Amusing Children

Here are some venues that allow parents to chill a bit while the fun is taken care of. The activities will be able to enjoyed at a pace chosen by each child. Bored and tired children are not at all Amusing!

The Chamonix valley is very lucky to have some really sweet play areas in natural settings offering a cool place for youngsters to tear about, splash and explore. But this is not enough. To make it onto this list the places must also be suitable for us big people to be happy to hangout in too.

The Mare á Têtard (Tadpole Pond) Argentière.

This forest clearing allows children to create their own fun. It’s genius is it’s simplicity.

1 forest clearing + 1 stream + 2 ponds + some lawns = almost anything.

Bring a picnic, let the youngsters run around for a bit, you find a bench or a patch of grass and soak up some rays and gaze at the Aiguilles Rouges above Argentiere or the extensive and tranquil Meleze forest.

There are a few playground items like slides and climbing frames to make kids think they want to go there but soon they will be building dams or roly-polying down a grass slope. Despite the name we have never spotted any tadpoles.

Access can be from the Grands Montets car park. Walk up the track towards the Crèmerie du Glacier then turn left on the Petit Balcon in the Le Tour direction. After crossing the river (bridge) you will see the play area on your left through the trees. 10 minutes.

Alternatively from the Argentière village square follow the road over the river, past the church through the old village. Near the end of the road park by the passage under the railway line. Take the track going through the arch and turn right in another 20m. Follow this path to a 5-way junction and the play area is just infront of you. 4 minutes.

Paradise des Praz, Les Praz.

This place is similar to Mare a Têtard only bigger and with a snack hut.

A magical setting in a mature forest of conifers with a few open lawns. There are plenty of things set up to play on, a little tyrolean, scramble nets, sand pits with digging toys, tethered canoe etc. There are rocks to scramble over and a little stable. Pony rides are available. Despite being popular on a hot day there are plenty tables and deckchairs. It is ok to bring along your own snacks.

And it would not be Paradise without a hut selling crêpes, ice cream and drinks. We have only one problem: getting the children to leave.

Leave your car in the golf course parking. Follow the river upstream, on the netting protected (from golf balls) path. It is about 4 minutes to the play area.

In touch with the inner chimp.

Up and down the valley you can find 5 tree adventure centres. Some can offer routes for some children but there is one standout site for little and medium sized kids: Kid Aventure. The safety system is fool proof, meaning that children as young as 2, if they meet the minimum height, can be simian heros too. With wires and bridges are just high enough to let the participants feel like they are the bravest people in the world without you needing a telephoto lens to take pictures.

It is right next to the Chavants lake, themed botanical trail and a sunny lawn. A bread and sandwich shop and cafe are just around the corner. The price is €16 per person.

And if Nico’s airstream pizza wagon is open we recommend his pizzas.

To get to the car park head to Les Houches, then follow signs to the Prarion Telecabine (ski lift.) The car park is well signposted. The start is from the wooden hut at the head of the lake.

Art Courses

Check out our in-house  art courses for Children here too.

Any comments or questions? get in touch with us here:

 

Snowboarding and skiing areas

First impressions on arriving in Argentière and the surrounding villages of the Chamonix valley is the scale of it. Neck ricking spires of rock with gravity defying slugs of glaciers stretch up and up and up. The ‘small’ mountain range to the north looms above you by a mere two kilometres while Mong Blanc opposite has a staggering 3800m of neck discomfort built in. Where else in the world can you roll off a motorway to gawp at such inspiration?

As well as scenic splendors it endows winter holiday makers with more choice than anywhere else in the world. Winter is capricious, some days you want to be high up dancing through the open powder fields or others sheltering in a forested niche low down.

Here is our personal lowdown on the high up (or not so high.) Where to ski and snowboard.

