Non-ski Winter Activities in the French Alps

If you’re travelling while the ski lifts are closed, or if you prefer a different kind of mountain experience, the French Alps have plenty of Winter activities to offer. 

Here we give you some ideas of activities to enjoy in the mountains. Please check with the provider about any restrictions or closures in response to the pandemic regulations.


At Your Chalet

Chalet les Brevins

Enjoy the fresh mountain air, stunning views and facilities of an OVO Network chalet, such as Chalet Les Brevins in Manigod

The beauty of renting a chalet is that you can enjoy precious family time in a wonderful, private environment. Build a snowman, go sledging, have a snowball fight and go for a walk before you take a dip in the hot tub or snuggle up in front of an open fire – all surrounded by the stunning mountain scenery!

Plus, at Cool for Kids properties you’ll find a wealth of family friendly facilities – from Play stations to kids toys and table tennis.

Find a Cool for Kids property

Outdoor Winter Sports & Activities

If you want to get out and about our resorts have lots to do away from the ski slopes…

Snow-shoeing

You can still enjoy the magic of the French Alps away from the ski slopes – dog sledding, cross country skiing, sledging, markets and much more…

Behind the Scenes

Many ski resorts are offering visitors the chance to discover more about life behind the scenes of a ski resort while the lifts are closed. Visit the cable car stations, discover more about the piste bashers and learn about artificial snow making! Check with the individual tourist offices to find out what they are offering.

Dog Sledding

Winter Activities: Dog sledding

Try something new this winter with a dog sledding experience, available in many resorts.

In the Aravis – Join professional musher René Duc in La Clusaz for a beginner’s dog sledding tour, with eight or ten dogs. A very special experience through nature. Find out more here.

You’ll also find dog sledding available in several other resorts –

Hiking/Snow Shoeing

Winter activities: hiking or snow shoeing

Famed throughout the world, hiking or snow shoeing in the French Alps is not to be missed.

Explore the mountains and numerous walking tracks on foot. Enjoy spectacular views, discover pretty villages and if it’s snowy hire a pair of snow shoes from one of the local sports shops.

Horse riding

Take to the saddle, with a choice of horse riding stables in our resorts:

Ski joering with Aravis Passion

Winter Activities: Ski-joering

For something a little different, give Ski Joering a try.

Ski Joëring is believed to have originated in Sweden over 4000 years ago. What was then used as a means of transportation by peasants has developed into a leisure and competitive sport and even featured in the St Moritz Winter Olympics in 1928.
Ski Joering is a winter sport where a person on skis is pulled by a horse, a dog (or dogs) or a motor vehicle. It is derived from the Norwegian word “skikjøring”, meaning “ski driving”.

Aravis Passion offers equestrian Ski Joëring tours. Julian and his team guide you and the horses around a mixture of groomed trails of varying levels. With packages for different skiing abilities available, you don’t have to be an expert skier to get out and give it a try!
To find out about other equestrian activities on offer at Aravis Passion read our blog post “Horse riding in the French Alps with Aravis Passion”.

Ski Touring

Winter activities: Ski touring

Lay fresh tracks and discover the best of the mountains with ski touring.

Ski touring is increasingly popular in the Alps – particularly while the lifts are closed – and once you’ve given it a go you’ll see why. No lifts are needed and you can head off to lay fresh tracks! Rent touring skis from one of the rental shops and take a course to learn about the techniques and mountain safety. 

Find out more in the resorts – La Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand, Manigod, Chamonix, Courchevel, Morzine.

5km Luge

Winter activities: 5km luge

Exhilarating, fun and an incredible experience for anyone aged seven and over, this 5km luge in La Clusaz is new for 2021. © Oxygene Organisation

New for winter 2020/21, this incredible luge ride is suitable for anyone aged 7 and over. Taking you from Col de la Croix Fry all the way down to La Clusaz, it’s a fabulous experience not to be missed.

Find out more from Oxygène.

Sledging

Winter Activities: Winter activities

Fun for all the family, it’s easy to find a sledging slope in our resorts.

Grab your sledge and head to one of the local sledging spots – it’s not only great exercise, but great fun too! If you’re in the Aravis why not try the traditional ‘paret’ sledge for something a little different.

Paragliding

Winter Activities: Paragliding

Don’t miss the chance to view the snowy mountains of the French Alps from the skies.

Paragliding is one of the most popular sports in the Alps. Take to the skies above the mountains or the lakes and get a perspective like no other of these wintery resorts! 

If you’re in the Aravis get in touch with Activ’Annecy to book your flight or try Airmax Parapente.

In Chamonix and Morzine there’s also a choice of companies in Chamonix or Morzine

Go-karting in Thônes

Winter Activities: Karting

Something a little different, you can put your driving skills to the test at this popular go-karting track.

Get behind the wheel in any weather with family and friends and unleash your inner Lewis Hamilton or Olivier Panis at Kartparc! Located on the road from Thônes to Saint-Jean-de-Sixt. 

Road Cycling & Mountain Biking

While there may be snow on the mountains, most of the year you can hire bikes to explore the countryside and villages that are at a lower altitude – including around beautiful Lake Annecy. 

In the mountains there’s a range of sports shops which can provide bike rental, depending on the conditions – make sure to take your warm winter cycling gear!

Segway tours should also be operating around Lake Annecy, but again please check with the rental companies.

Build a Snowman

Winter activities: Build a snowman

You might not build an Olaf, but the whole family can enjoy trying!

Loved by kids young and old, building a snowman is great fun – especially in the mountains. La Clusaz is giving you even more incentive to build your best snowman – or snow woman – with a field dedicated to a snowman competition!

Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rides

Winter Activities: Horse-drawn sleigh riding

Sit back, relax and enjoy a tour of your resort from a sleigh.

With bells jingling and snow all around you, what could be more magical than a horse drawn sleigh ride over the festive season? Most resorts offer this fun winter activity – check with the local tourist offices.

Calling all cheese lovers

The Aravis region is famed for its cheese, so don’t miss out on sampling some! Contact the local tourist offices in La Clusaz, Manigod, Le Grand Bornand or Thônes for details regarding visits to local farms. You can meet the farmers who make the famous Reblochon, Chevrotin and Tomme de Savoie cheeses, and can sample and buy fresh products.

Resorts such as Morzine and Chamonix also offer a range of cheese tasting options.

Get goaty!

The goat farm at Les Confins, La Clusaz, is well known in the area, producing some excellent cheeses. Take a trip there with the kids and they can pat the goats while you sample the cheeses! Situated at the very end of the road from La Clusaz to Les Confins.

Take a Tour in a 2CV

If you love classic cars, then head to Lake Annecy where you can take a tour of the lake in a lovely Citroen 2CV. There’s a choice of tours available such as the gourmet tour! Find out more with Les Deuches du Lac.

Ecomusée du Bois et de la Forêt

Enjoy a visit to this beautiful natural environment. Ecomusée du Bois et le la Forêt is situated at Lieu dit Les Etouvieres, Montremont, Thônes. 

Boat trips around Lake Annecy

Winter activities: Boat cruise around Lake Annecy

Beautiful Lake Annecy and the lakeside villages are best explored from a boat.

A fantastic way to explore Lake Annecy, the one hour boat trip is available year round, but please check that your preferred boat trip is running before you head to Annecy.

Shopping

Many of us love a bit of retail therapy and shopping in a ski resort always results in some good finds! Fashion, food, sports equipment, pottery, local crafts and souvenirs are all easily found in and around our resorts.

Local Markets

Winter Activities: Annecy market

A wonderful part of French life, don’t miss shopping at the local markets.

Most of our resorts in the French Alps have a local market during the week, providing a wonderful way to shop for fresh produce and find hand made gifts.

In the Aravis you’ll find the market in La Clusaz on Mondays, Le Grand Bornand on Wednesdays and Thones on Saturdays. There are also various markets in Annecy, the biggest of which is on Sundays in the old town.

In Chamonix there’s a great saturday market – find out more here

Indoor Winter Activities

If you’re looking for something in the warmth, there’s a choice of entertainments and activities 

Indoor activities

Indoor play areas, pottery, spa treatments, workshops, local heritage, cinema and more – if you want to stay indoors take a look at some of the activities on offer…

Ski Workshop

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to wax and edge your skis before a ski race – or before you head out for the day – this is your chance. La Clusaz is putting on a range of workshops to give you all the skills you need!

Escape Game

This experience is different to anything else in the Aravis! Found near the centre of La Clusaz, Escape Game La Clusaz challenges your group’s problem solving and teamwork skills! 

The story begins as you enter the ‘Oxygene Express’ gondola to return to La Clusaz after a day on the mountain. However, as you set off, you become aware a storm is coming and you might not make it back…

Visit their website for more information. Book in advance.

You’ll also find Escape Games in Morzine, Chamonix and Annecy.

Craft activities

Many resorts  in the French Alps offer a range of craft activities for all ages. Contact the local tourist offices for the latest details.

Pottery at Atelier Polkadot, Manigod

Decorative ceramic plates and bowls from Atelier Polkadot

The very talented Laurence Andre offers fantastic pottery classes at her workshop in Manigod.

Join Laurence André at her studio in Manigod for a creative pottery workshop. Workshops run regularly throughout the season and give a wonderful change of pace to your holiday!

Laurence – who speaks English – will guide you through making a collection of special pieces to take home or to give as gifts.

Her shop is open year round and she sells everything she creates. Visit her website to discover her collections and learn more about the pottery workshops.

Alternatively, if you’re in Chamonix you can enjoy courses in ceramics, drawing, sculpture and more at the Studio Rusc.

Spas and health centres

Winter activities: Spa

Enjoy some pampering during your holiday at a spa or health centre.

There’s a great choice of spas and health centres in the area, perfect for some rest and rejuvenation.

Local Heritage

Why not take time to find out more about the local history of your resort? In La Clusaz, for example, visit the Hameau des Alpes. It’s an interactive learning experience for all the family and they will even let you in on the real reason why Reblochon is called Reblochon.

Rainy Day Kids Activities in Annecy

La Forêt Enchantée in Annecy (Grand Epagny) is great fun for kids on a rainy day. You need to book in advance online due to the pandemic restrictions.

Find Out More

To find out more about what’s on, visit the local tourist office websites – 


Book a Chalet in the Alps

Wherever possible we have included links to English sites, however where this has not been possible you may find a French language link. We have tried to check all information is up to date, but please check availability/programmes and opening hours before visiting any of the above, particularly in light of the changing regulations resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

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Written by... Rachel

Rachel

Hello, I’m Rachel and I moved to the amazing Manigod valley four years ago with my husband and two sons. I work in marketing and when I was in the UK worked for various holiday companies. I was lucky enough to travel a lot, but haven’t seen many places more beautiful than the Aravis mountains and Lake Annecy.