The town of Chamonix offers plenty of shopping, relaxing or people watching. Chamonix reminds me of Whistler, British Columbia. It has the feel of being a high mountain village when in actuality it sits only approximately 3400 feet above sea level.
Many local tourist shops sell stunning photographs of the surrounding mountains. These photographs are often only a few euros and are good presents for friends and family. However purchasing frames for photos can be very expensive. To save money, I purchased an inexpensive frame at a local thrift shop.
The tourist shops in Chamonix are diverse. Some shops sell nothing but reasonably priced cuckoo clocks. Others sell mountaineering memorabilia. There is plenty of selection so it is always a good idea to price shop before you actually decide on a purchase (similar to visiting a farmer’s market for the first time – browse the selections before making any purchases).
Reserve des Aiguilles Rouges is a nature reserve located 7 miles north of Chamonix at the Col des Montets. This area is spectacular because it features a diverse variety of alpine vegetation. A visitors center is located here, open from June to September from 9:30am until 12:30pm and then again from 1:30pm until 6:30pm. A botanical garden is located nearby. The hike through the garden is a little over a mile in length. For more information about this reserve call PHONE NUMBER 04 50 54 02 24.
Musee Alpin is located in Chamonix. They have exhibits of art, photographs, and lithographs. The exhibits depict the history of mountain climbing in Chamonix. Open from June through mid October from 2pm to 7pm and between December 25 and Easter, from 3 to 7pm. The entrance fee is about 8 Euros.
Le Brevent is the highest peak on the western side of the Chamonix valley. It towers almost 8300 feet above sea level. This mountain and surrounding area is known for its excellent views of Mount Blanc. Le Brevent is located on the mountain range opposite Mount Blanc. To get closer to Le Brevent you can take the tramway. From the valley floor you can see it ascending and descending.
A one way trip costs about 20 Euros and a round trip from Chamonix costs about 40 Euros. In the summer the tram begins running at 8am and its last ride is at 5:45pm. In the winter the tram begins operation at 9am and finishes running at 5pm. Le Brevent has a heated lounge, refreshment bar, and a restaurant.
For those interested in ice skating on your vacation, Chamonix has a place for you. It is an indoor ice skating rink and it is located in the Centre Sportif at 165 Route de la Patinoire. It is open daily from 10am until noon and then again from 3pm until 6pm. The entry fee is 12 Euros and skates skates can be rented for about 10 Euros. They are closed in the summer.
A large swimming pool is located in Chamonix. Only European style shorts are allowed.
Skiing is part of what has made Chamonix famous. Three winter Olympics were held in the area, the latest was in 1992. Over 100 miles of ski runs are in Chamonix. Numerous tracks for cross country skiing and the 64 chair lifts, with some as high as 12,500 feet, help make Chamonix one of the premiere ski destinations in the world.
Remarkably the Vallee Blanche descent is over 12 miles and takes about 4 hours to descend. The vertical drop on this glacier is over 6600 feet. It would be wise to have a guide on this descent as there are quite a few crevasses in the glacier.
Some of the resorts are open for most of the year and one is even open 365 days a year.
Arm Wall Swinging Competition. I spotted this in Chamonix in mid July. This isn’t the technical name for it, but I never found out the real name. This sport attracts people from as far away as the United States and Canada, as well as many Europeans.
One person holds onto supports sticking out of a wooden wall. He/she then swings back and forth using their arms and legs. Finally after building up enough momentum they let go and try to swing themselves across the wall onto another support sticking out of the wall. They try to hold onto that support, and if they are able to hold on to it, the next round begins.
After all individuals have completed one round successfully, the supports are moved further away from where the person is swinging. Therefore, it becomes harder and harder each time to successful swing yourself over to the moved supports. This event occurred at night, and attracted a lot of local people as well as tourists. It lasted for about 1.5 hours (men’s and women’s competition).