High Altitude areas

Les Grands Montets

The top half of the mountain has most of the pistes and is world renowned for providing long and consistently challenging slopes which keep excellent snow depth and quality. From the high point (3275m) there are descents from the east facing Glacier de Rognan through to the west facing Pas de Chèvre via the north facing Glacier de Lognan. Not all the terrain is piste accessible. This is shred city, prime realestate on a powder day for confident riders and skiers.

PLEASE, unless you have the skills and equipment to take on off-piste glacier runs hire a professional or stick to the pistes which provide plenty of fun.

There is more to the area. The blue and red pistes are relatively steep but they do widen the choice for intermediate skiers and boarders. This is particularly valuable when high up north facing slopes monopolise the good snow.

Authors picks: 

~Loops through the Lavancher bowl with fresh snow, laying down big freeride turns or following narrow lines between rocks.

~The magic forest’s steep benches on a blizzard day.

~Gazing into the upper Argentière Glacier basin from the top of the Grands Montets lift.

L’Aiguille du Midi

This is the kingdom of high mountain skiing and riding.

For many the whole idea of the ‘midi’ is scary beyond comprehension. The experience starts with what feels like a perilous walk down the infamous arrêt followed by miles of crevassed off-piste finished by a steep walk over the Mottets ridge.

For others it is paradise on earth for exactly the same reasons.

What draws most people is the Vallée Blanche route. It avoids most of the crevasses and takes the only non-steep way down. Magnificent, stunning but scary at the start. For top tips on making this day as safe and enjoyable as possible please contact us. For many this is the ski trip that gives a lift time.of boasts.

PLEASE, unless you have the skills and equipment to take on off-piste glacier runs hire a professional.

Mid-altitude areas.

Le Tour-Balme

A complete resort for all the family. Acres of easy and medium runs beautifully groomed. There are runs facing in all directions, a majority with westerly or northerly exposures. Coupled with it’s easy connection to the Vormaine nursery slopes and restaurants we believe this is the most complete area for family holidays.

Authors picks:

~Savoury and sweet pancakes in the railway station restaurant (Bougnette)

~Tree lined cruise on the Forêt Verte run

~Easy powder slopes between the pistes

~Pumping off-piste in the Gorge de Vormaine.

Please treat all of-piste with the respect it deserves.

La Flégère – Le Brevant

Nearly as complete as Le Tour but with a little less for absolute beginners, more for advanced.

Flégère has a nice balance of blue, red and blacks. The green runs offer wonderful first real piste after the nursery slope.

Brevant has a blasting blue roller coaster, a couple of stiff red runs and the black piste from the summit has a mogul field that can make the big boys whimper.

Authors pick:

~Charles Bozon black piste from Brevant summit, don’t forget to hit the moguls without traversing to far left.

~Combe Lachenal at Flégère, super steep for a red run at the top, the most difficult part can be avoided by entering a few hundred metres lower down. Even then it is still quite challenging. Has a sort of away from it all charm in it’s own valley whilst still being a piste.

~Floria, especially the black, offers long runs with ‘in your face views’ of the cliffs and glaciers of the Mont Blanc range.

Les Houches

Almost all the runs have tree cover and with a few exceptions are easy or moderate. This is the place pick up a bit of speed, hide on snowy and windy days and has the best mountain eateries.

Somehow the combination of the highly efficient Prarion lift and a system with no real bottlenecks avoids the worst of high season excesses. There is a range of cafes and restaurants available on the mountain and at the bottom their the lifts. Of areas in the valley this easily offers the best quality food and also the widest range; Self service chips and red sauce, a real French neighbourhood boulangerie, shepherd huts with molten cheese delights and a couple of places developing their own take on local specialitiesdeveloping.

The views make a nice change from the other sectors. This is the only place to look up the west side of the Mont Blanc range plus has wide open views to the Fiz cliffs.

Authors pick:

~Mont Blanc nursery slope. A better learners and little kids run could not be imagined. Impossible to go too fast, a cafe to sit in the sun and every now and them a cog railway train may pass. It is complemented by my favourite piste in the area being just next door. This steep red is not very long with a viciously fast drag lift. Perfect if parents are tag teaming the kids on the green. They can return from a couple of minutes blasting fun before junior has realised they have gone.

