Category Archives: New Services

Spring Nature Outings

Wandering what to do in June? A couple of ideas for outings to discover the Alpine fauna and flora. Admire the views, enjoy a mountain terrace, whilst avoiding snowy trails! Suitable for all the family.

Merlet Animal Park

Cerf-JCPoirot sept2011 Marmotte-JCPoirot sept2011
Discover this unique location on the south facing side of the Chamonix Valley above the village of Coupeau (Les Houches). The park is located at 1’500 m altitude and offers a natural balcony where our four footed friends enjoy front seat views of the Mont-Blanc Massif. Wander through the park and you will meet the native ibex, chamois, deer, marmots, mountain goats as they roam the mountain side. You will also encounter a few exotic lamas who have a tendancy to spit at visitors who don’t respect their comfort zone!

Merlet Animal Park. Photo J-C Poirot

There are easy walks (accessible with push chairs although a child backpack is more practical) and a high trail for those who want to discover more of the park. Allow around 2 hours for the visit. The ‘Auberge du Balcon de Merlet’ serves refreshments and lunches and you too will be admirative of the panorama.
Opening times in June: 10h to 18h except Mondays.
Entry fee: adults: 6 € ; children 4 to 14 yrs:4 €
For the well-being of the animals, dogs and picnics are not accepted. Flat shoes recommended.
Access: On foot from Chamonix via the Petit Balcon Sud, then direction Merlet = approx. 2 hours. On foot from Les Gaillands/Les Bossons = approx. 1½ hours. By vehicle: 6 km from the station in Les Houches; 11 km from Chamonix (exit N205 n°27)
More information visit Merlet web site

The Aiguilles Rouges Nature Reserve and the Boerne Gite

Situated at the Col des Montets, 3 km beyond Argentière the Aiguilles rouges chalet laboratory offers visitors a unique opportunity to delve into the passionate world of fauna and flora in the mountains. A botanical path around the reserve highlights alpine flowers and vegetation and offers a perfect opportunity for marmot spotting. If you’re lucky you will also see ibex or chamois who have come down to graze the lower pastures due to the late vegetation this year.

Orchis 06/06/13

Orchis 06/06/13

Photo J-C Poirot

Photo J-C Poirot

There is a permanent exhibition within the chalet, fascinating for all ages, with microscopes, interactive screens, projections and conferences. The Reserve staff and post graduate students will be delighted to share their knowledge with you and on request, they can accompany you on the botanical path around the reserve.

The chalet is open daily from 10h to 17h30. Light refreshments available. Entry free. Dogs are not admitted to the nature reserve.
Access: Take the bus to Montroc (buses approximately every hour in June). From Montroc walk in the direction of the railway tunnel and take the path left over the tunnel, direction Trélechamps and the Col des Montets. Maps available in all the Valley tourist offices.

Walking time: A very leisurely 1 hr one way. The Gite la Boerne in the hamlet of Tréléchamps offers an idyllic location for a lunch stop or afternoon tea on your way there or back. The gite has a children’s play area, a mountain stream, exceptional views and an abundance of flowers. Located on the TMB route, this delightful refuge also serves excellent value evening meals on reservation.

Gite La Boërne

Gite La Boërne

View of Tréléchamps and Chamonix Aiguilles

View of Tréléchamps and Chamonix Aiguilles

tréléchamps

From Tréléchamps return to Montroc (15 minutes leisurely walk). As you leave the village on your left, keep an eye out for the totem family, sternly presiding over the mountain side. Hewed out of fallen trees following last year’s storms, they stand like sentinels guarding the pass!

The totem topplers!

The totem topplers!

Electric bikes now available for hire!

The tourist office takes reception of Chamonix's new electric bikes.

The tourist office takes reception of Chamonix’s new electric bikes.

Be amongst the first to test these all terrain electric bikes!

If you like bike riding, but Chamonix’s hills sometimes get the better of you, this is a perfect option.

With a maximum autonomy of 150 km, and a basket which can carry 25 kg of luggage, you can plan a great day’s outing ! The bikes are available for hire from the different tourist offices in the Chamonix Valley (Chamonix, Les Houches, Vallorcine and Servoz) but they do have to be returned to the same pick up point, so you can’t pedal to Geneva and leave them!

The cost per 24 hours hire is 10 euros, and can be renewed only once as numbers are limited.
These electric bikes have 5 modes (from economy to sport), depending on how hard or how little you pedal. The minimum autonomy is 30 km if you are making full use of the battery and maximum is 150 km when in economy mode.

Some suggested bike routes will be supplied at the time of bike hire. These bikes are designed for paths, easy trails and road riding.
Available for hire for adults and juniors from 15 years of age (minors have to be accompanied by an adult).

Enquiries at the tourist office of your choice. A refundable credit card deposit will be taken at the time of hire.

An exceptional Winter !

P1020101

According to the locals, the total snowfall measured this winter at 1400m was 12 metres! Last snowfall to date in Chamonix on 29th May 2013! Surprisingly snowfall at higher altitudes (2,000m) was 12.5 metres, so not much more than in the villages of Montroc and Le Tour. A very long, very snowy winter which has extended well into spring.

The quantity of accumulated snowfall is greater than winter 2011/12, which was already a great season (11 metres at 2,000m), but considerably more than previous winters where the average total snowfall was 7 metres at 2,000m.

We asked local glaciologist Luc Moreau whether these two successive long winters were likely to have an impact on the receding glaciers… “Over the past two years, we have had winters resembling those between 1970 – 80, when the glaciers were very healthy. If the glaciers are to benefit from this snow, the summer needs to be neither too hot, nor too long! For the past 20 years summers have been hotter and 80% of  the snowfall above 3,000 metres has been melting, hence the regeneration of ice is considerably diminished. Ideally we need lots of winters like this one, and summers that aren’t too hot”

So far, so good… we didn’t suffer from the heat in May :) !

Another well known figure in the valley is Joel Devouassoux. In winter his days often begin well before dawn and finish when the job is done, as he snowploughs around the clock to ensure that skiers can make fresh tracks elsewhere than in the lift car parks ! Joël has been clearing snow  for 43 years and he proudly exhibits his customized jacket at every occasion!

43 years of snow clearing and it's not finished yet!

43 years of snow clearance and it's not finished yet!

43 years of snow clearance and it’s not finished yet!

A consequence of this long hard winter is that there is still snow above 1600 metres (particularly on the north facing slopes) and many mountain trails are not yet accessible to walkers, or require specific equipment for crossing snowy couloirs. It is strongly recommended to visit one of the Chamonix Valley tourist offices or the OHM (High Mountain Office) in Chamonix to find out where one can walk safely, without taking unnecessary risks.

Whilst out walking, you may encounter one of these hardy Ibex, looking for something juicy to chew on!  The mountain fauna are hungry and the vegetation is later than usual, so they are grazing quite low! If they are blocking your path, give them a wide birth, they can be agressive if they feel threatened, but otherwise they will ignore you.

Ibex on the col des Montets on 26th May 2013

Ibex on the col des Montets on 26th May 2013