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It's all downhill in Alps of Chamonix

Special to The Times

GETTING THERE:

From LAX, Swiss, Air France, KLM, British and Lufthansa have connecting service (with a change of plane) to Geneva, 60 miles from Chamonix. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $469.

To get to Chamonix by train takes 2 1/2 hours via St. Gervais, $16; 011-41-512-20-11-11, fax 011-41-512-20-42-65, http://www.sbb.ch.

TELEPHONES:

To call numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (international dialing code), 33 (country code for France) and the local number.

GLACIER SKIING:

Unless you are a mountaineer with climbing equipment and experience, a guide is essential when skiing the Vallée Blanche. Guides can be arranged by Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix, across from St. Michel church in the village; 450-53-0088, fax 450-53-4804, http://www.cieguides-chamonix.com. The cost for one to four people is $225.

WHERE TO STAY:

Hôtel Mont-Blanc, 62 Allée du Majestic; 450-53-0564, fax 450-55-8944, http://www.chamonixhotels.com. A four-star in the heart of the old town center. Doubles from $163.

Hôtel Alpina, 79 Avenue du Mont-Blanc; 450-53-4777, fax 450-55-9899, http://www.chamonixhotels.com. Fine three-star hotel in the center of town. Doubles from $128.

Hôtel du Louvre, 95 Impasse de l'Androsace; 450-53-0051, fax 450-53-7039. Comfortable one-star tucked along a back street in the heart of the old center. Doubles from $43.

WHERE TO EAT:

Le Chaudron, 79 Rue des Moulins; 450-53-4034. The chef cooks regional dishes as you watch, $16-$26.

The M Brasserie, 81 Rue Vallot (located in Auberge Croix Blanche); 450-53-0011. Typical Savoyard-style brasserie, $8-$22.

TO LEARN MORE:

Office de Tourisme de Chamonix, Place du Triangle de l'Amitié, BP 25, F-74401 Chamonix Mont-Blanc Cedex, France; http://www.chamonix.com.

French Government Tourist Office, 9454 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 715, Beverly Hills, CA 90212; France-on-Call hotline (410) 286-8310 (for brochures), (310) 271-6665, fax (310) 276-2835, http://www.franceguide.com.

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