Europe / France

Chamonix

Fancy a bit of skiing, snowboarding, telemarking, cross-country skiing, ski-touring, mountaineering, ice climbing, paragliding or snowshoeing? Well, then you've come to the right place: Chamonix Mont Blanc. Why not hire a high mountain guide or a mountain leader and have an unforgettable day in the mountains next to the Chamonix Valley?

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc or, more commonly, Chamonix is a commune in the Haute-Savoie département in the Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France. It was the site of the 1924 Winter Olympics, the first Winter Olympics. The commune's population of around 9,800 ranks 865th within the country of France.

Situated near the massive peaks of the Aiguilles Rouges, Chamonix shares the summit of Mont Blanc with its neighboring commune of Courmayeur in Italy, and owns the title of highest commune in France. The commune is well known and loved by skiers and by mountain enthusiasts of all types. Mont Blanc, with a summit elevation of 4,810 m (15,781 ft) above sea level, is the third most visited natural site in the world. With an area of 245 km2 (95 sq mi), Chamonix is the fourth largest commune in mainland France.

Chamonix is a popular winter sports resort town in France. As the highest European mountain west of Russia, Mont Blanc holds a special allure for mountain climbers, and Mark Twight described the town as "the death-sport capital of the world" because it is a base for almost all types of outdoor activity, especially their more extreme variants, such as ice climbing, rock climbing, extreme skiing, paragliding, rafting, and canyoning.

Chamonix is famous for its spectacular cable car up to the Aiguille du Midi (3,842 m (12,605 ft)). Constructed in 1955, it was then the highest cable car in the world. Together with a cable car system going up to the Pointe Helbronner (3,462 m (11,358 ft)) from Entréves in the Aosta Valley (Italy) it is possible to cross the entire Mont Blanc massif by cable car (the latter is only open during the summer).

In the summer months Chamonix is a mecca for alpine mountaineers, drawn to the area by challenges like the north, west and south-west faces of the Dru, the Frendo Spur on the Aiguille du Midi, the north face of the Grandes Jorasses and the massive face climbs on the south side of Mont Blanc. Traversing the Alps on the GR 5 footpath or more accessible challenges like reaching the summit of Mont Blanc (by a number of possible routes) are also popular.

Chamonix is also a destination for mountain bikers. Besides the obvious lift-assisted areas for Freeriders there are hundreds of kilometres of challenging hidden singletrack trails – often only found with the help of guides, although since the summer of 2008 mountain biking is only permitted on a small selection of trails during July and August.

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