Chamonix is known as the extreme sports capital of the world, with a seemingly endless list of high-octane, high adrenaline sports and backcountry skiing itineraries. But what if you aren’t that extreme, don’t ski, want to enjoy some more relaxing activities or simply take in the views?
From a calming yoga session on the mountain top to racing through the night to get to an Italian mountain restaurant on the back of a skidoo, there’s something to suit every taste and budget, both here in Chamonix and in neighbouring Italy and Switzerland.
Here’s our pick of the best activities and things to do in the area if you don’t ski.
This is hands down the most popular winter activity for non-skiers in the Chamonix valley. Head out into the mountains on your own husky sleigh, either as the driver of your own sledge or travel as a passenger with a musher. Enjoy the breathtaking mountain scenery as you speed along specially marked out paths in the forest. Contact us to book.
Aiguille du Midi
Chamonix’s number 1 tourist attraction is the Aiguille du Midi, which you can visit on a two-stage cable car. You’ll be whisked up to 3842 metres above sea level, where you can get panoramic views of Mont Blanc from the terraces and look back on the Chamonix Valley, way down below. From here you can watch skiers and mountaineers descending the arete onto the infamous Valley Blanche or heading up to climb to the summit of Mont Blanc. At the mid-way change over for the cable cars, you can go parapenting (more on this below).
Step into the Void
Also at the Aiguille du Midi is a thrilling experience “Step into the Void” where you can step into a glass box, suspended 1000 metres above a drop over the rock faces below. You can access this via the summit elevator at the very top of the Midi for some truly unforgettable views (if you’re brave enough!)
Mer de Glace
Experience the best views of France’s longest glacier at the Montenvers – Mer de Glace site. Take the iconic rack and pinion train from Chamonix centre all the way to the top at 1913m, from where you can descend by cable car and around 400 steps to visit the ice cave within the glacier. There are a couple of restaurants, a mountain refuge and a gift shop up here as well as a glacier exhibit and crystal gallery.
Tramway du Mont Blanc
Chamonix has another famous rack and pinion train line, this time down in Les Houches, connecting the town of St Gervais with this part of the Chamonix Valley. The Tramway du Mont Blanc normally opens for winter in mid December and it’s more popular for non-mountaineering visitors to take a ride to enjoy the fantastic views, or to access some of the snowshoeing routes in this area. It stays open until the beginning of April – weather permitting of course.
A great activity for groups of friends, where you take the last lift of the day up to Grands Montets ski area mid station, and slide all the way down the home run on traditional wooden ‘paret’ sledges. Great fun for anyone over 12 years old and for groups. Contact us to book.
Italian snowmobile adventure
Head over to Italy for this adventure. Put your head torch on and jump on the back of a snowmobile, and get ready to race up the mountain to 2000 metres, where a cosy restaurant and sparkling champagne awaits you. Contact us to book.
See the Chamonix valley from a totally different perspective, 1000 metres above the ground on a tandem paragliding flight. After a short running take off, the wing lifts you and your pilot from the ground and you fly across the valley to enjoy some truly spectacular views. There are various take off points around the valley and different prices may apply for each location. If you’re lucky you may be allowed to take the controls.. Contact us to book.
Soar over Chamonix’s glaciers and see the impressive mountains of the Mont Blanc Massif from the comfort of a 6-seater helicopter. Flights of 4 different durations are available, each one taking slightly different routes around the mountains. It really is an unforgettable experience. You’ll find the CMBH helicopter base at the foot of the Grands Montets ski area where there’s also a lovely restaurant in the woods (La Cremerie du Glacier) to grab a bite to eat and a drink. Contact us to book.
Discover some of the quieter parts of the Chamonix valley, where frozen waterfalls, secluded trails and mountain views await you. Join a half day, full day or a week long excursion with a local mountain guide. Contact us to book.
Discover some of the best ice climbing in Chamonix or neighbouring Italy, either for beginners looking to experience it for the first time, or more experienced climbers looking to hone their skills. Take part in a 1 day outing, or join a course for up to 5 days. Contact us to book.
Join a yoga class with a difference, on the snow, with incredible views of Mont Blanc as you hold your positions. Individual classes are available, as well as longer retreats and private instruction. Contact us to book.
Ice Hockey matches
Watch Chamonix’s local hockey team Les Pionniers compete in an evening hockey match at the ice rink in Chamonix centre (dates in red are played in Chamonix). Tickets can be bought on the door and it makes for an alternative and fun night of entertainment. Or head out onto the ice yourselves for a skate; you can hire skates on site for a small fee and little children can borrow the balance penguins for stability. Discounts are available with your carte d’hôte travel cards.
Descend the home run piste at Grands Montets after the lifts have shut for the day on a traditional wooden ‘paret’ sledge. You’ll be met at the bottom by a roaring campfire, followed by dinner in a Mongolian Yourt, tucked away in the forest. Contact us to book.
Dr Zhivago horse & carriage
Take a trip around the centre of Chamonix, or further into Les Praz on ‘Dr Zhivago’s’ horse drawn carriage. This charmingly decorated carriage has become a much loved attraction in the centre of Chamonix and offers a relaxing way to explore the local area.
