The Must-Read Guide to the Rhône Alpes

Les Saisies. Photo: C. Martelet. Rhône Alpes Tourisme. The Must-Read Guide to the Rhône Alpes.

The Must-Read Guide to the Rhône Alpes

Here I have put together the must-read guide to the Rhône Alpes. It is pretty inclusive so I’ll do it as a bit of a bullet point. But it is a good start where to see all their ski resorts and which ones could tempt you for your perfect ski holiday.
The Rhône Alpes is an extensive area in the Central West of France. From west to east it offers the Auvergne Volcanoes to Lyon and the French Alps and Mont Blanc. This is the roof of Europe at 4,810 meters.
Pointe d'Ireuse. View on Mont Blanc. Chablais Massif. Photo: Christian Matelet. Auvergne Rhône Alpes Tourisme. The Must-Read Guide to the Rhône Alpes.
Pointe d’Ireuse. View on Mont Blanc. Chablais Massif. Photo: Christian Matelet. Auvergne Rhône Alpes Tourisme. The Must-Read Guide to the Rhône Alpes.
 

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here. 

How to get there: The Must-Read Guide to the Rhône Alpes. 

 

By Air:

 
  • Paris Airport- transfer to Lyon is 45 minutes.
  • Geneva Airport
  • Chambery Airport
  • Grenoble Airport
 

By Train:

 
  • Paris – TGV (fast train)
  • London with the Eurostar
  • Brussels with the Thalis
 

By Car:

 
  • Lyon airport: 1-3 hours
  • Geneva airport: 1-3 hours
  • Chambery airport: 1-1.5 hours
  • Grenoble airport: 1-1.5 hours.
Sunset on the Grandes Jorasses. Mont Blanc Massif. Photo: Carmen Villa/Auvergne-Rhône Alpes Tourisme. The Must-Read Guide to the Rhône Alpes.
Sunset on the Grandes Jorasses. Mont Blanc Massif. Photo: Carmen Villa/Auvergne-Rhône Alpes Tourisme. The Must-Read Guide to the Rhône Alpes.
 
 

The French Alps – The Must-Read Guide to the Rhône Alpes

 
The French Alps are the most renown ski mountains in the world. Here are some specs to explain why:
  • It has been three times host of Winter Olympic games:
    • Chamonix in 1925 (first edition)
    • Grenoble, 1968
    • Albertbille, 1992.
  • The 3 Valleys is the world’s largest ski area, with 600 km of ski slopes and more than 200 cable cars. Most of the terrain is above 1800 m altitude.
  • There are different connected ski areas, or if you prefer to call them ski carousels.
    • Les 3 Vallées
    • Paradiski
    • Val d’Isère- Tignes.
  • It has the longest snow season in Europe, from November (October for Tignes this year!) to May.
  • It offers summer skiing from June to August at
    • Val d’Isére-Tignes
    • Les 2 Alpes
 
This guide will pinpoint the unique particularities of the different main ski resorts.
 

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Must-read guide to Chamonix

Winter in Chamonix- Photo credits: Salome Abrial. OT Chamonix. Must-Read guide to Chamonix

Must-read guide to Chamonix Mont-Blanc

Why visit the Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley? Well, it should be in every mountain lover’s bucket list! There are plenty of reasons why to go and visit Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley. That is why I put together a Must-Read Guide to Chamonix Mont-Blanc.

 

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

You can summarise why Chamonix is so amazing in seven facts:
1) Chamonix lays at the foot of The MONT BLANC (4810m), the highest mountain in Europe, making of it, a unique spot! (You must have read already my Must-Read Guide to Courmayeur. Courmayeur is on the other side – the Italian side, of the Mont Blanc or Monte Bianco).
2) Chamonix in winter is famous for its freeriding and lots of activities for non-skiers. Plus Chamonix is not only for the daredevil! It offers activities and variety of slopes for all levels.
Ski de Randonnée in Chamonix. Photo: Christophe Raylat. OT Chamonix. Must-Read guide to Chamonix.
Ski de Randonnée in Chamonix. Photo: Christophe Raylat. OT Chamonix. Must-Read guide to Chamonix.
3) Chamonix in summer is amazing, and you can tell that a favourite spot for visitors. There are lots of incredible sightseeing tours to take. And wide range of outdoor activities for all.
4) Chamonix is a year-round destination and a lively Alpine city. This is not a purposed-built resort, people live here all year. That makes the vibe of the place!
Architecture in Chamonix. Photo: Salome Abrial. OT Vallée de Chamonix. Must-Read guide to Chamonix.
Architecture in Chamonix. Photo: Salome Abrial. OT Vallée de Chamonix. Must-Read guide to Chamonix.
5) Chamonix’s heritage. You can find it through its art, culture, architecture and cuisine.
6) Very close to the highway. Chamonix is one of the easiest towns to reach .
7) Chamonix offers a wide variety of accommodation for all budgets. So, it is not only for the rich and famous!

