The ❄️ SNOW is currently falling and draping our 🗻 mountain peaks with dazzling white blankets . . . some ❄️ snowflakes are falling to the ground and forming sparkling white forest carpets, some snowflakes clinging to the 🌲 sapins, before fluttering slowly to the ground . . . 🌟 magical, féerique, ❄️ winter wonderland Narnias everywhere you look 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc!
This article gives you some ideas for ❄️ winter wonderland spots to head with small children, without the need to head up high or take 🚡 a télécabine: a stroll, a place to play in ❄️ the snow, dig in the snow, ⛄️ make a snowman or other snow animal or igloo . . . perhaps even have a 🛷 sledge. Once our boys are snug in their ski suits, they can litterally spend hours digging, clambering, playing, crunching in ❄️ the snow . . . and what makes the outing even more special? A place to warm up, ☕️ a hot chocolate, 🥞 crêpe or gaufre (2020 note: not yet possible 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc!) . . . so I have included some suggestions for restaurants and cafés too . . .
Colour Code for listings:
Pays du Mont-Blanc
Chamonix Valley (Chamonix, Argentière, Les Houches, Servoz) & Vallorcine
Passy & environs
Sallanches, Combloux, Cordon & Domancy
St Gervais, Le Fayet, Saint Nicolas de Véroce, Bionnassay & environs
Megève, Praz-sur-Arly & environs
Les Contamines & environs
🇫🇷 Further France
🌲 Bois du Bouchet (Chamonix)
We have had several ❄️ winter wonderland walks in the 🌲 Bois du Bouchet, in Chamonix . . . in light snow with a buggy, and then in deeper snow with a luge . . .
❄️ bonus: there is a downhill sledging area set up near the parapente field;
🅿️ parking: Parking du Bouchet;
☕️ escape from the cold: Micro-Brasserie de Chamonix – MBC (website / address 350 route du Bouchet, 74400, Chamonix) / ❤️ Chalet-Hotel Hermitage (address: 63 chemin du Cé, Chamonix / FB page) – a short walk away from the ❄️ Chalet Nordique;
🌲 Paradis des Praz (Les Praz de Chamonix)
Known well as a bucolic family spot in the summertime, with its gurgling stream, ponies and playground, the 🌲 Paradis des Praz makes a lovely winter stroll . . . and the buvette is sometimes open too, so do check!
🅿️ parking: Chamonix Golf Club (Les Praz) or Tines;
☕️ escape from the cold: ❤️ Buvette des Paradis des Praz (tel: 06 63 10 42 38 / FB page) / ❤️ La Cabane des Praz (FB page), Hotel & Restaurant Castel (FB page), Hotel Eden (FB page) or Hotel Les Lanchers in Les Praz (FB page);
🌲 Les Praz, Les Bois & Helicopter Landing (Les Praz & Les Bois, Chamonix)
You can make this stroll as long as you like – an aller-retour up to the Pierre d’Orthaz, or a boucle, crossing over the 💦 Arveyron river and then coming back to the car park . . .
🅿️ parking: car park near Hôtel Arveyron, or Les Bois;
☕️ escape from the cold: ❤️ Hôtel Arveyron (see FB page for more details about this friendly family-run hotel);
🌲 Lac des Chavants (Les Houches)
You can go for a short stroll around 💦 the lake, play in the snow . . . or venture further for a boucle into the 🌲 woods . . . (this is where ESF Piou Piou sets up in wintertime).
❄️ bonus: sledging fun at the designated pistes by the tennis courts;
🅿️ parking: Parking des Chavants;
☕️ escape from the cold: La Guinguette (FB page) is on-site, or restaurants and cafés in Les Houches;
Take a stroll through Vieux Servoz, whose history is so different to that of neighbouring big brother Chamonix – a rich rural patrimoine: fours à pain, fountains, old farms and farmland . . .
❄️ bonus: sledge at the designated piste (not too far from the church) and a visit to the Maison de l’Alpage (the 🖼 permanent exhibition here is « Agriculture et paysages, les grandes mutations » – the Chamonix Valley and the footprint of humans over the century, from the first shepherds to the agriculturers of today, the fragile link between man and environment; a testament to the change of time: nature, architecture and ubanism, transport, infrastructure / 🗓 opening hours: open Monday to Saturday (shut on Sundays), 9h to 12h and 14h to 18h; only open on Mondays during school holidays / FREE to visit! / address: Maison de l’Alpage, Le Bouchet, 74310, Servoz / tel: 04 50 47 21 68 / website);
🅿️ parking: next to the church;
☕️ escape from the cold: Restaurant La Sauvageonne (address: 1 rue du Bouchet, 74310 Servoz; tel: 04 50 53 69 03 / website) / ❤️ Hotel Restaurant Gorges de la Diosaz (address: 81 route du Mont, 74310, Servoz / tel: 04 50 47 20 97 / website) / Restaurant le Chalet des Marmottes (address: 405 avenue de la Gare, 74310 Servoz / tel: 06 51 22 41 05);
A village 8km north of Chamonix, sitting at about 1250 altitude – a luge walk here will reward you with traditional architecture, ⛪ a pretty 19th century church and chapel . . . and all this at the foot of the glacier d’Argentière . . .
❄️ bonus: there are 🖼 frequent exhibitions in 🦌 Maison du Village
🅿️ parking: Argentière centre;
☕️ escape from the cold:
- centre of Argentière: ❤️ Tête à Thé (address: 120 route du village, Argentière; FB page) / Le Grenier restaurant & crêperie (address: 372 Rue Charlet Straton, 74400, Argentière / tel: 04 50 54 06 00/ website) / Bistrot du Dahu (address: 325 rue Charlet Straton, Argentière / website) / 🍕 Le Stone pizzeria (address: 390 rue Charlet Straton / FB page) / La Ptite Verte (address: 89 Charlet Straton / tel: 04 50 54 54 54) / Office Bar (address: 274 rue Charlet Straton, Argentière; FB page);
- a little further out of town: ❤️ Crèmerie du Glacier (address: 766 Chemin de la Glacière, 74400 / tel: 04 50 54 07 52; website) / La Yaute Café (address: 2100 route d’Argentière, 74400 / FB page);
Crèmerie du Glacier (Argentière)
Walk up through the forest, right next to the ski de fond pistes . . . you can sledge back down!
❄️ bonus: ski de fond;
🅿️ parking: Grands-Montets;
☕️ escape from the cold: ❤️ Crèmerie du Glacier (address: 766 Chemin de la Glacière, 74400 / tel: 04 50 54 07 52; website) / Argentero;
Les Chosalets (Argentière)
Walk up through the narrow streets to this ⛷ beginner ski area, which has a food truck and snowtubing on offer . . . right next to the ski de fond pistes . . .
❄️ bonus: snowtubing, beginner ski area, ski de fond pistes and foodtruck;
🅿️ parking: Les Chosalets;
☕️ escape from the cold: foodtruck on-site and ❤️ La Yaute Café (address: 2100 route d’Argentière, 74400 / FB page);
Le Tour & La Vormaine
Le Tour is a pretty hamlet, one of the departure points for ⛷ the ski area Le Tour – La Balme and you can have a sledge walk and then play in snow around ⛷ La Vormaine ski area, where there is a snack bar (no sledging on pistes!).
❄️ bonus: Domaine Skiable La Vormaine (see MBFF post);
🅿️ parking: La Vormaine / Le Tour;
☕️ escape from the cold: Winter Ski Bar at La Vormaine (outside!) / Le Passon (address: 188 Place du Tour / tel: 04 50 54 33 04);
Located at 1400m altitude, above Argentière on the way up to the Col des Montets, Tré-le-Champ is a traditional alpine hamlet . . . with some extraordinary wooden totems! The story is that a sculptor – Laurent Reynès – made them from the many trees that fell during a storm in Chamonix, many found in the 🌲 Bois du Bouchet and some from stumps left in Tré-le-Champ.
❄ bonus: totems by artist Laurent Reynès, magical with a dusting of snow!
