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 d'hote') is valid throughout the year (for the duration of your stay) and 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.
It also entitles you to free travel on the buses and trains between the valley's resorts from Vallorcine to Servoz (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.
Every Tuesday evening from 18:00 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.
In the centre of Chamonix, right by the Sports Centre and the Ice Skating Rink there are multifunctional sports courts where you can play basketball outdoors. Les Houches also offers a couple of basketball courts near the beginner ski area of Le Tourchet, where the ice rink is.
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 into the natural, quiet surrounding mountains and then shoot stuff, mainly with laser guns. Most of the biathlon lessons take place at Chamonix's cross-country skiing area by the Bois de Bouchet
You can bowl in Chamonix in winter or summer at the bowling lanes in Cham Sud. A great place to go if you're in a family, a group or to while away rainy days, it also offers pool tables, table tennis, table football, arcade games and even a small indoor mini-golf course.
Catch the latest films and releases on your winter holiday at the Cinema Vox in Chamonix, located right in the heart of town. They sometimes open their doors early on a bad weather day, otherwise, you'll find most screenings in the evenings. Look out for VOSTF for English speaking films.
Chamonix has almost 60km of pisted cross-country ski trails that criss-cross the valley from Les Houches all the way to Vallorcine. Tracks are maintained for both classic and skating styles, usually side by side. You can buy a pass to access them before setting out from the lodges at the beginning of the trails. Bear in mind that they are patrolled and it is likely that your pass will be checked en route. The pistes are generally open from 09:00 to 17:00 each day (snow cover permitting) and are maintained each evening. 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
You can play a game of football at the outdoor courts just outside the ice skating rinks in Chamonix and Les Houches. The sports centre in Chamonix also offers indoor football courts.
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 and fitness classes can be found at the main sports centre in Chamonix. Pop-up instructors and classes also take place in Les Houches (look out for Studio 128) and most places around the valley.
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. ESF Chamonix has a number of specially qualified Handiski instructors who can teach people with a range of disabilities to ski using adapted equipment including UniSki, DualSki, GMS, Armchair Skiing and Ski-kart. They also offer specific classes for people who are blind or partially sighted. ESF Les Houches are proud of their 15 years of experience in teaching Handiski and have a wide range of equipment that can be used free of charge. ESF Argentiere also offer handiski lessons and guiding in the Vallorcine, Le Tour and Grand Montets end of the valley. You are advised to book at least 15 days in advance and then to confirm one week before arrival, to ensure that the most appropriate equipment is available for your lesson.
Also see: Disabled Skiing in Chamonix
Unfortunately, heli-skiing is not permitted in France. However, thanks to Chamonix's location just on the border with Switzerland and Italy, some of the ski schools, adventure companies, local flight companies and mountain guide companies offer a pick-up/drop-off heli-skiing service for you where you will be taken over the border and ski down (even back across into France again). It is expensive, but definitely a once in a lifetime experience!
Sit back and admire the Mont Blanc massif 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 highest mountains in western Europe.
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. Hot air balloons depart from Praz sur Arly, just outside the Chamonix Valley, and fly over the most famous summits in the Alps including the Mont Blanc massif and mountain ranges like the Aravis, Beaufortains, Fizs, Bauges and the Swiss and Italian Alps.
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 the ice hockey local team, Pionniers, when they play home matches. There are also three outdoor rinks in the 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) and 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 bowling thrills but upstairs you will find a mini-golf course.
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.
Also see: Mountain Biking in Chamonix
Chamonix is quite simply the Mecca of mountaineering. 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. Chamonix is also home to what is perhaps the most popular high-mountain route in Europe, the climb to Mont Blanc. However, this is no mean feat, in order to tackle it, you must be very fit and should book a guide to accompany you.
Also see: Mountaineering in Chamonix
Museums & Galleries
The Chamonix Valley offers quite a wide range of museums and galleries to suit all tastes. Most of them open during high season and school holidays. For those interested in the traditions and customs of the Alps you can head to the Maison de la Memoire et du Patrimoine in Chamonix centre, dedicated to the town's history. Also in the valley are the Maison de Barberine Museum in Vallorcine, a 18th-century house showing pastoral life, the Montagnard Museum in Les Houches where visitors can learn about old mountain lifestyles or the Maison de l'Alpage in Servoz, dedicated to agriculture and landscapes.
Being the birthplace of alpinism, the valley also has exhibitions on this sport and on the mountains in general, mainly at the Alpine Museum, while the Espace Tairraz has a nice collection of crystals. At Montenvers you can also visit a range of museums and exhibitions, from a taster of the types of gems that have been found in the area at the Crystal Gallery to learning more about glaciers at the Glaciorum, a very interesting small exhibition on the creation and evolution of the glaciers over the centuries, while the Temple of Nature takes visitors on a trip to the past thanks to an innovative optical theatre system. There you can meet Forbes, Chateaubriand or Louis Pasteur. Finally, there are 2 galleries in Chamonix: Gallerie A2 & the Mario Colonel Gallery.
Nature Reserves & Parks
Chamonix is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery, being at the foot of western Europe's highest mountain, the Mont Blanc with its 4810m. There are also protected areas around the valley which are perfect for hikes and to see the local flora and fauna in its natural habitat. The most famous one is the Aiguille Rouge Nature Reserve, a bio-diverse area of around 16,000 hectares with spectacular views of the Col des Montets.