History of Chamonix. Must-Read Guide to Chamonix

Chamonix has a long and fascinating history. Starting from the first explorers to the golden age of winter sports.
The town has an amazing cultural and architectural heritage.
Architecture in Chamonix, painting at the Office of the Mountain Guides. Photo: Salome Abrial- OT Vallée de Chamonix. Must-Read guide to Chamonix.
Architecture in Chamonix, painting at the Office of the Mountain Guides. Photo: Salome Abrial- OT Vallée de Chamonix. Must-Read guide to Chamonix.
You can book one of the weekly guided heritage tours. In these you can discover the architectural diversity of Chamonix. Baroque churches to Protestan chapels. Hotels and palaces from the “Golden Era” to “Art Deco” facades. From traditional farmhouses, to colossal villas passing through chalets contrasting with modern buildings.
1741: Two English men Windham and Pococke discovered “Chamouny” valley and its glaciers. The population at the time was living on farms. These two men lead the first touristic exploration climbing the Mer de Glace glacier.

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Aiguille du Midi vs Punta Helbronner – which one you should do?

Skyway Monte Bianco viewed from Pavillion, at 2,200m - mid-station of the Skyway Monte Bianco.

Aiguille du Midi vs Punta Helbronner – which one you should do?

Aiguille du Midi or Punta Helbronner- which one you should go to visit? Honestly, I would visit both and connect from one another through the Panoramic Mont Blanc Tunnel gondola.

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

You can tell my happiness of being on top of the world (at least European world). Here at the Aiguille du Midi. Aiguille du Midi vs Punta Helbronner – which one you should do?
You can tell my happiness of being on top of the world (at least European world). Here at the Aiguille du Midi. Aiguille du Midi vs Punta Helbronner – which one you should do?

The case for Aiguille du Midi – Aiguille du Midi vs Punta Helbronner – which one you should do?

Aiguille du Midi (3842m) is located in Chamonix, in the border with Italy, and is one of the biggest attractions to go year-round, and lots in the summer to go and see the Mont Blanc (4810 m).

The funicular departs from a very modern lift base that has a shop, a food outlet and the big funicular that takes you to the middle station, from where you take a second funicular to the top. The top has a series of different terraces at different heights, to see 360-degree views of the French, Swiss and Italian Alps in all their splendour plus the magnificent Mont Blanc. Inside the structure is a bit old and you go within a cave, taking an elevator to go up the rock. This does not take the awesomeness of the landscape… It is really worth to go up there, you do feel you are on the top of the world, even though is really the top of Europe!

The Panoramic Mont Blanc lift connects Aiguille du Midi in France, with Punta Helbronner, in Italy. Aiguille du Midi vs Punta Helbronner – which one you should do?
The Panoramic Mont Blanc lift connects Aiguille du Midi in France, with Punta Helbronner, in Italy. Aiguille du Midi vs Punta Helbronner – which one you should do?

You can connect to go to Italy via the Panoramic Mont Blanc lift, which is a series of three gondolas (cable cars) going together on top of the Mer de Glace (the glacier sea) that zips you to Italy to Punta Helbronner (3466 m). This gondola has reopened last year after being closed for a bit due to one of the cabins falling on the glacier. I’ve written about it in this post some time ago. Still, this happened in winter, when this lift was closed, and it was due to a massive snow storm combined with really cold temperatures which froze the snow on top of the cable and its weight made it snap.

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The Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola to re-open 15 June

The Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola to re-open 15 June

The Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola to re-open 15 June

The Panoramic Mont Blanc Gondola has been closed since January 2018, when storm Eleanor laid too much snow on the cables and that cause them breaking and  two gondolas falling down on the Glacier du Géant.

