03/29/2011 03:42 pm ET | Updated May 29, 2011

Getting High in Chamonix

Sights: High above Chamonix is one of the most recognizable peaks in the world: Mont Blanc. At 15,782 feet, it is the highest mountain in the Alps and in western Europe.

Where: Alluring Chamonix charms and Mont Blanc's enormous snow-capped peak leaves visitors speechless. This high-class milieu is situated at a crossroads of three countries. Drive through the Chamonix tunnel and arrive in Italy in 25 minutes, and in the same amount of time, travel over the Col des Montets and arrive in Switzerland.
Photos By Susan Fogwell

Chamonix, France

Who: Chamonix is a haven for an international set of outdoor adventurers, well-heeled visitors and independent travelers. Bar none, it is the crème de la crème for perennial mountain climbing and and off-piste skiing. Seasoned hikers undertake the Tour du Mont Blanc by following a circular route once used by Roman legions through France, Italy and Switzerland and cross through a succession of seven valleys.

Must-Do: Take the world's highest cable car to Aiguille du Midi (3842m), the rock needle towers above Chamonix at 12,600 feet. The scenery will undoubtedly rock your world. Step onto the observation deck for a 360 degree panoramic view. On a clear day, the Matterhorn with its distinguishable bent tip is forty miles -- as the crow flies -- in the distance. Explore Europe's tallest lift station; there are more than 490 feet of tunnels leading to the icicle-covered gateway to the glacial world. This is where you can observe skiers and mountain climbers embarking on their journeys.

For a more intimate look into the world of glaciers, take a ride in a small red telecabine (Panoramic du Mont Blanc) where you will head south to Hellbronner Point, the Italian border station. A suspended pylon stretches between two peaks from the Italian end. For forty minutes dangle in a gondola for four and glide over the glacier to Italy. Don't forget to bring your passport to show at Hellbronner where you can then descend onto the Italian Valle d' Aosta.

Directions: Chamonix is 381 miles/613 km SE of Paris and 51 miles/82 km SE of Geneva.
Information: Aiguille du Midi is open mid-June to mid-September. The lift is generally open from 0700 to 1700 during the summer. Plan to spend a minimum of three to four hours for the Chamonix/Aiguille du Midi cable car adventure.

Where I Stayed: I have visited Chamonix on several occasions during the spring and summer months, and my favorite place to stay is the darling Hotel Eden. It is unpretentious, friendly and cozy with lovely French charm. Each time I had a rental car, which is needed to stay here as the hotel is a 5-minute drive to the village center.

Standing in the Hotel Eden's Guestroom Window Photo: JH Fogwell