…Chamonix-Mont Blanc, France. Just a few kilometers down the road from Geneva lies the village of Chamonix at the base of the world famous Mont Blanc–the highest mountain in the Alps. Although the village literally lies in the shadow of Mont Blanc, this tiny, idyllic commune is more than just a place to lay your head after skiing.
Chamonix-Mont Blanc will always be special to me, because it is where we spent our first Christmas as expats. After planning the ultimate ski vacation, we had to change plans when unusually warm weather kept the slopes closed. What we discovered is that Chamonix-Mont Blanc has a lot to offer outside of skiing.
I mean, they practically invented aprés ski, which is the best part of skiing, in my opinion.
I have never skied Jackson Hole or Sun Valley, but I assume they used Chamonix as a model–its first historical mention was in 1091!
Chamonix also held the first winter Olympics in 1924–cementing its title as the “ultimate winter vacation.” That said, ski season often runs through May around these parts–not that it looks half bad the rest of the year.
- Skiing: My favorite slopes are on the Brévent Mountain. I am working up to off-piste or backcountry skiing, which is highly recommended attempting only with an experienced guide.
- Hiking: Pull on your waterproof boots or rent snowshoes from nearly any ski rental place in Chamonix. When we could not ski over the holidays, we ended up on the best, most picturesque hike of my entire life. Take gondola up to the Restaurant Le Panoramic, have a Mont Blanc beer and then hike down to the next closest gondola.
- Mer de Glace: “Sea of Ice,” this incredible glacier will take your breath away. You can take a small train from the Chamonix railway station to Mer de Glace. Once at the location, you descend into the glacier by stairs–going deep inside the fantastically blue ice.
- Cuisine: If you are lucky enough to visit Chamonix in the colder months, you must partake of Haut Savoie cuisine, such as: vin chaud (warm, mulled wine), tartiflette (a potato dish covered in Alpine cheese and ham), and raclette (more cheese). Interested in some local nightlife? Check out Barberousse Bar–a pirate-themed bar that specializes in infused rum.
- Stay: I highly recommend using Airbnb in the winter, because hotel prices surge this time of year. You could live like Heidi in Alpine hut or like James Bond in a luxury condo.
If you want to be mistaken for a ski bunny in Chamonix, you must dress the part. This is also a great time of year to stock up on winter clothing, such as:
If you are afraid of the cold like this California girl, check out some of the cold-defying winter technology I reviewed for ThriveWire. Heated shoe insoles, anyone?