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Chamonix in Dec - day trips by car possible?

Victoria, Australia
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Chamonix in Dec - day trips by car possible?

We are hoping to be in Chamonix in late Dec and will use it as a base for a few days in the area. We will have a car and will be continuing on to Paris. We were thinking of crossing into Switzerland, maybe to visit Montreux or Lausanne or any other place that may fit into a day trip.

Will driving be possible at this time of the year, or would we be better off looking at public transport?

We are not skiers but love mountains and cable cars and lovely vistas.

Thanks for any ideas/suggestions.

Aiguille du Midi
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Brevent Cable Car
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Penticton, Canada
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1. Re: Chamonix in Dec - day trips by car possible?

the one issue about crossing into Switzerland is that if you want to use the Major motorways you will need a vignette (sticker) that costs 40CHF (about $47 AUD) A vignette is used instead of toll roads and good for 1 year. You can acquire the vignette at the border.

Driving to Lausanne is all based on weather conditions for conditions you can look at webcams along the route. http://www.chamonix.net/english/webcams and a few more if you google. you can do a virtual drive of the route using google maps http://goo.gl/maps/K0ZvV

www.viamichelin.com would also give road conditions.

and, hopefully you have driven in winter conditions before.......

Edited: 17 August 2014, 04:21
Victoria, Australia
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2. Re: Chamonix in Dec - day trips by car possible?

Yes, we have driven in winter conditions in Europe before, but if the conditions were very bad we would probably not drive and try public tpt instead.

I guess I was just trying to get an idea of what the conditions are like in that area in late December, just to see whether basing ourselves in Chamonix is sensible when we would like to do some touring of the area.

Thanks for your feedback, much appreciated.

reading
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3. Re: Chamonix in Dec - day trips by car possible?

If it is snowing, and hopefully it will be, then the Col de Montet may be closed to traffic into Switzerland.

This means Martigny is out by car, but there is a train.

Lausanne/Montreux would be possible going via Geneva this would be approximately 2 hours driving.

You would need the Vignette as said above. This you buy at the border. You do not need it for Martigny as you do not drive on a Swiss autoroute for that town.

Annecy is worth a visit as is Courmeyer and/or Aosta. This would require you to buy a return pass for the Mont Blanc tunnel (€52).

Poitiers, France
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4. Re: Chamonix in Dec - day trips by car possible?

Chamonix can be really cold and much of the valley is in deep shadow...it is lovely but you will pay top dollar at this time of year without benefitting from the skiing. Perhaps base yourself at a smaller village down the moutain. It will be cheaper and probably warmer. Re driving...snow chains or snow tyres will be obligatory if its snowing.

Champlon, Belgium
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5. Re: Chamonix in Dec - day trips by car possible?

There are two issues with the wheels on your hire car if you intend, as you do, going into mountainous areas in the winter months.

The first is that the car should be fitted all round with WINTER tyres, these are made of a different grade of rubber and grip much better than ordinary (or summer) tyres whenever the temperature falls below 7 degrees C, especially if the road is wet or icy. They aid both traction and braking.

The second is that in the high mountains, such as the Chamonix area, if the road is covered in packed snow or if it is actually snowing, you will come across signs (blue discs depicting a chained car tyre in white) which indicate that the tractive (normally front) wheels of your car MUST be fitted with snow chains before you proceed further along the road.

You should be able to request a car fitted with winter tyres from your car hire dealer - they are compulsory in some areas and it may be that some car hire firms fit their whole fleet with them. The car hire firm may be able to supply chains but you will probably have to buy or hire them separately, they are readily available in mountain areas in winter. However, the chains do have to fit the wheels on your car and some wheel sizes are unsuitable for chains, although this is less likely if you have winter tyres - where this is the case, the car is basically unsuitable for use in mountain areas in winter.

A four wheel drive vehicle is obviously easier to drive in snow but it still needs winter tyres and it may not be exempt from the requirement to fit chains.

I must say that I personally wouldn't choose somewhere like Chamonix as a base for extended day trips in the winter months. If you are not used to driving in snow it can be a nightmare, especially after dark.

Victoria, Australia
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6. Re: Chamonix in Dec - day trips by car possible?

Thankyou everyone for your great suggestions!

It is a holiday so we want to keep things low stress and driving in heavy snow or ice is probably not a great idea.

It may be that we need to rethink Chamonix. We do love mountains though, so a trip to the Mont Blanc area is a must. Are there better towns to stay in, that would fit the bill? Perhaps somewhere less likely to be under heavy snow, but within reach of the mountains and not too quiet in winter?

I guess I was looking at Chamonix because it does look so pretty, and so close to the mountains.

Edited: 17 August 2014, 23:13
Champlon, Belgium
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7. Re: Chamonix in Dec - day trips by car possible?

Annecy immediately comes to mind. It has a large population so doesn't die during the winter months, but it has a nice and compact central area with a good choice of restaurants and, of course, it is situated at the head of the lake of the same name which does have mountains down each side.

It has good road links in most directions although the road south alongside the lake is very slow in the tourist season (which December won't be). It would be quite easy to drive to Chamonix if the amount of snow (always unpredictable) makes that a sensible option. It is also a much more practical centre for trips to places around Lac Léman like Montreux and Lausanne.

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8. Re: Chamonix in Dec - day trips by car possible?

I wouldn't say Chamonix itself is in deep shadow in the winter. Of course the mountains do restrict the light at that time of year but it's only Les Houches and the surrounding area that are completely shadowed. Chamonix up to the Swiss border gets a reasonable amount of daylight, I would say 10-6 from memory?

However it's true that you will be paying absolute top prices! How late in December? If you are there before the 20th you can probably still get good deals. After 20th it will be very pricey and the town becomes very full.

Chamonix is probably the most accessible of the ski towns as it doesn't have a long access road up the mountain. But the weather can be really unpredictable and bear in mind that traffic around Christmas can be bad, too.

Annecy is a lovely town and would be a good suggestion as a base, might give you more flexibility? Perhaps with one night in Chamonix so you can enjoy the town by day and by evening, and don't have to drive in the dark?

Where are you coming from? The autoroute to Chamonix from Geneva is generally kept very clear. The Col du Forclaz from Martigny could well be shut and even if it's open, it's pretty scary driving.

Edited: 18 August 2014, 15:40
Victoria, Australia
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9. Re: Chamonix in Dec - day trips by car possible?

Thankyou becasse and firebug, more great suggestions.

We wiould be coming from around Avignon, and would be arriving around Xmas time, in fact we thought Chamonix would be a good choice for Xmas since it would not close down. After Chamonix we would be heading towards Paris.

The last 2 yrs we have spent Xmas time at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria and I guess I was looking for something similar.

Annecy looks very good and I will certainly research that option.

If we went from Chamonix to Geneva, would it be possible to continue onto Lausanne and Montreux? I had been looking at the route via Martigny, but clearly that may not be possible.

Thanks again!

Champlon, Belgium
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10. Re: Chamonix in Dec - day trips by car possible?

Bear in mind that Christmas Day and New Years Day are single day holidays in most of France, although shops will generally close a little earlier than usual the previous afternoon, typically at 17.00.

Unless you are staying in a hotel on demi-pension, you will need to book restaurants for both Christmas (and New Year's Eve) dinners and for lunch on the days themselves (most will be shut for dinner that night).

Many (most?) museums will be shut, either for a long winter (usually November 2 to a little before Easter) or from mid-December to late-January.