Chamonix and the British

By | Category: Travel destinations

Chamonix last December

About 40% of the skiers who test themselves on the slopes there are Brits so we make up an important market for the French showpiece resort. But did you know how long it has been a favourite?
Coinciding with a press release landing in my inbox about the coming winter season, I was reading a collection of John Buchan short stories (he of The Thirty Nine Steps fame and the uproariously funny take on the book by Patrick Barlow which is travelling around theatres in the UK.) One story was called The Knees of the Gods and first appeared in The Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal of January 1907. He tells the story of a man called Smith who went to Chamonix in May for a rest rather than climbing the peaks. But It’s plain to see as you read it that Chamonix had been a very popular destination for years before that and sufficiently so for it to be used as a backdrop to this story.
That makes our love affair with the place at least 110 years old making it one of the earliest tourist destinations for us. It was in the same year that the first ski competition was organised in Chamonix and a full seventeen years before the winter Olympics were held there.
The first thing that encouraged Brits to visit the area was not mountaineering nor skiing but a curiosity to see the glacier, Mer de Glace. For 250 years people have been coming to see it. Now visitors have a new area – a glaciariam – which charts the formation of this glacier. Experts now believe that Mer de Glace resembles how it would have appeared in the middle ages.
So not only can you ski, mountaineer, toboggan, walk and enjoy the après ski, now you can be whisked back hundreds of years to see how the area was in the past. And how the first Brits saw the area when they began the tourism craze in Chamonix!

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