After much research, hubby decided that this year’s snow adventure would be in Chamonix in the French Alps on the borders with Italy and Switzerland. Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is a multi-faceted ski resort boasting world-class skiing and snowboarding trails.
But, for those who prefer not to throw themselves down a slippery slope on a plank or two of wood (such as myself), there are events and facilities for all types of summer and winter sports, and a range of leisurely activities for couples, families and groups of friends.
Mountains aren’t just for skiing
While Dan and the gang explored the many world-class runs and off piste wonderlands, I enjoyed another relaxing holiday in the picturesque towns and their surrounds. Surprisingly, there was still plenty to see and lots to do in Chamonix in the winter time if you don’t like to ski or snowboard…
Stunning panoramic views and beautiful scenery
Chamonix sits at the base of Mont Blanc, the highest summit in the Alps. Year-round, cable cars take visitors up to several nearby peaks with panoramic views, including Aiguille du Midi, Pointe Helbronner on the Italian border, and Le Brévent.
On the first morning of our trip, I followed the others up the gondola lift (€17) to Plan Praz to join them for a beer and lunch with a great view of the Chamonix Valley.
At 1,999m, Plan Praz is the departure point for great excursions including trips to Lake Cornu, and Grand Balcon Sud. It also has a fine take-off area for paragliding. There is also a cable car to Le Brévent where you can discover great panoramic view of Mont Blanc from 2,525m up. From the top of Le Brévent, a footpath goes to Aiguillette des Houches via the Bel-Lachat mountain hut.
On the opposite side of the valley, you can catch a cable car (€58.50) to Aiguille du Midi (2317 m) for beautiful views of the Glacier des Bossons, the Mont-Blanc, the Aiguille Verte, the Drus and the Aiguilles de Chamonix. A second cable-car will take you up to an altitude of 3777m in just 10 minutes, above seracs and glaciers!
The Sea of Ice – Glaciers
When the rest of group spent the second full day boarding at Lognan – les Grands Montets (3295m) in Argentiere, I was getting a lesson on glaciers and witnessing the affects of global warming first hand. At 7km long and 200m deep, the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) is the largest glacier in France, one of seven major glaciers in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, and is one of the biggest attractions in the Chamonix Valley.
Sadly, on the day I visited, the cable-car was shut because of the wind, the ice cave was closed, and the dense cloud and snow caused a whiteout so that I was unable to see the famous glacier and panoramic view of the valley below. But I did get to learn about glaciers at the Glaciorium.
Exploring the town of Chamonix
Rue du Docteuer Paccard is the main pedestrian street which runs through the centre of Chamonix. It is a great avenue for shopping, renting ski gear, Après Ski and people watching – one of my favourite pastimes.
Warm up at Après ski
For some, Après ski is almost as important as skiing or boarding. Après ski is the couple of hours of celebration, usually with a mulled wine (vin chaud) or chilled beer, when skiers and boarders gather to reminisce about the day on the slopes before heading back to their accommodation to change out of their gear.
Chamonix has some great options for Après ski: L’M Brasserie features an outdoor bar and terrace with heaters and rugs, La Terrasse has a great happy hour and snacks, and Bar’d Up on the Rue de Moulins is great for a night of dancing, darts and Foosball.
Absorb the culture through delicious French food
French food and wines are amazing and have to be sampled during your stay in the French Alps. Some of my favourites include Tartare de Boeuf (raw minced beef), Eggs Meurette (poached eggs floating in red wine sauce) salade lyonnaise (similar to Caesar salad with a poached egg on top) and tartiflette (alpine melted cheese, bacon and potato gratin).
I’m not a big fan of Foie Gras (duck liver pate), cuisses de grenouilles (frogs legs) and escargot (cooked land snail), but it is certainly an experience trying them for the first time!
Check out my list of favourite places we ate at while we were in Chamonix – there is a great selection of authentic and budget-friendly restaurants to choose from.
From the markets and boutique delis throughout the town, saucisson (sausage) and delcious cheese, like comté cheese, are French favourites and great for picnics or those on a budget.
Snowboarding in Champonix, France
Hubby loves to snowboard. Fortunately for him, living in London has given him access to some of the best and most budget-friendly ski resorts across Europe. He’s snowboarded in Andorra, Somones (French Alps), Kopaonik (Serbia), and in Austria.
There’s a huge choice of ski resorts located throughout the French Alps, all offering different attractions to different skiers of all abilities. But, it turns out, there was no better place than Chamonix for Dan to try out his newly purchased Rossignol Angus (snowboard) with Now Select bindings, Northwave Legend boots, and Oakley Flight Deck goggles.
Check out Dan’s video for a glance the runs he did during our five days in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc.