For anyone who has been there, the drive from the Geneva airport to Chamonix seems like forever. The anticipation of fresh mountain air grows with each turn, wondering what the valley will look like after driving through this short tunnel that connects Chamonix to the outside world.
In the winter, the scenery often morphs from brown, naked trees & grey bare rocks to frosted tree tips & glaciers glistening in the sunshine. The air feels colder and my heart often feels instantaneously fuller. For those who have not (yet) been to Chamonix, the drive is a short 1 hour, and the view only gets better with each kilometer ticked onto the meter.
After promising myself for nearly 5 years that I would experience Chamonix in the summer or fall, I finally booked a flight to Geneva a few months ago. With quite a hectic summer, and a lot of exciting changes going on in my life, I felt the need to go back to the place that has my heart, even if for a weekend. For whatever reason, this place feels like home.
Over the last 5 years Chamonix has been changing and innovating into a vibrant city full of alpinists and creative entrepreneurs alike. Cafes are becoming more modern, hotels are becoming more personalized, and the people who live there are more creative than ever. What was once croissants and coffee is turning into bio, organic, fusion, & local (or whatever you want to call it).
mountain elegance at hotel l'heliopic
I had the chance to stay at Hotel L'Heliopic , a modern take on the classic mountain resort at the base of Aiguille du Midi (the highest mountain lift in europe overlooking Mont Blanc / the transportation to the famous Valley Blanche route in the winter). Not to mention, they have a spa straight out of my dreams.
With cozy, plush duvets - monochromatic tones with bright pops of color, Leslie Gauthier, the hotel's interior designer did wonders on the property. The rooms foster an atmosphere of refinement and luxury, with a soft emotional touch that certainly made me feel even more at home.
This boutique hotel group also renovated properties like Le Faucigny (a more budget-friendly option without sacrificing taste) and are expanding to a few other properties within the city. The large, lobby is a great place to enjoy a coffee and get work done - and the convenient shop next door even sells Starbucks coffee (for those die hard fans out there), oh & did you notice all of those plugs to charge your phone?
day 1: let's get higher
Without even being in Chamonix for 20 min., I walked 10 meters from my hotel to the Aiguille du Midi lift. With blue bird skies & warm temperatures, what better way to acclimate to altitude than by going from 20 meters in Dusseldorf to 3,900 meters at the top of Europe’s highest mountain lift. Plus, I have only ever been up there in the winter with arctic temperatures of -30 Celsius, which makes it hardly enjoyable to stand outside and daydream.
I spent 3 hours exploring every last square meter of the space. With information about oxygen levels, the alpinists who have explored the region and how this place was even constructed, I was in my happy place. I sat in the sun for an hour watching the black crows fly the blue skies & paragliders jump into pure abyss. I stood in a glass box that looked down 3900 meters, and watched alpinists climb out to sea.
"Will I ever venture out towards Mont Blanc?" I thought to myself.
When the sun began to set, I decided to head down and explore The Ski Locker - a co-working space in the heart of the alps that enables like minded entrepreneurs to rent a desk for a season who seek to pursue their passions without sacrificing productivity. I have been following this project for a while, and am beyond excited to see it growing to other ski destinations in the US. Why not have the ability to work from anywhere that motivates you?
After a quick nap, I headed to Moo bar for their famous burgers, beers & atmosphere followed by dancing to an incredible live band at Maison Des Artistes.
day 2: the most beautiful hike in the world
With inter season in full effect, the lifts were closed which means we had to put in some serious steps to get to a view worth while. Hiking with a new friend from Sweden, we chatted about life, the valley, jobs, dreams & aspirations all while putting in the work to Refuge Bellachat (a 12 mile / 22 kilometer hike).
With 20 vertical meters to go, we started getting very hungry while our legs got heavier with every step. When we finally got to the summit, we were beyond happy to sit in the sun while enjoying fresh chevre, chocolate & cold mountain water with the absolute dream view.
Beers & Ski Jumping
After hiking back down to reality, I met up with an old friend in the center of town to catch up over a beer and wandered over to watch a casual ski jump session. New favorite spectator sport? I think yes (they even serve wine).
Aprés Ski, I mean Spa
As previously mentioned, Hotel L’Helopic has a spa to die for. With 3 saunas, a steam room, an ice sauna, plush lounging couches, warm tea & a very serene ambiance I decided to put on my robe and give my body some love in the steam room, sauna & ice pool for way longer than anticipated. I also wandered to La Faunicy to see the renovations in their spa (because 1 is just not enough). A much more ‘boutique’ feeling, the smaller space is put to good use in an underground, hidden, romantic area.
After a long day, I headed over to Pointe Isabelle to have a quick dinner and chat with the swedish crowd. We talked about all the best restaurants in town, along with our favorite meals in the world - my favorite question to ask people for whatever reason.
day 3: river runs & relaxation
With a cloudy day in the forecast, and my legs beyond exhausted from the previous days hike, I decided to go on my favorite river stroll towards La Praz (which ends up being around 12 kilometers). With the world’s greatest soundtrack playing on loud (the sound of the river), I had time to clear my head and enjoy the nature around me.
& just like that, I packed up my belongings and headed back to Geneva like it was all a dream.
I know I will be back, so until next time, Chamonix.