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New for 2017 Services Calendar History Chamonix 1865 Layout of valley


The first recorded entry of the place called Chamonix was on a parchment in which it was donated to the monastery of Saint-Michel-de-la- Cluse. The monks had settled on the right bank of the river Arve and had built a farm at La Mollard and a mill at Les Praz. And so was born the Priory of Chamonix.



The Priory came under the authoriity of Sallanches. For a long time it consisted of only a few small buildings lining a path. The harsh climate and the isolated nature of the region limited any expansion. Indeed the daily life of the inhabitants was fraught with difficulties, not least due to extreme poverty. The only income that could be gleaned was by harvesting cereals, beans, and other root vegetables.



The harsh conditions instilled a toughness and a spirit of rebellion in the Chamoniards. They refuse to pay the dime, a tax imposed by the church. Even though they were threatened with ex-communication they continued to stead-fastly resist all outside jurisdiction.



The first two explorers in the "Chamouny Valley" were Englishmen Windham & Pococke.
The enthusiastic tales that they returned with following their climb up Montenvers initiated the flow of tourism into the valley.



Horace-Bènèdict de Saussure offered a reward to the first person to reach the top of Mont Blanc after he observed the peak from the summit of Le Brèvent.


More than 20 years later Michel-Gabriel Paccard & Jaques Balmat completed the first ever ascent, reaching the top of Mont Blanc on the evening of August 8th.



A year later, leading the first scientific expedition, Sassure finally reached the summit himself.


The road to Montenvers was widened and with the assistance of local young men and pack animals it became possible to cross la Mer de Glace.


1803 - 1838

Marie Paradis was the first woman on the mountain in 1803 followed by Henriette d'Angeville in 1838.


Hotel de l'Union, the first luxury hotel, opened.



Following an accident on Mont Blanc, La Compagnie des Guides was established.

1858 - 1860

Cavour agreed to surrender Savoy & the Comte de Nice in return for Napolean III's support against Austrian occupation in Italy.
On 4th April 1860 with an overwhelming majority the people of Savoy voted to become French.
The province then split into the two dèpartements of Savoie & Haute-Savoie. The construction of an improved road between Geneva & Chamonix via Sallanches, in preparation Napolean III & Empress Eugenie's visit, began to open the valley up.



Joseph Vallot opened an observatory for high-altitude studies 300m from the summit of Mont Blanc.


Despite initial opposition from Chamionards, the General Council of Savoy approved a proposal for the rack railway. It was inaugurated in 1901 increasing the number of winter visitors to the valley.
By the beginning of the 20th Century hoteliers overtook the mountain guides as the predominant economic power. Driven by sportsmen like Alfred Couttet, Chamonix developed as a winter resort & in 1908 hosted the 2nd international ski competition.



The Montenvers Railway (Chamonix - Mer de la Glace) opened. It took 55mins to complete the climb with 2 passenger cars hooked to a heavy locomotive at a speed of 7km/h.


The cable car "Des glaciers" opened in time for the 1st ever Winter Olympic Games to be held in Chamonix.

1927 - 1930

The Planpraz & Brevent cable cars both opened.



Native James Couttet, took the World Downhill Championships title at Eldenberg. At 16 this was the first of many in a long ski career that saw him French champion 17 times.



The first ice grotto was created which is re-carved each year.



The Alberg Kandahar, the oldest international downhill competition started initially in 1911 by Englishman Arnold Lunn, is hosted by Chamonix for the first time. The event is now held in Chamonix,
St. Anton or Garmisch-Partenkirchen.



Electrification of the Chamonix - Mer de Glace line. This more than doubled the speed & reduced the length of the journey to 20 mins.


1954 - 1956

The Chamonix - Aiguille du Midi cable car whose origins began back in 1911 was finally completed. Two sections opened a year apart, one as far as Col du Midi and the second joining Col du Midi to the southern peak of Aiguille du Midi. La Flegere cable car also opened.



Local mountain guide, Charles Bozon, took all the major titles at the World Championships held in the valley. Only two years later he lost his life in an avalanche.



Bureau des Guides & Office de la Haute Montagne moved into the former Presbytery.



Chamonix continues to produce leading sportsmen & women in all disciplines as Karine Ruby, a local snowboarder, proved with her victory in the Nagano Olympics.


© Musèe Alpin de Chamonix © Musèe Alpin de Chamonix © Archive Dann Photo © Archive Dann Photo © Archive Dann Photo © Archive Dann Photo © Archive Dann Photo © Archive Dann Photo

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