© Jack Franks
Chamonix caters really well for everyone from little tots to energetic teenagers.
Here's our pick of the best family activities in Chamonix over the half term holidays.
Babies and toddlers
Saturday mornings are when the “petits poissons” or “little fishes” gather for a splash session in the Richard Bozon sports centre.
Babies from six months to three years have a dedicated time slot from 10:00, with children of 3-5 years being admitted from 11:00. There must be one adult per infant.
There are two mountain sites that have been specially dedicated to children - Skicamp at Les Houches and Mont Blanc Legend at Flégère.
Skicamp is a little adventure park with teepees, climbing frames, animal tracks and a zip wire. Right opposite this you can fling yourself down a toboggan slope on a giant rubber ring.
Mont Blanc Legend is a fun ski area with slides, rope bridges and even a BBQ area where you can sizzle your own lunch.
Down in the valley, you’ll find that loads of sports and ski hire shops sell plastic sledges. Head along the river past the tennis courts and bear right to find a sledging slope at the start of the cross-country ski trails. One side is short and steep, the other is a bit longer and more gentle and both sides have padded mats at the bottom in case of braking issues!
There are further sledging slopes on the Savoy piste at the bottom of Le Brévent, at Prarion and Chavants in Les Houches, at Les Chosalets in Argentière and behind the tourist office in Vallorcine.
If you’ve got young daredevils to keep entertained, then paret sledging will have them buzzing for the rest of the holiday.
Every Friday in Les Houches after the ski slopes have closed, anyone over 10 years old can whizz down the piste on a traditional alpine sledge which is basically a short ski with a wooden plank on top which acts as a seat. It feels very precarious to start with but it's hilarious and you’ll be screeching with laughter by the time you get to the bottom.
Evolution2 also run a weekly paret session every Wednesday on the steeper slopes of Les Grands Montets, this is restricted to 12 years and over due to it being a bit more extreme.
How about getting them involved in some “off-piste”, “freeride”, or “snowpark” lessons? Most of the Chamonix ski schools now do specific courses tailored to teens who can already ski or snowboard and want something more exciting to try. They’ll be taught by qualified instructors who will push their boundaries and boost their confidence within safe limits.
There's even plenty to do when the weather is bad, such as indoor climbing. Mont Blanc Escalade in Les Houches has over 100 bolted routes suitable for all abilities, you can hire shoes and harnesses on site and there is a viewing gallery for those who just want to watch. The staff are very friendly here and will happily give you a few pointers if you're just starting out.
Family friendly après ski
There aren’t many bars where you can enjoy a glass of nice wine and a live jazz concert, whilst the children play in a safe area with their own popcorn dispenser; however Hotel l'Heliopic delivers just that.
Hotel Le Vert at Lac des Gaillands is also renowned for giving families a warm welcome and their Sunday lunch is a real treat, with special deals for kids between certain times.
Plan B is a hotel in Chamonix Sud that has a great area for kids with lots of board games, soft play, computer games, babyfoot and there's even a two-lane bowling alley.
For a real taste of alpine action, take the family to an ice hockey match. Tiered seating gives everyone a great view of the rink but try to get near the front if you want to see the action up close. If you get a bit cold beside the ice, there is a warm bar area with a viewing window, where you can also get snacks and drinks. The Chamonix-Morzine Pionniers play regular home matches and you can buy tickets when you arrive.
If the kid's ski lessons are at Les Planards, you've probably seen the Alpine Coaster zipping past as it twists and turns amongst the trees. This two-seater toboggan run is available to everyone over three years old (3-7 years must be accompanied by an adult) and is open daily. Best of all, if you've bought the Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass you get a free ride every day!
Events and entertainment
Outdoor ice skating is a great way to spend an evening; it's free to take part, you only need to pay a small fee for skate hire. You can give it a whirl in Les Houches every Wednesday and Friday, and in Vallorcine every evening of the week.
As the pistes close and night sets in, the light from dozens of flickering torches can be seen glistening against the snow. Torchlit descents take place throughout February in Les Houches, Chamonix and Argentiere on varying evenings; it’s a magical sight and really exciting for children to be a part of.
Sights and attractions
If you’ve invested in the Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass, you’ll find that there are plenty of extras that make great family excursions. You can go to the top of the Aiguille du Midi and Step Into the Void, ride the Montenvers train up to the Mer de Glace and visit the ice caves, or take the Tramway du Mont Blanc up into the snowy plains of Les Houches.
Even a simple train ride can be an adventure; you can travel for free on all stops between Servoz and Vallorcine with your carte d’hôte guest card, meaning that you can go for a snowy tramp through the forest or alongside the river and catch the train back again. If you get off at Le Buet, you can call into Café Moontine for a hot chocolate and a whizz down the toboggan run.
The cinema shows most of the latest releases in English (look for VOST in the timetable) and often has children's films and cartoons on during the school holidays.