How To Spend A Weekend In The French Alps
So you found yourself with a free weekend and you want to spend it on a weekend excursion. But... it’s in the middle of winter and you're kind of fed up with the usual beach/island escapade. Well, why not do something new and go on a winter weekend at the gorgeous French Alps. Before you head out on adventure tours in the Alps here are other things you can do.
Skiing & Snowboarding
Photo by j.mt_photography
First up is probably the number ONE reason why many visit the French Alps and with good reason. It's home to some of the best ski slopes in the world. Whether a veteran skier or just starting out, there are loads of amazing resorts and to check out. Vaujany for example is a cute village resort, considered one of the sunniest parts of the French Alps. This sleepy alpine village combines the quiet and tranquil alpine retreat with the rush of skiing. A world-class ski resort in one of the best regions for snow, frequented by avid skiers from around the world. If you love the thrill and excitement of skiing amidst a backdrop of breath-taking alpine views, Vaujany is the place to be.
Photo by Mael BALLAND
If you are looking to speed your weekend by doing something more laid back, why not try snowshoeing? This age-old activity lets you experience the joys of hiking and trekking in the middle of winter. You get to see the unique beauty of snow-covered forests away from the busy city life.
Chamonix, though known for its ski resorts, has one of the best known snowshoeing trails. Few people know this side of Chamonix so you get to enjoy this experience away from the crowd. Other great places include Ecrins National Park and Vanoise National Park, both located within an hours drive of Vaujany. Both of which offer amazing views of the Alps. Pro tip: always hire local guides as they know the lay of the land and very knowledgeable of the terrain. They can also point out the best places to check out so you get the most out of the excursion.
Photo by Estonian Saunas
Winter is great but sometimes it can be really punishing especially if you aren’t used to the cold. Fortunately, one of the best ways to beat the cold is soaking in the warm waters of a thermal bath. Many resorts in the area offer their own facilities like heated pools or indoor spas.
Some of the notable places to try out are Les Thermes de Saint-Gervais and Le Grand Spa Thermal both offer amazing natural thermal baths. These facilities offer top of a line wellness experience perfect for relaxing winter escapades. If you are looking for something more traditional, head on over to Aix Les Bains. Known as the Riviera of the Alps, this spa town has been in operation since Roman times. If you can't find one nearby then head to the local spa for a jacuzzi
Photo by Mojca Jan
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have a unique tradition to the colder regions: Ice Diving. The high-altitude Alps is probably the last place you’d think of when it comes to scuba diving but it somehow works. This unique winter sport is a combination of several extremes making for an entirely new experience like no other.
Fair warning though: being a truly unique activity comes with its own unique set of challenges. Diving alone needs the skill to pull off and diving at high altitudes presents its own set of challenges. But every excursion is made sure to be as safe as possible. An instructor accompanies you during the dive and a crew is on standby on the surface nearby at all times. If you are up for some adventure, this is something to consider. Head on over to Val Thorens and Tignes to try this out.
Photo by Anja
Speaking of unique winter activities, dog sledding is also a must in the French Alps. You get to enjoy the snowy mountain vista and the rush of cold air on your face as a team of energetic sled dogs pull you along. An experienced “musher” helps you get the hang of sledding as you learn the basics. Finally, you get to help the dogs navigate the trail through its tricky climbs and descents.
The fun doesn’t stop there as you get to experience how these sled teams are cared for and trained. You get to meet and play with cute puppers as well as get hands-on in feeding and cleaning after them. The puppies are well-behaved, highly social and very eager to work. A perfect weekend activity for friends and family.
Photo by Tim Foster
Biking is usually associated with the warmer months but what not a lot of people know is that you can go out biking in winter. But because of the snow and ice, bikes need to be custom made to be ridden in these conditions. Enter the fat bike.
This aptly named bike got its name from the unusually large tires. These tires help the back manoeuvre easily on soft terrains such as snow or sand. It’s size and shape act kind of like a snowshoe spreading the entire weight of the bike and rider on a larger surface area.
The French Alps is filled with hundreds of miles of kilometres of backcountry trails perfect for fat biking. A fun and exciting twist to biking to try out.
Photo by Gipfelsturm69
For the adrenaline junkies out there, this one's for you. Ice climbing was once a small part of mountain climbing but has become its own discipline. If you love a bit of a challenge aside from the usual rock climbing, this is something to try out.
For beginners, Schappe icefall is a great place to start. The approach is relatively easy for beginners and the height is challenging without being too difficult. It is also quite near a small village making it quite accessible. For long time enthusiasts, check out Ceillac falls. This gorgeous looking waterfall becomes a stunning ice sculpture during winter perfect for ice climbing. It is also very accessible with a path at the top.