Behind the pretty alpine houses that are still undeniably French lurk snow-capped mountains, which pop into view surprisingly often as you stroll around Chamonix during the festive season. While the smell of freshly baked croissants and baguettes tease your taste buds into staying in town, those mountains, the grandest of which is the famous Mont Blanc, starts to whisper your name. “Why are you down there when you could be up here? Come, bring your skis and see how good the snow is up here!”
Image © Graham McLellan
Such is the delightful dilemma of Chamonix, a town on the edge of some of the best skiing and snowboarding in Europe but a town that is much more than just a ski resort with top class restaurants serving up unusually decent international cuisine, great shopping and plenty of activities that you don’t need skis for. Is it worth mentioning that it is also one of the easiest ski resorts to access with quick connections to Geneva airport?
Oh, and it’s also the ideal location for an guaranteed White Christmas, so why not book a chalet and bring the family.
Image © Sébastien Barré
Sunset on the Aiguille du Dru – Image © Sébastien Barré
So let’s talk skiing and snowboarding. With road connections to the ski area in Courmayeur in Italy and rail and road access to Verbier in Switzerland, it’s possible to ski in three different countries during a week’s stay in Chamonix. That said the skiing on offer in the Chamonix Mont-Blanc valley is varied and challenging enough to keep all levels happy too. Up on the mountain you will find spectacular views of Mont Blanc and of the Aiguille du Midi peak, which is connected to Chamonix via the world’s second highest cable car. While this journey is not for the faint hearted, the incredible views make up for any fear or icy chills you encounter getting to the top; it certainly beats watching looking down over your floated stomach after too much turkey.
Image © Matt Gillman
Image © Andreas Kristensson
Image © Dan Zelazo
Talking of food, you will find traditional Christmas dinner influenced menus on offer at many of the restaurants in Chamonix and even some on the mountains. However, it’s also easy to be in Chamonix over Christmas and easily avoid turkey and the trimmings, Chamonix is one of the most international ski resorts in France with Japanese, Scandinavian, Malaysian, Indian and more different types of food on offer. France celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve so this is the evening to soak up the festive atmosphere by drinking vin chaud with the locals and admiring Chamonix’s Christmas lights as the council-run parade, fireworks and carol singing takes place outside the Tourist Office. We also hear that there’s a very special bearded guest of honour makes an appearance all dressed in red…
For those who want the White Christmas without those uncomfortable ski boots or the aching muscles, then you can use a number of the cable cars in the area – including the Aiguille du Midi – to access nothing but stunning snowy views . The clue is in the name at the Teleriphique de Bellevue, which offers a panorama of the valley and once up at the Aiguille du Midi you can experience the thrilling cable car journey that crosses country borders in to Helbronner in Italy – that’s if the prospect of a 3km cable car without pillars doesn’t scare you back down the mountain and into the warmth of a log fire and another vin chaud…