A brief history of Chamonix

The Chamonix Mont Blanc region has a rich and storied history, which dates back to prehistoric times. However, the more recent history, beginning in the 18th century, has been primarily shaped by the tourism industry, scientific exploration, and changing political boundaries.


– 1741: Two Englishmen, William Windham (an antiquarian) and Richard Pococke (a bishop), visit the “Mer de Glace” (Sea of Ice) above Chamonix. Their expedition, and subsequent publication of their travel narrative, made Chamonix renowned in European circles and marked the beginning of tourism in the region.

– 1786: Mont Blanc is ascended for the first time by Jacques Balmat and Dr. Michel Paccard. This event marked the start of modern mountaineering.


– Early 1800s: Chamonix, originally part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, was ceded to France following the Treaty of Paris in 1815, after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo.

– 1821: The Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix, the world’s oldest and largest association of mountain guides, was founded.

– 1860: The Sardinian province of Savoy, including Chamonix, is officially annexed by France following a treaty between France and the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. The annexation is confirmed by a plebiscite in which Savoyards vote overwhelmingly in favor of joining France.

– 1892: The luxurious Hotel Montenvers opens, providing a base for tourists wishing to visit the Mer de Glace.

– 1901: Chamonix’s population reaches approximately 3,000, with many residents working in the tourism industry.


– 1924: Chamonix hosts the first Winter Olympics, which boosted its international reputation as a winter sports destination.

– 1955: The cable car to the Aiguille du Midi is completed, which greatly enhances Chamonix’s attractiveness as a ski destination.

– 1960s: Chamonix’s tourism industry continues to boom. The population grows and many new hotels and holiday residences are built.

– 1986: The Mont Blanc tunnel linking France and Italy opens, making Chamonix more accessible and enhancing its role as an international tourist destination.


– Early 2000s: Chamonix continues to be a world-renowned mountain resort and a center for mountaineering, skiing, and outdoor sports.

– 2010: A section of the Glacier des Bossons breaks off, reminding residents and visitors of the ongoing impact of climate change on the Alps.

– 2013: Chamonix celebrates the 150th anniversary of its annexation by France.

The region’s history has been profoundly shaped by its geography. The majestic peaks of the Mont Blanc massif have drawn tourists and adventurers from around the world, transforming this once-remote valley into a bustling hub of tourism and outdoor sports. As we look to the future, challenges such as managing tourism sustainably and mitigating the impacts of climate change will likely play a significant role in shaping the region’s development.

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