Things to Do in the French Alps if You Don't Like Skiing

Skiing certainly isnt all there is to do in the French Alps
Skiing certainly isn't all there is to do in the French Alps | © Xavier Fores - Joana Roncero / Alamy

A fan of France, fresh mountain air, picturesque winter landscapes but not too keen on the skiing part? No problem. There are many things you can do in the French Alps that don’t involve actually putting on a pair of skis. Be inspired by these ideas, from total relaxation, authentic shopping to other winter sports.

1. Treat yourself to a thermal pool and spa day

Spa

A large outdoor thermal pool at Les Bains du Grand Monetier, with a snowy mountain backdrop
© Hemis / Alamy
Now you feel like you’re on holiday… Many resorts have indoor spa facilities, but if yours doesn’t, there’s sure to be somewhere to go nearby. What could be more luxurious than relaxing in water, outside, with snow all around you? Les Grands Bains du Monêtier just north of Briançon in the Alps, is a popular location, with great facilities and incredible views.

Try snowshoeing, snowboarding or sledging

A group of people sledge down a slope in the French Alps

Skiing isn’t the only sport in town. If you’re keen to fill your days outside or on the slopes (so you feel like you actually deserve the après-ski) but skiing isn’t for you, then get in touch with the chalet or resort where you’re staying in advance to find out what other activities are available. Snowshoeing, for example, is the perfect activity if you want to get out on the mountains in a more leisurely fashion. Many resorts will hire out poles, snowshoes and maps of good trails.

Courchevel 1850 ski resort in the Three Valleys, Les Trois Vallees, Savoie, French Alps, France

If you’re visiting the French Alps in the run up to the festive season, a Christmas market visit is a must. Ask the resort where you’re based for a list of the closest ones. The ski resort of Courchevel is well-known for its Christmas market, as is Megève, though there will be plenty of other options.

2. Visit Grotte de Glace

Natural Feature

Two people walking through a narrow pathway inside the Grotte de glace, with arched, illuminated walls
© Hemis / Alamy
Grotte de Glace is the ultimate ice cave. To reach the cave, take the train to Montenvers from the centre of Chamonix, finishing the journey in a small cable car from the train station onto the Mer de Glace. The cave has to be altered each year due to the glacial shifts and the whole experience is pretty otherworldly.

Indulge in delicious French food

Cafes and restaurants on a pedestrian street in the town centre, (Rue du Dr Paccard), Chamonix Mont Blanc, Haute Savoie

Who needs skiing when you’re in France and surrounded by all the tasty dishes that go with it? You might have canteen-style meals at your resort, but make sure you spend the evenings exploring local corners of the nearby villages and towns for unique brasseries and restaurants. Whatever the options, including a glass of red and something with cheese means you can’t go wrong!

Snap some pictures

The French Alps can’t be beaten for photography. If you’re more arty and less sporty, just because everyone else is skiing around you doesn’t mean you can’t explore the landscape from a photography point of view. Many resorts offer guided walks where you’ll be taken to the really exquisite spots in terms of views and vegetation.

Explore villages nearby

Tourists strolling in the center of the ancient city of Chambèry

Just because there’s snow, that doesn’t mean exploring is off the cards. Depending on where you base yourself in the Alps, plan a few neighbouring towns and villages to visit. You’ll get more of a taste of the local way of life away from resorts, and make the most of local events and festivals. The towns of Chambéry and Annecy are particularly delightful, whatever time of year.

Catch a cable car

A cable-car leading to the stronghold Bastille in Grenoble

Who doesn’t love a cable car ride? If you’re staying in Grenoble, then you have to take a ride on the Grenoble-Bastille cable car referred to as Les bulles by locals, which connects the centre of Grenoble to an old fortress, ‘Bastille’. The views are just spectacular looking back over the city. Rise up the mountains even more by catching the Aiguille du Midi, the ultimate cable-car journey from Chamonix up to a dizzying height of 3,842 metres.

3. Include a Grenoble getaway

Architectural Landmark

An outside view of green gardens outside a grand building at the Gardens of the Maison de l International in Grenoble
© Guido Paradisi / Alamy
If you want to be in the French Alps but skiing doesn’t excite you, then what about a city break? Decide on an urban base and head out into the mountains for day trips. Grenoble, often called the ‘Capital of the Alps’, is a university city and a buzzing base from which to delve into the neighbouring scenery. Ski resorts circle the city at varying lengths and so combining a city break with a long weekend in a chalet is easy.

Relax with a hot mug and the views

Two people admiring the natural scenery of Lac de la Rosiere by Courchevel ski resort in the French Alps

Finally (as if an excuse is needed) just sit back and relax. Take in the big landscapes, the fresh air, the sun bouncing off the mountain peaks. If you’ve been meaning to read that book, write that letter or make some plans, this is the time. Pour yourself a cup of your favourite tipple and just take in the scenery, waiting for everyone else to finish their day skiing.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

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