About Winter Activities in Chamonix
Whatever you choose to do on your winter holiday you are sure to find a huge range of activities across the Chamonix area. From relaxing to full on adrenaline there is something for everyone, every ability and every age in Chamonix. Check out the selection of things to do below for some holiday inspiration!
The Chamonix Guest Card (carte'dhote) is valid in summer and winter (for the duration of your stay) and entitles you to free travel on the buses and trains between these resorts (with the exception of the Chamo’nuit night bus). If you wish to take the train all the way through to Martigny in Switzerland or down to Le Fayet and St Gervais, you just need to pay the difference from Vallorcine or Servoz. The Guest Card also entitles you to various discounts throughout the valley, such as reductions at all the sports and cultural facilities including the swimming pool, ice rink, museums and covered parking. If you do not receive one when you check into your accommodation you can buy one from any of the tourist offices in the valley at a cost of €10 per person per week.
In Chamonix Sud there's a children's soft play area and café called La Petite Folie which is open 7 days per week and is available for birthday party bookings.
Chamonix is a winter walker's paradise, with lifts giving access to the higher ground and a network of groomed trails in the winter, it's very easy to discover the resort on foot. Don’t forget to check the weather forecast before you set out as conditions can change rapidly in the mountains. You do not need any particular equipment, just a pair of sturdy boots and layers of warm clothing that you can take off or put on as necessary. A pair of walking poles will come in handy for extra balance on icy patches and for checking snow depth before you go striding forth. Top tip: buy ‘grippers’ for your walking boots to prevent slipping which you can buy from most local Sport Shops.
A fairly recent craze, the fat bike is completely at home in the snow. Although it will be difficult to mountain bike along the valley floor during the winter months, hiring a fat bike can offer you hours of fun in the snow. Several of the ski hire shops in town will also rent fat bikes and they can also tell you the best trails in the valley to tackle.
Every Tuesday evening from 6pm in winter, a group lead by artist Sylwia Pwydych gets together for a life drawing session. All abilities are welcome and the group is very international, so don’t worry if your French isn’t up to scratch! Living Chamonix also run art classes for children and adults in Argentiere in winter.
Modern Winter Biathlon is the combination of cross country skiing and rifle shooting and tests not only fitness but also patience and control. In Chamonix you can try your hand at this Olympic Sport. If you like cross country skiing but want to add another challenge then Biathlon is the perfect way to escape in to the natural,quiet surrounding mountains sand then shoot stuff. Bit of a contradiction this one but it's fun all the same.
You can bowl in Chamonix in winter or summer at the bowling lanes in Cham Sud. A great places to go if you're in a family, a group or to while away rainy days.
Catch the latest films and releases in Chamonix on your winter or summer holiday. Some cinemas open their doors early on a bad weather day, otherwise you'll find most screenings in the evenings. Look out for VOST for English speaking films.
Get back to nature and explore the lovely tranquil cross-country ski trails. There are two different techniques – classic and skating. Classic is the easiest for beginners; you simply place your skis in two parallel grooves, push off and glide around the trails. Skating is more energetic and a slightly harder skill to grasp; you push your feet out to either side as though you are ice skating and use your poles simultaneously to gain momentum. You can hire the comfortable boots and lightweight skis and poles fairly inexpensively from most sports shops and book a group or private lesson to learn the basics from most ski schools or private instructors. A number of adventure companies also offer cross-country skiing guiding, tours and lessons too. Find your way around with the cross country skiing maps.
Also see: Cross-country Skiing in Chamonix
Join in with locals and holidaymakers alike with the local Ultimate frisbee club who organise ultimate frisbee (indoor) every Wednesday or Thursday depending on the season. Check out our events calender for more information or their facebook page.
There are over 2.5 million people doing geocaching around the world and some of them (perhaps surprisingly) are right here in Chamonix! It’s a relatively new craze that started taking the world by storm in May 2000 after a computer geek decided that GPS could be “really exciting”. He hid some treasure at his home in Portland, America, for people to find, broadcast the GPS coordinates and said, “Come and get it”. His only rule: “Take some stuff, leave some stuff”. And that’s exactly what Geocaching is…you go in search of treasure by using the GPS system on your mobile device – once you’ve found it, you write your name in a logbook and replace the treasure you decide to take. It’s pretty simple really and means, as a family, you can be adventurers together. You won’t usually find anything quite as precious as gold, silver and diamonds but nevertheless it’s quite exciting!
Gym / Fitness centres
A public gym & fitness classes can be found at the main sports centre in Chamonix. Pop-up instructors and classes also take place in Les Houches and most places around the valley. Look out for Studio 128 or Chamonix 1 Fitness.
Handiski / sit-ski
Enjoying the thrill of being on the pistes need not escape you if you're less mobile or have special physical needs. Resorts all over the Alps offer equipment and fully qualified guides to help you get the most out of your experience. Sit-ski, taxi ski, Vertiski, Handiski.. whichever method you're used to, or would like to try there will be at least one ski school or activity company in Chamonix that offers this service.
