Category Archives: Tips

Blaitière mountain pastures – a goaty greeting!

Blaitière by Ruskin

Blaitière mountain pastures are located beneath the Aiguille de Blaitière, on the north facing side of the valley. This pasture land was exploited by peasant farmers from the middle ages up until the 1950′s. The land and farm buildings were then pretty much abandoned until the turn of this century. Lower Blaitière is situated at 1708 m altitude and Upper Blaitière at 1920 m.

copyright: M Burnet
Blaitière-Dessus. copyright: M Burnet

These alpine pastures can be reached from Chamonix (Grepon car park) in between 2h to 3h (lower and upper Blaitière). Alternatively, take the cable car to  Plan de l’Aiguille and you have an easier traverse and then downhill walk – 1h à 1h30.

Les chèvres Saanen cherchent l'ombre

Pascal Payot is the gardian of this alpine paradise, along with his herd of 40 Saanen goats. Meet them at lower Blaitière (Blaitière-Dessous) until mid September. As the weather cools and the grazing diminishes, the troops will regain their winter quarters at their farm in Les Houches ferme des Houches

Since  2000, Pascal Payot has been partaking in the restoration of the farm buildings and the pasture land with a view to reviving mountain farming in the Chamonix Valley. Blaitière was grazed by young heifers between 2001 and 2006 and goats have been  unwittingly improving the quality and biodiversity of the pastures since 2007. In the summer of  2008, with the help of the municipality, the ‘alpage’ was finally equipped with a milking parlour and dairy. So now you can buy your goats cheese straight off the mountain!

IMG_5160IMG_5159Since  2005, the buildings at lower Blaitière are supplied with solar energy. An installation of 26 photo voltaic panels provides 80% of the power needed for the farm.

The most recent innovation is a mini cable way between Chamonix the Alpage with a capacity to transport up to 400kg. The 700m elevation from the valley floor is covered in 15 minutes.  Pascal no longer relies on supplies by helicopter and his cheese production finds its way to local restaurants and shops on a regular basis!

If you can’t make it to Blaitière this summer, make sure you visit Pascal Payot at his farm in Les Houches . He serves delicious high teas and will be delighted to introduce you to his goat family and tell you a bit about his work and passion.

Sunshine and Spas – cool tips for hot days!

Chamonix, mountain sports capital, can also be conducive to relaxation! ! Check out these special offers: Pools, Spas, open air Jacuzzis, fine dining and tea time treats!

LUNCH AND SPA

The following establishments propose a gourmet lunch which includes access to their Spa facilities: pool, hammam, sauna, jacuzzi.

Deep Nature Spa et Restaurant l’A -  Hotel les Aiglons, Chamonix

DeepNatureSoinsavecPierreLunch on the terrace with views of Mont-Blanc and access to the Spa and superb outdoor pool

Luncheon = choice of starter and main course or main course and dessert: 22.50 €   (55.50€ to include a 25 minute massage)

Reservations: +33(0)450 559 093  Spa open from 10h to 20h

Spa Serenity – Parkhotel Suisse, Chamonix

JacuzziEnjoy lunch in the traditional Parkhotel restaurant and discover the roof top Serenity Spa and terrace in the very heart of Chamonix with 360° views!

Luncheon = Starter and main course 20€ , with dessert 23€ Reservations: +33(0)450 530 758

Caudalie Spa and Crystal Restaurant – Les Granges d’en Haut, Les Houches

IMG_7221Enjoying an exceptional location above the village of Les Houches,  the Crystal restaurant and the Caudalie Spa and pool are most definitely worth the trip!

Luncheon = starter, main course and dessert: 35€

Reservations:  +33(0)450 546 536

LUNCH TIME POOL SNACKS AND TEA TIME TREATS – a few suggestions

Charamillon mountain restaurant – Balme mid stationIMG_0901IMG_0894

Take the gondola lift up from Le Tour (45 minutes on foot if you walk up), and don’t forget your bikini or trunks!

Enjoy a 20 minute exclusive jacuzzi, a smoothie of your choice and a pancake, for  unbeatable value: 6.90€ (towel provided)

Reservations not necessary – Jean (John)  is the charming host at Charamillon.

