10 OUTDOOR WINTERTIME ACTIVITES (apart from ski alpin!) au Pays du Mont-Blanc

Aside from 🎿 alpine skiing and snowboarding, there are still a multitude of outdoor activities that are NOT 🎿 alpine skiing and snowboarding to enjoy en famille here🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc.

In this article, I highlight some of the ❄️ alternative outdoor winter activities that you can indulge in 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc over the winter months . . .

Colour code for listings:

Pays du Mont-Blanc

Chamonix Valley (Chamonix, Les Houches, Servoz, Argentière & environs) and Vallorcine

Passy and environs

Sallanches, Combloux, Cordon & Domancy

Saint-Gervais-Mont-Blanc, Le Fayet, Saint-Nicolas de Véroce & environs

Megève & Praz-sur-Arly

Les Contamines-Montjoie & environs

🇫🇷 Further France

🇨🇭 Switzerland

🇮🇹 Italy

Ski rando / ski touring

Many people living in the mountains already have their own 🎿 ski rando equipment. 🎿 Ski rando gives you a good workout – you walk uphill with your skis dressed in skins, and then remove them for a downhill thrill. 🎿 Ski rando is also versatile: it allows you to get off the pistes, to enjoy wilder nature, or you can stick to the safer ski rando routes in the ski stations.

Even before Covid-19 made this sport more popular, many of our local stations have spent time and money these last years creating secure pistes for ski rando. These routes are balisés et sécurisés, but they are still not without risk.

[ disclaimer: if practising ski touring, you should always take due precautions (security equipment – DVA, spade, sonde – and you should familiarise yourself with specific avalanche risks in certain areas. Also, be especially vigilant on days when the avalanche risk is high, even in the ski stations ]

Chamonix Valley – there are various designated ski rando pistes in the Chamonix Valley, like La Trapette (Grands-Montets), Les Houches or the Charamillon-Autannes piste at Le Tour-La Balme;

La Trapette © Chamonix Tourisme
Ski rando Charamillon © Chamonix Tourisme

Passy Plaine-Joux has 2 itinéraires ski de rando, available from 9h until 16h30, and FREE:

  • Grimpée du Chamois Blanc – ideal for beginners;
  • Grimpée des Lapins – for intermediate level;
© Passy Mont-Blanc Tourisme
© Passy Mont-Blanc Tourisme

Portes du Mont-Blanc (Combloux, Megève Jaillet and La Giettaz) – the ski de rando, walker and snowshoe routes are available from 9h, and you’ll find more than 10km of uphill routes and 2 downhill pistes (groomed) available. In Combloux on Wednesdys and weekends, these are open with security measures put in place by the pisteurs secouristes / map;

© Val d’Arly Tourisme

Saint-Gervais has 3 ski rando routes, see here;

Megève – see here for more information;

Les Contamines-Montjoie – between la télécabine Montjoie and le Signal, there is a new 4km itinéraire de ski de randonnée damé, balisé et sécurisé, open every day from 9h until 16h, with 📈 700m dénivelé / more information here;

☕️ Foodtrucks are open on some of these routes . . .

Ski de fond (ski nordique) / cross-country skiing

❄️ Ski de fond is popular 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, and it became an EVEN MORE popular activity for families during the Covid closures! My elder son was introduced to this activity through school, and my younger son is due to start this year. ❄️ Ski de fond is a proper workout, and it will often take you through 🌲 pretty forests or across ❄️ snowy fields!

You can rent out your gear near the pistes, and then you’ll want to choose a route adapted to your level (there is the same colour coding as the ski alpin pistes: green, blue, red, black. You’ll also have to decide whether you want to try out the classic (in tracks) or skating version. Personally, as a beginner, I find the classic version easier.

