as it has done for centuries.
It seems that over the years practically any pastime that combines adrenaline and gravity was invented here first. The town itself has a calm and traditional atmosphere but looming over it the flanks of Mont Blanc rise in a series of dramatic rock walls and buttresses. Thousands of metres above, jagged snow-capped peaks soaring like cathedral spires into the heavens. The off-piste skiing is some of the best in the world and the summer hiking trails reveal one magnificent vista after another. If the mere thought of all that adventure and fresh mountain air leaves you exhausted then recharge your batteries with some of the best Savoyard cuisine in the Alps.
The 14-mile-long Vallée Blanche is one of the greatest off-piste ski routes in the mountains. From the Aiguille du Midi the trail starts with a giddying ridge walk and then descends 2700 metres down the Mer de Glace back to Chamonix. Intermediate and expert skiers should always take an experienced mountain guide.
- Call ABAC Taxi Gopee on +33 (0)6 07 02 22 13.
- Tipping culture
- A service charge is normally added to your bill (service compris) in restaurants and cafés but it’s still customary to leave a small tip. For taxi drivers, add 10 percent to the metered charge.
- Siesta and fiesta
- For a lunchtime rest head for the fantastic La Bergerie mountain restaurant at the mid-station of Brévent; it has a grandstand view of the Mont Blanc massif. We recommend the cassoulet (+33 (0)4 50 53 05 42).
- Recommended reads
- White Heat: The Extreme Skiing Life by Wayne Johnson.
- Savoyard cuisine is much more than cheese-heavy raclette, tartiflette and fondue although you should definitely try all of these; they‘ll certainly give you the energy to tackle the mountains. Smoked pork and wild mushrooms are frequently used and mountain berries make for spectacular desserts. For something lighter, delicious pike, perch and trout are caught in Lake Geneva and surrounding Alpine rivers. You’ll notice an Italian influence to the food in Chamonix thanks to the nearby Mont Blanc tunnel; pop over to the other side of the Alps for an ice cream.
- Regional specialities
- There’s no single farçon recipe but it normally combines potato, eggs, bacon, fruit and herbs; the result is a tasty mixture of sweet and savoury. Other Savoyard specialities include the region’s strong Beaufort and Reblochon cheeses. Fera fish paté is a regional delicacy and you should also try the herb-laden pormoniers sausages which are excellent with local Mondeuse red wine. The Refuge Payot delicatessen on Rue Joseph Vallot in Chamonix is a treasure trove of local gastronomy (www.refugepayot.com).
- Time zone
- GMT +1.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for France: +33. Chamonix: (0)4.
- Do go/don't go
- Chamonix is a great year-round destination and its high-altitude slopes mean good snow from December to April. The dramatic scenery provides a perfect setting for summer hiking, too. The autumn season, when the forests turn burnished gold in colour, is the least crowded but arguably the most spectacular.
Don't go home without...
Take a ride on Chamonix’s funicular railway to the terrace of the Montenvers Hotel at the top of the track. It’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy the view of the Mer de Glace glacier and the jagged peaks of Les Drus and Les Grands Jorasses.