Lay of the Land
“Always seek out difficulty but not danger. Take the initiative, attempt, dare—for in audacity lies enchantment.”~Gaston Rébuffat, mountaineer
The Chamonix valley, which extends nearly 15 miles, borders three countries (Switzerland, France and Italy) and consists of four villages: Servoz, Les Houches, Vallorcine and Chamonix-Mont Blanc. The Arve, a glacial river of freezing, greenish water runs through town, dividing two mountain ranges, the glacial Massif du Mont Blanc and Le Aguilles Rouges, a chain of non-glacial mountains that are green in the summer (Mont Blanc remains perpetually white). Dictated by the river’s path, Chamonix town is long and narrow, with most restaurants sitting in the town center and hotels on the edges. It is important to note that there are no ski-in/ski-out hotels in Chamonix and very few chalets with that kind of access. Furthermore, because of the sprawling nature of the valley, ski regions are spread out and the nearest lift is a five-minute drive away. Read more about Chamonix’s skiing.
The easiest way to reach Chamonix is to fly into Geneva airport and drive the one hour southeast to Chamonix. The main highways are excellent and clearly marked, though can get icy. As you drive, you’ll see signs for cities in Switzerland, Italy and France and heading towards Mont Blanc will lead past fields of bushy sheep, well-fed cows and quaint villages with church steeples, alpine-roofed chalets and smoking chimneys. Passing into France brings with it soaring mountains ahead and to the left, which for most of the year are snow covered. The mountains are so high, we recommend renting a car with a moon roof in order to see their dramatic peaks. Alternate airports to fly into are Lyon (two hours away) and Milan airport (two-and-a-half hours away).