Snowshoeing under the stars, eating delicious fondue in a traditional wooden mountain chalet, paragliding above one of France’s most famous ski resorts… A winter break doesn’t have to be all about skiing. Discover alternative snow activities, with our guide to adventure holidays in Chamonix.
Chamonix ski resort
Set at the foot of the Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest mountain, Chamonix is an exciting, bustling town surrounded by five ski resorts: Les Houches, Le Brévent, La Flégère, Grand Montets and Balme. With challenging slopes and plenty of après-ski options and alternative snow activities, Chamonix is a great winter sports destination for adrenaline-junkies of all ages.
Alternative ways to see Chamonix
Take the cable car to the summit of the 3,840m (12,600ft) Aiguille du Midi for spectacular panoramic views. Then on the way back, stop at its halfway point, the Plan de l’Aiguille (2,317m), to paraglide. The 20-minute flight costs around €90 (£80) but this unique experience – the closest one can get to flying like a bird – is well worth the price.
Chamonix offers some of the world’s most challenging terrain, with sensational off-piste options for good skiers, such as the breathtaking 24km (15-mile) Vallée Blanche off-piste run from the top of the Aiguille du Midi and the magnificent off-piste options of Grands Montets. A full-day off-piste session with a ski expert costs around €115 (£102) or €75 (£67) if you join a small group. As for ski gear, you’ll have no problem hiring it since the town and its ski resorts are inundated with ski hire businesses.
Try a traditional trapper evening: in pitch-black darkness, snowshoe to a mountain refuge for an unforgettable dinner and return by sledge. On a clear night, snowshoeing under the stars is just magical. It can be quite intense exercise but consider it as burning off all the calories you’re about to gulp down with one of the best cheese fondues you could have at Les Vieilles Luges (www.lesvieillesluges.com).
Other fun snow activities
Try tobogganing, dog sledding, skijoering (being towed behind a pony on your skis) or ice climbing. In the centre of town, there’s also a well-equipped sports complex which has an indoor ice rink and climbing wall.
Chamonix town: shops & après-ski
Chamonix is a charming, lively town with plenty of shops and après-ski bars and pubs to keep you busy. Along the main pedestrianised street, you’ll find heaps of shops selling wooden handicraft, as well as regional products like chestnut liquor and saucisson (salami). For après-ski, try the cool Chambre 9, 272 avenue Michel Croz, great for food, drinks and live music. Le Mix Bar, 90 rue des Moulins, is a modern and funky new bar run by two DJ brothers known as The Hoax. For a quieter evening and a chic cocktail by the fireplace, head to The Clubhouse bar, 74 promenade des Sonnailles.
Best Western Premier Le Morgane
Sleep at the foot of Mont Blanc in this attractive Savoyard-style hotel. Ideally located footsteps from the Aiguille du Midi cable car and Chamonix town centre, Le Morgane is an eco-friendly 4-star hotel that offers great-value themed packages (well-being, gourmet or ski addict options), from €110 for a double room. All the rooms have balconies with stunning mountain views. The hotel also boasts a spa and fantastic Michelin-starred restaurant. Make sure you try the seasonal cocktail at the bar – a delicious, original mix of champagne, orange juice, secret Christmas spices and vodka.
145 avenue de l’Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix Mont-Blanc
Tel: 0033 (0)4 5053 5715.
Chamonix’s nearest airport is Geneva International Airport, Switzerland. Located just 88km (55 miles) from the resort, you can get there in less than 1 hour 30 minutes by shuttle bus (running regularly throughout the day). New budget airline routes to Geneva also mean Chamonix is an achievable destination for a long weekend. Easyjet and British Airways both fly there for around £70 return (inc. taxes).
Insider tip to Chamonix
Chamonix’s second Best Western hotel, Les Aiglons, 270 avenue de Courmayeur, has a great mountain spa, with sauna and Turkish bath cabins in the garden and an outdoor heated swimming pool, perfect for relaxing after a day of intense snow activities. Plus, you don’t need to be a hotel guest to access the spa and it’s only €25 (£22) for one day.
Useful Chamonix links
Chamonix’s official website: www.chamonix.com
Evolution 2 (for all snow activities mentioned and off-piste): www.evolution2.com
Compagnie Des Guides (to hire guides): www.chamonix-guides.com