Les Houches has an indoor climbing wall that you can access on weekdays all winter long. There are in the region of 100 routes ranging up to 22 metres in height and from 4 to 8c in grade. Courses are available on request.
Hire a fat bike from one of the local bike shops and head out onto the specially groomed trails that run alongside most of Chamonix’s cross country ski trails. The wide, low pressure tyres help you get good grip on the snow & you can explore for hours.
Massage, Spas & Wellbeing
Enjoy some pampering treatments, a restorative massage or a spa day at one of Chamonix’ many hotel spas like the Aiglons, the Heliopic or the Park Hotel Suisse. Nearby you can also enjoy thermal springs and thermal baths in St Gervais and across the border in Italy, at the Pre St Didier resort.
Take a thrilling descent on the Alpine coaster in Chamonix’s leisure park, next to Planards beginner ski slopes. At over 1300 metres long, you can go as fast as you dare on the sleds as it’s up to you when to use the brakes. Go solo or share a sled with a friend.
Indoor swimming pool & leisure centre
Chamonix has a 25 metre indoor swimming pool, with a separate children’s pool for children of 6 months to 3 years old, water slides and massage water jets. Join a water aerobics class or just come for a swim or to use the gym.
Photography & discovery walks
Discover hidden areas in the Chamonix valley and learn about its history with photographer and guide Teresa Kaufman. Learn some top photography tips along the way as you take interesting photos of the locals, flora and fauna.
St Bernard breeding kennels
Learn about this iconic breed of mountain dogs at their breeding kennels in Servoz, not far from the centre of Chamonix. A typical visit last an hour and there’s a souvenir shop on site so you can take home your very own furry friend.
Bowling, pool hall & crazy golf
This ten pin bowling alley can be found in Chamonix Sud and also houses arcade games, pool tables (American & English tables) and crazy golf. It makes a good place to head to on bad weather days or with larger groups and families. There’s a bar on site too.
Chamonix’s cinema shows most of the latest film releases in VOST (English with French subtitles) or French only. They’re also partial to showing locally made climbing and ski films. Screenings take place throughout the week.
Hair & beauty treatments
There are a good selection of hairdressers for men and women in the Chamonix valley, most of which also offer manicures and some of them also offer massages too. There are plenty dotted around the main shopping areas in the centre of Chamonix as well as in Les Houches & Argentiere.
Chamonix has its own casino where you can enjoy a mixture of traditional table games as well as electronic roulette and around 70 slot machines. It’s open all year round and contains a bar and restaurant.
Indoor tennis & squash
There are two covered tennis courts at the sports centre in the centre of Chamonix and 2 squash courts. In Argentiere there’s a dedicated, covered tennis centre where you can play with a reservation.
Slide down a specially designated piste on a large inflatable ring and yes, although it takes place in some of the beginner ski areas in Chamonix, it’s not just for the children! You can find snow tubing in Les Houches, at Brevent , La Poya (near Les Buets) and at Les Chosalets at the foot of Grands Montets.
Chamonix has lots of art galleries and workshops, from traditional landscape painters and photographers, to retro decorations to more modern and pop-art style work, sculptures, postcards and prints. A few of the hotels and restaurants also feature art works that you can take home as a momento of your time here. There are also occasional art classes that take place throughout the year.
In the centre of Chamonix at Place Mont Blanc, there’s a regular Saturday market that takes place year round, from 07:30 to 12:30. Markets also take place in Argentiere every Sunday and every Wednesday in Les Houches. There is also a Christmas market which runs from mid December to the end of the month, where you’ll regularly find street entertainers and parades entertaining the crowds.
Wine tasting / Cocktail tasting / Whisky tasting
“Cha Cha Cha” has in the region of 800 wines plus a great election of whiskey, rums and other spirits which you can buy to take home, or try before you buy on one of their popular tasting evenings. Or just pop in to enjoy a glass of wine in a relaxed atmosphere.
Chamonix has a great selection of outdoor clothing and gear specialists, as well as high-end clothing retailers, shoe shops, supermarkets, souvenirs and homeware. We’re not going to list them all here, but take a stroll down Chamonix’s pedestrinaised shopping area and you’re sure to find something to tempt you into a purchase or two.
Day Trips – to other parts of France / Italy / Switzerland – Take a day trip from Chamonix to explore some of the best of the surrounding area;
France – Annecy, Yvoire
Italy – Courmayeur, Aosta
Switzerland – Martigny, Montreux, Large Hadron Collider (CERN)
Hopefully this has convinced the non-skiers in your family or group, that coming to Chamonix in winter is a good idea! Take a look at our great choice of chalets and apartments, which you can book directly online for week-long stays. For short breaks and longer duration holidays, please contact us for a quote.
Mountain Base Locations, Chamonix
Photo Credits: Chamonix Tourist Office, The Family Freestylers, Teresa Kaufman, Huskydalen, Evolution 2, Chamonix Experience, CMBH, Chamonix Parc Loisirs, Pre St Didier Spa, Escalade Mont Blanc, Justacoté, Je Papote