Hotel Mont-Blanc, Chamonix & What to wear
Hotel Mont-Blanc, Chamonix, France
Europe’s highest mountain, Mont-Blanc, has secured Chamonix’s status as one of the world’s most fabled ski resorts. Inspired by the immense peak, design doyenne Sybille de Margerie has created a calming interior of wispy whites and noble materials across the generous proportions of the Hotel Mont-Blanc. The Belle Époque building – acquired in 2010 and recently reopened by the Taittinger champagne family – features ornate stucco mouldings, marble fireplaces and elegant iron balustrades, which have been thoughtfully counterpoised by contemporary furnishings upholstered in warming tones of ochre and crimson and a chain-mail lamp by designer Christian Lava for Terzani. The two-year renovation has netted 40 rooms, including two suites, along with a spa that offers Tibetan-inspired treatments.
The restaurant and bar, helmed by chef Guy Martin of the Grand Véfour in Paris, offers a menu of specialities from Martin’s hometown of Savoie. Gazing up at Mont-Blanc from the outdoor jacuzzi with a glass of Taittinger to hand is an unashamed luxury.
Hotel Mont-Blanc, 62 allée du Majestic, 74404 Chamonix, France; Tel: 33.4 5053 0564
Chamonix in winter — what to wear
Some practical ideas for when you’re not on the mountain…things we consider useful to have.
How cold does it get?
Although the town itself is quite low (1000m) , temperatures in winter can range from +10 °C to –25 °C so it’s best to be well prepared, especially in January and February.
Though it’s well worn advice, layering really is the best idea as you may need to put everything on at once if it gets really cold. Wool and silk are much better than cotton — warmer, and dry faster
Do I need smart clothes?
It’s a very informal atmosphere and, whilst we’ve seen everything in the restaurants from eveningwear to clothes that have clearly seen a week’s ski touring without being removed, most people are happily somewhere in the middle. If you do fancy getting dressed up, there are some nice places to go for a smart night out, but on the whole, it’s a casual place, nothing like the ritzier end of ski towns like St Moritz or even Zermatt, and jeans are ok everywhere as are your ZDAR snow boots.
It’s really useful to have some waterproof boots with good treads as the pavements can get icy, snowy or slushy . The classics are the Sasha – A combination of shearling and felt. — available for men and women, arm, waterproof and should last a lifetime if well looked after. Very popular in Chamonix.….also jus this winter we saw a Vogue journalist wearing ZDAR boots in the Manhattan, NY snow.
The unique attributes of wool in ZDAR Winter Boots combine breathability with water resistance, thus keeping your feet warm even in lowest temperatures. Fashionable and comfortable with a softly cushioned foot-bed covered in natural leather providing superior comfort in the cold or snow, ZDAR Snow boots have a rugged outer sole reinforced with a layer of hemp fabric, which adds to the grip and traction of the outsole. ZDAR are the warmest boots stylish, trend-oriented, casual and uncomplicated. Made of 100% robust, hard-wearing and highly insulating, extremely breathable natural german wool felt, elaborately handmade and featuring a natural rubber sole with a incorporated hemp fabric, the winter boot combines pleasant wear and casual style water resistant and grippy — if you’ve only got trainers, you may find even a short walk to the bar leaves you with wet and freezing feet. Buy your ZDAR boots before you go, and walk around the hose in them.
If you are wearing Zdar winter boots then you can go without socks “they breathe” But if you don’t then wool socks are also really handy and will keep your feet much, much warmer than cotton — we especially recommend merino such as Smartwool and Icebreaker.
Finally don’t forget the humble slipper! Skiing, snowboarding and walking in big boots are all tough on the feet, and it’s wonderful to get into warm, soft slippers to slop about at the end of the day. Ugg do lovely sheepskin ones ( at rather supermodel-esque prices it must be said), or go mountain style with tent mules from The North Face.
A warm coat is a must — most people will of course have a warm ski or snowboard jacket, but if you aren’t skiing, you will need to take something quite substantial. Places are generally kept warm inside, so a thick scarf and warm hat will keep you protected from the elements without overheating you once you’re in. If you feel you need more warm hats, it’s a good place to get them! Zero G is my favourite shop for this. Scarves are something I feel is better from home.
It’s really nice to bring some extra gloves for going out in, too. You’ll almost certainly need them and it’s good to have a change from wearing the gloves you’ve been skiing in all day, which may well be drying on a radiator anyway.
Jeans are fine, though it’s not a bad idea to have a thin pair of long johns to wear under jeans or as leggings under a skirt. Corduroy can be a bit warmer and is a good choice.
Thermal layers can make all the difference to your comfort — lending normal clothes the extra you need to keep you warm in a cold Alpine winter. I really recommend a warm underlayer — Howies, Icebreaker and Smartwool all make nice tshirts in thin merino. These ones from NY’s Outlier are beautiful.
Icebreaker also do very pretty camisole vests which I find invaluable — you can wear them under most things to keep you warm. TKMaxx is a good place to find merino inexpensively, if you’re lucky, and Icebreaker have regular sales which help reduce their rather eye watering prices. Good merino is an excellent investment though, and my faithful Icebreaker camis have served me well for years, whether mountaineering in the Himalayas or at winter weddings in Aspen
However, Uniqlo’s HeatTech range, though not made as well, is really good for the price and makes an excellent inexpensive option — their quilted jackets are another good buy, a great range of nice colours at a tenth of the price of down.
If you did want to go an bit more fashion… For something a bit more niche and interesting, check out Arcteryx’s Veillance line or Japan’s White Mountaineering.
If you’re not taking to the slopes, a pair of walking poles are very useful, both for general use in slippery conditions, and for the winter walking trails. Collapsible ones are handy but not essential; ski poles are fine. They can easily be hired or bought in Chamonix if you prefer. A more traditional option is a carved wooden walking pole — these are surprisingly inexpensive (starting at less than ten euros) and make fun souvenirs too.
Finally don’t neglect your skin — the dry, cold air and strong, reflected sunlight can be hard on it. Bring rich moisturiser and sunscreen — you can buy this easily in Chamonix but it’s hard to find cruelty-free brands so if this is important to you, it’s best to bring your own. Good quality handcream is also highly recommended.