things to do in the winter in Chamonix, France
View a map of town
Long before skiing was ever popular, Chamonix was known for its mountaineering.
The first ascent of Mont Blanc dates back to 1766 and marked the beginning
of Chamonix as THE mountaineering Mecca. Easy acces to high, hard and
easy climbs make Chamonix an ideal destination for any type of mountainneer,
therefore it is only normal that ice and rock climbing be present everywhere
in the valley.
It is possible to ice climb pretty much on both
sides of the valley. The most popular sites at the right side
of the glacier d'argentiere, below the "Pierre A Ric",
ski run of les Grands Montets,
the Grand Bleu on the left side of the Glacier d'Argentière,
easily visible from the mid station of Grands Montets, the ice
falls across the valley form Les Houches (when cold enough), the
ice climbs at le Tour, right next to the glacier, and of course,
all the more mountaineering routes from either the top of the
Grand Montets lift, Les Droites, Les Courtes or from Aiguille
du Midi: Le fil àPlomb, all the routes coming up the north
face of aiguille du midi, easily visible from the lift itself,
and the many climbs on the Triangle du Tacul: Goulotte Cherey,
Rock climbing is a bit harder in the winter, but on warmer
days it is possible to climb at les Gaillands, about 15 minutes walk
from the center of Chamonix. Do not climb in the center part (where
the ladder is) when there is a risk of avalanche above, one winter (95
i think) the avalanche came down and blocked the whole area up to the
street, fortunately noone was climbing at the time. Otherwise there
are some indoor gyms in les Houches and at the ENSA gym, next to the
pool.(open only Monday evenings to public use i think.).
Other activities include drinking in the bars, cross country
skiing, speed skating at the outdoor rink, paragliding (many schools
offer a tandem flight from the mid station of the Brevent for people
who have never done it before), drinking in the other bars, snowshoeing,
the pool, the alpine museum, the ice rink where the Chamonix Huskies
play almost weekly (they are one of the best, if not the best team in
the French league, also the arena bar has the cheapest beer in town),
the cinema plays a good selection, has many movies in original version,
even some Swedish ones. Every year, towards mid march are the "Avant
premières de Chamonix", a mini film festival lasting the
week, with movies that haven't been shown yet in Europe, you can even
see French movies that haven't opened in Paris yet. Usually the selection
is very good and mixed (French - English, etc..). Make sure to buy tickets
for the surprise movie at the end of the week. There is also a bowling
alley and did i happen to mention drinking in the bars as being one
of the most popular activities in town?
For any of these, and more, activities, the best place
to get info is the tourism office (see
the map of town), where the people are friendly and helpfull.
Places of importance in Chamonix: The best way to locate
all of this is to go to the tourism office and get a map of town or
ask for one at the place where you are staying.
- The tourism office, right nixt to the bus station and the Church.
- La Maison de la Montagne: avalanche and weather forecasts and reports,
guides to hire for off piste skiing (including the Vallee Blanche),
the third floor has a lot of info on the climbing and mountaineering
routes (looking for a topo, a partner, info on the current conditions
in the mountains etc...). The Maison de la Montagne is situated right
across the Tourism office.
- The Aiguille du Midi lift: begining of the Vallee Blanche, or just
go up for the view, definitively worth it. Right at the Northern edge
of Chamonix Sud.
- The cinema.
- The Alpine museum, pretty much in the center of town.
- The bowling alley, right at the southern edge of Chamonix Sud
- The Hospital: (to go right after bowling drunk...) slightly out
of town, past Chamonix Sud and the bowling alley.
- The bars....