Hotel Excelsior swimming pool – Les Tines hotelexcelsior

Take advantage of this delightful pool which enjoys an enviable location in the hamlet of Les Tines (3 km north of Chamonix)

The Excelsior pool side offer includes: Pool entry, a soda or a beer, a snack (sandwich, hot-dog or croque-monsieur) and an ice-cream. Adults: 13€  Children 5 to 12 yrs: 9€

Chamonix Swimming Pool – Centre Sportif Richard Bozon IMG_9340

For a municipal swimming pool and Spa, this must take some beating! Olympic size oudoor pool with Mont-Blanc views, 2 indoor pools with reserved children’s area, outdoor paddling pool and fun play area, large covered slide, lakeside lawns with snack bar… and a Spa which includes sauna, hammam, jacuzzi…

Entrance to Spa and Pool: 12.50€ open daily from 10h to 19h

Hameau Albert 1er – Spa, pool, terrace and tea time – Chamonix Hameau Albert1er 012gouter.nicolas tosi

If you have a sweet tooth, this is the place for you!

The traditional farmhouse restaurant of the Maison Carrier is reputed for its “vrai”!An alpine pudding trolley that has to be seen (an savoured) to be believed! Tea time on the terrace is served between 15h and 18h. Self-serve buffet: 12.50€

The gardens of the Hameau Albert 1er are also open to the public for refreshments. Access to the swimming pool is reserved for guests of the Spa “Le Bachal”.

Reservations:  +33(0)450 530 509

Creameries in the Chamonix Valley – Gentle walks, steeped in history!

A selection of traditional refreshment chalets, locally known as creameries, all within 1 hours walking distance – ideal for family outings.
OT CHX, tilAout2014

Copyright Ballu/ Sylvain Coutterand

Copyright Ballu/ Sylvain Coutterand

 Many of these alpine cafés date back to the 19th century and without exception, they share a rich history of tradition in unique locations. Many were formerly associated with mountain pastures when the refreshments came straight from the milking parlor – hence the name “creamery”.  All chalets are open daily from mid June to mid September and some for longer. Certain chalets will also open for small parties on request in the evening. A detailed walking map is available for purchase at the tourist offices of the Valley.

IMG_0212Chalet du Glacier des Bossons – 1425m

The Chalet du Glacier offers an exceptional view over the seracs of the Bossons glacier (the longest ice-fall in Europe with 3500m vertical drop).  It can be reached on foot from the village of Les Bossons, or via the chair lift which offers a bucolic ride over lush pastures and traditional chalets.

The Chalet du Glacier is probably the oldest of the Valley as it dates from 1824. It has been moved and modified numerous times, subject to the ebb and flow of the glacier and enjoys its current location since 1955. In 1870, visitors flocked to discover the very first ice grotto, hewed out of the side of the Bossons glacier.  Whilst the ice cave no longer exists, visitors can discover a thematic trail dedicated to the history of the glacier. Bossons GC

The chalet also exhibits remnants of historic plane crashes on Mont-Blanc, including the undercarriage of the Indian Constellation “Malabar Princess”!

Access: 45 minutes from Les Bossons Village or 10 minutes from the top of the chair lift.
Tel. +33(0)4 50 53 03 89

Stitched PanoramaLa Buvette du Cerro – 1358m

Located on the right bank of the Bossons glaciers (left hand side looking up from les Bossons) the Cerro chalet offers a dramatic, plunging view over the glacial moraine to the valley below. Like its twin counterpart, the chalet du glacier, the Cerro dates back to the 1800’s. B11-13For nigh on a century, it played an important role for visitors traversing the glacier with their guide via the “ sentier du glacier supérieur” or the “sentier du Pavillon des Pyramides”.

The chalet is open daily, but also evenings from Wednesday to Sunday – the sunsets from the terrace are superb. Alexandrine’s specialties include a sweet farcon (made with apples, brioche and secret ingredients), a duo of frogs legs, snail crumble and for the more traditional… home made tarts etc.