Here 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, you can find ski de fond circuits in:

  • ❄️ Bois du Bouchet (Chamonix);
  • ❄️ Lac des Chavants (Les Houches);
  • ❄️ Servoz (FREE), Argentière and Vallorcine;
  • ❄️ Plaine-Joux boucle du la gris (FREE!);
  • ❄️ Combloux (FREE!);

[ note: the opening of ski de fond circuits is subject to snow cover, so please check current openings! ]

  • ❄️ Saint-Gervais (FREE!) – 28km of pistes, departure from Bettex or Plateau de la Croix (Saint-Nicolas de Véroce) / more information here;
Ski de fond à Saint-Gervais © Saint-Gervais Tourisme
  • ❄️ several across Megève (the Site Nordique de la Livraz is especially great for families / for separate article about ❄️ Site Nordique de la Livraz, see separate MBFF article here;
Site Nordique La Livraz, Megève © megeve.com
  • ❄️ Praz-sur-Arly – Cassioz;
  • ❄️ Les Contamines-Montjoie’s Domaine Nordique;

. . . and some of these circuits have a (FREE) nocturne option . . . and Nordic Happy Hour;

Here is 🗺 a rather lovely map showing the main ski de fond circuits in Haute-Savoie:

Ski de fond Haute-Savoie © Haute-Savoie

We especially loved our visit to 🇮🇹 Val Ferret (Italy) a few winter seasons ago, just through the tunnel from Chamonix!

Ski de fond in Val Ferret (Italy) © montblancfamilyfun.com

Winter Walks & Snowshoeing (Raquettes)

For a slower paced activity out in our wondrous nature (on both ascent, and descent!) you might want to go for ❄️ a winter wonderland stroll, hike or snowshoe? One of the wonderful things about snow-shoeing – as with hiking – is that you can take the time to explore the nature around you, rather than speeding downhill right past it: 🌲 the trees, 🐾 the animal prints in the snow, even some 🦌 wildlife – though be sure not to disturb it, by following these measure recommended by the Communauté de Communes Pays du Mont-Blanc:

  • je reste sur les itinéraires balisés et je ne multiplie pas les traces;
  • en cas de rencontre avec un animal, je m’arrête et je le laisse s’éloigner tranquillement. Il dépensera moins d’énergie;
© Communauté de Communes Pays du Mont-Blanc

If you choose to walk along a groomed track, then you’ll probably not need raquettes, just decent winter boots or hiking boots (and consider a crampon attachment if icy).

Designated snowshoe trails are marked in pink, and there is quite a network. You can pick up this booklet for FREE from any of the tourist offices 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc; it is updated each year;

[ disclaimer: if you venture off these paths, then you’ll need to make sure you have the same safety equipment as for ski touring (DVA, spade, sonde) ]

Guide Raquette à Neige © Communauté de Communes Pays du Mont-Blanc

magical spots to snow-shoe en famille 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc:

  • ❄️ Argentière – a short walk will bring you to 🌲 La Crèmerie du Glacier;
  • ❄️ Vallorcineboucle des Granges;
  • ❄️ Passy Plaine-Joux – 🌲 Boucle du Lac Vert, Boucle du Barmus and aller-retour from Himalayan bridge up to Lac Vert (you’ll only need snowshoes right after snowfall, as this is well-trodden);
  • ❄️ Sallanches & Combloux🌲 Refuges du Tornieux et Mayères / 🌲 Le Cry for 🐾 animal prints in the forest (there is a special family snow-shoe treasure hunt in Combloux – « La randonnée des p’tits loups »; see here);
  • ❄️ Saint-Gervais – from Bettex to Communailles, the Piste de Charlotte la Marmotte;
  • ❄️ Megève – there are lots of routes for piétons around the Site Nordique du Livraz and Lac Javen;
  • ❄️ Notre Dame de la Gorge – there are pannels to read;

Luge / Sledging / Sledding / Toboganning

MBFF has indulged in much, much 🛷 SLEDGING! Over the confinement winters, we did more sledging than ever before: 🛷 sledging “au sauvage” (with casques!), we did sledging on the pistes (normally not allowed, as this is very dangerous next to skiers and snowboarders!), we did sledging on designated 🛷 sledging slopes . . . Our most memorable outing thus far?

  • an 🌌 evening sledging session at Le Tourchet in Les Houches (one long piste, once the skiers have gone home!);
  • various Tornieux descents!
  • some descents of the ski rando path at Les Communailles (before the season opening!);
  • a rather wild descent in Les Lindarets in 2022;

There is something about 🛷 sledging that just releases glee and whooping, even amongst surly parents!

There are all sorts of 🛷 sledges too: plastic ones with brakes, ones you can steer, little round ones (which can double up as spades!), old school wooden ones with two blades, the ones with one blade (yooners, parets, snooc, trottinettes (my boys love these!) . . .

And for little ones, there are 🛷 luges with seatbelts, which you can drag behind you on slightly flatter walks; for some ideas for ❄️ winter wonderlands for a sledge walk, see separate MBFF article here.

