Family holidays can be loads of fun and Chamonix caters really well for everyone from little tots to energetic teenagers.
Here's our pick of the best family activities in Chamonix over the half term holidays.
Babies & Toddlers
Chamonix has it’s very own soft play centre; far from being one of those massive noisy warehouse places, La Petite Folie is a friendly little cafe in Chamonix Sud where parents can enjoy coffee and cakes while the little ones tumble around in the soft play area. Regular craft sessions keep the children absorbed and give them something to take home afterwards, with some special surprises planned for Valentine’s day and the school holidays. Keep an eye on our Chamonix events calendar for more details.
Saturday mornings are when the “petits poissons” or “little fishes” gather for a splash session in the Richard Bozon sports centre. Babies from 6 months to 3 years have a dedicated time slot from 10am, with children of 3-5 years being admitted from 11am. There must be one adult per infant.
There are two mountain sites that have been specially dedicated to children - Skicamp at Les Houches and Mont Blanc Legend at Flegere. Skicamp is a little adventure park with teepees, climbing frames, animal tracks and a zip wire. Right opposite this you can fling yourself down a toboggan slope on a giant rubber ring. Mont Blanc Legend is a fun ski area with slides, rope bridges and even a BBQ area where you can sizzle your own lunch.
Down in the valley, you’ll find that loads of sports & ski hire shops sell plastic sledges. Head along the river past the tennis courts and bear right to find a sledging slope at the start of the cross-country ski trails. One side is short and steep, the other is a bit longer and more gentle and both sides have padded mats at the bottom in case of braking issues! There are further sledging slopes on the Savoy piste at the bottom of Le Brevent, at Prarion and Chavants in Les Houches, at Les Chosalets in Argentiere and behind the tourist office in Vallorcine.
If you’ve got young daredevils to keep entertained, then paret sledging will have them buzzing for the rest of the holiday. Every Friday in Les Houches after the ski slopes have closed, anyone over 10 years old can whizz down the piste on a traditional alpine sledge which is basically a short ski with a wooden plank on top which acts as a seat. It feels very precarious to start with but it's hilarious and you’ll be screeching with laughter by the time you get to the bottom. Evolution2 also run a weekly paret session every Wednesday on the steeper slopes of Les Grands Montets, this is restricted to 12 years and over due to it being a bit more extreme.
How about getting them involved in some “off-piste”, “freeride”, or “snowpark” lessons? Most of the Chamonix ski schools now do specific courses tailored to teens who can already ski or snowboard and want something more exciting to try. They’ll be taught by qualified instructors who will push their boundaries and boost their confidence within safe limits.
There's even plenty to do when the weather is bad, such as indoor climbing. Mont Blanc Escalade in Les Houches has over 100 bolted routes suitable for all abilities, you can hire shoes and harnesses on site and there is a viewing gallery for those who just want to watch. The staff are very friendly here and will happily give you a few pointers if you're just starting out.
Family Friendly Apres Ski
There aren’t many bars where you can enjoy a glass of nice wine and a live jazz concert, while the children play in a safe area with their own popcorn dispenser; however Hotel l'Heliopic delivers just that every Thursday and Friday evening from 18:30. Hotel Le Vert at Lac des Gaillands is also renowned for giving families a warm welcome and their Sunday lunch is a real treat, with special deals for kids between 14:00 and 16:00.
For a real taste of alpine action, take the family to an ice hockey match. Tiered seating gives everyone a great view of the rink but try to get near the front if you want to see the action up close. If you get a bit cold beside the ice, there is a warm bar area with a viewing window, where you can also get snacks and drinks. The Chamonix-Morzine Pionniers play home matches on the 14th and 24th February, starting at 20:30 and you can buy tickets when you arrive.
If the kid's ski lessons are at Les Planards, you've probably seen the Alpine Coaster zipping past as it twists and turns amongst the trees. This two-seater toboggan run is available to everyone over 3 years old (3-7 years must be accompanied by an adult) and is open daily until 6pm. Best of all, if you've bought the Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass you get a free ride every day!
Events & Entertainment
Make sure you’re in Chamonix centre on 17th February for the annual Chamonix En Rouge street party. The ESF ski instructors will be leading the children in a parade through town, finishing at the Maison de la Montagne with music, entertainment, games and prizes. There is always a great atmosphere and everyone is welcome to join in the fun.
Outdoor ice skating is a great way to spend an evening; it is free to take part, you only need to pay a small fee for skate hire. You can give it a whirl in Les Houches every Wednesday and Friday, and in Vallorcine every evening of the week.
As the pistes close and night sets in, the light from dozens of flickering torches can be seen glistening against the snow. Torchlit descents take place throughout February in Les Houches, Chamonix and Argentiere on varying evenings; it’s a magical sight and really exciting for children to be a part of.
Sights & Attractions
If you’ve invested in the Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass, you’ll find that there are plenty of extras that make great family excursions. You can go to the top of the Aiguille du Midi and Step Into the Void, ride the Montenvers train up to the Mer de Glace and visit the ice caves, or take the Tramway du Mont Blanc up into the snowy plains of Les Houches.
Even a simple train ride can be an adventure; you can travel for free on all stops between Servoz and Vallorcine with your carte d’hote guest card, meaning that you can go for a snowy tramp through the forest or alongside the river and catch the train back again. If you get off at Le Buet, you can call into Cafe Moontine for a hot chocolate and a whizz down the toboggan run.
There are heaps more activities available in Chamonix, from bowling and cinema on bad weather days, to husky sledding and paragliding or scenic flights for outdoor adventures. The cinema shows most of the latest releases in English (look for VOST in the timetable) and often has children's films and cartoons on during the school holidays.
Location: Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley