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Chamonix
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Chamonix

Chamonix (population 10,000) is a town in eastern France, in the Haute-Savoie département, at the foot of Mont Blanc.

Chamonix is a popular winter sports resort with one of the best skiing runs in the world. The 1924 Winter Olympics were held here. As the highest European mountain west of Russia, Mont Blanc holds a special allure for mountain climbers, and Jon Krakauer, in an essay in his collection Eiger Dreams, described the town as "the death-sport capital of the world."

The Chamonix valley runs from N.E. to S.W., and is watered by the Arve, which rises in the Mer de Glace. On the S.E. towers the snowclad chain of Mont Blanc, and on the N.W. the less lofty, but rugged chain of the Brevent and of the Aiguilles Rouges. Near the head of the valley is the village of Argentiere (4101 ft.), which is connected with Switzerland by pass over the Col de Balme to Martigny in the Rhone valley.

Chamonix is a mecca for advanced skiing and snowboarding. The Vallee Blanche glacier runs down from the Aiguille du Midi mountain - attached to Mont Blanc -- to the town. This spectacular route can be skied or snowboarded, although it would be insane to do it without a guide due to all the crevasses. Aside from that, the valley has about six separate ski areas. Many of these provide wonderful terrain, especially off-piste, with runs down to Switzerland. However the disjointed nature of the resort makes it inconvenient for beginners, or groups of differing ability.

History

The valley is first heard of about 1091, when it was granted by the count of the Genevois to the great Benedictine house of St Michel de la Cluse, near Turin, which by the early 13th century established a priory there. But in 1786 the inhabitants bought their freedom from the canons of Sallanches, to whom the priory had been transferred in 1519. In 1530 the inhabitants obtained from the count of the Genevois the privilege of holding two fairs a year, while the valley was often visited by the civil officials and by the bishops of Geneva (first recorded visit in. 1411, while St Francis de Sales came there in 1606). But travellers for pleasure were long rare. The first party to publish (1744) an account of their visit was that of Dr R. Pococke, Mr W. Windham and other Englishmen who visited the Mer de Glace in 1741. In 1742 came P. Martel and several other Genevese, in 1760 H. B. de Saussure, and rather later Bourrit.

The valley is mentioned in Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, as the scene of a encounter between the doctor and his monster.

See also

The Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt

External link