[ for separate article about 🛷 pistes de luge au Pays du Mont-Blanc, see separate MBFF article here ]

Plaine-Joux sledging © montblancfamilyfun.com

snooc – a French invention ( « playful by nature » )

Have you tried a snooc? A snooc is essentially a sledge (in the style of the old paret or modern yooner), set on one ski blade (patin). You use your arms and hands to steer, and feet to brake.

Who is the snooc for? You have to be 10+ years to rent out the snooc (this is the recommended age for being able to understand and control the equipment). It is for skiers, non-skiers, and in its touring version, for those wanting ❄️ a fun descent after a snow-shoe outing! A few years ago, I tested out the snooc with a friend who has MS – the fact that she could sit down for the descent, was a welcome respite from the skiing she finds more tiring.

Au Pays du Mont-Blanc, you can rent out snooc at the ❄️ Domaine des Planards in Chamonix, and in Praz-sur-Arly.

[ for separate article recounting our ❄️ BAPTÊME SNOOC au DOMAINE des PLANARDS (Chamonix), see separate MBFF article here ]

There are 3 ⛸ indoor ice-skating rinks 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc and a handful of ⛸ seasonal outdoor ice rinks, open from December through until March.

[ for separate article about ⛸ seasonal ice-skating rinks 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, see separate MBFF article here ]

© montblancfamilufun.com

Chiens de traîneau / dog-sledding

As a Christmas present to the family a couple of years ago, we went 🐺 husky dog sledding with 3D Nordic (before they headed off for new adventures with their furry friends for winter seasons in 🇸🇪 Swedish Lapland!) . . . see here for the MBFF article about our super experience . . .

I am currently putting together an article about where you can do dog-sledding locally, so look out for that!

  • 🐺 Huskydalen (Les Houches) – see website;
  • 🐺 Les Granges de HeÏdi (Passy & Cordon) – see website;
  • 🐺 Mont du Villard Nord (Megève) – see website;
  • 🐺 Les Voyageurs de l’Hiver (Les Contamines-Montjoie) – see website;
© Les Contamines-Montjoie

Winter horse-riding, poney luge and ski-joëring

My boys had been on the odd donkey or pony ride, but our 2 hour 🌅 🐎 sunset horse riding in the Camargue over the Toussaint holidays was something above special, and a memory for keeps. We walked and trotted across the salt plains, some of our horses waded in the Med (not mine; Messy refused to do this!), we saw pink flamingos, black bulls . . . we all fell in love with our white horses.

As both boys enjoyed this activity so much, I’m looking to book them some lessons or outings here 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc! There are a few stables offering lessons, and some even do winter outings in the snow!

You might also like to try poney-luge for little ones, or 🐴 ski-joëring (a person on skis is pulled along by horses) . . .

  • 🐎 Centre Équestre du Mont-Blanc (Les Houches)  website / FB page;
  • 🐎 L’Ecurie des Fiz (Le Fayet) see FB page;
  • 🐎 Les Ecuries d’Antan (Passy) see website or FB page;
  • 🐎 Le Cheval de Feug (Demi-Quartier) – see website and FB page;

Or, you could go on a sleigh ride (calèche):

  • Combloux – over the winter holidays, you can go for a snug ride in a calèche through Combloux (see OT Combloux);
  • Traîneaux de Megève (Megève) – the traineaux leave from the square in front of the church / website and FB page;
  • Attelages de Colombaz (Auberge du Colombaz, Les Contamines-Montjoie) – upon reservation, you can take a calèche up to the refuge, and return by sledge! / tel: 06 88 45 98 10 / website and FB page;

Fat biking & Fat trottinettes

You can now go biking or scooting on ❄️ SNOW, thanks to the concept of the 🏔 FAT BIKE and the FAT TROTTINETTE! Fat bikes are mountain bikes with large tyres and good traction, which allow you to travel over snow, sand or mud with relative ease, and – accompanied by a powerful electric battery – you can even get up hills easily! You can hire a FAT BIKE or FAT TROTTINETTE or head out with a guide. You’ll need to measure 1m35 for the bikes.

