How to make the best of Chamonix in one Winter day when you don’t know skiing?
Little information about Chamonix…
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (usually shortened to Chamonix) is a resort area near the junction of France, Switzerland and Italy. Situated at the base of Mont Blanc, the highest summit in the Alps, it’s renowned for its skiing and snow sports. Year-round cable cars take visitors up to several nearby peaks with incredible panoramic views, including Aiguille du Midi town, and Pointe Helbronner as well as across vast glacier fields on the Italian border.
I had to be in Geneva for a few days and I decided to take the opportunity to visit Chamonix for a weekend, but, I don’t know how to ski. Will there be enough things to do and places to see in Chamonix?
How to get to Chamonix from Geneva?
There is a great choice of door to door buses running between Geneva airport to Chamonix, costing roughly €30 each way. After some research I decided to go with Chamexpress. Not a good experience since the bus driver only dropped me in the town center instead of the doorstep of the hostel whilst a room mate also used them on a different bys but was instead dropped off right in front of the door. I avoided Chamexpress for my return journey and instead booked with Alpy Bus. The transfer takes approx 1 hour and 30 minutes.
I was pretty anxious about how the weather would develop so I constantly checked the forecast. My phone was showing a grey Saturday and a sunny Sunday for the weekend I was due to be there. I explored the town center of Chamonix – it’s a small town, small enough just to spend 30 mins on foot from end to end. The pedestrian area is full of outdoor stores, cafes, restaurants, bars and souvenir stores so is highly geared towards the snow seekers.
Sunday morning I flicked the window curtain open and I was very disappointed to see the town is completely immersed in a thick fog. What should I do today? I lost my motivation to get out of bed completely. I strolled into the hostel kitchen and initiated a conversation with one of the hostel residents. Although I don’t remember her name, her ski plan was impressive. In fact, most of people I met in this hostel had similar plans. They are seasonal skiers saving whatever they can in the other three seasons and then they will commit the entire winter season just for skiing.
I sat with her and she explained she was about to depart for her next ski destination. She is from Amsterdam and had been travelling in her little car around Europe seeking adventures in different ski resorts. After I shared my initial plans for today’s activities and the concerns I had regarding the weather, she suggested to check out the WebCam on the Chamonix’s tourism board website before heading out. (WebCam in Chamonix).
What a great tool to have for travellers! It shows live weather conditions up in the peak of Mont-Blanc. In a thick foggy day it’s hard to tell what it is really like up in the mountains. The WebCam showed clear blue sky condition of the place I wanted to visit today.
Here I go then: I packed my stuff quickly and headed off to the train station for Montenvers Mer de Glace. This famous rack and pinion railway ascends to the Montenvers site at 1913 meters above sea level. I sat on the left hand side of the train it brought me a breathtaking panoramic view from the window overlooking the village sits in between the valley. The thick clouds blew through as white streams below us as the train ascended. What a difference! The bright sun shined on the snow coated mountain peaks. Just a 20 minutes ride and we arrived one of the popular tourist destinations – Montenvers Mer de Glace.
Did you know about Mont-Blanc MultiPass?
This multi-pass will enable you to use all the cable cars unlimited, accessing several mountain peaks:
- Brevent-Flegere Area
- Balme Tour Vallorcine Area
- Montenvers Mer de Glacie
- Les Houches Area, Megeve Area
- Grands-Montets Area
- Aiguille du Midi.
Click to see full ticket information and prices.
Trekking trails in Montenvers Mer de Glace are a little limited during winter. There are cafes just by the train station and an observation deck. There were people skiing on the glacier itself, looked really fun.
I descended to Grotte de Glace. There were about 400ish stairs down to the ice cave. Also nearby was a starting point for people to start their skiing route or snowshoeing route.
The ice cave was pretty small and there wasn’t much you can do if you don’t ski. I enjoyed the scenery and the clouds fluttering towards me. I met another solo traveller from Newcastle in the ice cave who had the same programme as me for the day. We started to share our travel experiences in Chamonix which always interests me. I love to hear other people’s opinion and experiences of a place and hear stories of their life as this gives a different perspective.
We had a quick bite to each after arriving back to Chamonix town center. Aiguille du Midi cable car is located right in the center. I was able to change my Montenvers Mer de Glace train ticket to the day multipass at the ticketing office of Aiguille du Midi and just paid for the fare difference. The Aiguille du Midi is an extremely popular attraction with nearly half a million visitors per year. No surprises, the queue for the cable car is quite long. At the main entrance, it displayed the temperature of -12 up at the peak.
The Aiguille du Midi is a 3842 meter peak in the Mont Blanc massif of the French Alps. This is the closest you can get to the summit of Mont-Blanc without hiking or climbing. The Aiguille du Midi is the highest mountain peak served by an aerial lift system.
It needs approximately 1 hour if glancing through the site without too much stopping (and photo taking). The walking loop is nicely marked so you won’t miss anything. There were also couple of cafes in the peak where you can enjoy a nice hot drink and soak in the view. I rushed a little since I had a flight to catch in the evening. I must admit the scenery up in the peak was breath taking.
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