The Parc de Merlet in Les Houches is a great place to spot some local animals in their natural environment. Even if it's usually closed during the winter months, a guide can take you to the park for a half day or a full day snowshoeing and meet some of the animals up close in their home environment. Advance booking is necessary.
Also see: Nature Parks in Chamonix
In January and February, the Tourchet beginner area in Les Houches opens for night skiing every Thursday from 20:30 to 22:00. Vin chaud and hot chocolate are offered.
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, there are a great number of clubs and organisations in the area whose sole purpose is to give you the experience of flying. From the heights of the Brevent and other mountain tops in the valley, 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. The main landing place in Chamonix in the winter is behind the sports centre, by the Bois de Bouchet, so you'll find some companies offering paragliding there. Top tip: Wait until the spring and then go on a sunny, warm day when the thermals will keep your airborne for longer.
Also see: Paragliding in Chamonix
Petanque / Boules
Petanque or boules is one of France's favourite pastimes. There are outdoor petanque areas in Les Houches by the ice rink and the Chavants lake, in Chamonix by the Bois de Bouchet and in the centre of Vallorcine. You can also play petanque indoors at the Espace OLCA in the centre of Les Houches.
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 and the Mont Blanc massif 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. It is a sport that is suitable for anyone (over 6 years old) who can keep their skies parallel and can be tailored to suit all abilities, from a gentle hack to a gallop through the snow.
Chamonix is very popular for ski touring, whether it's going up the pistes that most people normally ski down, or tackling more of a backcountry 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. Some of the most popular routes cross the Aiguilles Rouges National Park, accessible via the Flegere lifts, or head up the Col du Tour Noir over the Argentiere Glacier, or Mont Buet. From Chamonix, expert skiers can also undertake the famous Haute Route between Chamonix and Zermatt or cross the border to the Aosta Valley.
Also see: Ski Touring in Chamonix
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, the valley has something for every level of experience. There are around 150km of pistes accessed by a total of 65 ski lifts split between the main ski areas and the low mountain beginner zones. There are 6 green pistes, 30 blue pistes, 31 red pistes, 10 black pistes and two snowparks. The pisted ski terrain ranges in altitude from 950m to 3300m. The backcountry skiing offers much more in terms of altitude, vertical descent and of course, difficulty, including the world-famous Vallée Blanche descent, a 20km long route that takes you from the Aiguille du Midi down 2700m to the bottom of the valley.
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 the Savoy piste, the area by the Bois du Bouchet walking trails, and behind the tourist office in Vallorcine. There is also a small snowpark play area for children at the top of the Prarion gondola in Les Houches called Ski Camp, found over by the Ecole chairlift. Here you'll find inner tubes to slide down the hill on (snow tubing), 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. 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. There are marked trails all around the valley so you can explore the area around the golf course in Les Praz, the Bossons glacier, the Coupeau sector and the Chavants lake in Les Houches, the Granges hamlet in Vallorcine or the traditional neighbourhoods in Servoz.
There are a number of snowpark features in the Chamonix Valley that you can practise your skills on. Grands Montets, Brevent and Les Houches boast small jumps, kickers and boardercrosses. However, the main park area is located at Le Tour, called the Summit Park it has small, medium and large kickers and jumps for all levels and abilities.
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. Most luxury hotels in the Chamonix Valley have a spa and many of them are open to the public. 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. In the Chamonix valley, the most popular speed-riding areas are located in Grands Montets, Brévent and Le Tour. Speak to one of the companies offering this activity who can show you the ropes (literally).
Play a game of squash at the Richard Bozon Sports Centre in Chamonix. The tennis club is open daily from 09:30 to 17:30.
There are a number of swimming facilities in the Chamonix valley. Most of the hotels around here offer a swimming pool with spa facilities to their guests, some of which are open to the public. There is also a 25m indoor swimming pool at the Sports Centre as well as a smaller paddling pool and a jacuzzi. They offer swimming lessons and aquagym classes too.
Telemarking is a form of downhill skiing where you are only attached to 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. They are open all day every day but, if you are playing indoors, you need a 'light-token' which can be purchased during office hours at the Chamonix Sports or Tennis Club.
Tours & excursions
No visit to Chamonix is complete without heading up the Aiguille du Midi. A modern lift takes you up to this 3842m summit from where you can admire breathtaking 360º views of the Mont Blanc massif and even Step into the Void by walking into a glass cube hung up on the top of the mountain.
Another must-do excursion in Chamonix is hopping onto the Montenvers train to discover the Mer de Glace, one of Europe's largest glaciers. There are a few small exhibitions here where you'll learn more about this stunning natural site or you can just have lunch or a coffee enjoying great mountain views.
The tourist offices in Chamonix and Les Houches also offer guided tours all around the valley in which they explore the area's heritage, culture and nature.
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.
Also see: Walking Routes in Chamonix
There are several yoga lessons taking place throughout the valley in the winter. In Chamonix, try Planete Yoga, Ananda Yoga Studio or Sattva Yoga. In Les Houches, there are regular yoga sessions at Studio 128. Many spas around the valley also offer yoga lessons.
Location: Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley