While Alpine resorts are always a paradise for those who love snow, and skiing is the most popular winter activity, there are plenty of other ways to have fun in the mountains! Here are a few ideas for you.
Alternative snow sports
Cross-country skiing and ski-touring
Alpine skiing is the best-known and the most popular winter sport, but it’s certainly not the only one!
Cross-country skiing, for example, is a great alternative for those who are not keen on speed and steep slopes. The idea is simple – just walk through the snow with your skis on. You’ll slide along, picking up speed and covering a good distance.
Considered to be more relaxing than downhill skiing, cross-country skiing is nonetheless a physical activity.
It’s a great activity to share with friends, family and grandparents. However, if you’re a beginner, start with easier trails that aren’t too long. You can rent all the equipment you need in most ski resorts with a cross-country skiing area.
Ski-touring, on the other hand, is an ideal activity for the more adventurous. However, you’ll need to be moderately fit and comfortable skiing on a variety of surfaces (powder, ice, steep slopes, forests, etc).
Ski-touring is mainly done off-piste, allowing you to access wild landscapes far off the beaten track. You can hire the equipment you need from local providers such as Skiset.
Snowshoeing is another popular winter pastime. With snowshoes, you can walk in fresh snow and ungroomed areas without sinking into the snow. This allows you to explore areas which would otherwise be inaccessible.
It’s a fairly inexpensive activity available in many ski resorts – hiring snowshoes costs less than €10 per day from specialist shops or individuals. Ask your Local Tourist Office for guided experiences.
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A dog-sledding trip
For a truly unique experience, why not try a dog sled ride? This unusual experience is sure to delight holidaymakers of all ages!
A tradition in more Northern countries, it is very popular in many ski resorts, such as Avoriaz and Chamonix. However, it can be quite expensive at around 30-50€ per person – but it’s an unforgettable experience, with thrills guaranteed!
Tobogganing – a must-do activity
Tobogganing is one of the classic winter activities, along with skiing. Anyone can do it, and it’s a great way to make some fun memories with friends.
Once you’re on the piste, the time will just fly by. You can go tobogganing almost everywhere, although some resorts are better equipped than others.
Chamonix, for example, is known for its sledging runs for all ages and abilities. Plenty of fun guaranteed, for less than 10€ per day!
Extreme sports – for the daredevils!
There are plenty of activities for the more adventurous – why not try ice-diving or snow-mobiling?
Snow-mobiling is a thrilling way to to discover snowy scenery. The resort of Val Thorens has snowmobile trails for all levels, as well as experienced instructors who will be happy to guide and advise you. It’s an unforgettable experience, but expect to pay about 160€ per hour.
(Prices given are just an indication)
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Diving into cold water might seem intimidating, but it’s a unique activity which allows you to explore a fascinating underwater world, even in winter. It’s also an opportunity to push yourself to your limits, and discover a different side to yourself.
Alpine lakes such as Lake Annecy or the Lac du Bourget, have clear, shallow waters which are ideal for cold water swimming, but ice diving is another step up!
Book a guide and dive under the ice at Lake Montriond on the Aquaventure website.
Food and drink
The wonderful food of the mountains is, without a doubt, one of the main reasons for visiting the Alps.
Fondue, raclette, tartiflette, a variety of cheeses, local charcuterie, chocolate and mulled wine… there are so many dishes to enjoy after a day in the Alpine air.
Restaurants in the resorts offer varied menus, from traditional Savoyard dishes to more general options, often made with local produce and expertise.
Some restaurants also offer food to take away, perfect for a cosy evening in your chalet. In Manigod we recommend the New York-style cafe Lo Garajô.
As for bars, there are endless spots where you can enjoy live music and entertainment, alongside a buzzing atmosphere. Some of our top picks include La Folie Douce (multiple resorts), Happy Hours (Ardent) and Bar 360 (Val Thorens). Discover more in our guide to après-ski below.
Spas and pools: wellness in the mountains
What better way to relax than to soak in a heated pool, followed by a massage? After a day of snowshoeing in the mountains, aches and pains can quickly set in.
Spa facilities are a great source of wellness, relaxation and rest. We recommend the cosy atmosphere and natural hot springs at the Monétier les Bains in Serre–Chevalier. Soaking in water heated to 38°|C while snowflakes fall on your hair is the stuff dreams are made of!
Activities without skis: go shopping
Ski resorts are not just about winter sports – they also have some great shops!
With the arrival of winter, the resorts start to get ready for Christmas, and many of them have wonderful Christmas markets. They offer a wide range of items: toys; decorations; jewellery; wooden items; crafts and local produce.
Some of the best-known markets include Annecy, Grenoble and Chamonix. You’ll also be able to find shops selling decor, fashion and other luxury items in Megève, Courchevel and Morzine.
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Holidays with family or friends are a good time to learn more about the places you are visiting. Why not spend a day exploring the resort, its museums and art galleries?
n Les Gets, for example, you can visit the Musée de la Musique Mécanique, a musical museum where you can see almost 900 unusual instruments and discover how they work.
Art lovers should head to the Vent des Cimes gallery in Grenoble, where you can immerse yourself in the work of some 30 French and international artists and see examples of Australian and Indian aboriginal art. The gallery has several exhibitions every year, so it’s worth checking their website to see what’s on.
There’s so much more to the mountains than skiing! Whether you want to relax, be sporty or just enjoy the area, the Alpine resorts have a lot to offer. Which one will you choose? Share your experience on our social networks!