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Chamonix, France Adventure Travel Guide

Place

Chamonix, France

Location

The name Chamonix is often used to refer to a town, valley, and a commune (an area like a municipality or parish) in eastern France near the Swiss border.

Closest Town/City/Village

The commune of Chamonix includes the following16 villages and hamlets: Le Tour, Montroc, Le Planet, Argentière, Les Chosalets, Le Lavancher, Les Tines, Les Bois, Les-Praz-de-Chamonix, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Les Pècles, Les Mouilles, Les Barrats, Les Pèlerins, Les Gaillands, and Les Bossons.

Climate and Geography

The Chamonix commune is an area of about 245 square kilometers ranging from 995 – 4,810 m above sea level in the rugged French Alps, which are situated in eastern France on the Swiss border. The Chamonix commune is made up mainly of the Chamonix valley, which is dominated mainly by the Mount Blanc mountain range in the south, and the Aiguilles Rouges (red peaks) in the north. The Chamonix valley is 17 km wide, and the largest river in it is the Arve, which flows 107 km through it to Geneva where it meets the Rhone. The tallest peak in the area is Mount Blanc, which, at 4810m, is the tallest mountain in western Europe.

Chamonix is located at a higher elevation than most destinations in the Alps, so winters are quite cold with average temperatures ranging from around -8°C in the winter to 22°C in the summer. The temperature, however, varies greatly with altitude. It is said that the temperature declines by an average of 6.5°C for every 500 m of elevation gain, so this must be taken into consideration.  Chamonix tends to be humid, which is great for skiers because that means lots of snow in the winter, however that also means there can be a lot of rain at other times of year.

Description

You don’t find adventure travel destinations much better known that Chamonix. Home to the 1924 Winter Olympic Games, Chamonix has become a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts pursuing all manner of mountain-based adrenaline rushes, from ice climbing and extreme skiing in the winter to whitewater rafting and and paragliding in the summer, earning it the title “the death-sport capital of the world” from renowned mountaineer Mark Twight.

The area’s popularity is well deserved, and brings in tens of thousands of tourists each season. The town of Chamonix-Mount-Blanc’s population of about10,000 skyrockets up to 60,000 in the winter and 100,000 in the summer due to the massive influx of tourists. The popularity of Chamonix brings certain advantages and disadvantages for visitors. Prices in the area are commensurate with its popularity. Those planning a hiking, mountain biking, or ski holiday in Chamonix can expect a lot of company and to pay more than if they visited a lesser known destination. However, the tourism industry here is very well established. For novices, it’s very easy to find competent instruction in all manner of adventure sports, all levels of adventurers will find their needs catered to, and rental equipment is plentiful and easy to find.

Activities

  • Skiing and snowboarding (beginner – extreme, including heli-skiing)
  • Snowshoeing
  • Dogsledding
  • Ice climbing (beginner – extreme)
  • Mountain Climbing (beginner – extreme)
  • Via Feratta
  • Canyoning
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Kayaking
  • Paragliding
  • Hiking
  • Mountain Biking

On a Budget?

  • The cheapest accommodation in Chamonix in the winter is in hostel dormitories which start at about $20 USD per person per night. The cheapest private rooms can be shared for around $35 USD per person. Camping in the low season can cost as little as $15 USD for one person per night and $21 USD per night in the high season (it should be noted that it’s much cheaper per person if the tent is shared).
    More information about hostels in Chamonix can be found here
  • The low end of the menu in inexpensive restaurants will feature breakfast for around $8-10 USD and lunch and dinner for around $12- 14 USD. Of course, the supermarket is always an option.

Photos

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Photos courtesy of dpstyles™, le vide et le plein, MuntyPix, le vide et le plein, A tea but no e, Paul Nash, fo.ol, ines saraivaMuntyPix, and kentgoldman in that order.

Suggested Reading

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