In 1741, two young English aristocrats and explorers, William Windham and Richard Pocock, unveiled to the world the Priory in Chamonix, a French town at the foot of Mont Blanc in the Rhône-Alpes region, famous for its beautiful landscapes and admired for its idyllic mountain villages and glaciers.
The first mountain lodge opened in 1770, heralding the development of hospitality and international climbing at the Mont Blanc massif. The first luxury hotel was built in 1816. But the growing enthusiasm for summer tourism brought with it the creation of the Guides Company, in 1821, and the construction of the small Montenvers railroad in 1908.
Under the reign of Napoleon III a road was built between Chamonix and Geneva, which opened the doors to winter sports. In fact, the first Winter Olympic Games were held in this region in 1924.
There is a wide range of luxury hotels in the area. Perhaps the most exclusive is Le Hameau Albert 1er, a 5 star hotel with indoor pool and spa. It is located a few minutes from the ski slopes, where guests can enjoy all kinds of winter amenities and attractions.
Less than a mile from Le Hameau Albert 1er, the cable car Aigulle du Midi will take those who enjoy extreme sensations to the highest mountain on the French Alps— more than 12,000 feet high—to experience up-close the new attraction that is revolutionizing tourism in the area: Step Into the Void, a technological feat inspired by the famous gangway of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, United States. Hotels with amazing views.
This tourist attraction created by the Compagnie du Mont Blanc allows the intrepid travelers to stand on a precipice, 3,400 feet high, from the interior of a glass structure measuring just 20 square feet. The construction of Step Into the Void lasted three years, and the glass “window” is sufficiently strong to withstand winds of more than 136 mph. Inaugurated in December of 2013, it is located on the upper terrace of the Aiguille du Midi. As a curiosity: this attraction is not suitable for people with heart problems or vertigo, and padded slippers are provided to preserve the glass floor of the showcase.
Those who have had the opportunity to enjoy this experience say that it is like hovering over a cliff and that the 360-degree views of the snow-covered French, Swiss and Italian Alps are so moving and unforgettable that, for a few seconds, you can hardly breathe, feeling your soul has been touched. ■