Les Houches is a French village
in the Chamonix valley
, a few kilometer
s from the Italian
and Swiss borders
, and is situated about five kilometers downstream
itself. At this point in the valley, the A40
(or Autoroute Blanche
, which feeds into the Mont Blanc Tunnel
) runs parallel to the river Arve
, while Les Houches lies above the valley floor, with an excellent view of both mountains
Les Houches sits in the shadow (quite literally) of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe. As a result, winters there are particularly dark, and the average house in the main body of the village will get around 2 hours of sunlight in December.
The name of the village is a corruption of Olca, meaning grain store in the old Savoie language, and hints at the settlement's history. It is not far from one of the few ways into the valley before the motorway's construction in the twentieth century, and was also one of the more fertile areas of the valley. Various other evidence has led researchers to belive that it was the valley's first settlement. It is most likely that it was outgrown by Chamonix simply because the valley is a lot wider at Chamonix and there is much more room for building there.
From the centre of the village, one has a view of the whole Massif du Mont Blanc, including l'Aiguille du Midi, l'Aiguille Verte, various glaciers including the glacier des Bossons and, of course, Mont Blanc. There is some good skiing for beginner to intermediate levels, while the best (but hardest) skiing can be found a half-hour's drive up the valley in Argentiere. In the summer there are some excellent mountain biking and walking trails all around the village, though from about mid-July it gets very hot. However, at all times of the year, the weather can change very quickly - I've seen a cloudless sky turn to thick fog in under two hours.
Les Houches is home to the best supermarket in the world, Shopi. This is, of course, my own personal opinion and is not an objective fact. Shopi is a franchise, not a chain, so it really is different to all the other Shopis in France. It's in the centre, near the church and next to the tourist office.
Les Houches is also the location of the Ecole de Physique des Houches, a renowned theoretical physics school that has been visited by Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr, among others.