🏔 good places to FAT BIKE & TROTTINETTE en famille au Pays du Mont-Blanc:

  • Chamonix Bois du Bouchet, Arve river / you can hire a bike from Legend CHX, Zero G or plenty of other sports shops;
  • Passy Plaine-Joux – here you’ll find a relatively flat trail, as well as longer uphill options! / rental: Lou Pachran Restaurant;
  • Alpes Aventures (Combloux), Megève and La Clusaz – offers fatbiking and Mountain Trott’ / see website and FB page for more details;
  • Les Contamines-Montjoie – there is a lovely trail along the river and in the Domaine Nordique, and you can rent bikes and scooters from town . . .
© Les Contamines-Montjoie
© Alpes Aventures and Cordon Tourisme
Fat Trottinette with Alpes Aventures and Cordon Tourisme © montblancfamilyfun.com

Motoneiges, Quads & Moonbikes

I’ve often looked at skidoos and thought how fun they look (especially if I’m out of breath heading uphill!). There are several options for a thrill like this

  • Mountain E-Park (Golf du Mont-Arbois, Megève)Mountain E-Park (also in Les Gets and Avoriaz and Mont-Saxonnex) can now be found with its motoneiges in Megève! / see here for more information;
© Mountain E-Park Megève
  • 🇫🇷 Quads sur Glace (Flaine) – in Flaine, you can also rent out ice quads / website;
© Ice Quad Flaine
  • 🇮🇹 Val Ferret, Italy – there are also snowmobiles for hire in the lovely Val Ferret;
Motoneiges in Val Ferret © N. Evett Cosier

And then for something a bit different . . .

🇫🇷 MoonBikes (Tignes) – this startup company, based in Annecy, has produced the “first ever ultralight electric snowbike“;

website  FB page;
© MoonBikes

Escalade sur Glace – Ice Climbing

I’ve done some winter mountaineering with an ice axe, headed up gulleys on Ben Nevis, but never actual 🧗‍♂️ ice climbing on a frozen waterfall. My elder son, who already has climbing lessons with the CAF, is keen to try this out!

The main zones for this au Pays du Mont-Blanc (available to the general public with a guide) are:

  • 🧗‍♂️ VallorcineCascade de Barberine and Cascade de Bérard;
  • 🧗‍♂️ Megève Cascade de la Stassaz;
  • 🧗‍♂️ Notre Dame de la GorgeCascade de la Duchère;
  • for more options in 🧗‍♂️ Savoie Mont-Blanc, see here;
© Guides Chamonix
© Guides Megève
© Les Contamines-Montjoie

[ see this article from Alpine Mag, to read about ice-climbing with kids ]

Build an igloo, have a mega snowball fight, build a snowman or take part in a Camp Trappeur

You can build ⛄️ a snowman or snow creature wherever you like, as long as you have snow!

Snowdog in the making at Le Cuchet, Combloux © montblancfamilyfun.com

The same for ❄ a snowball fight! We invested this year in some gadgets for making the most perfect snowballs!

Perfect snowballs at Lac Vert © montblancfamilyfun.com
Perfect snowballs at Lac Vert © montblancfamilyfun.com

My boys also love making their ❄ own igloo . . . or sometimes just digging a HOLE!

Apérigloo in Megève will take you on a snow shoe hike to their own igloo . . .

website & FB page

If you need a bit more guidance for your kids, try these options:

❄ EXPLORE Chamonix – over the holidays, my boys went on a day-long snow-shoe expedition with EXPLORE Chamonix: Petits Trappeurs Grand Nord. They spotted 🐾 animal prints, 🏕 made a tipi and 🌭 cooked their lunch on a fire – they loved it! There are also Construction Igloo workshops / FB group;

All-year luge

We have two options 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc:

  • 🛷 Domaine des Planards (Chamonix);
  • 🛷 La Luge 4S (Le Jaillet, Megève);
  • and there is 🛷 Speed Dragoz in Les Carroz;

Jeux de Pistes / treasure hunts

There are more and more 🗺 parcours d’orientation and treasure hunts organised across 🗻 the Pays du Mont-Blanc, and some of these are available to do in wintertime too . . .

[ see separate article about treasure hunts & geocaching here ]

In fact, in February a few years ago, in a still snowy Le Reposoir, we had a lovely day discovering this mountain village and its patrimoine through the game

[ see article here to learn more about our experience ]

Architecture, art, photography and light shows

On most family walks out in our beautiful nature here 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, we are made aware of this region’s rich patrimoine: the granges, 🏚 mazots, ⛪️ churches and chapels, old bread ovens and fountains . . . I have lost track of the number of ⛪️ pretty chapels I have come across on my hikes!

