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Cross-country skiing in Argentiere

Escaping the crowds and enjoying the sun on the ski de fond trails

February is the busiest month of the winter, when schools across Europe are all on half-term break at the same time and families head en masse to the Alps for their annual ski holiday. There are a few ways to avoid the crowds though, and cross-country skiing is one of my favourite alternative activities.

The recent warm sunny weather has left the Chamonix ski de fond trails looking a bit worse for wear, but head higher up the valley to Argentiere or take the Prarion lift up to Les Houches and you’ll find that conditions are much better.

We headed for Les Chosalets, the nursery piste at the bottom of Les Grands Montets, for a leisurely spin around the Argentiere forests. At first glance we were dismayed to see large patches of grass and big sloshy puddles at the start of the trail but fortunately it wasn’t indicative of the rest of the area and once we got amongst the trees there was plenty of snow to scoot around on.

Les Chosalets is a really pretty little hamlet on the approach to Les Grands Montets and the trails start by passing old stone chalets and wooden huts; there is a little road to cross and then you’re in amongst fragrant pine trees.

The circuit is marked on a board not far from the start and the trails are all signposted; there is supposed to be a one-way system but we found them to be a bit ambiguously marked and I’m pretty sure we went round most of them the wrong way. It was so quiet that we didn’t cause any (major) pile-ups though and I’m not convinced anyone else knew which way they were supposed to be going either.

The weather this week has been glorious and it was a beautiful day to be out enjoying the trails; the deep blue sky and bright sunshine giving the white snow a magical sparkle. Another benefit to cross-country skiing is that you don’t spend any time sat on chairlifts and you’re constantly moving, so you don’t need to wrap up like the Michelin man. Wear whatever you would if you were going for a run, as well as a hat and a light pair of gloves - you’ll soon warm up!

After a jaunt up to La Moraine and back, a well deserved cup of tea was in order and so we skidded our way along the little hiking path to La Cremerie du Glacier. This little wooden cabin is an alpine tardis, nestled amongst the trees with a lovely sunny terrace. It looks tiny from the outside but as soon as you step in, you’re greeted by a crackling log stove and a cosy dining room that is almost always busy with people tucking into steaming pots of fondue and big gooey croutes.

The Argentiere ski de fond trails vary from flat and gentle from Les Iles to Les Chosalets, to being quite hilly and a bit more challenging once you get closer to La Moraine. The ascents can be quite a workout and the descents are really good fun; some sections are nice and rolling and if you’re confident enough to pick up a bit of speed it’s like being on a roller coaster as you zip round the bends.

The return leg was cut short by a quick detour off the cross-country trail and onto the Pierre a Ric home run of the Grands Montets, so that we could get the bus home from outside the lift station.

More inspiration...

For more information on ski de fond trails, equipment, technique and passes, please see our guide to cross-country skiing in Chamonix.


Location: Chamonix - Argentiere


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Activities: Cross-Country Skiing