Why should I participate in Climate Science in Chamonix?
Climate Science in Chamonix is a new initiative created by CREA Mont-Blanc for English-language students and individuals interested in participating in scientific research in the Mont Blanc range. Since its creating in 1996, CREA Mont-Blanc has been combining high quality ecological research with education initiatives and has established itself as a pioneer for citizen science in France. Whether you are a student, a future scientist, an adventurous hiker or concerned citizen, we know that you’ll learn a lot and have fun during your time with us. What’s more, your participation and the data you collect during your trip makes an important contribution to our research!
If you have a question that is not answered here, please feel free to contact us!
© S. Gatti
Travel and Logistics
How do I get to Chamonix?
Chamonix is an easy 1 hour and 15 minute scenic drive from the nearest international airport in Geneva, Switzerland, which is served by both nonstop and connecting flights from North America and many other locations. Many commercial shuttle services provide frequent transportation from the airport to Chamonix. The Chamonix Valley is also a 2.5 hour drive from the Lyon Interational Airport and a 3-hour drive from Milan, Italy and its international airport.
Do I need to know how to speak French?
No. All of the CREA Mont-Blanc team members participating in your trip speak excellent English. Although it is always courteous to learn some basic phrases in the local language while travelling, English is widely spoken in Chamonix and you’ll have no problem getting around without French.
What should I bring?
What you should bring with you will depend on the kind of trip you will be participating in. You will be given a trip packing list by your trip organizer prior to your departure. While most international flights allow a 50lb checked bag, we encourage you not to bring more than you can easily transport yourself.
Because we will be spending time in the mountains, gear specific to hiking and the outdoors will be required. Please consult the gear list and contact us if you have any questions.
Can I use my credit card?
Yes, you can use most credit or debit cards while abroad both for making payments and for taking cash out of ATMs. Based on your credit or debit card provider, you may incur foreign transaction fees and should check with your provider to learn more. We also highly recommend that you inform your debit or credit card provider of your upcoming travel so any payments you make far from home will not be flagged as suspicious activity.
Do I need a passport or a visa?
All US and Canadian citizens need a valid passport in order to enter France. Your passport must not expire within three months of your travel dates. Currently, American passport-holders are not required to obtain a visa for stays of up to 90 days within the European Union and Schengen Zone.
What is the weather like in Chamonix? And in the mountains?
CREA Mont-Blanc carries out most of its field work in the mountains, where weather can be extreme and conditions can change quickly and unexpectedly. While in the field, you will be accompanied by experienced mountain professionals who will regularly consult the weather bulletins to help you to be as prepared as possible. Be sure to carefully consult the required gear lists distributed by your trip organizer to make sure you have all of the appropriate gear. We also invite you to consult weather forecasts on the English language version of our partner website, Chamonix-Météo.
Will my phone work?
US Cell phone plans are constantly evolving, so you should check with your service provider to find out what options are available for international travel. While some trip participants enjoy being “cut off” for a few weeks, many choose to extend their coverage for international travel. Cost and data plans will depend on your plan.
Even if you have chosen not to extend your plan, cell phone coverage is very good in the area and you should be able to use your phone to make emergency calls. In case of an emergency, call 112 which is the common European emergency telephone number and can be called free of charge from most any mobile phone.
Will I have access to Wi-Fi?
It is likely that your accommodations in Chamonix will have free Wi-Fi. In addition, several locations within the town have free hotspots, including the tourism office. You can consult the official Chamonix website for more information.
While in the mountains, you will not have access to Wi-Fi.
How does my participation contribute to CREA Mont-Blanc’s work?
Your participation in a scientific volunteering trip with CREA Mont-Blanc contributes directly to our research. Many of the long-term monitoring programs require that we carry out extensive observations, which our small team would be unable to do without your help.
In addition, we find that when we work with and exchange with people from a variety of backgrounds, we benefit from their ideas and gain new perspectives and innovations for our work.
How do I sign up?
Students: We are currently only offering university-organized trips. If your university offers a trip with CREA Mont-Blanc, then you should apply directly through your school. If your school does not offer a trip with the CREA, we encourage you to suggest it to your professors or department heads!
Independent travelers: We are currently working on designing English-language scientific volunteer opportunities. If you are interested in supporting our work and participating in a trip, feel free to get in touch and stay tuned for more information. If you are a member of a hiking, nature or conservation group or club that organizes trips and think that they might be interested in working with CREA Mont-Blanc, please put us in touch!
What will I be doing during the trip?
During your trip, you will be sharing in the day-to-day activities of CREA researchers. During the day, you’ll be out in the field hiking, making observations, taking notes, and exchanging on what you have observed. In the evening, you will carry out some analysis of the data collected during the day. The specific activities that you will carry out will depend on the trip that you sign up for. For more information about your specific trip, please consult with your trip organizer, or contact us with questions.
What is the environment impact of CREA Mont-Blanc’s scientific volunteer trips?
- Taking into account the impact of scientific research on the species and environment studied
Repeated study of sensitive species and fragile ecosystems can be a source of disturbance. We take this question very seriously, and carefully consider and work to mitigate the impact of our research on these species and ecosystems. During the trip, you will be accompanied by professionals trained in field work protocols. Based on our knowledge of the species and ecosystems we study, we apply precautionary measures that could seem to be restrictive or excessive to you, such as leaving an area more quickly than you would like or no approaching or handling animals.
- Use of public transport
Please consider the impact of your travel when coming to Chamonix. We are aware that you will need to fly to Europe to participate, but we encourage you to consider carbon offsets for your trip. Once here, please use public transportation as much as you can—the Chamonix valley has an excellent network of buses and trains to facilitate transport.
