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Chamonix is the oldest and biggest of the French winter-sports resort towns and was the site of the first Winter Olympics, held in 1924. As a ski resort, however, it has its limitations. The ski areas are spread out, none is very large, and the lower slopes often suffer from poor snow conditions.

On the other hand, some runs are extremely memorable, such as the 20-km (12-mile) one through the Vallée Blanche or the off-trail area of Les Grands Montets. And the situation is getting better: many lifts have been added, improving access to the slopes as well as shortening lift lines. In summer it's a great place for hiking, climbing, and enjoying dazzling views. If you're heading to Italy via the Mont Blanc Tunnel, Chamonix will be your gateway.

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