~Les Veilles Luges. A Kids story book chalet perfectly hosted by Claude and Julie with fab food. Home made van chaud is too good, traditional farçon is deliciously savoury and calorie rich and those oh so pretty deserts. Access is down a little twisty path just away from the pistes. We like it so much we hired it for our wedding reception.

~Easy route from the very top all the way back to village which is achievable by most skiers and riders, very satisfying.

~Excellent integration of prepared walking trails, cross country tracks with the pistes. This offers a unique chance for parties wanting to do different activities and still meet up for lunch.

Courmayeur

Yes yes, we mean the one in Italy. Over the last few years this has become almost a part of the lift system. It and the bus link are included if you have the Mont Blanc Unlimited pass. Sunny slopes, perfect grooming and full Italian charm makes this such a pleasant contrast. Two holidays in one, there’s value for money. There are runs for all abilities, a park that progresses from slightly scary to panic attack inducing rails and kickers. The off-piste is skied less than on the French side, which is a good thing.

But the real point for popping over is the food. Can’t write anymore without risking flooding the keyboard with saliva. Despite the gastronomic quality prices are reasonable on the mountain restaurant scale.

Authors pick:

~Coffee, it is delicious in all places it is sold, Hot chocolate more like an unset mousse.

~Local and Piedmontese food in Chiecco, Anna will do her best to burst your waist band. Don’t start lunch too late if you want to ski before the lifts close.

~Rifugio do Monte Bianco, melt in the mouth game stews, vegetarians we have been with also rave. Not about the carni-fest though.

~Christiania for perfect pizza and good local antipasti in an atmosphere of charming Italian

~La Chaumiere for wood grilled meats, though smells wafting over the chairlift can be torture.

~The bunny runs through the woods seem to be specially good here, fun for the smallest snowplougher hilarious for oldies too.

~Powder through the trees into Val Veny. Off-piste skills needed, if you don’t have them get a guide or instructor.

~Cruise on moderate slopes all the way to charming little Dolonne village.

Les Grands Montets.

Lower half. The main skiing and riding is covered in the high altitude section but the lower part is more like a midmountain area. The home run gives 5km of consistent red difficulty. Nicely protected during bad weather and good fast cruising (before home time crowds start the commute.)

Away from the piste are around 20 couloirs lines that range from difficult to extremely difficult. Abseils needed on some lines. There is also a less difficult but still challenging run on the lower Argentière glacier.

PLEASE, unless you have the skills and equipment to take on steep avalanche prone terrain or off-piste glacier runs hire a professional.

Authors pick:

~9.30 on a January morning on the home run, (Pierre à  Ric)  helmet on, race skis on, power down with the fastest curves. Next season we will be equipped with a GPS speed thingy. Take care of other slope users.

~The Y couloir. Short section at around 50°. The shape and orientation seem to keep powder in the main part of the couloir for so long.

Low altitude areas

These are mostly the nursery areas but not entirely.

Vormaine.

Our personal favourite learner slope both for taking friends and our own skills practice time. Long, wide and consistent. Nice restaurant and sandwich bar just over towards the main car park. Links very nicely with the Le Tour lifts.

 Authors pick

~Mini boarder cross one side of the area, rollers jumps the other.

~Brilliant snow holding, keeps good natural snow without resorting to snow cannons.

~4 drags limit the queues.

Les Chossalets, Argentière

Little area that is super gentle on the lower half then progressively steepens. Big flat at the bottom for day one.

Authors pick

~Path through the forest allowing those coming down from Grands Montets to ski to meet up with beginners.

~Sweet bunny runs in the woods starting from the top of the long drag. Keep an eye on your kids if they are in there.

~Good length toboggan track.

Planard

Has a couple of quiet beginners lifts, and a longer chairlift with a red and a bluetrack pistes. Proper self service restaurant on the slopes.