The lift connects the Aiguille du Midi (3,842m) in Chamonix, France to Punta Helbronner (3,466m) in Courmayeur, Italy, and the people that ride on the lift can see the marvellous Mer de Glace underneath. The ride takes 30 minutes to cross 5 km and is only opened in summer.

Around February the Compagnie du Mont Blanc found some more faults, but the company was still optimistic to open by the end of May. Now they are announcing its opening on 15 June. Last summer the gondola has to remained closed in order to change its power cable.

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An expert skier killed by an avalanche in the Aiguilles Rouges and a snowboarder died on the Alpes Maritimes

Aiguille Rouges . Photo: AiguilleRouges.blogspot.com- An expert skier killed by an avalanche in the Aiguilles rouges and a snowboarder died on the Alpes Maritimes.

An expert skier killed by an avalanche in the Aiguilles rouges and a snowboarder died on the Alpes Maritimes.

A deadly avalanche occurred in the Aiguilles-rouges massif, Haute-Savoie, this Saturday, May 18, 2019. A 33-year-old skier, apparently very experienced, was found dead at 2500 meters altitude.

The Aiguille Rouges seen from Lac Blanc. An expert skier killed by an avalanche in the Aiguilles rouges and a snowboarder died on the Alpes Maritimes.
The Aiguille Rouges seen from Lac Blanc. An expert skier killed by an avalanche in the Aiguilles rouges and a snowboarder died on the Alpes Maritimes.

A skier of high level was killed Saturday, May 18, 2019 in the massif of Aiguilles rouges (Haute-Savoie). It was carried away, it seems, by an avalanche while it came down a corridor “rather steep”, one learned this Sunday near the platoon of gendarmerie of high mountain of Chamonix. He was climbing the North East couloir of Aiguille de Mesure (at 2812 meters) trying to descend the same way when the avalanche occurred. This skier was alone at the time of the avalanche.

The mountain rescue did a preliminary helicopter search and found an ice axe and a ski, before locating the victim, aged 33, partially under the snow 500 meters below at the foot of the needle of Praz-Torrent (2,573 m altitude).

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Our Route des Grandes Alpes to cross from France into Italy

A stop for lunch at Notre Dame de Bellecombe. Our Route des Grandes Alpes to cross from France into Italy.

Our Route des Grandes Alpes to cross from France into Italy

This past summer we went to have a holiday in the mountains. From Chamonix we were off onto Courmayeur. But it was a Saturday – what is considered here in the mountains as a Samedi Noir or Sabato Nero, meaning very long queues to cross the Mont Blanc Tunnel.

This past summer was ridiculously hot – even in the mountains – with the temperature being 31 C in Chamonix in the morning – imagine staying a couple of hours in line to cross the Mont Blanc Tunnel did not seem too much fun at the time.

How adventures start - with a good map. The IGN Route des Grandes Alpes. Our Route des Grandes Alpes to cross from France into Italy.
How adventures start – with a good map. The IGN Route des Grandes Alpes. Our Route des Grandes Alpes to cross from France into Italy.

I’ve asked the evening before some friends I have in Chamonix on how other way we could go – and how about taking the Petit St Bernard Pass. Arnaud Jamson, the deputy director of the Chamonix Tourism Office suggested me to go all around and stop in Megève for lunch, then go to the Lac du Roselend and from there go up to La Rosière to cross into La Thuile through the Petit St Bernard. This is a typical road for motorcyclists and bikers alike – many of these roads have been used by the Tour de France!

As I have a memory of a mosquito, I’ve asked at the hotel’s reception where I could get a good map, and I was told to go into the main street in Chamonix. There is a wonderful books and magazine store – that I could stayed for hours just looking around, where I bought the IGN Map of Route des Grandes Alpes. I love maps and this one was a great addition to my collection.

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L’Héliopic Hotel Sweet & Spa in Chamonix- a hotel’s review

Going back to L'Héliopic after a day out in the mountains. Review of L’Héliopic Hotel Sweet & Spa in Chamonix.

L’Heliopic Hotel Sweet & Spa in Chamonix- a hotel’s review

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

L’Héliopic Hotel Sweet & Spa is a four stars hotel next to the Aiguille du Midi lift in Chamonix. Very well located in Chamonix; it is ideal if you are going up to the Aiguille du Midi and 10 minutes from Chamonix centre.