Across the 🗻 Pays du Mont-Blanc you will find beautiful baroque churches and chapels, and these are all the more beautiful with a dusting of snow! My favourite chapels? Médonnet (Combloux), Doran (Sallanches), la Sainte-Chapelle (Notre Dame de la Gorge). There is even a Sentier du Baroque to hike (see here) . . .

See FB page Culture au Pays du Mont-Blanc for proposed guided walks . . .

Notre Dame de la Gorge © montblancfamilyfun.com
La Sainte Chapelle © montblancfamilyfun.com

You will find some art and sculpture and guided walks:

  • Les Virées Culturelles de Christine (Chamonix Valley)FB page;
  • Passy route de la sculpture and the new artwork at the Passerelle Himalayenne;
  • Saint-Gervais-les-Bains’ parcours orientation: « A la découverte de Saint-Gervais », « Boucle des Maisons Fortes » & new 2KM3 leaflet – 1 hour / available as free leaflets from Tourist Office in Saint-Gervais;
© Saint-Gervais Tourisme

If January has left you feeling a bit blue, and you’ve not had a sufficient dose of light festivals, here are some ✨ sparkling options to brighten your eveing . . .

  • 🇫🇷✨ Alta Lumina (Les Gets) – a poetic light journey in the forest . . . highly recommended by MBFF ! ( all year, but check website for details ! );
  • 🇨🇭✨ Geneva Lux Festival – from 27th January until 5th February 2023;
  • 🇫🇷✨ Lumières Sauvages (Safari de Peaugres) – a little further afield, until 25th March 2023;
  • 🇨🇭✨ Murten Licht-Festival – a little further afield, from 19th January ⇒ 30th January 2023;

There are also outdoor exhibitions to enjoy . . .

[ for more information about 🎨 outdoor art exhibitions, see MBFF article here ]

« Festival Images & Neige » (Cluses) – this wintertime-inspired photography festival has been running for more than 10 years. A couple of years ago, I went with a friend, and we enjoyed chatting to the photographers present.

website & FB page
Festival Images et Neige © Grégory Pol – « Nord et Blanc »

A spa day en famille

A visit to 💦 a spa en famille can be lots of fun (and surprisingly relaxing!) in wintertime. Most spas are reserved for adults (and teenagers over 13 years), but some in nearby Switzerland are open to babies or children 4+ years!

The lovely (and recently renovated) 💦 Thermes de Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc in the Parc Thermal in Le Fayet has special openings for families.


[ for ideas for where to head to a spa en famille, ses separate article here ]

A day trip from the Pays du Mont-Blanc

A day trip is also ideal in wintertime . . . swap montains for a lake ?

[ for more suggestions for DAY TRIPS from the Pays du Mont-Blanc, see separate article here ]

  • Evian or Yvoire (Lac Léman) – the historical thermal waters lakeside town of Evian makes for a lovely day out en famille . . . wrap up warmly for a stroll near Lac Léman, as it is icy-cold in wintertime! Enjoy the Flottins in Evian (until early January), or visit the medieval lakeside town of Yvoire (also pretty winter lights!) . . . and equally charming is the much lesser visited Nernier!
  • Annecy – stroll around this pretty lakeside town, known for its old town, the canals, the castle . . .
Palais de l’Ile © Ville d’Annecy
  • or head to another mountain village: Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval, Samoëns, Manigod, La Clusaz . . .

A bit wilder . . .

And for something a bit wilder (a bit further afield) . . .

🛷 Piste de Bobsleigh & Bob Raft (La Plagne) – WOW, the sensations on this Olympic run must be huge! The Bob Raft is available for children 1,30m upwards! You can fit 4 people in the bob raft, and you’ll get up to 80km/h! / from 48€ (Bob Raft), upwards / more information here;

🤿 ice scuba-diving – adults can try this in Montriond, Tignes, Courcheval !

 website & FB page;

🏎 ice driving – driving on ICE anyone? / you can do this in Flaine, in Abondance and in Tignes:

© Circuit de Glace Abondance
© Circuit de Glace de Tignes

3 thoughts on “10 OUTDOOR WINTERTIME ACTIVITES (apart from ski alpin!) au Pays du Mont-Blanc

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.