As we enter the peak time for winter sport enthusiasts, the choice of destination can be tricky.
With fantastic locations throughout Europe to choose from it is a bit of a minefield when trying to opt for the right one.
However, having experienced many different places to ski or snowboard throughout Europe, I can highly recommend Chamonix, in the south east of France, close to the Swiss and Italian borders.
Skiing and Snowboarding
One of Chamonix’s undoubted strengths is its ability to cater for all levels of skier or snowboarder. From a beginner looking to try out a new dare devil sport, to a seasoned professional desperate to put their skis or board on and find a black slope to suit, this place will not let you down.
This is largely due to the resort containing four different mountains with a nice variety of slopes.
In addition to all this, there are plenty of skiing and snowboarding schools from which to choose, catering for all ages and all levels.
Chamonix is widely recognized as having some of the most challenging pistes in Europe so will keep even the more advanced snow junkie entertained.
If all this is not enough, then the consistency of the snow and reliability of the weather make the French town an absolute must for all winter sports enthusiasts.
The ‘world famous’ cable car
The Aiguille du Midi cable car is particularly famous due to the fact that it is the highest of its kind in Europe. Moreover, it serves France’s longest ski run, La Valle Blanche.
It does so in two stages, initially from the town itself to the Plan de l’Aiguille at 2300 meters, before its second journey to Aiguille du Midi.
At this high point there are a multitude of terraces where the views are quite simply stunning. Indeed, from here you can see the Alps straddling Switzerland, France and Italy, a true sight to behold.
In fact, if you are particularly fortunate, on a cloud free day, it is possible to see the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps.
This cable car journey is popular in the summer, as well as the winter, and is one of the highlights of Chamonix.
Apart from the aforementioned cable car, there is much else to see in the picturesque town.
As you would expect, this idyllic location has all the charms of a classical French old town. Yet it has some of the modern touches to satisfy those looking for contemporary pleasures too.
For some retail therapy you can visit Chanel or Snells, the top of the range sports store, and shop to your heart’s content.
With plenty of après ski activities on offer, including great restaurants with international and local dishes, as well as a lively nightlife with vibrant bars, Chamonix will not disappoint.
Nevertheless, if you are looking for something a little more tranquil, why not enjoy the tea rooms or coffee shops whilst you watch the world pass by sipping a green tea or a café au lait.
The architecture has retained its old charm, in spite of some of the more modern surroundings, with the Alpine Museum and the main church being the notable examples of this.
There are a number of sightseeing tours available or you can discover for the sights for yourself.
Either way, you will enjoy unbelievable valleys and fantastic panoramic views.
As testimony to this, make sure you take a trip to Glacier des Bossons located in the valley of Haute-Savoie departement. It is impressive but it is not for the faint heated if you wish to climb. Alternatively, just take the chair lift up to the café and relax whilst taking in the magnificent backdrop.
Chamonix is in the shadow, quite literally, of Europe’s highest peak: Mont Blanc (English translation is ‘White Mountain’) which towers over the town at 4807 meters above sea level.
It was first climbed in 1786 by Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard and is often recognized as the beginning of modern mountaineering. In fact, it is still deemed a remarkable feat today, more than two centuries later.
In 1946, somewhat controversially, drilling began through the mountain to make a tunnel. It was finally opened in 1965 to vehicles, connecting Chamonix in France to Courmayeur in Italy.
Despite this, Mont Blanc is without doubt the jewel in the French Alps’ crown.
The 1924 Winter Olympics
The first ever Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix in 1924. The sports competitions were based at the foot of Mont Blanc and were the beginning of the now globally recognized event.
Whichever way you look, and from what ever angle you viewpoint is from the area is steeped in history.
Where to stay
The Mercure Chamonix Les Bossons probably offers the best value for money option in Chamonix.
Offering reasonably priced double rooms (often including a sofa bed), even at the weekend, this four star hotel is a popular choice amongst visitors.
Also, some rooms, for little extra cost, have breath taking mountain views.
Each room comes with satellite television and the hotel includes a heated pool, as well as a 24-hour reception.
For something a little more upmarket, but still not extortionately priced, you could go for the Hotel Les Lanchers, which is conveniently situated within a few minutes of the town center.
The accommodation is set with the amazing backdrop of the Alps in view, yet will not cost you an arm and a leg.
Extremely well liked by winter sports enthusiasts for all of the above reasons, you will also find friendly staff and wifi on offer throughout.
You cannot get much more downtown than the Hotel de l’Arve in the heart of Chamonix.
Despite the hotel’s modest three stars, it has earned rave reviews as one of the area’s most in demand places to stay so try to book in plenty of time.
The place comes with plenty of ski and snowboard storage and is just a few hundred meters from the world renowned Aigulle du Midi Cable Car.
The hotel offers a bar, fitness center and has readily available breakfast to enjoy, to help energies you before hitting the nearby slopes.
Getting there to Chamonix
The best airport to fly to is, without question, Geneva. You can get there with Swiss, which has the benefit of free ski carriage, British Airways, easyJet or Flybe from the United Kingdom.
For those flying from other locations, airlines feeding the Swiss French city include Air Berlin, Aer Lingus, Brussels Airlines and German Wings, to name but a few.
Once you have arrived, let Shuttle Direct whisk you off your tired feet and take you directly and efficiently to your chosen accommodation.
One of Shuttle Direct’s experienced drivers will help you de-stress from your journey leaving you fresh and ready to hit the slopes or the town upon your arrival.