Europe

What to do on a non-skiing holiday in the French Alps? – part 1

While many, many bloggers are way more well-traveled than I am, I’m still pretty satisfied with the amount of places I’ve already been able to scratch off my travel bucket-list. There of course are still a ton of destinations on that list, but this time around the actual destination wasn’t a thing I was ticking of my list; it was a type of holiday. The winter holiday!

In all my years of traveling, I’d never actually gone to the mountains during winter time. During summer; yes. Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain, France and even Canada. All places I absolutely adored. I am a mountain girl, through and through. But when people started raving about their favorite wintry slopes, I had to sheepishly admit I had no idea what that was like. So it was way overdue to explore that!

Considering we only had one week to travel, the destination itself wasn’t going to be a new one. I’d revisit a country I’d already been to but in a way, it made it all the more exciting. Time to see the difference a season can make to a location!

We’d first looked into places in Austria and Switzerland but seeing it was all pretty last minute we couldn’t find a rental home where both the location and the budget was within our preference. We refocused to the French Alps, knowing that if the weather would be bad during our stay – which can be the case in the mountains – we’d still have a bit of France to explore and wouldn’t only have the mountains to keep us company. So we ended up in Le Biot, on the Col du Corbier. Our base for our first winter holiday!

Now, when you say you’re going to the mountains in winter time, everyone always assumes you’re going skiing. It is the main activity that time of the year after all. But with my horrible equilibrium and tendency to fall flat on my face that would just be a major disaster waiting to happen. I also wasn’t quite willing to invest some time into the learning process so that left us with trying to find alternatives.

1. Hiking

The #1 activity for non-skiers and forever one of my favorite things to do on holiday! Because of the snow, there are of course a lot less hiking trails available during winter than there are during summer. But there are still plenty to choose from.

When choosing a trail, it’s very important to make sure you are well informed on the conditions. A stop by the tourist office in the area is always a smart move. They’ll be able to tell you if the trail is safe enough. It might be that certain parts of the path are only accessible with snow-shoes.

On our first day, we parked our car in Les Gets and took the cable car du Mont-Chéry up to about 1500m altitude. For only five euros one way (Eight euros both way) we were promised an extraordinary viewing on the Mont Blanc. Seemed like a great way to start our holiday, right? And it so delivered!

What a stunning panorama! From the top, we were able to hike all the way to Mont Caly, having the gorgeous mountain range on our left most of the time. It was fairly flat and an easy path to follow, about six kilometers return trip.

We had only bought a one-way trip on the cable car, which meant we still had to get back to Les Gets. There are a couple of trails available and we opted for the six kilometer one going via Lazarre. Part of that trail is usually only for snow-shoes but considering there hadn’t been fresh snow in a while, it was safe to attempt with just our hiking boots. A perfect winter hike and ideal to kick off our holiday!

A second hike we did during our trip was from the ski-paradise in Avoriaz. Over there you really are the odd one out if you don’t have skis or a snowboard attached to your feet. It’s surreal. But that place really made me understand what it is that attracts people to a winter holiday. The ambiance is a-ma-zing!

Even with a little guide and instructions acquired from the tourist office, we still struggled quite a bit to find the starting point of the hike. We were supposed to hike from the center of town, to the heliport, to Joux Verte and then to the ski station of Les Lindarettes where we would take the skilift back up to Avoriaz. Seems easy enough. Not really. But we are no quitters! With a little detour we managed to find our way and past Joux Verte, it was a pretty easy road winding down all the way to Les Lindarettes.

This hike offered us gorgeous mountain scenery, forest views, lots of snow (duh!), a look at a whole bunch of the cuttest sled-dogs and an amazing location in Les Lindarettes to enjoy a drink before getting back to Avoriaz.

And our last major hike of the trip was in a place I’d visited before: Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval. Back in the summer of 2020 I was completely blown away by this location, so knowing that I was close again now, I simply couldn’t miss out on it. I was dying to see how different it would look covered in a pack of snow.

Upon arrival at the site, I was immediately a bit disappointed however. Not in the snow or the gorgeous cirque that was still present. That was still absolutely mind-blowing! But the trail to Bout du Monde, which I had done last time, was closed because of the high risk of avalanches. No retracing my steps from that one summer…

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth our time. There are still quite a bit of paths to wander around closer to the cirque. So we just winged it and just went wherever our feet could take us. At a certain point we ended up on a big meadow, with a gorgeous view of the cirque in front of us, the sun on our faces and not another soul in sight. Bliss!

And for the danger of avalanches? That was very real. I lost count of how many times we heard a rumble in the distance that could only be snow tumbling down the mountains. Freaky but cool at the same time!

So that’s it for the first part of the recapitulation of my snowcation. Hiking was the biggest part of the trip, but we of course did some other stuff as well. But I’ll keep that for the next post, so don’t run too far 😉

♡ Ellen

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