As I began this review, I have an awe-inspiring view of the Glacier des Bossons slithering down the thickly-wooded hillside beneath Mont Blanc. This is one of the best points of La Sapinière, where I stayed my wife and my parents for a week in July.

Run by Inghams, it’s a chalet-hotel – home from home for British tourists, all members of staff speaking English. Like a favourite pullover, it’s lived-in and well-loved, but slightly frayed at the seams. Wooden beams abound, and the décor is rather old-fashioned. This probably suited the mature clientèle present during our stay.

The west-facing frontage with red balconies, of the Chalet-Hotel La Sapinière in Chamonix.
The west-facing frontage of the Chalet-Hotel La Sapinière in Chamonix.
The rustic bar at La Sapinière, an Inghams chalet-hotel in Chamonix.
The rustic bar at La Sapinière, an Inghams chalet-hotel in Chamonix.
The dining room at La Sapinière, an Inghams chalet-hotel in Chamonix.

Our room

My wife, Rachel, and I had a double room on the first floor. It was clean but spartan, with wooden flooring. There was only electrical socket accessible; I was glad I brought a four-socket trailing gang lead with me. My bed creaked whenever I turned over, an issue I raised with Nathan, the hotel manager. The en-suite bathroom, however, was modern and well-appointed. Room servicing didn’t happen every day. Our balcony was a partitioned section of the roof above the bar and dining room. This actually suited me very well because I could vary the position of my camera tripod for dawn shots of Mont Blanc.

Summit of Mont Blanc lit by early morning sun
Early morning sun lights up Mont Blanc, the moon and cloud dispersing over Chamonix.

Food and drink

Meals were very good – and provided on an all-inclusive basis. Breakfast covers all tastes, including cereal, a full English, pastries and charcuterie. Packed lunches were available – ideal for walkers – and afternoon tea was great on the days when we returned early: cake, sandwiches and even soup was on offer. Aperitifs with amuse-bouches preceded dinner every night. We were allocated seats for the nightly three-course dinner, the aim being to encourage guests to mix by sitting at a different table each evening. This felt like an imposition on the first night; less so subsequently as we got to know fellow guests. Wine, also included in the package, certainly helped! Dishes ranged from confit de canard to baked cod and tartiflette.

Salami, parma ham, cheese, olives and watercress on a slate board
Salami, parma ham, cheese, olives and watercress on a slate board
Choux pastry in white bowl
A beautifully-presented choux pastry dessert
Tartiflette in white bowl
Mouthwatering tartiflette

WiFi

Wifi for guests was free, albeit unsecured and available only in the bar and dining room. I did, however, manage to get a weak signal in our room, directly above it.

The town

The hotel is in Rue Mummery, a five-minute walk from Chamonix town centre. The hub for tourism in the area, it’s pedestrianised, with lots of historic buildings and interesting shops. The ice-cold Arve, fed by mountain glaciers, tears through the centre, beneath bridges bedecked with flowers. This being summer, Chamonix is thronged with walkers, here to enjoy the many paths up and along the mountains that hem in the valley.

Flowers adorn railings above the River Arve in Chamonix, with Mont Blanc in the background.
Flowers adorn railings above the River Arve in Chamonix, with Mont Blanc in the background
Le National Bar & Brasserie in Chamonix.
Le National Bar & Brasserie in Chamonix
Floral border in Chamonix town centre
A border bursting with colour from dahlias and more in Chamonix town centre

Weather

As you can from my photos, we were very lucky with the weather during our stay. The first three days were blisteringly hot – over 30ºC – and increasingly humid. The heatwave broke with a couple of biblical thunderstorms; temperatures thereafter were more comfortable.

Getting here

We flew with EasyJet from Gatwick to Geneva. Our outward flight left on time the return flight was delayed by 20 minutes by a missing passenger. Geneva airport, where there were far too few people on duty at the security-scanning stage, felt more chaotic than Gatwick, where passport control had actually been automated, in the style of self-scanning supermarket checkouts.

VERDICT

La Sapinière is a good base for hikers and skiers in due season. As general sightseers, we also enjoyed our stay, and everything Chamonix and the surrounding area had to offer. Although the hotel would benefit from refurbishment, the views it offers across Chamonix are virtually second-to-none. As a photographer, I would highly recommend it.

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