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12 Alternative Winter Activities To Try In The French Alps

Looking for ways to mix up your next skiing holiday? Here's a handy guide to some alternative winter activities you can try in the French Alps this season

Sometimes it feels as though winter will never end. Dark evenings, bad weather, the cold, it’s easy to see why some people spend their days craving the return of balmy summer days. For those of us fortunate enough to be able to get to the mountains though, the winter becomes a season to be revered even more than summer. Beautiful views, bluebird days, cheese fondues and mulled wine; all that, and a seemingly endless array of winter sport activities to enjoy. Yes, please.

The French Alps is one of the most famous winter playgrounds in the world. As a region, it’s got more world-class resorts for skiing and snowboarding than you can shake a ski pole at. Going off-piste on skis or snowboards is, of course, one way to make the most of the area but there are, if that doesn’t sound like your thing, also countless other winter adventures, sports, and activities to sample in the French Alps. Perfect if you’re looking to experience something a little bit different during the season, here’s a guide to some of our favourite alternative winter activities in France. 

Ice Diving, Val Thorens

For something a bit different, try ice diving. Credit: Getty Images

The Alps feel cold enough when you’re bundled up in a ski jacket, buff and gloves, so we can only imagine how it feels to don a wetsuit and go diving in frozen lakes. Plongée Sous Glace in Val Thorens runs 4-5 hour trips ice diving, slicing holes in the frozen ice for access points. 

If you’re used to diving in warmer climes, this is worlds apart. Forget tropical fish and wreck dives, the magic of an ice dive is the way that the light bursts through holes and thinner patches of ice, creating water bubbles and a myriad of colours. 

All equipment can be rented through Plongée Sous Glace and the expedition involves roughly 45 minutes of walking in each direction to get to the start point on Lac du Lou. It’s not recommended for first-time divers.

Skijoring, Ancelle

Ski with extra horsepower. Credit:

A traditional way of getting from A to B in Scandinavia, skijoring involves being pulled along on skis… by a horse! Skijoring literally translates as ‘ski driving’, and whilst it may have originated as an easy way to get to the shops during the winter, it’s now a highly competitive sport. As well as using horses, skijorers can also be pulled by dogs or snowmobiles, the latter of which can travel at up to 86 miles per hour. 

Speeds are slower when towed by a horse, and skijoring in the French Alps is suitable for children and beginners as well as experienced skiers. Outings range between 10 minutes and half an hour, with horses going anywhere from three to 40 miles per hour.

Ice Climbing, near Grenoble

Ice climbing is a ‘cooler’ way up a wall. Credit: Getty Images

Climbing walls are fun, but have you ever scaled a frozen waterfall and looked down at the ant-sized skiers and mountain panorama from the top? The beauty of ice climbing is that no previous climbing experience is necessary (although it goes without saying that it helps). That being said, hauling yourself up a vertical climb armed with ice picks and crampons is extremely physical, so a good level of fitness is a must, and non-climbers should be prepared for muscle pain for a couple of days afterwards. 

Guide Grenoble organises group excursions ranging from half a day to multiple days. The location varies depending on the weather, but is always within easy reach of Grenoble. Sports clothes, thermals and mountaineering shoes are needed, but ropes, helmets, crampons and ice picks are provided.

Speedriding, Val d’Isère

Satisfy your need for speed(riding). Credit:

Sometimes when you’re rushing down a slope, skiing feels  a bit like flying. Speedriding takes this sensation to a whole new level. A heady high adrenaline sport, speedriding is a hybrid between flying and skiing. It originated in France during the 1970s when French mountain guides would launch parachutes from the peaks with their skis strapped on ready to hit the piste running. The sport as we know it today was born in 2005 when paraglider test pilot François Bon perfected the first speed wing design. 

Speed riders can reach speeds of up to 90mph and often get very close to the mountain edge, so it’s not for the faint-hearted. Knowing how to ski is essential, and the more confident a skier that you are, the faster you’ll take to speedriding. 