🅿️ parking: if access by car is shut – head towards Le Tour and park at the SNCF « Montroc », then follow the path « via des Cutes », along the Residence Bel Alp;
☕️ escape from the cold: La Boerne (address: 288 chemin de Tréle / tel:04 50 54 05 14 / website) – a gîte refuge located inside a chalet d’alpage from the 18th century – traditional savoyard cuisine / in winter, this is a departure point for ski touring and walks with snowshoes in the 🏔 Massif des Aiguilles Rouges and the Massif du Mont-Blanc;
Vallorcine, Le Buet & La Poya
A family stroll in Vallorcine after ❄ fresh snowfall is lovely (if the Col des Montets is open and you can access the village, that is!). You could stop off at ⛷ the ski area of La Poya, or Le Buet, or head into Vallorcine itself (all accessible by 🚞 SNCF train). A walk down the Sentier des Diligences is lovely, a snowshoe toward the ☕️ Refuge de la Cascade de Bérard, or just a play behind the gare SNCF . . .
❄ bonus: ⛷ beginner and nursery ski area La Poya, snow-shoeing departures, snowtubing and sledging area at Moon*tine;
🅿️ parking: SNCF Le Buet or Vallorcine;
☕️ escape from the cold: ❤️ Le Café du Comptoir & foodtruck Le Savoir Faire (address: chemin rural dit du Plan de l’Envers, 74660, Vallorcine; website) / L’Arrêt Bougnête (address: avenue de la Gare, 74660, Vallorcine,next to Gare SNCF / tel: 04 50 54 63 04) / ❤️ La Ferme des Trois Ours (address: route du Col des Montets / tel: 04 50 54 63 06 / website) / Hôtel Le Buet (address: Le Buet, 2026 route du Col, 74660, Vallorcine / website) / Moon*Tine (50m from Le Buet SCNF / FB page);
A winter stroll in Vallorcine . . . (📷 photo credit: Caroline Face)
Passy & Plaine-Joux
Lac de Passy
Lac de Passy is a lovely spot for a family walk in wintertime (when the summer masses have moved on), and when the ❄ snow arrives, even more fun can be had . . . a walk with a luge works well, and if there is enough snow, you can even slide down the hills at the criques end of the lake.
❄ bonus: some sledging fun on the hills at the criques end of the lake . . . a walk in to the 🌲 woods and a look at the 🐴 horses in the stables;
🅿️ parking: any of the three car parks;
☕️ escape from the cold: bring your own warm drinks and snacks, as the buvettes are not open in the wintertime . . . nearby, you can have lunch at La Grange de Domancy – you can walk here via the horse stables, and through the woods – (address: 820 route de Sallanches, 74700 Domancy / FB page / tel: 04 50 53 97 84) or at Mountain Store, Camp de Base café or restaurant (FB page). Or, alternatively, you have various options nearby in Sallanches or in Le Fayet.
🛷 sledging – when the snow falls, you can even head to the lake for some sledging action! The small hills in the criques area, used for VTT practice in the warmer months, are ideal for sledging when there is enough snow!
Or you can simply put on your snow boots, and tramp around the lake, or even head into the woods for a wander!
Plaine-Joux, Lac Vert and Chatelet d’Ayères
Plaine-Joux is a fabulous place to head en famille in wintertime, even if you are not skiing . . . we head up regularly just for a walk or for one of the fabulous activity days organised by Passy Tourisme in wintertime. If you are heading for a stroll, you now have to go to Lac Vert through the 🌲 woods, in order to reach the ☕️ Chalet d’Ayères refuge, as there has been rockfall along a section of the more linear path; but you can still walk for a while down this path with sledges in tow;
❄ bonus: plenty of snow for digging, amazing views of the Mont-Blanc massif, lovely sunny terraces, Lac Vert, sledging, snowtubing, ski de fond, skiing and fat bike rental;
🅿️ parking: Plaine-Joux;
❄️ Snow, igloo-building, hole-digging and sledging fun at Plaine-Joux . . .
On the path to ☕️ Le Chatelet d’Ayères & ❤️ Lac Vert . . . here is an amazing 📷 aerial drone photo of Lac Vert from young Chamonix photographer and drone operator 📷 Doytcheva , who captures this beautiful valley from the sky (FB page and print shop):
NEW since 2019 – the Himalayan suspension bridge! It is AMAZING, and you can have a short 10mins walk in the snow to get there! (note: you are not supposed to cross the bridge if there is snow on it, as there is a danger of slipping);
Sallanches, Combloux & Cordon
Lacs des Ilettes
With a fresh dusting of snow, the 💦 Lacs des Ilettes (three lakes) are stunning . . . the perfect place to head for a sledge walk . . .