Authors pick:

~The restaurant is a real plus when out with the smallest on a cold day. It is the easiest place on any beginners slopes to whip them inside at a moments notice for defrosting.

~The easiest slope has been shaped to perfection, just enough angle to keep going but not too much that speed to builds up scarily.

~The chair lift is normally the last decent sized lift in the valley to close when it is blizzarding.

Le Savoy

Handy beginners area near Chamonix town centre. Plenty of sun.

Authors pick:

~Extensive flat snow play and first time with ski or snowboard on area.

Trabert

Les Houches town centre beginners slope. Good for Les Houches based groups.

Authors pick

~Free use, that can’t be beaten.

~Night sessions in high season.

~ Adjacent free outdoor ice rink.

La Poya, Vallorcine

A little area in the forest with 3 lifts. Given it’s limited size it has an amazing range of terrain. Unfortunately it is not covered by the valley lift passes.

Ski lessons aren’t for beginners.

It is such a shame that ski and boarding lessons are seen in such a poor light. Once most people can wobble around the blue runs they feel it is time to ditch the lessons and have some FUN! Wholly admirable, and getting out there and ‘just doing it’ will make your skiing and riding much better….up to a point. But never taking another lesson is also likely to cause bad habits to accumulate.

When a big enough gang of bad habits have started to hang around they will pin you onto an ‘intermeadiate plateau’. These places are a real, real bore: the frustration, and missing out on the satisfaction of improvement, can just take the edge off the fun of snowsports.

More positively getting better opens up so many doors: what if you luck out and it dumps so much powder snow that the piste machines can’t keep up?  Or alternatively what if luck does not favour you and there is no fresh snow? At the end of winter it can all change within a day: typical spring weather gives you a mix of bullet proof surfaces first thing, changing to perfect ‘hero-snow’ and then a slush fest. We are out there, in all conditions, and loving it.

If you are faced with conditions that are too challenging for your skill level you could decide to have lessons there and then. We think there is an even better way.

  • Get better at skiing or snowboarding all the time.
  • Choose the right instructor for you, and your ski and snowboarding objectives.
  • Becoming more skilled keeps the fun coming.

Being based here year round we know what’s what with the teachers and guides. Let us steer you away from some po-faced montagnard who can’t be bothered with yet another imbecile from the low-lands, or the dude who only wants to awe you with what a true ski/boarding god he is, as he bestow a few previous moments of his time. No, we would rather introduce you to someone who will help you do what you want to, and have FUN!

Because the best ones get booked up think ahead, don’t be left with the ‘others’.

10 ways to enjoy hanging out with a friend who is not a God of the slopes like you

HELP, I am stuck skiing with someone who is just not as good as me!

Does this ever happen to you? Here are 10 ways to enjoy hanging out with a friend who is not a God of the slopes like you.

1 Loved one a beginner? why not be a beginner too: try telemarking or snowboarding. Share the first week bruises and laughs.

2 Be like a pro. Cruising unchallenging terrain? make it tougher, lose the poles, ski on one ski, undo your boots, fold your arms tight, close your eyes (ok this one is complicated if you don’t have lots of space.) These impediments still not enough? Then try more than one at a time. World cup racers spend a lot of time doing this to refine skills.

3 Organise a multi-level group, so that slope time can be split into smaller groups of the same abilities, as well as all hanging around together.

4 Lessons for one, or both, can work but don’t let it sound like the other is being ‘parked’.

5 Zen time, just enjoy whatever you are doing. Enjoy the view, float gracefully,listen to the whispers of your skis. Ommmm.

6 Take some chill out medicine. Did I really say that? Maybe health risks involved…..

7 Play like a child.

8 Encourage your hill buddy to have lessons at a dry slope or snow dome before the trip. In fact all of you do it. They are perfect places to improve skills (see suggestions No.1 & 2.)

9 Take plenty of rests, beginners work harder than you.

10 Guide them to terrain that suits them. Taking them somewhere too steep, powdery, bumpy will make them worse to be with. Occasional challenge – yes, destroy them – oh no.