Also see: Disabled Skiing in Chamonix
Unfortunately, heli-skiing is not permitted in France, however some of the ski schools, adventure companies, local flight companies and mountain guide companies will offer a pick-up/drop-off heli skiing service for you where you will be taken over the border into Italy or Switzerland. It is expensive, but definitely a once in a lifetime experience!
Sit back and admire the mountains from even higher up. Daily panoramic helicopter flights are available (weather permitting) with a number of local flight companies. Relax and enjoy the stunning views as you fly over the snow-capped mountain tops, glaciers and alpine forests of the Alps.
Horse-drawn sleigh rides
A horse drawn carriage ride around the streets of Chamonix with Dr Zhivago is a popular thing to do in Chamonix in both winter & summer. Head to the small square near Irish Coffee in the centre of Chamonix to jump on board.
Hot air ballooning is a truly unique and fun experience. You can experience views and scenery like never before. The views are stunning, and as you glide over the forests you may see deer and other animals normally hidden from view. The pilot controls the height but the wind determines which direction you take, so the flight can take anything from one to two hours, depending on when a suitable landing site comes into view. Hot air ballooning looks serene, but there are moments of excitement; once the creaking wicker basket rises and you are suspended in the air metres above the ground, with nothing but the wind and the pilot taking you through the blue sky, it can be quite thrilling.
Be in charge of your own sled and team of excitable husky dogs, driving them along forest paths in winter. After a brief explanation of how to make your team stop and start, you set off following the guide’s team. If this all sounds a bit much you can opt for a less physical outing where you sit in the sled and the guide does all the hard work! It's a very popular winter activity, so booking at least 48 hours in advance is a must. They run from early December to the end of April (snow-permitting).
For the true mountain enthusiast, why not scale an amazing frozen waterfall or glacier? This is a fantastic sport, not just for experienced mountaineers. Chamonix has a multitude of ice-falls and gulleys where you can experience the thrill of ice climbing with a guide. Beginners can start off at La Crémerie in Argentière, while the more experienced can sample some of the many other sites around Chamonix, Servoz, Les Houches and Argentière. The ice climbing season peaks between December and March. Although it sounds like a very specialised sport, ice climbing is suitable for everyone - from complete beginners to experienced climbers. Some knowledge of ropes and basic climbing skills will give you a head start, but if you are a complete novice then your guide should be able to teach you from scratch.
Ice-skating / Hockey
Chamonix's main ice rink is open in summer as well as winter. Come along and enjoy a skate or support Chamonix's local team Les Chamois when they play home matches. There are three outdoor rinks in the Chamonix Valley, in Les Houches, Vallorcine and Argentiere, which are open as long as conditions permit.
The Chamonix valley is home to one of the largest indoor climbing walls in France. Mont Blanc Escalade is located in Les Houches and is open all year, with more than 100 routes to the roof, ranging from 16 to 21 metres in height. All necessary equipment is available for hire. In Chamonix town, there is a good sized bouldering wall in the Sports Centre (Centre Sportif Richard Bozon). There is another climbing wall at the ENSA, but you need to be a member of the local Club des Sports to gain access.
For a bit of indoor entertainment you can't beat a competitive game of mini-golf. The bowling centre in Chamonix Sud can provide you not only with your bowls thrills but upstairs you will find a mini-golf course.
Chamonix is quite simply the Mecca of Alpine Climbing. Whether you are a rock climber, ice climber, ski tourer, or just enjoy being in the mountains, Chamonix really is the place to be. The glaciers and icy slopes of the Mont Blanc Massif offer a massive number of climbing routes for alpinists, while the world famous Chamonix Granite is extremely popular with rock climbers. For beginners, or those in need of a practise, there are the indoor climbing walls in Les Houches or the sunny rock face of the Les Gaillands outdoor wall. Argentiere is the place to head for a spot of bouldering.
Nature Reserves & Parks
Discover the Merlet Animal Park in the winter months. You can find out more from a guide during a half day or a full day snowshoeing here and meet some of the animals up close in their home environment. Advance booking in necessary.
Also see: Nature Parks in Chamonix
Paragliding / Parapenting
If you’ve never tried paragliding before then Chamonix is a great place to learn how to fly. Known as “parapenting” in France & Switzerland, there are a great number of clubs and organisations in the area whose sole purpose is give you the experience of flying. From the heights of the mountain tops you can glide down to the bottom of the valley on a tandem paraglider controlled by the instructor. He manoeuvres the parachute while the passenger enjoys the ride and fantastic views. Top tip: Wait until the spring and then go on a sunny, warm day when the thermals will keep your airborne for longer.
Discover the unusual and secret itineraries behind the scenes. Taste and photograph the unique neighbourhoods and hamlets of the Chamonix valley with a professional photographer. Meet with chefs, artists, craftsmen, and guides… Admire and taste their creations. An activity for people with a passion for photography. Walks take place in Chamonix, Servoz, Les Houches, Le Coupeau, Vallorcine, Montroc... and many other places that you may have yet to discover!
