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