Easy Hiking Peaks

glacier du tourChamonix and it’s valley claim to be the world capital of alpinism. Rightly famous for cliff bound jagged peaks, the play ground for experienced climbers and ski mountaineers made more isolated by steep fast moving glaciers laced with hungry crevasses one may think that hikers will be excluded from the summits. The good news is that this is not 100% true.

Presented in this post are our favourite hiking peaks, some easy with lifts to near the top others full days expedition that will leave you exhausted.

Mont Buet 3099m

This magnificent walk to a gorgeous peak is everything a hike mountain route should be. Long, varied and good chance of spotting lots of wild life. The route runs through the Bérard valley, a gem of undeveloped simplicity. This may not be an easy route as per the title but is entirely on established footpaths. Challenging but achievable. The normal way up starts at the hamlet of Buet. The first couple of hours follows the turbulent Eau Noire river, do spend a moment at the Cascade de Bérard, look into the Farinet caves the other side of the river if you lynx have the time. The river side path is moderately slopes and well shaded. After 2 hours the refuge La Pierre à Bérard (1924m.) Book in for an overnight stay if you want to do the walk over 2 days. A heard of bouquetin (European mountain Ibex) are in this area. Being a part of collection 6 nature reserves spanning the Franco-Swiss border they do not particularly fear humans so it is possible to get close to them. From a greater distance you can see marmots, golden eagles, bearded vultures, deer and every to.come you rest cheeky little alpine choughs will appear as if from nowhere. During bird migration seasons the Berard valley is one of the major routes over the alps. For the very lucky, so far we are not included, lynx have recolonised the area, so walking quietly may bring a reward. After the refuge the character of the walk changes again, moving through around a series of small cliffs, slabs and plateaus without ever being scary. This section ends at the Col de Salenton (2526m.) From here up there may be some snow fields even into mid-summer. The path becomes consistently steep for what seems like forever over scree slopes until near the summit when like magic it brainwashed again. This last section provides easy walking on a flattish shoulder from where more and more of the Alps become visible. You will soon enough be able to take in the 360 degree view, the whole Mont Blanc range, Dents du Midi and Bernese Oberland peaks dominate. There is just so much to look at, it is incredible. Return is via the same path. Or if you have legs of iron another path leaves to the North. This return offers a much more challenging path, the first section on the Crête de la Mone des Eves is airy and steep with plenty of cables and steps for assistance. A second real summit, Cheval Blanc (2831m) is reached with a little more climbing. The decent follow the Swiss border (fossilised dinosaur footprints on the north east slopes) and then into the Tre les Eaux valley. The path joins the Bérard a little above the cascade, from there it is back to the start. WARNING, the return via the Cheval Blanc adds significantly to the effort and challenge.

Aiguiellette des Houches 2285m

This walk is much easier than Mont Buet. Much of the time you will have the contrasting spectacle of the high glaciated granite faces of the Mont Blanc range to the south and the towering limestone cliffs of the Fiz to the north-west, villages in the Chamonix valley and the entirely empty Diosaz gorge. fiz cliffs Start at Le Bettey, above Les Houches, take the well maintained path signposted ‘Aiguillette des Houches.’ After a couple of km take the Ruhr hand path which zigzags up the Pierre Blanche ridge to the summit. especially when above the tree line take time to enjoy the view point which will really show the landscapes created by the different geology and development. Near the summit a path descends the south side towards the Chalets de Cailloux then quickly back to the car park. Alternatively drop into the north facing Carlaveyron cirque and up gentil slopes to the refuge Bel Lachat for a snack. To get back to the car take the GR5 path south past the Merlet mountain zoo. Signs will direct you back to Le Bettey on a path that more or less follows the contours back to the start. A half day walk of varied pleasures. This is a definite must do, picking a nice sunny day will add to the experience. This mountain has options for some mechanical assistance which helps increase the ease.