Take to the skies and see the majestic mountains of the Chamonix Valley on a scenic flight in a helicopter. Fly over glaciers, wave at people on the Aiguille du Midi and take in the breathtaking scenery around you.
Many people would not automatically think of Chamonix as a place to shop, however, the town boasts some great stores. As you would expect from an outdoor sports resort, there are plenty sports stores where you can get your hands on some of the top mountaineering, ski and snowboard brands but there are also some fashionable clothing stores, and plenty of shops selling traditional mountain goods.
Also see: Shopping in Chamonix
Ski joering hails from Scandinavia, indeed the word 'joering' itself means ski driving in Norwegian. In France the preferred style is to use a rider-less horse which is controlled by the skier. A rig with reigns is connected to the horse’s bridle and the skier is towed along behind the horse on skis, holding onto the rig. The skier steers with vocal commands and by pulling on lines connected to the horses bit. Ski joering is a sport that is suitable for all ages and rides can be tailored to suit any standard of skier, from a gentle hack to a gallop through the snow.
Chamonix is popular for ski touring, whether it's going up the pistes that most people normally ski down, or tackling more of a back country route. A number of ski schools, private instructors and companies can show you around, or if you've got all the necessary equipment you can head out in your own group.
Skiing & snowboarding
The main draw for people coming to Chamonix in winter is of course the skiing and snowboarding. With 5 different parts of the valley to ski in, as well as a wealth of off-piste areas, Chamonix has something for every level of experience.
Also see: Ski Areas in Chamonix
Sledging / Tobogganing
This is one winter activity that doesn't require a lot of expensive equipment, just grab your sledge and head for the nearest snow-covered hill! You can pick up a sledge at one of the many ski hire shops or sports shops in Chamonix. Good sledging areas include on the Savoy piste, by the Bois du Buchet walking trails, and behind the tourist office in Vallorcine. There is a small snowpark play area for children at the top of the Prarion gondola in Les Houches. It's called Ski Camp and is found over by the Ecole chair lift. There are inner tubes to slide down the hill on (snow tubbing), a toboggan run, zip wire, and other child friendly activities. Another Snow Village has been set up at the bottom of the Trappe green piste in Flegere, specifically for families.
Don't forget that the Alpine Rollercoaster is open all winter at the Planards slope in the heart of Chamonix. The track is 1300m long with turns, spins, fun and thrills for all the family.
Raquette à Neige or Snow-shoeing in and around Chamonix is a perfect activity for bad weather conditions or for non-skiers. Don't forget to wear comfortable and waterproof boots. Either set out on your own, or join a group led by a knowledgeable local guide and explore the hidden parts of the ski area. Snowshoes and ski poles are provided by most companies offering this as an experience, or you can hire snowshoes from most Sports Shops or Ski Hire Shops, grab a trail map from the Tourist Office and head off on your own adventure. Be sure to check the weather forecast before you go.
There are a number of snowpark features in the Chamonix Valley that you can practise your skills on, with the main park area is located at Le Tour, Summit Park.
Also see: Snowparks in Chamonix
Spas & massages
If it is calm and relaxation you are after then head to a luxury day spa or book in for massage therapies and beauty treatments. A day spa is also the perfect activity when the weather turns. You can keep warm and revive aching muscles in saunas, steam rooms and jacuzzis or take a refreshing dip in a swimming pool. Unwind, relax and indulge.
Speed-riding / Speed-flying
The idea behind speed riding is to combine the sensations of skiing and paragliding into one activity, and then descend off-piste sections of the mountain using a mini-wing to enable you to access areas that you might not normally go. Learning and having fun with speed riding comes very fast as long as you are a competent skier; you need to be able to ski red pistes with confidence in any type of snow. Speak to one of the companies offering this activity who can show you the ropes (literally).
There are a number of swimming facilities in the Chamonix valley, from hotel pools to sports centre. You can use the swimming pool & the whole spa area the the Hotel Aiglons by booking the lunch & spa package.
Telemarking is a form of downhill skiing where you are only attached into the binding at the toe, so to turn, you have to lunge and bring your heel upwards. Talk to one of the ski schools or private instructors who can teach you how to telemark and take you out on excursions using this technique.
A fun activity to do with family and friends you can hop on the court and have a friendly game or enjoy a tennis lesson to improve your technique. The tennis and squash club in Chamonix is situated just beyond the sports centre and has indoor courts, you can reach it by walking along the path that runs from beside the hotel Alpina alongside the river. You can book group or private lessons and hire rackets if necessary, or just pay for an hour on a court. Argentière has a number of indoor courts situated on the left hand side of the road just after the avalanche bridge as you are driving in from Chamonix. These are both open all day every day, but if you are playing indoors you need a 'light-token' which can be purchased during office hours (9am -12.15 and 2pm -7.30pm in Chamonix; 3pm - 9.30pm in Argentiere). Prices are around €15 for 1hr/1 court for tennis, and €9 for 45min/1 court (including lights) for squash.
Location: Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley