No sooner have we had our first dusting of snow than the lifts are open again for the autumn half-term holidays! Brevent gondola and cable car open tomorrow morning at 9am – here are our favourite things to do in Chamonix, both on and off the mountain.
Discovery Photo Walk
Take a guided tour with a difference and find all the hidden corners and secluded backstreets of Chamonix. Teresa has lived in the valley for long enough to know all its secrets and you’ll see whole different aspect with her as your guide. You can either enjoy the walk for its own sake or bring along your camera for some expert tips on getting some great shots – Teresa is also a professional photographer. This Thursday she is visiting the historic Hotel Mont Blanc and meeting their Michelin starred chef, as he invites you into his kitchen to see him at work. For 50€ you will also enjoy a gourmet lunch at the 5* hotel.
Discovery Photo Walks in Chamonix – find out more
With two paragliding sites open in the valley this week there are plenty of flight options! You can either take off from the grassy plateaux of Brevent and soar along the valley right opposite Mont Blanc, or take to the skies from Aiguille du Midi and drift over the glaciers of the Vallée Blanche. Either way, you’ll enjoy amazing views and be able to see exactly where the snow has fallen in the past few days.
Paragliding in Chamonix – find out more
The Aiguille du Midi cable car and Montenvers train are both open until the end of November, giving access to the Vallée Blanche and the Mer de Glace glaciers. What could put you in the mood for winter more than exploring the icy wonderland that lies between the seracs and crevasses of the Mont Blanc valley? Roped up and accompanied by a guide, you’ll learn how to move safely across the ice using crampons and ice axes to discover another world.
Glacier Hikes in Chamonix – find out more
Lakes & Mountains
Brevent is a great area to explore with a network of hiking trails that lead to a number of beautiful alpine lakes. Now that winter is almost upon us many animals are starting to prepare for hibernation and you’re likely to see marmots bumbling around on the rocks and chamois coming down from the higher terrain to be closer to the forest. You can either grab a trail map and find your own way, or go on a guided hike with an IML who can show you all the very best sights and point out local flora and fauna.
Mountain Hiking in Chamonix – find out more
Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of the year in Chamonix. Yes, summer is glorious and winter is magical, but the golden glow and tranquillity of autumn can’t be beaten.
You see a real difference in the seasons here in the Alps – each one is distinct and comes with its own colour palette. At the moment the leaves in Chamonix are ranging from fiery red to deep green, while the mountains are carpeted with a thick bed of purple and orange heather that will soon become covered over with snow.
One of the best things about autumn is how peaceful it is; you can hike for hours and barely see another soul, which means that you are far more likely to spot alpine wildlife such as chamois, bouquetin and marmots.
The lifts may be closed but there are plenty of wonderful hiking trails lower down in the valley; you can hike the Petit Balcons between Chamonix and Argentiere, or ramble around the lovely old stone chalets in Vallorcine. The trail from Le Buet to the Refuge de Bérard is stunning at this time of year and if you don’t mind a bit of uphill then the rolling alpages of Le Tour and Les Houches are definitely worth the effort.
Hiking in Chamonix
There may be an autumnal nip in the air but it’s not too cold (yet) to go rock climbing. The Chamonix valley is full of low, middle and high altitude crags that get the sun on them at different times of day so there’s always somewhere to go. If you’re new to the area or a beginner to climbing, then consider hiring a climbing guide for the day. They’ll take you to all the best spots and give you invaluable tips on improving your technique. And, at this time of year, you’ll never find yourself having to wait for a route at the foot of a busy crag.
Climbing in Chamonix
The only lifts that remain open at the moment are the Aiguille du Midi and Montenvers; you can get a return lift pass that covers both and the hike from Plan de l’Aiguille across to Montenvers is one of our all-time favourites. Parapenting is a fantastic way to see the Chamonix valley in all its glory – floating past high peaks and over glaciers as you drift back down to earth. At this time of year you can still fly from the Plan de l’Aiguille at 2317m, or from the summit of Aiguille du Midi at 3842m.
Paragliding in Chamonix
The Brevent lift will soon be reopening for the All Saint’s holiday (half-term for many schools) at the end of October (17/10/15-06/11/15), opening up more hiking trails, rock climbing crags and parapente take-off sites.
Lifts in Chamonix
You can find great last minute deals and low season rates on accommodation in Chamonix at this time of year, so come and see what all the fuss is about!
Accommodation in Chamonix
This weekend is the last for many of the Chamonix lifts with Brevent, Le Tour and Les Houches all closing at the end of Sunday afternoon. The good news is that the Aiguille du Midi, Train du Montenvers and Tramway du Mont Blanc continue until the beginning of November.
In the meantime, what is there to do during autumn in Chamonix? Typically this is the harvest period, so there are lots of festivals and markets celebrating seasonal produce such as cider, honey, hazelnuts, etc.
It is also the time of year when shepherds bring their herds down from the mountains before the snow comes – we’ve already had traffic jams of a different sort in town this week!
A farming tradition that has turned into an annual festival is the Combat des Reines – the battle of the queens.
The large but gentle Hérens cows that graze in the Alps need to establish a hierarchy before the winter sets in, so they have a bit of a set-to to determine who is queen of the herd. It’s a very mild affair with a bit of shoving and the occasional head butt – no matadors involved, just an old chap in a large floppy beret. The event attracts a crowd of spectators and there’s usually a few stalls selling food, drinks and local crafts such as knives, cow bells, leatherwork, etc and a bit of musical entertainment courtesy of the Alpine horn. Entry is free and everyone is welcome. This year’s Combat des Reines take place in Servoz next Sunday 27th September from 9am onwards.
Other autumnal events include a heritage day this Sunday 20th September, also in Servoz, where you’ll be able to take part in traditional activities such as bread baking in the old communal oven in Vieux Servoz from 9am to midday, apple picking followed by cider pressing and a typical Savoyard banquet at the Salle de Jean Morel at noon (reservation for banquet required at the tourist office, 13€ per person).
Now is a fantastic time for hiking, as the lush greens and bright colours of summer turn into the orange, red and purple hazes of autumn. Although the majority of the lifts are closed there are still lots of hiking trails accessible all over the valley. Foragers will find myrtilles (blueberries), mushrooms, apples and plums growing wild in the forests and meadows.
If you want to sample typical Alpine produce you can either visit one of the markets that take place during the week or make a visit to the Pain de Chibon farm in Les Houches, where Gerard holds an open afternoon every Wednesday from 3pm to 7pm. You can buy freshly baked bread, local cheeses, homegrown fruits and vegetables whilst enjoying a glass of complimentary mulled wine.
So, autumn is a great time to take advantage of cheap flights and low-season prices on accommodation in Chamonix – come and see for yourself!