Although we are all disappointed that the lifts are not yet open it has given us the opportunity to discover all the other things to do that usually get pushed to one side, and then forgotten about completely.
There really is a whole other world of activities to try, and in fact it can make for a much more exciting and varied holiday! Although with the lifts closed it’s tempting to just stay inside your luxury chalet and enjoy the spa facilities, with a little imagination there is a lot of fun to be had…
Ski de fond – cross country skiing
Historically the original way to ski, ski de fond started as a mean of transport over snowy ground, which developed into a recreational activity and competitive sport. It remains a versatile activity which can be anything from a lazy stroll in the woods on a snowy afternoon to the hardest work out you have ever done!
There are 2 techniques, ‘classic’ and ‘skate’, which are quite different, with differing equipment but equally hard to master! Classic involves propelling yourself forward in a walking or running motion. The bottom of the ski has a skin which sticks to the snow in order to ascend hills. Skating requires an action similar to ice skating, without the skin on the bottom of the ski and using your arms as well to propel yourself along a wider groomed piste. Similar to downhill skiing, cross country comes in green, blue and red tracks depending on difficulty.
Chamonix has an amazing network of cross county tracks for all levels and ranging in lengths, details of which can be found on the Chamonix tourist office website.
It’s also possible to arrange an instructor to learn some good technique before going it alone!
The most popular new winter sport, ski touring has been gaining popularity in recent years, but has sky rocketed this season as pretty much the only was to be able to ski down a mountain in France. It is the perfect mix of the steady uphill walk to appreciate views and nature that you get from snowshoeing, but followed by that part we all love and miss. With far fewer skiers around there is so much more space for everyone to enjoy the snow on the way down. Not to mention, it is a great workout. Chamonix has it all – easy trails winding through forests that lead to nice mellow blue runs for those who are new to ski touring or just want a leisurely or social activity, to steep, glaciated, wild backcountry terrain for experienced ski mountaineers.
Although an intimidating thought for those who have not been exposed to mountaineering before, ice climbing can actually be a really amazing experience, completely safe, and available to everyone under the instruction of a mountain guide. Stunning ice walls form in the freezing winter temperatures where there are cliffs and waterfalls in the summer. You ascend the ice fall with an ice axe in each hand and crampons on your boots with ropes for safety. Chamonix has over 200 routes for all levels and skills, including some very friendly beginner areas. It is an exhilarating way of getting to some really cool places you would never be otherwise and enjoying the alpine environment in a whole new way. Our expert friends at Chamex can provide guides and equipment.
Just like hiking in the summer, snow showing in the winter is a great way to get up the mountain and enjoy the fresh air and amazing alpine scenery. Travelling at a slower pace to skiing, there is so much more time to look around and appreciate nature and try to spot some mountain wildlife including bouquetins, marmottes and chamois. Essentially just walking, there is very little skill to be learnt which makes snow shoeing a perfect family activity. It’s advisable to hire a snow shoe guide who will know the best routes with the most beautiful views and also has the safety covered – there can still be avalanche risks - and they will make sure you don’t get lost!
Our friends Skyline Trails provide excellent guides and equipment, with the guides available from €150 for a half day.
Fat bike in the snow
Mountain biking on snow is possible and so fun! Discover all the summer mountain bike trails in a winter wonderland. With the eclectic bike with fat tyres you can effortlessly go long distances on your bike, taking in all the amazing mountain landscapes and experiencing the snow in a new way.
Evo 2 provide bikes and guides for a 2 hour session starting from €175