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Cross country skiing in Chamonix

A snowy skate around the Chamonix ski de fond trails

featured in Activity Reviews Author Alison Shayler, Chamonix Reporter Published

The long-awaited snow storm has arrived! This weekend has passed in a swirling blur of snowflakes, coating the mountains in a big thick white blanket. Until the skies clear up, weather conditions are ideal for a spot of cross country skiing.

Cross country skiing, or ski de fond as it is also known, is the perfect bad weather day activity. There's no waiting around in lift queues or getting blasted by icy winds on chairlifts and the constant physical effort will keep you from getting cold. Skating through the forests is a beautiful way to explore the valley and you can take it entirely at your own pace.

Earlier in the week, the cross country ski trails were looking a bit sketchy - low altitude rain had caused them to thaw out in patches and then re-freeze overnight into stretches of sheet ice. The lovely top-up of fresh snow over the past couple of days has restored them to excellent condition though, and there were plenty of people enjoying a Sunday scoot around the Bois du Bouchet and up to the Desert Blanc.

The sudden drop in temperature and light but steady snowfall over the weekend has given us a lovely thick layer of fine powdery snow, soft enough to glide through easily on skinny cross country skis. The tracks are admittedly looking very chopped up, so classic skiers may prefer conditions in a couple of days time when the piste bashers have compacted them into firm grooves, but if like me you are a skater then you’ll find that the trails are in excellent condition right now.

The trees of the Bois du Bouchet are swathed in beautiful cloaks of fresh snow and gliding through them is so peaceful and calming; they also provide plenty of definition so even in the heaviest snow storm you won’t experience the same “white-out” conditions that you get up in the mountains.

The Chamonix trails start in the large field behind the sports centre and tennis courts; you buy a pass from the Chalet du Fond for just 10€ per day (5€ child price) and then you have unlimited access to the 17km of trails that meander through the forest and alongside the river, up into the hilly area known as the “Norvege”. There are additional cross country ski trails in Les Houches and Argentiere, with plenty of ski hire shops nearby.

The most convenient place to rent cross-country skis and boots from is Intersport, right opposite the Chalet du Fond on Avenue du Bouchet. Both the kit and the ski passes are much cheaper than for normal skiing, and you don't really need lessons to get the hang of the basics, so it's an inexpensive way to spend a day trying something new!

If the weather forecast is to be believed, there is plenty more snow on the way this week so save your alpine skis for the clear days and give cross country skiing a whirl on the white-out days! Keep an eye on our regular Chamonix snow reports for the latest updates.


Map of the surrounding area