© Tourisme de Chamonix Mont-Blanc
Summer is over and the locals get their town back for a few weeks.
The majority of the lifts close, but don't let that get you down, there's still plenty to do in the valley in October. From golf tournaments to first division hockey and traditional fêtes, you'll find a reasonably full calendar.
Also, whilst there will be some rainy days, the temperatures remain warm enough to be out in the mountains, even if it will be under your own steam with a waterproof packed just in case. Plus, to watch the snow line rise and fall as the tops of the ridges get a fresh first dusting of snow is a magical glimpse of the seasonal change.
Yes, some of the bars and restaurants close for the break, but that just means you can find out where the locals always go for a great plat du jour at lunch, or a quick apéro before heading home.
Read on for a look at what we like to do in resort throughout October.
What's on in Chamonix in October?
Athletes can take part in one of the last races before the snow falls in the Chirv’Athlon. This is a triathlon with a difference, notably the lack of a lake, making the swimming part a bit difficult – so they have two cycling stages instead. This Chirv’Athlon, consists of a 6.4km run, a 10.3km road cycle and a 10.5km cross-country mountain bike ride. All stages take place around the roads and trails of Servoz, which boasts some beautiful scenery and very pretty little villages. You can either register as a team of three or, for a bit of self-punishment, you can register individually and tackle the lot by yourself.
Grand Prix Golf Tournament
The Grand Prix Golf Tournament takes place in what's probably the most beautiful golf course in the world. Situated in Les Praz, at the bottom of the valley, the Chamonix Golf Club boasts views of the whole Mont-Blanc range, so we wouldn't be surprised if you missed a shot or two distracted by the views. The Maurice Herzog Cup is open to international players with a handicap lower than 2.4 and counts toward your World Amateur Golf Ranking.
The Sheep Fair or 'Foire aux Moutons' is one of the most popular autumn events in the valley. Born and bred Chamoniards and expats gather in Servoz every October for a fun-filled rural fête that revolves around a sheep beauty contest, as farmers from all around the region bring their best-looking animals to be judged. Homemade cider, local Tomme cheese, a tractor exhibition, live music and an arts & crafts market are also part of the programme of this celebration that has been taking place for more than 30 years.
The 'Toussaint' (or All Saints' Day) is a widely celebrated religious national holiday in France and takes place on 1st November, largely overshadowing Hallowe'en here. This day traditionally sees the French honour the dead through flowers and special events, when they visit cemeteries, freshen up the tomb displays, bring traditional graveside flowers - chrysanthemums - which are widely sold at this time of year, and pray to their favourite saints. Everything is closed for the holiday and families often gather for a meal to remember loved ones. If you do fancy getting in 'the spirit' of the season, the French don't say 'trick-or-treat', instead they ask for candies or a spell - 'des bonbons ou un sort'.
You'll still be able to find decorations and pumpkins in the supermarket to carve at home, and in Chamonix many of the bars hold themed nights - so don't forget to pack your face paints and a suitable costume!
Things to do
October is the perfect time to go hiking. Temperatures are lower and due to the possibility of snow on the higher trails, it's better to stick to the lower or mid-mountain paths and always check the weather conditions, even asking local mountain guides which routes they advise trying. Some of the lifts stay open in October, such is the case of the Aiguille du Midi, the Montenvers vintage train or the Planpraz gondola in Brévent which will whir into action again mid-month. With easy access to the mountains, this is the time to go out and explore the local forests.
Support the local ice hockey team
The new hockey season is underway with the Chamonix Pionniers competing in the first-division Magnus League. Home games take place throughout the winter at the local ice rink. There is a bar so you can get a few beers in while you watch the game. Remember to take some warm clothes and shoes, hats and gloves – you are going to be sitting in a large freezer in a ski resort for a while. Tickets can be bought on the door or online.
Activities for children
The French autumn school holidays usually take place over the last two weeks of October around Toussaint. The valley goes all out to keep the little ones entertained, not only by reopening some of the lifts, but also with a full programme of events called 'Les Petits Asticots', shared with the nearby mountain towns of Megeve, Combloux and Sallanches among others. Theatre plays, concerts, puppet shows, street dance and circus acts are usually scheduled across this holiday for the whole family to enjoy.
Join the festivities in one of the many local bars holding parties and serving special spooky cocktails.