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Chamonix

Autumn in Chamonix

Autumn is a wonderful time to be in Chamonix  – lively but not too crowded, the weather is generally good and the colours and the light are beautiful. 

General practicalities

This list is for inspiration and ideas only – it is just a collection of personal favourites. Please consult the Tourist Office for detailed information, especially on opening and closing dates for any activities.

The main Chamonix site has good general info on what is going on in the town, and Chamonix.net has a good overview of lift operations. Always check the weather report and the webcams, especially if things look patchy  –  there can often be low cloud in the valley but sunshine above! NB the main Chamonix site is very good for activities, lift info and weather. I don’t recommend it at all for bars and restaurants! We have a folder of better suggestions at the chalet.

Early snow can make high walks dangerous. Always have good boots and poles and always check in with the Office de La Haute Montagne if thinking of doing a high walk. Areas which are pleasant in summer can be highly dangerous – only a small amount of snow can make them slippery, and conditions can change overnight.

Autumn Colours

Although people don’t often think of Chamonix as a place for Autumn colours, much of the valley is larch rather than pine and they turn a spectacular golden colour. Birch, rowan and maple trees have lovely colours and the myrtille bushes that cover much of the high mountain turn a deep, brilliant red.  The colours start at the higher altitudes around mid-September, arriving in the valley during October.

However  every year is different, and due to the very wide altitude range, it’s usually possible to go higher and feel that Autumn is further on, or lower to feel more summery. For instance the colours can start at Le Tour (about  2200m) in mid September, whilst you can swim in the lake at Passy!  And some years Autumn lingers longer into December. The photos of Lac Emosson below were taken in the  middle of December in a very cold and dry year. Autumn can be a bit unpredictable… but always beautiful.

Weather and temperature

For some reason, most temperature graphs for Chamonix take their temperatures from the Aiguille Du Midi, causing a lot of confusion.
Here’s one that is more accurate. Even this one is a little confusing. I think the low average minimum temperature is due to the wide fluctuation throughout the day, and must be taken from very early mornings. 10°C would be most unusual during the day in July! The maximum temps look about right to me.
Like all mountains, Mont Blanc is a weathermaker, and conditions can change very quickly, so these are just general guidelines.


In general, September is still warm and pleasant, with a ‘late summer’ feeling. There can be occasional snow at mid mountain level but it doesn’t stay.

October has a classic Autumn feel with crisper mornings and evenings.

The first snow in the valley is usually around the start of November,  but  it doesn’t usually  settle.

Forbes Signal in early winter

Usually the snow begins to settle in the garden during December.

What to bring

The weather in Autumn can be literally anything – you may be in a t-shirt or it might be snowing. So bring layers that can be easily adjusted. Warm underlayers and socks are very useful in autumn – Decathlon in town is a good place to buy them inexpensively. A hat, gloves and scarf are also useful. It’s nice to bring slippers for in the chalet, and flip-flops for the hot tub and sauna.

Autumn at the chalet and in the garden

Beautiful light and golden leaves – you can enjoy Autumn colours from the balcony with a cup of hot chocolate, or stroll 100 metres to the river to admire the contrast with the pale green water.

Walking by the river

Walk along the path directly from the chalet to the river 100m away, then up beside the river to a wide open area by the rescue helipad

Walking into Chamonix

Cross the bridge over the river, then bear right past the Arveyron hotel and take the tunnel under the main road to enter the Bois de Bouchet, where a network of paths leads you into Chamonix.

Chamonix town in Autumn

The town is generally still quite lively in early Autumn, especially if the weather is good, getting quieter in the second half of November after the half term holidays at Toussaint.

Walks that don’t need lifts

Some of the valley’s loveliest walks  don’t need lifts. Here’s a selection of  favourites,  all accessible without lifts, some directly from the chalet.

More info and photos of these Autumn walks without lifts, here

Autumn lifts

Although most lifts close, there is almost always some form of uplift operating throughout Autumn until early November.
The Montenvers Railway

Montenvers Panorama in autumn
Montenvers Panorama in autumn
Forbes Signal in early winter
Forbes Signal, just above Montenvers, in November

Take the rack railways to Montenvers for beautiful Autumn colours, with golden larch and red myrtilles. Walk up to Forbes Signal for an amazing view, then down the other side, then back along the last section of the Grand Balcon Nord to return to the train station. Or if the Aiguille Du Midi is running, you can do the whole of the Grand Balcon Nord – check dates as this is not always possible.
You can also walk up or down via the Rochers Des Mottets from the chalet.

Italy


The Monte Bianco Skyway is open for part of November. Great fun to go through the tunnel to Italy, enjoy the pretty town of Courmayeur and maybe take in the lovely spa at Pre-St Didier.
The new rotating cable car takes you in comfort to the beautiful architecture of the top station.  You can take an elevator and walk down a tunnel to the Torino hut for a more traditional mountain refuge ambiance. Both the hut and the top station serve excellent food. Dogs are also accepted on the Skyway!

Val Ferret is a lovely place. From near the Italian end of the Mont Blanc Tunnel, you drive up to the end (or just as far as you like) and enjoy lovely walks.

Val Ferret, Italy

Cycling and Mountain Biking

A perfect time for bikes  – the summer restrictions are lifted and all paths are permitted.

E-Biking

Electric mountain bikes can be hired for the day (try Slash or Legend) and make it pleasant to ride up big but relatively easy ascents like Le Tour, Loriaz or the Rochers des Mottets. Or just enjoy and explore the valley floor.

Paragliding in Autumn
Tandem paragliding is one of the most spectacular experiences the valley has to offer! Call Sean at Fly-Chamonix for details.

The Spa
A perfect time to enjoy a day at the spa! More details here.

Helicopter flights

Highly recommended – a breathtaking ride around the peaks with the longest trip going around the summit of Mont Blanc with Pascal, one of Europe’s finest helicopter pilots. The heliport is next to the excellent Cremerie du Glacier restaurant, signposted from the turn-off to Les Grands Montets just before Argentiere. Full details on their site:
http://www.chamonix-helico.fr/

© Chamonix Helico.  Image reproduite avec l'aimable autorisation de CMBH
© Chamonix Helico. Image reproduite avec l’aimable autorisation de CMBH