Chamonix Mont-Blanc à la Club Med
by Michael Morcos
The French Alps have a wealth of wonders ready to share with visitors and the town of Chamonix, in the Savoie region, is a magnificent example of the riches available!
This idyllic town is a popular spot for many reasons, including for the ever charming town itself!
This region links three countries together, and is a major draw for people travelling from Italy through the long tunnel under Mont Blanc, an engineering marvel in itself. Switzerland is also a close neighbour and has many visitors who come to this town filled with outdoor cafes, restaurants and bars.
The welcoming nature of the town is reinforced by the stylish inns and boutique hotels, ancient fountains, a lovely church, cobbled stone streets and pedestrian shopping areas with many speciality stores selling local foods including cheese and sausage delicacies.
We stayed at the Club Med Chamonix, well situated in the lovely town with Mont-Blanc lift stations right behind the complex and easy access to the amazing skiing available on its slopes and the charming town outside the door.
The Club Med resort was a fantastic place to stay, with a staff filled with an amazing group of welcoming, enthusiastic, attentive people, who were never intrusive. From reception to the goodbye, they were ready and willing to help at a moment’s notice.
The hotel itself is large and has many different niches and alcoves to sit with the family to play a game, have a warm drink with a partner or enjoy a fireside book.
The outdoor swimming pool was comfortable to swim in but a little cool to “lounge” in, but the misty effect caused by the temperature difference created a lovely atmosphere. The poolside deserves an additional special mention for its cleanliness and mountain views to take the breath away.
My room offered a balcony with a panoramic view of the extraordinary Mont-Blanc. Comfortably furnished, the room was a good place to recoup, regroup and recover.
As expected when visiting France, the food was exceptional, and on any given night just about everything you could think of was served. To our delight, the desert table was completely sinful and we were also treated to the local speciality of an amazing Savoie cheese fondue and Pierrade – a flat hot plate style of cooking meats and vegetables.
The entertainment was multi-lingual, with French and English being used along with a little Russian, Italian, Portuguese and more. The shows were run by the resort staff and were an entertaining mix of proficiency and enthusiasm. Other in-resort fun included the lounge and the disco, repleat with music from around the world.
The Hotel is on the edge of the town centre, happily within walking distance after a full days skiing!
Skiing was, of course, the greatest part of the stay. The region is a top ski destination for a reason, and Club Med has responded to this with their typical style. Their massive ski pro shop offers rentals for either skiing or snowboarding and they have hired excellent ski instructors, who also acted as our guides and friends throughout our stay.
Access to the slopes was either by walking a few yards to a beginner slope or taking a button lift which allowed an easy ski to the main lift, or by bus to a linked ski centre. For myself, Mont Blanc, located behind the town and close by the resort, gave me the ski experience of a lifetime!
Our days were filled with fun and exciting activities, and as the town is situated near the massive peaks of the Aiguilles Rouges, Chamonix is one of the oldest ski resorts in France and is known as the “gateway to the European Cascades.” The 1924 Winter Olympics were held in this picturesque town and its special Alpine feeling is quite palpable.
If you visit Chamonix, there is something you must do – climb the l’Aiguille next to Mont Blanc. The gondola follows two pathways to the top. The first leg heads up to the Plan de L’Aiguille. At this point you can visit the mid-station, a great place to start some backcountry skiing. In the summer time you’ll want to continue on to the top. At 12,605 feet you will probably start feeling the altitude at the summit station. There you will find the walkway/tunnel to the area where skiers start their descent of the Mer De Glace glacier. The trail is considered one of the longest ski descents in the world. In the summer, the cliff faces are filled with adventurous rock climbers around the summit! For the less daring, there is a glass over hang on top where people can walk onto a glass plate form, this is safe but a very scary feeling and most people are quite reluctant but come back laughing!.
The Mer de Glace is a glacier that is as fun to ski as it is too incredible to see. You have the option to take a cute red cog (a train speciality outfitted to climb steep inclines). An elevator at the top will bring you to a terrace with fantastic views of Mt. Blanc.
The Club also provided shuttles that took us to other ski hills in the region, offering us different runs and experiences on a daily basis. The skiing is exquisite for all skill levels and extreme enough for me; but some members of our group went on a thrill-seekers adventure. Up very early one morning, they made there way to the top of the Aiguille de midi mountain, from there they ascended with skis in hand on dangerous and narrow paths to ski untouched mountain trails. They said it was heavenly, I said it was crazy!
The area is known for extreme sports, including the skiing. Parasailing and hang gliding amongst the mountains is an amazing experience for those with a stomach for heights, and the most incredible thing I saw were two young men who would climb to tops of mountains and fly like birds through the sky. They looked like bats with their special black ‘wing suit’ and would finally land with a parachute. Unbelievable!
In the town, visitors can also enjoy the Chamonix Leisure park at the feet of Mont Blanc ! This Amusement park is an ideal place to spend a pleasant afternoon in a family or in group. More than 15 activities and games await you!
The Chamonix Luge Alpine Coaster is open in summer and winter and there are many other activities available. Slides, toboggans, trampolines, electric motorcycles, climbing parks, giant swings, boat flying… A great family activity!
My stay at club med in this magical playground was a memorable experience full of physical activities, wonderful gastronomy and lots of French culture.