Above: our home away from home, Chalet Refuge. For a better look at it, click here.

Chalet Refuge

and logistics of a Chamonix trip

One product of our pre-trip research was a reference to a chalet which took group reservations for room and two meals (breakfast and dinner) per day. We decided to go for it although it was a little tough to get in touch with the company for details... Our accomodation turned out to be at Chalet Refuge in the village of Argentiere (not to be confused with Octavio's), and it was an awesome way to go for staying in the Chamonix valley.

The village of Argentiere is at the upper (northeastern) end of the Chamonix valley. This picture is looking back down across the town of Chamonix (in the fog) towards the Swiss border.

Here's how a typical night at the chalet worked: We'd get back from either Argentiere glacier or the Vallée Blanche, there would be snacks left out by our awesome housekeeper and cook, Alice. We'd start a fire and take showers. While we were lying around near-comatose, Alice would show up and begin to make dinner. A couple hours later a home-cooked meal and local wine would land on the table. Alice was a Brit who had been working Chamonix the last couple winters and was a blast to hang out with.

The site for the company which runs Chalet Refuge is here. Highly recommended by us!

Upper left: Leo, Oren, and Justine vegetate. Above: Jason enjoys the fire. Left: Ken in the bunk room.

Normally Chalet Refuge holds up to fourteen people, but we were lucky to be the only six folks in residence the week we were there!


Sunrises and sunsets in Chamonix were spectacular and different from what I've seen in North American mountains. All these shots are from right around the chalet except the one at right, which was on the train down from Montenvers.



Now, although renting in Geneva is the way to go (it's the closest international airport to Chamonix), it is a bit tricky. Because there are so many people arriving at Geneva for French destinations, there's a Swiss and a French half of the airport, including two car return counters. Make sure you follow the signs carefully so you don't stray onto the Swiss side... It's both a money and time sink!

Despite being in transit-friendly Europe, a car is very handy for staying as a group in the Chamonix valley. Although everywhere is accessible from a bus and train line that runs up and down the valley, a car (just as in many North American resorts other than Whistler) makes things much easier. Left, Justine and Oren show off the highly functional minivan we rented at the Geneva airport and drove the hours' drive to Chamonix. We picked up Ken, Jason, and Kim at the Argentiere SNCF train station.

Among other things, you'll want the car if you're staying in Argentiere to get back and forth to the town of Chamonix for supplies, gear, and shopping.

In general the town of Chamonix is just like ski resort base towns around the world (another good reason to stay in Argentiere). One cute Euro-influence we caught were the very stylish mannequins above in the Patagonia store window.

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  © 2002 Leo Hourvitz
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