Chamonix truly is a winter wonderland with so much more on offer than just downhill skiing. With the first ever Winter Olympics being held in Chamonix the valley certainly knows how to entertain its visitors beyond strapping on a pair of downhill skis and pointing you downhill. So read our guide on the best things to do this winter when you come to visit Chamonix-Mont-Blanc.
Cross country skiing or Ski de Fond is a great thing to try during the winter months in Chamonix. The Chamonix Valley has a network of 50kms of cross-country ski trails, catering for both classic and skating styles. The trails are graded green, blue and red to indicate their level difficulty. Getting some tips from an instructor will help and Evolution 2 offers 2hr private lessons for groups of up to 5 people from €130.
Because the trails are groomed and patrolled regularly you do need a valid pass costing €10 from the Maison Nordique in Chamonix. And most sports shops have a stock of equipment for hire, and prices start from around €10-15 per day. Intersport is opposite the Maison Nordique and there is parking close by.
Ski Touring/Split boarding
With lightweight touring skis or a split-board snowboard and grippy “skins” attached to the underside that allow you to “skin” up the mountain ready to enjoy some hard-earned turns on the way back down. After the season we just had more and more people are keen to explore what the back-country has to offer.
So you will need a good level of fitness and unless you are highly experienced already, a mountain guide is needed to stay safe, improve your technique and hopefully find the best snow.
There are three dedicated ski-touring practice loops, adapted to all levels. Neither patrolled or maintained, these tours are open to everyone and allow you to enjoy the powder without the lifts.
Les Houches/Prarion: vertical gain 841m (top altitude 1850m)
Argentière/Lognan via la Trapette (advanced) gain 730 m (top altitude 2410m)
Argentière/Lognan gain 800 m (top altitude 2625m)
Le Tour/Charamillon: gain 358 m (top altitude 1850)
Complete beginners can learn to ski by taking lessons on Les Planards and the Savoy beginner slopes in central Chamonix as well as the beginner area at Le Tour. Once you have mastered the basics the mountain is opened up and there are areas you can access at Plan Praz, Grands Montets, Les Houches and Flegère all at higher altitudes.
Evolution 2 Panda Club at the base of the Grands Montets in Argentiere, is offering group lessons for complete beginner children aged 3-6 years. For more information and prices click here.
What can I do in Chamonix if I don’t ski?
Because Chamonix has always been a great choice for non-skiers, there is plenty on offer to keep you amused if you don’t ski and here are some suggestions for you.
What better way to fully appreciate Chamonix’s stunning scenery than on foot or snowshoe. There are around 300kms of marked snowshoe trails around Mont Blanc, many in the Chamonix Valley. A number of the sports shops in town hire snowshoes for approximately €10-15 and the trails themselves are easy to find and well-marked.
Half day guided snowshoe trips are available from €140 (including snowshoe hire). Click here for more information.
If snowshoes don’t appeal, even a good pair of winter boots (and perhaps some walking poles) are enough to enjoy the specially prepared winter walking paths.
Fat Biking/All Terrain Scooter
Fat biking’ (mountain e-bikes with fat tyres) and all-terrain e-scooters are a great way to explore the snowy footpaths of the valley and available from several shops to anyone over 12yrs. Guides are also available to show you the best trails for your ability.
Basically, sledging with high-tech equipment. A single runner sledge you sit astride and stabilise with your feet gives you a purely a downhill experience. Paret is the original wooden sledge whereas SNOOC combines ski touring and sledging in one hybrid piece of equipment. Hike up the mountain on the two short skis then assemble the sledge for a comfortable seated sledge for the descent. Genius!
Try SNOOC at the dedicated test centre at Les Planards. Evolution 2 organise fun paret descents for groups of up to 5 people. Suitable for 10 years+
There are also a number of dedicated “luge” slopes in the valley:
- Espace luge Chavants, Les Houches – 2 groomed slopes, one for 2-6 year olds and a second for 6yrs+
- Les Chosalets, Argentiere – tobogganing slope and dedicated snow tubing piste (€5 for 30 minutes, helmet obligatory)
- Bois du Bouchet – has a dedicated piste de luge
- Le Tourchet, Les Houches, which when not in use by the ski clubs of the valley, is arguably the best sledging venue in the valley. Even better, Le Soleray ‘brew pub’ next door serves fantastic takeaway food and beer.
All are free to use (except snow tubing) but parents are responsible for supervising their children.
Le Touchet in Les Houches has an outdoor ice rink that is open to the public from 2pm until 7pm every day except Mondays until the 22 Feb, thereafter it is open until 6pm. The rink is open to all ages and hires out skates.
Husky Dog Sled Rides
A magical experience the whole family can enjoy. Driving the sled yourself or ride as a passenger around the snowy fields of Les Praz or La Vormaine. Over 8’s can drive the sled and adults can take younger children as passengers. Tours last 1hr and book up quickly. Visit the Huskydalen website for more info and availability
Multi Activity Kids Club
Evolution 2 Panda Club offers a half day activity programme (morning or afternoon) for children aged 6-12 years of age. Activities include treasure hunts, airboarding, sledging and nature walks, as well as a host of indoor activities in their cosy chalet should the weather be bad.Book direct with Evolution 2