Mont Blanc, meaning "White Mountain” is the highest mountain in the Alps, it rises 4,810.45 m above sea level. It is also sometimes known as "La Dame Blanche" ("The White Lady"). The draw of Mont Blanc to mountain enthusiasts exposing the althetes to all the alpine elements, brought the first winter olympics in 1924 to Chamonix. Today the mountain makes Chamonix one of the most popular ski holidays in France. Mont Blanc lies between the Aosta Valley, Italy, and Haute-Savoie, France. The location of the summit is on the French-Italian border but it is placed within France's boundaries on maps. The two most famous towns near Mont Blanc are Courmayeur, in Italy, and Chamonix, in France. The Mont Blanc Tunnel runs beneath Mont Blanc linking France with Italy it is one of the major trans-Alpine transport routes. The 11.6 km tunnel was completed in 1965 after 8 years of construction.
Access to Mont Blanc is more commonly associated with Chamonix due to the Téléphérique de l'Aiguille du Midi, the cable car that leaves from the centre of the ski holdiay town Chamonix, taking a 20 minute ride with an altitude gain of over 2,800 m up Mont Blanc. The name "Aiguille du Midi" translates as "needle of midday", so called as the sun sits directly over the peak at noon, when viewed from Chamonix.
Aiguille du Midi
The Aiguille du Midi cable car, was built in 1955 and held the title of the world's highest cable car for two decades. It still holds the record as the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world, from 1,035 m to 3,842 m. The cable car journey has two stages, the first brings is to the Plan de l'Aiguille (2300m), the second stage traverses Les Pelerins glacier before rising up the North Face, without any support pillar, arriving at the top station (3842m). An elevator inside the rock rises the final 42m to the top terrace at 3842m. This is the closest you can get to the Mont Blanc without climbing! From here visitors have spectacular views of the Swiss, French and Italian Alps, on a clear day it is possible to see the Matterhorn, Monta Rosa and the Grand Combin, a highlight to any ski break.
At the Aiguille du Midi top station, in addition to the amazing viewing platforms there is also a gift shop and a gourmet restaurant appropriately named 3842. This is one of the highest restaurants in the world, gourmet and regional food is on the menu. The top station is also the access point to the infamous Vallee Blanche off piste ski run and the start of one of the climbs to the summit of Mont Blanc via the Cosmiques Refuge.
A further journey into the high mountain landscape surrounding the Aiguille du Midi can be made by the Panoramic Mont Blanc lift which is the highest cable car traverse in the world which connects France and Italy. The 5 km journey from the top station of the Aiguille de Midi to Point Helbronner crosses the Mont Blanc Massif. Count on two hours roundtrip from the summit of the Aiguille du Midi. It is also possible to take another cable car down from Point Helbronner down into the La Palud area of Courmayeur, Italy.
A trip up the Aiguille du Midi on a clear day is a must for any visitor to Chamonix. This is made particularly spectacular during the winter months with the fantastic snowscape, a must for anyone on a ski weekend or a ski week. For those who desire an off piste experience the Vallee Blanche run starts at the top of the Aiguille de Midi, ideal to combine two fantastic high mountain experiences in one day to ensure the most memorable ski holiday.