Privacy and Savings in Summer and Off-Season
Many of the Immobiliers (estate agents) in town offer self-catered apartments which can be rented by the week or by the month. The internet also offers many private parties who rent their apartments (many are residents of the UK who maintain a vacation apartment in Chamonix and let it out during the times they are not in town). For a week especially in off-season you should be able to find accomodations for around $250 US per week. In winter season this is more difficult to find, so book early if you want to try this for skiing and expect to pay much more ($800 or more per week).
We rented an apartment for 2 weeks when we first arrived here and it was great. These can be cheaper than hotels and more interesting to stay in. You have more privacy and can save some money by having meals at home, having a refridgerator to store those hiking snacks and drinks etc..
Some individuals leave helpful guide books and magaizines in their apartments, which is a good bonus.
A couple of 'gotchas' to watch out for:
Be sure to check if linens are provided in the price (normally they are not). If arriving late or on a Sunday in low season, bring essentails (including toilet paper) that you will need if shops are shut.
Ask for the location of the apartment (area of town) before agreeing to rent. I suggest you avoid the 'Cham Sud' neighborhood at all costs. It is ugly as sin (1960s block style high-rise flats). Most of the apartments in this area are run-down, tiny (starting at 18m square!!) and lacking good views and are built around central courtyards of cement (with their accompanying echos of noise). It is close to the Aiguille du Midi lift station, so that is the only nice thing I can say about the area - in general it lacks charm of any sort.
The center of town is safe and close to all necessities, but will be pricier. Also if the bedrooms have street views, expect to be woken up at 1am by drunken revellers getting out of bars in high season.
Les Pecles, Les Bossons, Les Praz, Les Tines and Les Bois areas are all very nice and quiet neighborhoods in Chamonix. Argentiere, Le Tour, Montroc, Le Planet and Vallorcine are all towns further up the valley (higher altitude) with their own smaller village scene and charm. Bus service connects them to Chamonix (free service in high season). Les Houches is the next town down the valley and there is bus and train service to Chamonix, though the train station is not at all central to the town..
And many others!! (use Google search)
The easiest (or at least the most fun) way of getting to Chamonix is by train. Regular trains run from St Gervais-les-Bains to Martigny, Switzerland via Chamonix (Note: Many trains terminate on the French-Swiss border at Châtelard-Frontière, but it's an easy walk across the platform for the continuing train). From Paris, you can take a TGV to Annecy, then a regional train to St Gervais. Martigny is a main station on the Brig-Geneva line.
The entire line is scenic, but the most beautiful part is from the Swiss border to Martigny. In fact, it's even more scenic than some of the headline Swiss "scenic trains."
The train line is also very convenient getting from one part of the Chamonix area to the other. In addition to the Chamonix-Mont Blanc main station, all trains stop at Les Bossons and Les Praz, as well as many smaller stations on request. Trains in both directions run roughly every hour.
Climbing, Hiking, Mountain Biking, Skiing
As this is my home town, I will try every season to put some recent updates on this page.
In addition to the detailed tips here on VT, there is a page of links I maintain for another web page, and it has some ways to find even more great information on Chamonix and the surrounding alpine region including the border sections of Italy and Switzerland.
An amazing winter with tons of snow - 2nd good winter in a row following a warm one and a few cold but lacking in snow. Skiers have been well treated in Chamonix the past 2 seasons. For current Chamonix weather, the best site is: Chamonix Meteo.
Get real time listings of lifts in town from the Compagnie du Mont Blanc website for most of the valley's hiking access, and also from the Les Houches website. which a lot of people use for mountain biking, as the hills there are not as extreme as in Chamonix. New mountain biking trails have also been put in at Vallorcine and that lift now runs in summer season to accommodate the bikers.
"Argentiere and other bits of the Commune"
Argentiere is just up the valley from Chamonix (10 min) and is part of the same commune. The town is much smaller, but has in my opinion a more beautiful old section. It is at a higher altitude than Chamonix (by about 600 ft) and so gets more snowy in the winter.
Skiing in winter at the Grandes Montets is just amazing and this ski area is almost too well known for 'extreme' skiing and off-piste. In fact, it gets tracked out quite fast in high season!
In summer, hiking up to the Argentiere Glacier is a very cool thing to do (you can also hike on it and ice climb on parts of it in winter). You can also quite easily hike from Argentiere to the Swiss border.
By hiking up the trail at the right side of it, you can get good (and safe) views of this glacier, and see the enormous crevasses that could swallow a house...... If you sit and watch it for awhile, you can sometimes hear the glacier moving with large 'cracking' sounds or even get lucky enough to see a large chunk of glacier fall from the big seracs near the end where it spills over a steep edge, down towards the valley. A very impressive glacier!
I have included Argentiere activities in these pages, rather than create a separate page for this town.
Other nearby towns also in the commune of Chamonix are (from down valley to up valley) Les Bossons, Le Mont, Les Pelerins, Les Praz de Chamonix, Les Tines, Argentiere, Le Tour & Vallorcine (which is the last town before the Swiss border). Anything in the Chamonix commune will be covered on the Chamonix page and the commune of Les Houches, which is just next to Les Bossons (ie 'down valley') is also included.
"View From my Balcony"
What else is there to say?
Fall 2003 view of les Aiguilles from Les Bossons
Entrance to the ice gotto
Hi, I will be staying in Villard de Lans for a week in September and I am planning a few excursions. Can anyone recommend a day trip (up to 350km) to see a glacier from or near the roadside. I am disabled and will not be able to hike or walk far from the vehicle but would like to see and photograph a glacier if possible. In fact, any recommended routes east of Grenoble for alpine scenery would be appreciated.
Thank you, Vince
I can't make recommendation for Villard de Lans but the best accessible glacier in the Alps is I think the Rhone glacier on the western approach to the Furkapass in Switzerland. It is not as large as it used to be but still very close to the road and impressive...
RE: RE: Glaciers
Thanks for your advice. I'll look into a route for a day trip there. vince
Another idea - if I remember correctly you can get over the Iseran pass (the second highest in the Alps) to Val d'Isere and from there to Tignes, where you can access the summer skiing area on the glacier. It is not a long ice stream like bigger glaciers, just a big flat blob of ice on the mountainside, flt enough for skiing or walking.
If you have some more time, go to the Col de Galibier - it isn't far and is one of the most beautiful passes in the area. Think of the Tour de France cyclists who regularly race over this road...
Hi, a bit further away is Chamonix (285km and about 2 1/2 hours or 3 hours drive according to Mapquest.fr). Here you can take a year round telecabine to the Aiguille du Midi and get great views of glaciers. Not sure what your disability is, but there are stairs you would have to negotiate once you got up to the top station. But also there is the Les Bossons glacier, which is the lowest glacier in Europe - very easy to see from the road. Also further up the same valley about 15 minutes you can see the Argentiere Glacier and the Le Tour Glacier which can be seen by car. And ... if you take the Mer de Glace train, you can see the giant glacier formed by 3 that come together - it's a beautiful view and great pictures (provided it's good weather of course). You would have to be able to get on/off the train and walk to the edge of the viewing area. Check out this website for details. http://www.compagniedumontblanc.fr/en/montenvers/index.html
RE: RE: Glaciers
Hi, Thanks for your advice. I am mobile just cannot walk far or climb. Some great ideas, I will start planning a route. Thanks again, Vince