Happiness in Chamonix
Welcome to the capital of skiing
Text and photo KRISTIN FOLSLAND OLSEN
Imagine a blue sky and a sun that actually feels warm. Glittering mountains sides as far as the eye can see, only disturbed by spectacular glaciers and sharp peaks which extends more than 4000 meters into the sky. Directly from the city centre, which is squeezed in between the mountains, gondolas take you high into the mountains. In the afternoon you slide – tired and happy – down from the mountain and directly into the nearest pub – on skis. This is Chamonix, the capital of skiing.
Adventures in the alps
Jimmy Halvardsson (38) is a certified mountain guide and has many years’ experience from Chamonix. Beginners and experienced skiers are welcome to join the Swede on adventures in the French Alps. Jimmy argues that Chamonix is the ultimate starting point for spectacular skiing experiences.
– There are ski lifts in the entire valley, which give you access to amazing ski terrain in all cardinal directions. It is possible to find good skiing in Chamonix, nearly regardless of weatherconditions, Jimmy explains enthusiastic and adds:
– Chamonix is one of the world’s largest alpine centres and should definitely be experienced if you enjoy skiing.
Chamonix has long traditions when it comes to alpine climbing and skiing, and in 1924 the Winter Olympics were held here. Lots of interesting history is connected to the area, and constantly people from all over the world venture there to create their own winter adventures.
Skiing for everyone
Chamonix is suitable for skiers with skills of all levels. The opportunities vary from the simplest prepared trails to some of the steepest and most challenging skiing terrains in the world. Chamonix is situated close to Italy and Switzerland, in a valley surrounded by high mountains in all directions. West Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc (4810 meters) is only a stone’s throw way the French Alpine town.
In close proximity to Chamonix are five ski areas. Brévent and Aiguille du Midi are reached by taking the gondola from the city centre. Grand Montets, Domaine de Balme and COmaine des Houches is reached by busses that go continuously from the city. If this is not enough, the Italian town of Courmayeur is 30 minutes away by car and the Swiss village of Verbier only 40 minutes away by car.
Skiing with a guide
Scandinavians are mostly used to skiing on their own, but increasingly more people now choose to do as the central Europeans have done for several decades; they hire a guide. There are many advantages: a guide knows the area and consequently time will be spent more efficiently in suitable slopes. The chance of finding “good snow” increases, and a guide contributes to increased safety.
– We can also contribute to your development as a skier with regards to technique by giving you challenges at the correct level and by inspiring you to push yourself. In short; you maximize your days skiing in the mountains if you hire a guide, Jimmy summarises.
The kingdom of contrasts
In addition to being a skiing Mecca, Chamonix also offers fine city-experiences. There are great opportunities for shopping, accommodation, entertainment, and a wide variety of restaurants serving food of the highest quality in all price ranges.
I like the contrast between the life in the mountains and the life in the city that you get to experience here.
– I like the contrast between the life in the mountains and the life in the city that you get to experience here, Jimmy says before he slips off and plows playfully down the unspoilt mountain side. Hundreds of thousands of snow crystals swirls up behind him and creates a veil of diamonds glittering in the sun. This is the taste of happiness.
Jimmys favourites in Chamonix:
SIMPEL: Valée Blanche
MEDIUM: Pas de chevre på Grand Montet
DEMANDING: Couloir cosmiques
Jimmy Halvardsson lives in Tromsø, Norway, but parts of the season he works as a guide in Chamonix
Season: December – April
Hiring a certified guide is a good idea to ensure safety, finding the best snow and making the most of the day. There are international associations for mountain guides all over the world. In each of the more than 20 member countries there is a national association that educates the guides according to international guidelines. Look for the designation IFMGA/UIAGM/IVBV to ensure that the guide is certified.
Pain au chocolat
If you are in Chamonix and want to make a good impression on your guide, buy one or two “pain au chocolat”. The French pastry is all guides’ favourite and is devoured with a passion. Buy them piping hot from the nearest boulangerie, and you will have your guide in the palm of your hand.
Aguille de Midi:
From the centre of Chamonix you may take the gondola up to Aguille du Midi, 3842 meters above the ocean. From Aguille du Midi you may ski down the classic route Vallée Blanche and end up in the city. The slope is 20 kilometres long and has a height difference of 2700 meters. The slope includes some areas with fractured glaciers. Use a guide if you are not experienced with glaciers.
In Chamonix it is possible to climb glaciers and cliffs, go cross country skiing, snowshoeing, kiting, dog sledding, paragliding, in addition to shopping, eating at restaurants and much more.
Read More at