Chamonix Winter Exploring

Monday 26 February, 2018

Don’t ski, don’t ever want to ski?

Don’t let that stop you enjoying a Chamonix winter holiday.

It’s the perennial dilemma for families split by a love it or loath divide when it comes skiing or snowboarding. Fret not however, we’ve created a list of some of the amazing ways you can create a Chamonix winter experience for everyone.

Here are our top tips of amazing activities non-skiers should put on their holiday hit list to keep them entertained whilst the ski-lovers hit the slopes doing their own Chamonix winter exploring.

Ticket to ride to the top of Europe

Take a trip up the Téléphérique de l'Aiguille du Midi to see Mont Blanc up close and personal and view the entire of the snow-covered massif from atop the needle at 3,842 metres.

The worlds high vertical ascent cable car, it whisks visitors in two stages from the valley floor at 1,035m to the l’Aiguille du Midi at 3,842m. The second stage, which covers 2.5 kilometres of height gain is in a single span, so potentially not for the feint-hearted.

For those less happy with heights, then the Plan de l’Aiguille at 2,317m still gives an amazing close up of the glacier, views down into the valley and the chance to look up in wonder at this man-made access to the top of Europe.

At the summit you’ll find all the things you might expect from a destination such as this – and a few that you might not.

There are panoramic viewing platforms with breath-taking views, a café, a restaurant and informative installations showing how the lift station was built and showcasing all the high adrenelin mountain sports the valley has to offer.

You can also 'Step into the Void' whilst you are there. Take the elevator to cover the final 100m of ascent and you can walk into a glass box with a view 1035 metres directly beneath your feet!

You can also walk to the end of the ice cave to take a look at the l’Aiguille’s famous arete – a knife edge descent taken by skiers, snowboarders and climbers who are accessing the iconic Vallee Blanche or making their way to access classic climbing routes such as Mont Blanc itself.

Let the train take the strain and head for Montenvers

This is never going to be the fastest train trip you have ever experienced, but the fact that this rack and adhesion rail line transports you from the valley floor to the bottom of the Mer du Glace, the sea of ice, climbing nearly 900m in the process, more than makes up for it!

Originally drawn by steam engines, today the line is operated by a mix of electric railcars and diesel locomotives. All the more impressive, is the fact that this line has been in operation for 110 years. 

At the end of your 20-minute journey you’ll find a hotel, viewing platforms, café and gift shop overlooking the confluence of the glaciers that flow down the Vallee Blanche from Mont Blanc. It quite simply transports you high into the mountains and is the kind of journey you should add to your bucket-list.

Scarily you’ll also be able to see the extent to which the glacier has receded. For those who don’t mind a walk, then you can take the bubble lift and more than 400 steps below that to reach the glacier (but don’t be tempted to go for a walk!)

Spa Day in Italy

Given Chamonix’s proximity to Italy, via the engineering wonder of the Mont Blanc Tunnel, it is always worth spending at least a day discovering Courmayeur – the sunny side as the Italians would say.

Just a short drive from the town, you’ll find the village of Pre Saint Didier and it’s ancient and acclaimed natural thermal baths.

A unique experience, the original thermal baths remain and have been extended with a host of ways to warm and relax your body in the restorative waters. What’s more, its external hot pools, which are surrounded by snow in the winter, give beautiful views of a very contrasting Mont Blanc. Whilst snow covered and benign looking from the Chamonix valley, Monte Bianco is an imposing mountain mixed with glaciers and granite spurs and outcrops from the Italian side.

Whether you want to be super healthy or indulge in a visit to the Spa’s hotel for a glass of champagne to finish your days – this is a treat not to be missed.

Hitch yourself behind some Huskies

There is an enduring appeal about being at one with nature whilst being pulled in a sled by some exuberant Huskies. Imagine, being nestled into a fur covered seat and travelling across the snow.

The raison d’etre for these dogs is to pick up the traces and pull a sledge. For anyone who loves animals, then this is an adventure not to be missed. There is huge pleasure simply from being out with the dogs. 

For the more adventurous then there’s the chance not only to travel under Huskie power, but also to learn to mush a team of dogs for yourself. 

Try Snow Shoeing or Cross-Country Skiing

Not all chamonix snow sports demand that you race down hill on one or more wooden planks! There are other ways to travel in the snow and the further you are able to distance yourself from the hustle and bustle of resort, the more magical the experience becomes.

Snow Shoes were designed hundreds of years ago to help people move through snow effectively. Suitable for adults and children alike, no previous experience is necessary, and you can head out to explore gentle slopes, alpine meadows and snow-covered cols with an International Mountain Leader as your guide. Walking between snow covered trees catching glimpses of the mountain range as you go, is an experience everyone should try at least once.

What’s more, on a pristine powder field there’s nothing more fun than unleashing your inner child and running down the hill at full tilt with the snow crunching beneath your shoes!

For those who’ve always liked the idea of putting on skis, but not heading down big mountains at the same time, then cross-country skiing – either classic or skate – is an amazing way to take to the snow. All the kit is easily hired and there are dedicated tracks in Les Houches, Chamonix and Argentiere. Combine a half day kit hire with a lesson, and you’ll be up and away in no time at all.

Spend the day adventuring on the Mont Blanc Tramway

The highest tramway in France, it offers a wonderfully relaxed way to take in the breath-taking views of Mon Blanc massif. Accessed via the Bellevue lift in Les Houches, you can put yourself in the footsteps of generations of mountaineers who’ve ridden the tram to its highest stop – the Nid d’Aigile whilst on their way to climb Mont Blanc via an overnight stop at either the Tête Rousse Hut or the Goûter Hut.

Stay on the tram for its return journey and you’ll travel down the mountain from Les Houches to St Gervais where you can hop off to explore this pretty, architecturally rich French town. Why not take your pick from among its lovely brasseries and restaurants and treat yourself ot a leisurely lunch too.

We’re always delighted to help our guests make the most of their stay and as part of our inclusive concierge service we’ll create the perfect itinerary for everyone – skiers and non-skiers alike!

Monday 26 February, 2018