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Top 12 things for non-skiers to do in Chamonix

It's not all about the skiing!

Featured in: | Alison Shayler, Chamonix Reporter | Published

If you think there’s nothing more to Chamonix than skiing and snowboarding, think again. In fact, if all you do while you’re here is head up the hill every day then there’s a whole world of fun that you’re missing out on.

Here's a list of our favourite things to do away from the ski slopes. From adventure to good living, there's something for everyone. 

Discovery & photo walks

Discover unusual and secret itineraries behind the scenes, taste and photograph the unique neighbourhoods and hamlets of the Chamonix valley with a professional photographer, meet with chefs, artists, craftsmen and guides, and admire and taste their creations. An activity for people with a passion for photography. Walks take place in Chamonix, Servoz, Les Houches, Le Coupeau, Vallorcine, Montroc and many other places that you may have yet to discover.

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Ice climbing

Nothing will make you feel gnarlier than wielding a couple of ice axes whilst being fully kitted out in crampons and climbing harness. Channel your inner mountaineer by heading out to the ice falls with a professional mountain guide and learning how to scale the frozen heights of the Chamonix Valley. No experience needed, just a head for heights and a heart for adventure.

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Helicopter tours & paragliding

Short on time? A helicopter tour of the Mont Blanc Massif is the quickest way into some of the most breathtaking mountain landscapes on the planet. In the Chamonix Valley, there are a number of panoramic routes with flight times ranging from 10 to 30 minutes. You can pre-book your flight but be aware that the flights are weather dependent, so you will need to be a bit flexible on when you can fly. We got to experience a full 30-minute tour of the massif, check out our full report which is sure to pique (pun intended) your interest. However, nothing beats the experience of flying over the mountains, past the jagged peaks of the Mont Blanc Massif, coming down over Chamonix town to land with a gentle bump in a snowy field. Paragliding flights take place every day and mostly take off from Brevent. If you have the time to spare you can even take parapente lessons and learn to fly by yourself.

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Snowshoeing is one of those sports that can literally be done by anyone and everyone, regardless of age or fitness. You can either grab a map, hire the kit from an outdoor sports shop and find your own way around the local trails or book a guided hike to see even more of the valley. We had a great day out snowshoeing with Happy Tracks, they also have an igloo where you can enjoy a fondue at the end of your hike! Another great option is to snowshoe up to the Vieilles Luges in Les Houches for a delicious evening meal in one of the most atmospheric mountain restaurants in the Alps.

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Arts & culture

For a small town, Chamonix has a surprising number of museums and galleries. The Musée Alpin and the Espace Tairraz Crystal Museum are the two most well-known options but there are a few others dotted around such as the Maison de la Mémoire et du Patrimoine, a heritage centre on the Rue des Moulins that has lots of vintage photos and old footage of the Chamonix valley through the ages. They hold regular talks and guided tours so pop in and see what they have lined up. If live music is more your style then head over to the MJC or the Salle Olca for some unique and varied performances that include jazz, world music, classical and pretty much everything else in between - our Chamonix events calendar is a good place to find upcoming concerts.

Museums & Galleries in Chamonix

Husky sledging

The dogs are raring to go, you just need to decide whether you want to drive your own sledge or ride as a passenger and leave the steering to the musher. The husky sledges can be driven by anyone over the age of eight years, younger children can ride accompanied by an adult. The dogs are super friendly and waiting for you to come and play.

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Trail running

Chamonix is regarded by many as the centre of the trail running world. Though predominantly a summer sport, keen runners are increasingly heading out and getting their fix during the colder months. The more well-travelled trails in the valley get tracked out fairly quickly providing a firm, smooth and surprisingly comfortable surface for running. Add to that the unique stillness of a snow-covered forest and you’re guaranteed a memorable run. You’ll need a bit more gear than on a summer run, it goes without saying that you’ll have to dress warmer but, crucially, you’ll need something on your feet to deal with the snow. Some manufacturers make dedicated snow running shoes but, if you don’t quite want to commit to new footwear, a pair of running crampons over your normal shoes will do the trick. You can peruse all the latest gear in one of Chamonix’s many outdoor shops. For more, check out our guide on winter running in the Chamonix Valley.

Running in Chamonix

Mer de Glace

The little red train that leaves from behind the main Chamonix train station has been chugging up to the Mer de Glace for over 100 years, an anniversary that was rather bizarrely celebrated with a live concert by Boney M a few years ago... Anyway, ageing 70's pop groups aside, a ride on the Montenvers train up to the longest glacier in France is a must. The train winds its way up the side of the mountain, amongst the pine forests and through dark tunnels of rock to emerge beside the Mer de Glace at 1913m. As well as the glacier itself, you can also visit a crystal museum, ice caves, the Temple of Nature, the Glaciorium and the historic Grand Hotel du Montenvers, which has recently been refurbished. If you are accompanied by a mountain guide you can even go onto the glacier to see the crevasses and bottomless holes close up... The Montenvers train is included in the Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass, along with the Aiguille du Midi cable car, the Tramway du Mont Blanc and various other attractions.

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Fat biking

Continuing the theme of “things you don’t normally do in winter”, fat bikes have become a more and more common sight on the trails in winter. Fat, studded tires provide ample grip and comfort when riding snowy trails. No previous experience necessary, as the saying goes it’s just like riding a bike. Rent a bike, grab a map and go explore! For a more detailed look at fat biking in Chamonix, check out our report

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Wine tasting

There are some things that France does very well - bread, cheese and... wine! Both ChaChaCha and Albert 1er host regular wine tasting sessions where a professional sommelier will guide you through the specialities of various regions, tasting all the different varieties as you go. Look out for 'degustations' of Savoie wines and you'll know exactly what to order next time you're presented with the wine list in a one of the Chamonix restaurants.

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Spas & massages

If your idea of a good time is complete relaxation in a tranquil environment then make sure you visit one of Chamonix's many spas. The largest one in resort is the QC Terme, located just behind the local sports centre. However, most of the bigger hotels have them and, for a small entry fee, you can relax in the sauna, gaze up at Mont Blanc from the outdoor hot tub, sweat it out in the steam room or soothe aching muscles with a massage treatment. Some do enticing packages, like the lunch & spa deal at Hotel Les Aiglons.

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Gourmet dining

Chamonix has so many good restaurants that you could sample a new one each day and still not try them all in a week. Some of them even boast the illustrious Michelin star. However, if you want to dine like royalty without blowing the entire holiday budget, then consider going for a long lazy lunch instead of dinner. Most restaurants do a set lunch menu or 'plat du jour' which is usually excellent value and no less of a gourmet experience than the evening menu. Another bonus of dining lavishly at lunchtime is that you can go and walk it off afterwards instead of going to bed feeling like you're going to burst.

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More inspiration...

Find more sights and attractions and things to do in winter in Chamonix. For more inspiration, read our winter activities guide.

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Sights in Chamonix