We have been twice at the hotel with my kids and husband in the summer in our way to Italy. My kids called it ‘the best hotel in the world’ – mostly because it has a dedicated kids’ area with free sweets, juices and a virtual reality machine and computer…. No brainer! The only thing is that while you are having breakfast suddenly your kids -maybe yours are very well educated and don’t do that, but I can say I educated mine, but they still disappear from the breakfast room and suddenly are – where? – obviously in the kids’ area having more sweets than their little bellies can bear!

The bar at L'Héliopic. Review of L’Héliopic Hotel Sweet & Spa in Chamonix.
The bar at L’Héliopic. Review of L’Héliopic Hotel Sweet & Spa in Chamonix.

My kids would also say that the spa area is really good, which it is indeed! With a nice large pool, a jacuzzi, an ice grotto, an ice dive standing pool, a sauna and hammam, plus a lovely relaxation area with hanging cocoons, it is a very nice place where to finish your day. It can get busy, so choose your time during the early afternoon or a bit late, just before it closes in the evening.

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What’s new in Chamonix for the 2018/19-ski season.

Le Brevent in Chamonix - ski with the views to the Mont Blanc. OT Vallée de Chamonix - Photo by Salome Abrial. What's new in Chamonix for the 2018-19-ski season.

What’s new in Chamonix for the 2018/19-ski season.

Chamonix is the capital of skiing, and it does not cater only to the daredevil, extreme skier, but also to families and beginners. Its different areas have something for everyone. Chamonix is a long valley within tall mountains, with a series of ski resorts on both sides of this valley.

Ready for the adventure - Vallée Blanche, Chamonix- what is new for Chamonix's 2018/19-ski season - Never ski the Vallée Blanche without a ski guide. Photo: Salome Abrial. OT Chamonix.
Ready for the adventure – Vallée Blanche, Chamonix- what is new for Chamonix’s ski season 2018-19 – Never ski the Vallée Blanche without a ski guide. Photo: Salome Abrial. OT Chamonix.

With 13,000 inhabitants Chamonix is a lively town that caters to tourists in all seasons. 400 shops opened all days, all year round and 130 restaurants can entertain the most discerning client, and those who don’t want to spend their bonuses. There are plenty of options for everyone.

Located in the border of France with Italy and just very near Switzerland, one can stay in Chamonix and ski the three countries with the Mont Blanc Unlimited pass. If you want to only ski in the Chamonix Valley Ski Areas, then purchase the Chamonix Le Pass.

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Richard Branson got ‘seconds from death’ on charity Mont Blanc climb

Sir Richard Branson and his son Sam almost did not make it in a charity climb to the Mont Blanc. Picture PA. Nepal Herald.

Richard Branson got ‘seconds from death’ on charity Mont Blanc climb

“Three seconds earlier we would all certainly have been killed. I have never come so close to losing my son,” Sir Richard said.

From: Nepal Herald and Sky News.

The 68-year-old, along with Sam and his nephew Noah Devereux reached the top of the mountain on Saturday afternoon after completing the 33-day Virgin Strive Challenge – a 2,000km trek across Western Europe.

Sir Richard Branson climbs Mont Blanc in the Alps in the final stage of the Virgin Strive Challenge (Picture: PA) Nepal Herald.
Sir Richard Branson climbs Mont Blanc in the Alps in the final stage of the Virgin Strive Challenge (Picture: PA) Nepal Herald.

A core team of 13 hiked, climbed, cycled and even used sea kayaks to complete their journey from Sardinia to the top of Mont Blanc – raising money for the charity Big Change which helps disadvantaged young people in the UK.

After completing the climb, Sir Richard said: ‘God forbid, a few seconds earlier it would not have been as pretty – so I’m very thankful we got through it.

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QC Terme, the Italian spa experience arrives in Chamonix

A new QC Terme opened in Chamonix - a sauna surrounded by skis.

QC Terme, the Italian brand of deluxe spas has just opened in Chamonix, by the Mont Blanc. There has been for years another QC Terme on the other side of the Mont Blanc, at Pré de St-Didier.

In this new QC Terme spa, nature is the protagonist, offering an indulging experience of swimming amidst the snow and grassy meadows.

Infinity pool at the QC Terme in Chamonix.
Infinity pool at the QC Terme in Chamonix.

The spa has an unexpected combination of warmth and freshness, water and earth. Within the spa’s 3,000 square meters there are more than 30 wellness practices, offering a multi-sensory journey. An infinity pool with a reflection that merges with the water of the adjacent Alpine lake and the Bossons Glacier.

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