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A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

- John James Audubon


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Adventure Travel

Jun 14, 2017

Discover the True Meaning of ‘Made in Chamonix’

Chamonix, France, is one of the most prestigious places on earth for outdoor sports.

WRITTEN BY

Gaël Couturier

Located at the bottom of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak, it offers a rare spirit to the visitor—a sense of adventure that you just can’t live without once you’ve had a taste of its grandeur.

This article was featured in the Destination section in our very first print issue of The Outdoor Journal, Summer 2013. Stay tuned for our exclusive story by Krissy Moehl, two-time champion of the Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc, about this life-changing race.

You know you’re hooked on a place when all you can think about is your next trip out there. Chamonix, France is one of those places. It is the cradle of many adventures in alpinism, paragliding, BASE jumping and extreme skiing. “Many thrill seekers have been coming to live in the valley in the past 40 years and have helped that place radiate over the borders of France, Italy and Switzerland,” says Dominic Simoncini, our columnist and mental coach, who lives there now. “Chamonix is at the crossroads of extreme sports and extreme passion for the mountain.”

Aiguille du Midi. Photo courtesy of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Municipalities

Skiing in Chamonix is great, but it’s not among the best in the world. The mountain is so wild and steep that the slopes haven’t yet been successfully connected. As a result, serious skiers end up chasing the best spots on one specific side of the mountain in the morning, going all the way down to where the road stops, taking a short bus ride and going up again to another side of the mountain for more cliffs and untouched powder. Other than the steepness of some mountainsides, it’s not the best for avid skiers. However, for beginners and even families who are on holiday, it’s perfect. The only hassle is that you can’t go anywhere with a chairlift.

“Chamonix remains the alpine capital of the world because of the Mont Blanc mountain and all its glorious history, but it is also very alive thanks to a lot of small startups acting in the outdoor segment,” says Sébastien de Sainte Marie, The Outdoor Journal Brand Ambassador and an avid steep skier with many stories in the mountains. “This has mostly been supported by the English tourist colony coming here every year and making possible the existence of a true ‘made in Chamonix.’”

In the summer, it’s another story. Chamonix is the place to be for trekking, trail running, paragliding, base jumping, climbing and hard alpinism. “Chamonix is a very special little town stuck in between mountains, offering perfect spots for all kinds of sports, but also for more family-oriented time with a lot of great infrastructure,” says Sébastien Nain, ultra runner from the Vibram Europe team.

Mer de Glace. Photo courtesy of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Municipalities

There are some major sporting events in Chamonix that you shouldn’t miss as a spectator or a participant, from international climbing competitions to 24-hour mountain biking. And don’t forget the gruelling Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), one of the best 100-mile (170-km) ultra running races on earth.

“I have loved my time in Chamonix around the race every year,” says American ultra runner and Patagonia athlete Krissy Moehl, who is also a two-time winner of the UTMB race. “Each time, I have spent a minimum of nine days playing in and around the town. The daily adventures up in the hills are an incredible playground for any outdoor enthusiast. My favourite time was in 2010, when I took a four-day turn around the Mont Blanc massif. The access from Chamonix is what makes it any adventurer’s dream, any time of year.”

Thinking about going there? The best place in Chamonix (believe me, as I’ve stayed in each of the top boutique hotels and fancy chalets) is The Résidence Quartz Mont Blanc. Yan, the owner, inherited the building from his grandparents and decided to quit his job to turn it into luxury apartments with his wife, Mimi (aka “Mimi the witch” if you’re a close friend). It’s located just by the edge of this very small town, and you can easily walk to nearby shops and restaurants. The farmers’ market right below your window on Saturday morning will make you feel like a true Frenchman.

“On race days, our large group of runners from Patagonia is easily accommodated in the comfortable rooms, providing everyone ample space and a great common area to connect and share home-cooked meals—all with the flair of Chamonix and the Mont Blanc massif standing guard out the window,” says Moehl.

During my childhood and teenage years, I used to go skiing twice a year in Courchevel, in the Alps, in the greatest resort of all: Les 3 Vallées. But since I grew up and became a real outdoorsman, I just can’t live without my Chamonix fix.

Chamonix makes me happy; it’s as simple as that.

When I can afford it, I stay at Yan’s and just forget about the rest. And when I look at the Mont Blanc summit from my window, I feel pushed beyond my limits. If you’re a surfer, Chamonix is like Tavarua in Fiji, or Grajagan in Java, Indonesia. If you scuba dive, it compares to the Great Barrier Reef or Tahiti. For skydivers, it ranks up there with Eloy.

This isn’t hyperbole: if you love the mountains, Chamonix is the top of the world.

Feature image by Henry Iddon.

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Chamonix

Oct 11, 2018

Registration for Marathon du Mont-Blanc is About to Open.

News from Chamonix: With regards to scenery, there might not be another sporting event like it, with regards to challenges, the same could be said of the 90km race with 6220 meters of vertical.

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WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

Fortunately, there is a distance to suit every level of runner, with 8 races over 3 days of competition. From the 24 hour race around the valley of Chamonix Mont-Blanc, at an average altitude above the 2000m mark, to shorter distances such as the 42km, 23km, 10km, and even races for children. There’s no excuse to miss out on experiencing this beautiful part of the world.

In 2018 the event saw 10,500 registrations and 300 elite athletes, with 80 countries represented. The race also attracted 47.4 million viewers in France, and over 30,000 people actually attended the event in the valley of Chamonix Mont-Blanc. It’s fair to say that this is a big occasion.

THE RACES

The below information was provided by Marathon du Mont-Blanc

The Mont-Blanc 90km race: One of the most technical ultra trail races and also one of the most demanding in its category with narrow, sometimes exposes paths, snowy sections, and an average altitude above the 2000m mark.

Vertical : 6220 m +/-
Maximum time: 24 hours
Number of runners : 1 000 max

The Mont-Blanc 42km race: A marathon distance at it’s origins, it is a 2730m vertical trail which is rolling in the first part of the course until Vallorcine, but very technical in the second half with the mythical passage of the Aiguillette des Posettes.

Vertical : 2 730m + / 1 700 m –
Maximum time : 9 hours
Number of runners : 2 300 max

The Mont-Blanc 23km race: The course remains practically unchanged since 1979 ! This race is a benchmark for the evolution of trail running in regards to sport performances and the diversity of it’s participants.

Vertical : 1680m + / 870m –
Maximum time : 6 hours
Number of runners : 2 000 max

The Mont-Blanc Duo étoilé 17km race: Discover the unique ambiance of a night race where team spirit and sharing are key.

Vertical : 1300m +/-
Number of teams : 500 max

The Mont-Blanc 10km race:This 10km race, a port of entry for the other Mont-Blanc marathon races, accessible to all. It is the opportunity to run as a family, amongst friends, and for the pure pleasure of participating in a festive race in the forest on the cross-country ski trails without technical difficulties.

Vertical : 325m + / 325m –
Number of runners : 2 000 max

The Mont-Blanc Vertical Kilometer: With it’s 3.8km it is the shortest race format of the weekend, but you still have to climb 1000m along a single track path, craftily placed beneath the Planpraz cable car.

Vertical : 1000m +

Pre-registration for the 3 longer races, 90k, 42k, 23k races from Monday 15th October at 9:00 am to midnight on Sunday 4th November 2018. It’s not first come, first served, but if more people that the maximum quota apply, then a ballot is organized. With the results of that ballot announced on Thursday 8th November.

For more information, visit http://www.montblancmarathon.net

Cover Photo: Gaestan Haugeard

 

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