🅿️ parking: Lacs des Ilettes (two car parks);
☕️ escape from the cold: bring your own thermos and snacks, as in winter the Transat restaurant is not open . . . or head afterwards into nearby Sallanches;
Combloux (Le Cry & Cuchet)
Head to Le Cry or Cuchet in the Domaine Skiable de Combloux, for fun in the ⛄️ snow, sledging and 🐾 animal prints in the forest (there is a special family snow-shoe treasure hunt in Combloux – « La randonnée des p’tits loups »; see here) and super places to eat!
❄ bonus: 🐾 animal prints in the snow, fabulous restaurants, sledging, snow-shoeing . . .
🅿️ parking: Parking du Cry or du Cuchet;
☕️ escape from the cold: ⇒ see ⛷ MBFF Combloux skiing article for suggestions;
Megève & Praz-sur-Arly
Domaine Nordique Chalet de La Livraz & Côte 2000 (Megève)
We regularly head up to ❤️ this part of Megève en famille, as there is plenty to keep the family entertained! Within the Domaine Nordique, there are 18km of cross country skiing (including a parcours ludique nordique, with bosses, templins, virages for 4+ years), pistes for family strolls (with or without raquettes, depending on snow depth), a 🛷 piste de luge and a ☕️ café/restaurant on-site (with a salle hors sac too). There is also an outdoor terrace for ☀️ sunny days (where you can sit and watch the young ones sledging).
❄ bonus: nearby, you have the ✈️ altiport (where you can watch small planes arriving and departing) / the 🦌 Domaine le Coulairon – élevage de rennes – reindeer in the Pays du Mont-Blanc, and here you can visit the élevage! (website / FB page / address: 1850, route de la Côte 2000, Megève / tel: 06 80 57 21 94 – reservations required) / 🎨 Paintball Experience Megève (paintball, lasergame, archery tag, airsoft . . . / 6 games areas / for 6+ years / website / address:chemin du Thorbiau, 74120);
🅿️ parking: Chalet de la Livraz or Côte 2000;
☕️ escape from the cold: Deli’s Montagne in the Chalet Livraz, with 🧸 an indoor play area for children! (address: 1250 route de la Côte 2000, 74120, Megève / FB page) and Coucou Café (address:3368, route de la Côte 2000, 74120, Megève / FB page) next to the altiport;
good to know: in January, there will be the Grande Odysée dog sled racing!
Lac de Javen boucle (Megève)
This will take you about 1h30 . . .
Front de Neige (Praz-sur-Arly)
The ❄ Front de Neige at the bottom of the ski pistes in Praz-sur-Arly, is the perfect place to play in the snow: sledging piste, softplay, a salle hors sac . . . and there is the Boucle de Cassioz (5km) snow shoeing trail (5km) too – this new route takes about 1h30 to walk / a few years back, we went dog sledding with 3D Nordic (now in Lapland!), which was FABULOUS!
❄ bonus: sledging area, softplay, snow shoeing trail . . .
🅿️ parking: route des Varins, 74120, Praz-sur-Arly;
☕️ escape from the cold: ❤️ La K-Bane (address: bottom of ski pistes, Les Varins, 74120, Praz-sur-Arly / FB page);
Les Berges d’Arly (Praz-sur-Arly)
A walk along the ❄ Berges d’Arly in Praz-sur-Arly (along the river path) is the perfect spot to pull a luge or have a lovely winter stroll;
❄ bonus: close to the centre of town!
🅿️ parking: Base de Loisirs des Belles, 74120, Praz-sur-Arly;
☕️ escape from the cold: ❤️ Les Belles (if open! / FB page) / alternatively, lots of options in the centre of town!
Domaine Nordique et Notre Dame de la Gorge (Les Contamines-Montjoie)
The 🌲❤️ Parc de Loisirs du Pontet in Les Contamines-Montjoie (which is a fabulous multi-activitity and sports park with a swimming lake in the summertime) turns into the ❄️ Domaine Nordique in wintertime, with its cross country skiing pistes, ice-climbing and chiens de traîneau . . . but there is also a path for walkers, and this is a lovely stroll en famille, especially with a luge, as there is a place to do some downhill sledging too!
