Although the Chamonix valley has been inhabited since the 11th century, its first recorded “tourist” visit was made by 2 Englishmen, William Windham & Richard Pococke, during the summer of 1741.
Word of their discovery soon spread and travellers, adventurers and scientist quickly followed in their footsteps.
The first Inn was completed in 1770 and Mt Blanc was finally conquered in 1786 by 2 local men, Jacque Balmat & Michel Paccard which cemented Chamonix’ reputation as the birthplace of mountaineering.
The real turning point for Chamonix however was the creation of road & rail links, which for the first time allowed less adventurous tourists to visit. The rail link, finished in 1901, allowed access for winter visitors and skiing moved from transport to recreation.
Mont Blanc may be the main attraction but Chamonix is also well know for other reasons:
Chamonix hosted the first ever Winter Olympic Games in 1924
The height of Mont Blanc varies from year to year depending on the depth of the summit’s snow cap, so no permanent elevation can be assigned to the mountain. However it is always 3m higher when measured by the Italian authorities!
It is twinned with 6 towns, including Davos in Switzerland and Aspen in Colorado
Chamonix has total area of 245 km2 making it the fourth largest commune in mainland France.
The ski scenes from James Bond film The World Is Not Enough were filmed in Chamonix.
An Air India flight crashed into Mont Blanc in 1966 taking all lives. The diplomatic bag that was on its way to the Geneva embassy turned at the bottom of the Bossons glacier in August 2012, 46 years later!
Chamonix Mont-Blanc as it is known today is a thriving mountain resort yet with more than 10,000 permanent residents in the valley it is a real living town with soul and character.