Massive Adventures in the Massif du Mont Blanc, Chamonix

Today’s post was written by Anna Ridley. Anna is a freelance travel writer who enjoys spending time at the beach. Her passions include listening and dancing to funky jazz and spanish music, reading and travelling.

If I had known ten years ago that I would be attempting to learn to snowboard at the grand old age of 28, I would have jumped on a plane to the Alps to get some practice in.

However, it was time for me to cross off one of the “Things to Do Before I’m 30” on my ever-expanding list, and visit now before fear set in and persuaded me take up the safer hobby of flower arranging.

The French resort of Chamonix called out to me for two reasons:

  1. It is home to the biggest mountain in the Alps – Mont Blanc
  2. It has an excellent reputation for après ski and nightlife

Situated in the Haute-Savoie area of the Rhone-Alps region in south-eastern France, Chamonix sits on the border of France and Italy at the foot of the majestic Mont Blanc.

The resort’s nearest airport is Geneva, just over an hour away, and the easiest and cheapest way to get to Chamonix is with a shared transfer on a minibus costing about €25 each way. I felt honoured as I stepped through Arrivals to find my driver awaiting me holding a welcome board with my name written on it. Isanna is not my actual name but it seems that when they asked me for my name when I booked the transfer over the phone, and I replied: “It’s Anna”, wires got crossed somewhere…..

Chamonix’s individual character becomes evident as soon as we veered off the winding icy hairpin bends (intentionally) and entered the thriving town. The streets are lined with busy restaurants, cafes, bars, and sports shops but it’s the backdrop of the breathtaking mountains that gives the town its magical atmosphere.

Accommodation isn’t particularly cheap and there are just a handful of hostels in the town (about €18-€25 per night) but if you are travelling with a group, it’s often cheaper to book an apartment or chalet and cram everyone in – you won’t be spending much time there!

Without further ado, I head off for my first experience on the slopes. Rather than book a lesson with a qualified instructor (the joys of hindsight), I am thrown in head first (quite literally) by my friend who believes he has the teaching skills required.

Le Brevant is our destination, and once we’ve taken the short gondola ride up the mountain I find myself learning the basics of the sport: heel edge, toe edge, turn. Sounded easy enough.

A Chamonix Le Pass ski lift pass is about €205 for six days and the full Mont Blanc Pass is €250 and day passes are also available from about €40. (Chamonix.mydestinationinfo.com has more info on ski pass options).

Note to those who are learning to snowboard: If you are on a chairlift heading up the mountain, remember to turn your body at an angle before jumping off the lift. I reached this conclusion while lying face down in the snow as a loud klaxon rang around me accompanied by jeers from fellow skiers and riders who were still on the lift which had now come to a halt.

After numerous slips and slides, small cartwheels, aching arms, and totally exhaustion, I finally manage to stand up on my board. With that now mastered, I attempted my descent down the mountain. I managed about ten seconds of “freeriding” before I was back on my (thankfully rather curvy) behind.

Enough is enough; it was time to do what I came out here to do – hit the après ski bars. Undoing my bindings, I sat down on my board with one leg either side and pushed myself off for the toboggan ride off a lifetime.

Still donning my snowboard pants, jacket and boots, I found myself sitting (on a chair this time) within the vibrant surroundings of La Terrasse sipping a demi. The place was packed out with rosy-faced alpine sports enthusiasts and the hills were certainly alive with the sound of music.

I’m not sure if it’s the adrenalin of surviving my first snowboarding adventure, or it’s the Genepi (a sweet herb-flavoured digestif liqueur) chaser which followed my first beer, but the idea of doing a full season out here is becoming more and more appealing…

The great thing about Chamonix is that is an all-year round resort. During the summer months, the white glistening champagne powder snow is a distant memory and the town comes alive with lush green landscapes and mountain-biking enthusiasts, hikers and climbers.

Though, I managed to tick off one of my “Things to Do Before I’m 30”, I’ve also added another: Go Glacier Climbing in the Massif du Mont Blanc!

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2 Responses to “Massive Adventures in the Massif du Mont Blanc, Chamonix”

  1. Katherina says:

    Seems like our minds worked along the same lines – I also made my way through my bucket list and crossed out the one that said “learn how to snowboard”!

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