On the snow
During the winter, if the kids are only skiing for half a day, then there are plenty of other activities available in Chamonix to keep them happy. If you want to stay on the slopes, there are two areas which have 'fun parks' for toddlers and above. The first is the most excellent Ski Camp and is located at the top of the Prarion gondola in Les Houches. Here you will find a snow tubing track (which is amazing fun!) sledging, zip wire, curling, igloos and tepees and other entertainments - all for free (although you will need a pedestrian lift pass to access the gondola). The second place with a dedicated family area is the Mont Blanc Legend at Flégère. This is a little winter village by the Trappe green run. You'll find snow slides and activities, treasure hunts and a BBQ. You can also go snow tubing at the Moon Tine Cafe at Le Buet near Vallorcine on a dedicated slope (the train from Chamonix also stops at Le Buet). Take a look at the piste maps to help you find your way around.
Sledging is not allowed on the piste, but if you head back down to the villages you will find dedicated sledging at most of the lower nursery slopes. Try the Savoy or Bois de Buchet in Chamonix, Le Tourchet in Les Houches, Les Chosalets in Argentiere, or in Vallorcine, there is one just behind the tourist office. Most ski shops in town sell sledges (or your accommodation provider may have some you can borrow). In addition, at Planards in Chamonix there is the winter luge. This is a 1300m mini roller coaster - you board at the bottom of the hill and are pulled up to the top before the track loops you back down through the trees. Each sledge has room for two passengers, seat belts are fitted, and it's suitable for children aged three and upwards.
Just next to Planards is the traditional Montenvers cog railway that takes you up into the mountains to the Mer de Glace glacier (1913m). This charming red train is an attraction in itself, and once you get to the top you will find wonderful views, a glaciorium (an interactive & educational space) and ice caves (down 400 steps so perhaps not great for very little ones). You can also hire show shoes for free to explore groomed trails, and there are children's events here every weekend in February.
Ice skating is available in both Chamonix (indoor rink, open 2-6pm skate hire available, outdoor free usage if conditions allow) and Les Houches (outdoor, open in the afternoons and evenings, skate hire available). Other activities you may like to consider for your children include snowman building, snowball fun, and if you want a real treat, try Husky dog sledding where the little ones can ride in a passenger sledge with you. Or for something a bit more gentle, you can always go for winter walks through the woods - try Bois du Buchet in Chamonix or Les Chavants in Les Houches.
For indoor fun, there is a small soft play area in Chamonix Sud, at La Petite Folie which also has arts & crafts materials and a lovely cafe. On Thursday mornings (not during school holidays), there is a Tots group that meets at the church hall off Place du Poliu from 10am to midday (best for babies and up to three years). There is an arts & crafts course that children from the age of five (and adults) can take during the winter season, they are held in Argentiere. The cinema in the centre of Chamonix shows regular English language films (look for the VO showings). There is an indoor bowling alley in Chamonix Sud by the bus station - it also has a mini crazy golf course upstairs. And the swimming pool at Richard Bozon sports centre has special children's classes on Saturday mornings. The indoor climbing wall at Mont Blanc Escalade in Les Houches is a fabulous place to start climbing - children from the age of seven can join special courses.
For adults who don't want to ski, there are a number of spas you can try for some indulgence, as well as fitness classes, or perhaps some snow shoeing. Pedestrian ski passes are available at a reduced rate so you can join the rest of your group up in the high mountains for lunch and spectacular views.
During the school holidays there will be plenty of child friendly events to explore. At Christmas, there is a Christmas Village in Chamonix open every day with a market, parades, shows and Santa. Look out for torchlit descents at the Savoy and Planards pistes (wrap up warm!) ESF Chamonix holds a special 'Red' day in February where you'll find face painting, a tombola, music, parades and shows. Plenty more child friendly events are added to our events calendar as the ski season approaches, so please do check it when you arrive.
Summer holidays in Chamonix are all about being active and there are a wealth of activities on offer here for all ages and members of the family. Our dedicated Guide to Summer Activities in Chamonix includes a section specifically on kids' activities with information on horse riding, short family hikes, high ropes courses, where to go swimming, nature parks, and numerous other fun things that will help make your family holiday as unique and memorable as possible!