Mont Blanc from Ponte Helbronner | Visiting Mont Blanc is up high on many travelers’ to-do-lists. Mont Blanc – the highest mountain in Europe – rises 4,809 m above sea level. The ‘White Mountain’ separates the Aosta Valley down south (Italy) from the Savoie up north (France). Most tourists tackle Mont Blanc from up north, the Chamonix side in France. Our recommendation: DO NOT CHOOSE CHAMONIX. Here is what we did:
Mont Blanc from Ponte Helbronner
We settled in an apartment in Aosta, Italy – drove 50 minutes to Courmayeur and left our car at a free parking lot near Skyway Monte Bianco Station. Then we hopped on a pretty fancy rotating cable car that lifted us up to Pointe Helbronner – still on the Italian side. You might know this cable car from the movie ‘Kingsman 2’. Next we took the connecting cable car between Helbronner and Aiguille du Midi – a 5 km ride from Italy to France with Mont Blanc on our left. At Aiguille du Midi we changed cable cars again, riding down to Chamonix. From there a bus brought us back to our rental car at Skyway Monte Bianco Station in Italy. It was a 30 minutes bus ride thru the Mont Blanc Tunnel at 13 Euros per person. Instead of paying 55 Euros for a return ride from Italy to France and back we paid 26 for a one-way bus ride :)
We saved half of the cable car cost by going one-way only, plus we avoided the tunnel toll by using public transport. You can plan such tour the other way round too of course. But Chamonix as a base camp was not so appealing to us. Luckily we did the right thing and booked our accommodation on the Italian side in Aosta.
When visiting Chamonix we were under the impression that the last days of glory must have been back in 1924 when this town hosted the Winter Olympics. We expected a bit more French elegance, but Chamonix didn’t have that kind of swag. Approx. 10,000 people live up there permanently. Another 5 million tourists invade the l’Arve Valley each year – predominantly in Feb/Mar and Jul/Aug.
Air pollution can be quite intense, especially in Winter. This is due to the burning of fossil resources, and even worse: lots of HGV vehicles travel through the Mont Blanc Tunnel. Between 1999 and 2002, when the tunnel was closed after a transport truck fire, the air quality throughout the l’Arve region improved significantly. Wild flowers that hadn’t been seen for years, suddenly re-appeared. The entrance to the Mont Blanc tunnel – usually blackened by exhaust fumes – became pearly white.
Ponte Helbronner – Where to stay
We found shelter at La Coppa Fen in Arpuilles (Fraz. Arpuilles 5/B, 11100 Aosta AO, Italy). The cozy apartment was far beyond expectation. If you plan on booking this property: do it as early as possible. La Coppa Fen is usually sold out many months in advance, simply because quality sells. The location is wonderful, the rooms are well equipped and spacious, the price is fair.