Llama Sledding, Briançon


You’ve heard of skiing where you’re pulled around by dogs or horses, so now let’s show you how sledding and llamas can be brought together. As far as we know, llama sledding has not yet made it into the elite level international sport circuit. It definitely isn’t an activity to try if you’re after an adrenaline rush. Despite this, there is no doubt that being towed through the snow by a llama is a novel experience. 

Group excursions for a minimum of six people are available in Briançon, near the French/Italian border, for less than €30 per person. This is a family-friendly thing to do, and is suitable for young children.

Snowkiting, Champsaur

Snowkiting is a fun activity in the French Alps. Credit: Getty Images

The kitesurfing of the slopes, snowkiting requires a little wind to get going. Since you slide much more easily on ice than on water though, there’s no need to wait for heavy winds to give this adrenaline sport a go. 

Snowkiting can be done on all kinds of snow, but large plateaus with space to practise jumps are particularly popular. Even if there’s no snow at all, you can still snowkite using skis specially designed for grass (the École Snowkite call this greenkiting). Whilst no previous knowledge of the sport is required to book a taster session, you’ll need to know the rudimentaries of skiing or snowboarding to undertake this. 

Snow Scootering, Courchevel

You’ll find snow scooters all over the French Alps. Credit: Getty Images

Snow scootering is everywhere at the moment, and you’ll see these non-motorised scooters for rent in most alpine ski resorts. It’s easy to see why it’s taken off so quickly, snow scooting is incredibly simple to pick up. All that’s required is that you steer with some precision and that you learn to brake with one foot, just like on a regular scooter. In spite of its simplicity, it loses none of the adrenaline and snow scooters can still pelt down the mountain at an impressive speed. 

If simply scootering down the slope is too easy, take your snow scooter to one of the snow parks scattered throughout ski resorts in the Alps and try your hand at box jumps and bar slides.

Night Skiing, Les Deux Alpes

Les Deux Alpes at night. Credit: Getty Images

With approximately 55 million people choosing to ski in France annually, the popularity of skiing is going nowhere. If you’re looking for an out of the ordinary skiing experience though, why not try night skiing? 

Les Deux Alpes has a floodlit blue slope open six days a week during the winter season, which costs nothing extra on top of your regular ski pass. Skiing under the stars is nothing short of magical. We recommend it. 

Bobsleigh, La Plagne

Go full Cool Runnings in La Plagne. Credit: La Plagne / Paradise

La Plagne is home to the only bobsleigh track in France. Bob rafting, speed luging and bob racing are the three activities on offer, taking place over an exhilarating mile long track with 19 bends. If you’ve been well and truly inspired by the film Cool Runnings (who hasn’t?), and you’re feeling a bit competitive, the speed record to beat on this track is a whopping 83 miles an hour.

Snowshoeing, Megève

Snowshoeing is a great way to explore the French Alps. Credit: Getty Images

Snowshoeing can be practised just about anywhere in the Alps, but for a 360 degree view including Mont Blanc, head to Col du Jaillet near Megève (2-3 hours walk one way). 

Snowshoes are easy to use. For those of you who miss going on long hikes during the long months of winter, they give people the freedom to continue your favourite pastime in the snow. They’re available to rent from most ski rental shops, and from sports shops in French cities situated near to the Alps (e.g. Grenoble and Lyon).

Husky Sledding, Chamonix

There’s so much to do in Chamonix, including husky sledding. Credit: Getty Images

Chamonix is a veritable outdoor sports paradise at any time of year, but dog sledding is one of the most unique experiences to have in the area and will leave you feeling as though you’ve stepped into a film. 

It’s not a high adrenaline sport by any stretch, but the views are spectacular and in Chamonix you can even learn to mush (guide) a team of dogs. 

Winter Mountaineering, Écrins

Go mountaineering in the French Alps. Credit: Getty Images

Finally, the grandparent of all alpine sports, mountaineering. Guide la Grave runs both beginner and advanced mountaineering courses lasting between one and six days. For the beginner courses, no previous climbing experience is needed. Mountaineering though is a physical undertaking so it’s important that you’re reasonably fit and accustomed to walking long distances before giving it a go. A head for heights is also a must, as you’ll be ascending up some pretty steep stuff; well above sea level. 

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