Aiguilette des Posettes 2199m

A half day walk of varied pleasures. This is a definite must do, picking a nice sunny day will add to the experience. This mountain has options for some mechanical assistance which helps increase the ease. Firstly how to do it without the lifts. Park at the large car park just before the Col des Montets (or take the bus to the Col) then walk a short distance down the road toward Chamonix. You will quickly see the signpost for “l’ Aiguillette des Posettes”. This path winds through red larch forests then open ground. As the vegetation thins the path becomes steeper and feels more ridge like without ever getting too scary. To your right the developing view of the Tour glacier and it’s crown of coloured granite peaks is a feature of the walk. After an hour or so the path becomes less steep and the feeling of being on a ridge more pronounced without ever becoming a knife edge. This flatter section leads all the way to the peak with a view that is more than 360°, all the way around plus down into the Vallorcine and Chamonix valleys. This is another part to savour. From the summit continue down the line of the ridge and very soon you will be in the meadows still used as summer pasture. At junction near the Col des Posettes head right. This leads down easy laths on the edge of what is a winter ski area. You will past near a couple of farm building that been converted into cafes at Chalets de Balme and later at Chalets de Balme. A few hundred metres further on is a modern restaurant near the top of the gondola lift station. A well maintained path leads down to Le Tour village where more refreshments are available. We recommend the Passon restaurant and the adjacent burger/sandwich place also called Passon. To find the path back to the start cross the river and take the first track on the right which leaves the car park. Follow the signs for Col des Montets. To enable more people to enjoy this route consider some lift assistance from Le Tour or Vallorcine. From the top of the Le Tour gondola lift follow the well maintained farm track that climbs gently on the left to the Chalets de Balme. Do the rest of the route in reverse. The lift from Vallorcine takes you even higher up. From the top follow the rough 4×4 track up for half a kilometre before the track signposting you to the peak. Hikers can return via the track up or carry down to the Col des Montets. Turning right on the road will soon bring you to the path that runs along side the stream which can be followed all the way back to the lift station car park.

Tête de Balme/Croix de Fer 2343m

This is a continuation of the same line of peaks mentioned in the Posettes which with a bit of planning can be joined to this one for a very full day walk. Start from the lift station car park in Le Tour. Head up the path to Charamillion them to the Col de Balme. The refuge does a wicked egg and chips. Just after refuge take the left hand fork into Switzerland under the south side of the Tête de Balm. Then head east along the ridge to the final ascent. The path becomes narrower (more exciting!) for a short distance, a quick scramble and you arrive at the Croix de Fer (iron cross) to look into the 1000m deep drop to Trient village. Return via the same way and over the mini summit of l’ Arolette on a path not marked on the map. Continue on the ridge to the Tête de Balme. Follow the path to the Col be Posettes. Then take the farm track back to the beginning. Use of the gondola lift and chairlift will bring you quickly and easily to the same height as refuge. Of course it is allowed, even on the way down.

Le Prarion 1969m

This may be the easiest individual summit of them all. Take the Prarion lift from Les Houches. At the top find the path that heads north to the peak. It starts in a forest of sparse conifers and climbs gently. There are a couple of sections that are a little steeper and soon the trees thin to almost nothing and you follow the broad ridge to the panoramic summit. For those of you who want to get all sweaty there is a good circular walk up via the Col de Voza and down via the Col de Forclaz. But who wants to get that sweaty?

Bec de Lachat 2447m

One walk that we particularly enjoy doing from our door is the loop up the Montagne de Peclerey to the north.east of Argentière. A stiff climb through the woods, then a leisurely traverse across high altitude pastures, drop down a meandering path towards Le Tour, then home along the contouring petit balcon nord path. By following the path straight up (not marked on the maps) just as the steep part through the forest changes to the easy part over the alpage meadows you will get to the summit. The views of the Aiguille Verte chain, Argentière glacier and Tour glacier are stunning. There is a little bit of rocky scrambling near the top which requires a steady head for heights and good control of younger party members.

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