Chamonix is known as an extreme sports paradise – full of gnarly backcountry addicts, high altitude parapenters and vertical mountaineers – but if you thought it was only for the hardcore, you’d be much mistaken.
The host of the first Winter Olympics in 1924 has a distinguished past. It was a ‘resort’ hundreds of years before it became a ‘ski resort’, but Chamonix certainly isn’t living in the past, as one new feature after another is helping it pivot into a modern, funky resort.
Here are just five reasons why you need to visit Chamonix this winter:
La Folie Douce
Let’s just say that again – it’s La Folie Douce! Their first venue opened in Val d’Isere as long ago as 1980, but in recent years its famous brand of high-altitude clubbing has spread across the Alps to eight venues in France.
What makes the Folie Douce in Chamonix unique is that it marks the opening of the first Folie Douce hotel. Not only can you keep clubbing through from après-ski to 10pm, but you can then eat dinner and go to sleep in the same building.
The property in question is the Le Savoy Hotel – one of the three large Belle Epoque palaces built at the start of the twentieth century after the railway first came to Chamonix in 1901.
The hotel was previously used by Club Med but has been completely refurbished by the Folie Douce team, combining original features with quirky new additions such as swan-shaped self-check in desks and Bansky-esque faux art.
Guests have the choice of dorm rooms, 4-star premium rooms for 2-4 people and 3-star hostel accommodation for 2-6 people.
More Folie Douce hotels are planned for Serre Chevalier and Samoens, thanks to the new partnership with boutique chain Les Hôtels (très) Particuliers.
This is the first venture outside Italy for QC Therme Spas and Resorts and their ninth spa in total. Be prepared to treat yourself: this beautifully designed luxury complex is the perfect place to relax after a hard day on the slopes.
We recommend you allow at least two hours so you can enjoy every one of the saunas, jet spas and steam rooms in the 3000 square metre centre.
The highlight is the infinity pool that looks out towards the Aiguille du Midi and Mont Blanc. This must be the most scenic spa in the Alps, so make sure you arrive in time for sunset and watch the sun disappear over the jagged peaks of the surrounding mountains.
Step in the Void
A visit to the Aiguille du Midi should be on everyone’s bucket list and is an essential part of any visit to Chamonix. The dramatic cable car journey takes you almost 3km vertically from the town of Chamonix to 3842m – the closest you can get to the 4807m Mont Blanc without hiking or climbing further.
Watch out when you step off the top cable car station – half an hour ago you were breathing relatively oxygen heavy air at resort level (1035m) – but at this altitude, your heart will be beating just walking up a flight of steps.
Take it easy and enjoy the views as you prepare to ‘Step into the Void’ – a must for any visit to the Aiguille du Midi.
This remarkable feature is only for the brave as you’re invited to step into a glass box, with 12mm thick triple-layer glass panels. The only catch is that the floor is glass too…and there’s a thousand metre drop below you to the ground.
This great feature is free, so although there can be queues at peak times, all that’s required of you is the courage to ‘Step into the Void’
Rocky Pop Hotel
Located in Les Houches, 10 minutes from the centre of Chamonix, the Rocky Pop Hotel is unlike any hotel we’ve seen.
“We will Rocky Pop you!” is their motto and eccentricity is evident throughout this offbeat property. From the R2D2 and C3PO that greet you in the foyer, to the Space Invaders carpet in the hallways or the 80s video arcade games, the Rocky Pop has a unique identity of its own.
There’s a sense of humour that you don’t normally find in hotels. Your kids will love it, and so will your budget, as the rooms are excellent value for money. Just make sure to leave some time when you visit their website to book – there’s an online Pac-Man on the home page that’s very addictive!
Musilac Mont-Blanc Festival
After the success of the inaugural festival, the three-day Musilac Mont Blanc Festival returns from Friday 26th to Sunday 28th April 2019.
In 2018 over 40,000 music fans saw an eclectic mix of more than 20 bands, with something for all the family. For 2019, UK indie band Editors have already been confirmed with more acts being regularly announced.
It’s hard to imagine any stage having a more impressive setting that at the foot of Mont Blanc, so snap up some spring skiing and save money by buying a combined ‘rock and ride’ lift pass.
For more information about Chamonix this winter, take a look at the InTheSnow Chamonix resort guide.