While it seems almost counterintuitive, if you want to pack on the pounds this season and indulge in wine, chocolate and cheese on the regular, pack your designer hiking boots and hit the trail to embark on the Tour du Mont Blanc.
The 105-mile trek dating back to 1767 has become a European staple. More than 10,000 hikers embark on the trek during the holidays each year, most of them beginning at Chamonix, in France’s Vallee de l’Arve and continue counterclockwise into Italy’s Val Veny and finally along the Val Ferret into Switzerland.
Recently the New York Times Magazine chronicled the trip, which one female hiker describes as “a cheese tour with a strenuous but largely incidental mountain-climbing component.”
While the actual physical component is no joke with the average ascent of Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc, is about 2,700 feet — a thru-hiker will have climbed the equivalent of Mount Everest — the goodies along the way more than make up any strenuous activity they must endure. Trekkers, eating their way through Europe, indulge on “Savoyard wines, hot chocolate thick enough to keep a metal spoon upright, treadmills of raclette.”
Along the way participants take in Alpine charm, valleys, glaciers, history and culture. But while explorers may “say cheese” in a range of selfies amidst the backdrop of snowy vistas during their ascent, it would appear the real allure of the trip has less to do with promised views, and more to do with literal cheesy goodness.
The New York Times writer chronicling his and his wife’s own recent foray, explains that from their starting point at Les Houches and with each village they entered, they became more laden with fromage and formaggio. While views disappointed, they and their fellow travelers drowned their sorrows in dairy goodness. By the end of the trip, that much harder from the added weight of their loot, he explains, “We each had such a surfeit of cheese that we literally could not give it away — though we did try.”