- Food and lodging
CREA Mont-Blanc’s partners share our environmental ethic. Many of our partners are involved in our organization and support our mission. To the extent possible, our partners favor local business and distribution channels as well as local and organic production.
Do I need to be a scientist?
You do not need to be a scientist to sign up for one of CREA Mont-Blanc’s trips. Part of CREA Mont-Blanc’s mission is to share scientific research and methods with the general public. We strive to turn citizens into citizen scientists.
Nonetheless, when you sign up for one of our programs, you should consult the eligibility requirements specified by the trip organizer. For example, if you are travelling with your university, they may require that you have taken prerequisite courses in earth sciences.
We highly encourage all participants to check out the Mont Blanc Atlas website to explore CREA Mont-Blanc’s data and familiarize yourself the kind of research we do, the species we study and the data we’ve already collected.
What is included in the trip?
What is included in your trip will depend on your trip organizer. Please consult your trip organizer for specific information on cost and what is included.
Is this program credit bearing?
For trips organized by universities, please consult with your trip organizer or department head to find out if you will earn course credit during your scientific volunteering trip with CREA Mont-Blanc.
Is it possible to talk to someone who has already done a trip?
Yes! While the Climate Science in Chamonix program is brand new, CREA Mont-Blanc does have a few years of experience with leading scientific volunteering trips. We would be happy to put you in touch with an English-speaking participant who could tell you about their experience. Your trip will be uniquely designed through a collaboration between your trip organizer and CREA Mont-Blanc, but they will be able to give you an idea of what you can expect.
After the trip
Will I be able to see how my work contributed to CREA Mont-Blanc?
The results of all of CREA Mont-Blanc’s research is made available on the Mont Blanc Atlas website. While some of our data is immediately available online (live climate and species data), both the accumulation and analysis of long term data can take time and prevent us from being able to communicate our results in real time. By signing up for the e-Newsletter, you will be kept up to date on news and scientific progress. Finally, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us after your trip if you want to learn more about how the data you collected is being used.
If you or your trip organizers are using data collected during your trip for their own research, we encourage you to share your results and analysis with us!
How can I give feedback?
We value your opinion and hope that you will provide us with feedback to help us improve the experience for future participants. At the end of your trip, we will provide you with a way to provide anonymous feedback.
If you have additional thoughts after your trip, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
How can I stay involved and up to date?
We hope that you’ll want to stay in touch with us after your trip! The best ways to stay up to date on what’s going on at CREA Mont-Blanc after you return home are to sign up for our e-Newsletter and to follow us on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter).
If you want to continue to support CREA Mont-Blanc’s work, we encourage you to become a member, make a donation and/or consider volunteering your unique skillset help us out! Visit our “Join Us” pages, and don’t hesitate to contact us if you think you have something to contribute!
Health and Safety
Will it be safe where I am travelling?
Yes! Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is a very safe international tourism destination located in a high valley in the French Alps. English is widely spoken, and any information about weather alerts or environmental dangers is readily available at the tourism and mountain offices. Cell phone coverage is excellent, including in the mountains and local police and mountain rescue services are accustomed to communicating in English. In case of an emergency, call 112 which is the common European emergency telephone number and can be called free of charge from most any mobile phone.
The US Department of state does not have a travel advisory for France, but as with any international travel, we invite you to check the Alerts and Warnings website and register with Smart Traveler Enrollment Program prior to travel.
While you are in the mountains, you will be accompanied by an experienced mountain professional, trained in first aid and rescue services. In addition, the area is served by a highly trained professional mountain rescue service. All mountain rescue in France is free of charge.
What happens if I have medical problems?
Chamonix has very modern healthcare facilities, including a hospital with helicopter ambulance capabilities. While you are in the mountains, you will be accompanied by an experienced mountain professional, trained in first aid and rescue services. In addition, the area is served by a highly trained professional mountain rescue service. All mountain rescue in France is free of charge.
I have dietary restrictions, will that be a problem?
No, your dietary restrictions should not be a problem. When you sign up for a program, please do let us know if you have any special food related needs so that we can plan accordingly.
What are accommodations like?
Lodging varies according to the kind of trip you have signed up for. While in the Chamonix Valley, you may be staying in double hotel rooms, apartments or dorm-style housing.
Every trip will spend one or several nights in a mountain hut. It is important to understand that the huts, while comfortable, are rustic. Showers are not available and you may be sleeping in bunkrooms.
Please check with your trip organizers to find out more about your accommodations and make sure that you understand which nights are included in your trip.
How physically demanding are the trips?
Much of CREA Mont-Blanc’s field work is carried out in the mountains and off-trail. While experience in mountaineering is not required for participation in trips, you should be in good physical shape and comfortable hiking and walking on uneven terrain. It is not unusual that we will hike for a few hours with nearly 3,000 ft of elevation gain to reach our field monitoring sites.
Will I be affected by the high elevation?
While the center of Chamonix is not located at a high mountain elevation (3,400 ft), much of CREA Mont-Blanc’s work does occur at higher elevations in the mountains surrounding the town. Most trip will hike up to and spend the night at a mountain hut above 6,500 ft. We will also be taking a cable car to the Aiguille du Midi (12,605 ft). Although we will not be staying long at the Aiguille du Midi, individuals who are affected by health problems associated with high altitudes should avoid participating in this part of the trip.
What kind of insurance do I need?
Prior to your trip, you should make sure that your health insurance includes, or can be extended to include care overseas. Your insurance should also cover repatriation and trip cancellation in case you need to cancel part or all of your trip for an unforeseen reason.
Depending on what trip you sign up for, some form of insurance may be included. Please check with your trip organizer to learn what is included and what they recommend for insurance.
While we are in the mountains, we will have able to be in contact with the area’s highly trained professional mountain rescue service. All mountain rescue in France is free of charge.