Access: 1 hr from les Bossons or 15 min from the car park on the right before the Mont-Blanc tunnel. Tel. +33(0)6 50 41 71 40

The Cascade du Dard – 1233m

photo Monica Dalmasso

photo Monica Dalmasso

The chalet sits in a tranquil position, shaded by giant conifers, just below the access to the Mont-Blanc tunnel. Beyond the chalet in a delightful clearing is the Dard torrent and waterfall. The site has been appreciated for many generations. The initial pavilion was built in 1834 by the Favret brothers, who served tea and cakes to the first tourists!

The chalet’s specialty is “le Farcon”, a delicious slow cooked potato, bacon and prune dish, typical of the region. Open every day and Tuesday evenings in July and August with guitarist and singing .

Access: 45 minutes from the Grepon car park in Chamonix or 10 minutes from the car park just below the Mont-Blanc tunnel. Tel. +33(0)6 30 87 95 89

La Floria – 1350m

A superb belvedere, overlooking the villages of Les Praz and les Bois, an incredible display of flowers adorning the chalet and its terrace, and an incomparable panorama of the Mont-Blanc Massif – the Floria is a hidden gem, just 45 minutes from Chamonix!ETE34-La Floria_05

The chalet is situated on the edge of a well worn trail that hitherto was the cow path to the alpine pastures of the Flégère. It was built by a certain Simond in 1914 and offered a pleasant watering hole for its users. After the war, the chalet was considerably improved by Roger Demarchi, guardian of this temple of contemplation for 47 years!

The chalet is now run by the Mermouds, who take a pride in the chalet’s appearance… I think it would be fair to say that they have green fingers! They also serve delicious homemade blueberry tarts and many local specialties.

Access: 45 minutes from either Chamonix or Les Praz

 

Le Refuge du Chapeau – 1576m

Perched high above the Mer de Glace, the chalet du Chapeau  experienced a succession of golden ages! Initially when illustrious visitors  traversed the “sea of ice” on guided excursions from  the Montenvers; later when the Chapeau became a popular watering hole en route for the Couvercle  hut; and subsequently when it became a stop off point for skiers descending the Valley Blanche.B16-08

With the decline of the Mer de Glace, the  glacier now lies 150m below the chalet and it is hard to imagine that any of these options could have been possible! Nevertheless the Chapeau offers exceptional views across to the Aiguilles du Rochefort and the Grandes Jorasses and to the lakes of the glacial moraine far below.

The actual chalet was rebuilt in 1955 by Luc Couttet and the present guardian is his grandson Thierry. 2013-07-20 le chapeauA pupil of some of the best chefs in the Savoy, Thierry is most definitely a foodie and his sweet pastries are well worth the walk!

Access: 1 hour from the top of Le Lavancher village. Tel. +33(0)6 10 77 59 10

La Crémerie du Glacier -  1350m

Situated in a clearing in the woods, behind the village of Argentière, the Crémerie is just a short walk from the old village.  On the way to the Crémerie you may discover is a delightful play area for children, with stream, 2 ponds, wooden slides, climbing frames etc.photo_crem_de_nos_jours

The original chalet was built by Georges Ravanel in 1926, when extracting ice from the glaciers to supply the hotel industry was a thriving activity. It later became a tea shop for thirsty hikers and has been in the Ravanel family ever since.

Claudy Ravanel, one of George’s grandsons, has developed the restaurant and the establishment is a very popular pit stop for skiers in winter too. The Ravanel “croutes” (numerous varieties of cheese on toast) have developed an international reputation!

Access: 20 minutes from the Grands Montets car park or from the old village of Argentière.
Tel. +33(0)4 50 54 07 52

Cascade de Berard – 1456m

 Located at the northern end of the Chamonix valley, just above the hamlet of le Buet, the Berard chalet and waterfall are a delight to behold! A gentle walk through lush pastures, passing through the hamlet of La Poya with its traditional stone dwellings, will bring you to the entrance of the Berard valley.  The chalet sits on the edge of an impressive waterfall and is reached by a wooden bridge which crosses the lively torrent. index

 According to legend, in 1873, the counterfeiter who went by the name of Farinet (a sort of local Robin Hood who shared his false money with the poor) hid out in a cave concealed behind the waterfall to escape the “gendarmes” (police forces).

Access: 30 minutes from the Buet car park.

Tel. +33(0)6 11 42 37 42

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!

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