Hiking, climbing and admiring spectacular mountain views are some of the main draw cards for summer visitors to Chamonix Mont Blanc. There are however numerous options for physical, cultural and culinary activities to provide entertainment in bad weather. Access to current Chamonix weather information and forecasts can be found posted on bulletin boards at the base of lift stations, at the Office de Haute Montagne (High Mountain Office) and on Chamonix’s Official website.
Cultural Activities in Chamonix Mont Blanc
1. Explore a gallery or museum. Permanent exhibits can be discovered at The Chamonix Alpine Museum. Two floors of artifacts reveal Chamonix’s human and geographical history. Examine a unique collection of crystals — many of which have been found in the mountains of Mont Blanc — at the Musee des Cristaux in the Espace Tairraz. The museum is a tribute to crystal hunting, one of the oldest mountain trades.
2. Take the cog train to Montenvers (a train line that was first opened in 1908) and get close up to the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice). The Mer de Glace, a glacier discovered in 1741 by two English explorers, has become one of the most visited natural sites in the world. Hike down or, there’s gondola access to the glacier. Explore the grotto, an ice tunnel carved into the glacier at the base of the gondola adorned with sculpted ice furniture. Other facilities at Montenvers include the Montenvers Hotel, fauna and crystal museums, snack bars and souvenir shops.
3. Visit the Office de Haute Montagne situated by the church and tourist office in the center of town. The office provides information about climbing routes, mountain refuges and alpine conditions to plan future mountain escapades when the weather clears.
4. Consult the Chamonix Calendar of Events. Local area events and activities, several days of the week during the peak season, range from music and art festivals, sport competitions, lectures and farmers and artisan markets. These events are listed on the aforementioned official Chamonix Website.
Wining and Dining in Chamonix
5. Participate in a degustation (wine tasting) at Chachacha Wine Bar and Terrace. They offer tastings three times / week from the various wine cépages (districts) of France.
6. Lunch at Le Bistrot which produces innovative cuisine though not particularly local. Despite being endowed with a Michelin Star, Le Bistrot is known for its affordable 2 course lunch menu currently €17 ($US24) a head at 2009 prices. Cuisine local to the Chamonix area, suited to arduous mountain living, is known as Savoyard fare and is typically made up of dairy rich dishes accompanying wild and cured meats e.g. Raclette, Croute and Tartiflette.
Indoor sporting activities in Chamonix
7. Rock climb indoors in Les Houches. The Mont Blanc Escalade Climbing Arena of 1250 m² has more than 100 routes for all climbing levels. Closer to Chamonix is the option of visiting the bouldering gym for rope free climbing at the Sports Center which also houses a fitness gym and swimming pool.
8. Practice glides and twirls ice skating at the Patinoire ice rink, part of the Chamonix SportsCenter.
Relaxation and Body Therapy in Chamonix
9. Shopping – visit one of the mountaineering gear store metropolises such as Snell Sports in Chamonix’s main street.
10. Les Aiglon Resort and Spa offer various body pampering experiences and treatments. These include massages, facial treatments, a hydro jet, Hammam saunas, foot baths, a multi sensory shower, fitness room and tea room. Some of these facilities likely need to be experienced to be believed! Les Aiglon Spa utilizes Algotherm marine products.
There are dozens of activities in Chamonix suited to all tastes when the sun fails to shine. Even on spotless sunny days the weather can change. Plan activities requiring dry weather for the first half of the day. Due to the influence of the mountains, on hot days late afternoon storms bringing heavy rain, thunder and lightening are a regular occurrence.