❄️ bonus: 🛷 downhill sledging, cross-country skiing pistes, ice-climbing and 🐺 chiens de traîneau;
🅿️ parking: Domaine Nordique or Notre Dame de la Gorge;
☕️ escape from the cold: Chalet du Lac, next to small pedalo lake and playground (FB page / address: 524 chemin du Praz, 74170, Les Contamines-Montjoie) – a short walk (or stroll with luge!) away;
❄️ the Domaine Nordique . . .
❄️ Notre Dame de la Gorge . . .
And ❄️ a new one for us in 2019: La Sainte Chapelle (a short walk upriver from the church) – stunning!
🇨🇭 Switzerland 🇨🇭
We headed up to the 💦 Barrage d’Emosson one ❄️ snowy day in October many years ago – whether you can get there from most parts of the 🗻 Pays du Mont-Blanc will depend, of course, if the Col des Montets is open! [ NB – check if the road up to Émosson is open! ]
❄️ bonus: view of the dam and mountains and restaurant on-site;
🅿️ parking: on-site;
☕️ escape from the cold: Restaurant du Barrage d’Emosson (tel: +41 27 768 12 74 / website / FB page) / and a short walk around the dam . . . Cabane du Vieux Emosson (address: Barrage du Vieux Emosson, Finhaut / website / FB page);
🇨🇭 Botanical Gardens Geneva
🌷 Geneva’s fabulous botanical gardens ❤️ are located near 💦 Lac Léman, to the north of central Geneva and they are open all year-round! With ❄️ fresh snow on the ground, the gardens must be magical – we’ve not yet experienced this, though we have been in early winter . . . you can find warmth inside the greenhouses and there is a restaurant on-site . . . you will also find the Musée d’Histoire des Sciences nearby.
[ ➡️ see MBFF article for more details about this fabulous place to head en famille ]
🇮🇹 Italy 🇮🇹
When the weather is bad ➡️ au Pays du Mont-Blanc, often it is sunny or ❄️ snowing through the tunnel in 🇮🇹 Italy!
🇮🇹 Fun Park Dolonne (Courmayeur)
We discovered the 🌈 Fun Park Dolonne a few years ago, on a very, very ❄️ snowy day in Courmayeur . . . we had a baby sleeping, and a big brother needing to play, and we just happened across this great spot by chance! So, Big Brother 🛷 sledged for an hour with his dad (and Dad even managed to get himself a ☕️ good Italian coffee!), while baby brother snoozed 💤 . This ❄️ snow park offers magic carpets, which means little ones (or accompanying adults!) avoid the laborious duty of dragging the luge back up the slope after each swift descent. There are also snowtubing pistes and a beginner ski zone. For sledging, you buy a card, which is stamped each time you use the magic carpets or other attractions / ➡️ for more details, see here.
☕️ escape from the cold: ❤️ Ristorante Lo Sciotore – lovely! (address: Strada della Vittoria 13, fraz. Dolonne, 11013, Courmayeur / tel:+39 0165 844788 / website / FB page) / Bar di Ski Lift (snack bar, right next to the fun park (address: Strada Checrouit, 11013, Courmayeur);
🇮🇹 Val Ferret
❤️ Val Ferret is a lovely place for a stroll with a 🛷 luge or baby-carrier: a stunning valley in the shadow of the Grandes Jorasses . . . or, with older children, you have fabulous cross-country skiing options, snowmobiles for hire (at Chalet Proment’s Club des Sports) . . .
🅿️ parking: Parking du Planpincieux or and take navette from Palud;
☕️ escape from the cold: we often eat at 🍕 La Palud (address: Strada la Palud, 17, 11013, Courmayeur / tel: +39 0165 89169; website / FB page), on the road up to Val Ferret (once out of the Mont-Blanc tunnel), before taking the navette (paying) or driving up to Planpincieux (depending on ❄️ snow conditions) . . .
But you also have options up in Val Ferret itself . . .
- ❤️ Chalet Proment – here, you can also rent out snowmobiles in winter / address: Località Planpincieux 22, Val Ferret / tel:+39 0165 897006 / website / FB page;
- La Retze (near the Golf Club) – address: Frazione le Pont, 2, 11013, Val Ferret / tel: +39 339 804 7749;
- La Grandze – address: Località Pra Sec, 11013, Val Ferret / tel: +39 0165 89276 / website / FB page;
☕️ have a rest to warm up and play . . .
or try out snowmobiles . . .